The Real Issue is Not About Ukraine: It is NATO and Russia



So long as Volodymyr Zelensky is President of Ukraine it is a waste of time and effort to try and get a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Zelensky is frozen into an immovable position as his internal support and survival is tied to strident Ukrainian nationalists who oppose any concessions to Russia.  They want to fight to the last man (and woman).

If a negotiation between Russia and Ukraine is impossible, is there any solution to stopping the bloody war in Ukraine?

The facts are straightforward.  The first, now abundantly clear, is that Ukraine cannot win its war against Russia.  It lacks the manpower and firepower to push the Russians out of Ukrainian territory. The recent four month long Ukrainian counter-offensive has yielded almost no positive results other than to sacrifice huge amounts of war materiel and close to 20,000 troops killed and wounded.

It is now reported, on the urging mostly of the United States, that Ukraine will start yet another offensive operation by crossing the Dnieper river in the area of Kherson with the hope of cutting off Russia’s land access to Crimea.  Also reportedly this offensive will include an attack on the massive Zaphorize nuclear power plant (Zaporiz’ka atomna elektrostantsiiain order to create a nuclear incident which Ukrainian propaganda will blame on Russia.

There is little time for any new offensive because seasonal rains and cold weather will soon cover Ukraine.  But the tactic seems to be based on the idea that Ukrainian infantry can follow paved roads and survive against concentrations of Russian artillery.

Russia will still retain air dominance over the battlefield, although there is a report that the UK is transferring Typhoon Eurofighter jets to Poland that might be seconded to Ukraine. (The promised F-16s won’t make it to Ukraine in time.)

Ukrainian pilots are not trained on Typhoons and could not operate them, suggesting that they would have to be operated by UK pilots and be based outside of Ukraine.

The Typhoon story is closely tied to a proposal by the UK’s relatively new defense minister Grant Shapps to send UK troops to Ukraine to better train Ukrainian troops in situ and to help the Ukrainians prepare and execute its current offensive and the new one planned for the Dnieper river and Zaphorize.

The British defense minister also proposed to take an active naval role in the Black Sea against Russia.  Britain is already planning on sending UK fleet ships to clear mines in the Black Sea put there by the Russians. Late on October 2nd the British defense secretary said that Britain will not send its ships to protect Ukrainian grain exports. This appears to be another UK turnaround.

The introduction of uniformed UK troops into Ukraine would almost certainly be regarded by the Russians as a casus belli and would mean the expansion of the Ukraine war to Europe.  Apparently, this message reached UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who walked back Shapps’ proposal to send uniformed troops to Ukraine.  Sunak, as yet, has not addressed either the possible Typhoon deployments nor British naval support for Ukraine in the Black Sea.

Meanwhile the ground is starting to shift in Washington.  Responding to US and European efforts to move defense production to Ukraine, Russia carried out at least five separate strikes on October 1st, destroying Ukrainian military depots, retrofit and maintenance sites and manufacturing complexes.  Successful attacks included targets in Cherkasy, Kryvyi Rih, Zaphorize (including the Motor Sich engine manufacturing company), Kostiantynivka and Kharkiv.  Back in Washington growing discontent in supporting Ukraine is growing, with enough opposition to force Ukrainian aid out of the Continuing Resolution just passed to keep the US government running.

Some of the opposition reflects concern about rampant Ukrainian corruption.  However, the bigger problem in Ukraine is a political struggle highlighted by the fact that the current commander in chief of Ukraine’s army, General Valerii Zaluzhny is opposed to the plans for the Dnieper offensive that Zelensky and Washington are pushing.  Beyond that, in August and September Ukraine came nowhere near drafting enough men and women into the army because of growing resistance.  The firing of recruiters, therefore, was not because of corruption (although there probably was some), but because of bad recruitment numbers.

There are various threats to Zaluzhny.  The BBC Ukrainian Service reported recently that the Ukrainian State Bureau of Investigation (DBR) and the domestic intelligence agency, SBU, have launched a criminal investigation against Zaluzhny for the failure of the recent counter offensive in the south.

This investigation could not happen without Zelensky’s support. Zelensky has installed his own people in the SBU and uses it to arrest and harass his opponents.

Zaluzhny is regarded, even by the Russians, as an excellent commander.  There are already growing attacks on him, blaming Zaluzhny for blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline (itself probably a CIA fabrication that did not directly blame Zaluzhny).  A criminal investigation, however, aimed at his direct military leadership would be a severe blow to Ukraine’s army and to Ukraine’s ability to keep fighting.

Putting aside the cracks starting to show up in Ukraine, the real solution remains whether Russia and NATO can make a deal, not just over Ukraine but over the security architecture in Europe.

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1. Reluctant reconciliation. After Russia has lost the war in Ukraine, various groups in the Russian elite join forces to oust Putin in a ‘palace coup’. The new president strikes a deal with the West, makes Putin and his loyalists a scapegoat, and enacts limited democratic and economic reforms

2. China’s propped-up proxy. The war grinds on for years and no end is in sight. Putin is forced to step down due to mismanagement, but the regime itself prevails and a successor eventually secures political and financial backing from Beijing. Russia becomes fully dependent on China

3. The Empire strikes back. After Western support for Ukraine dwindles, Russia decisively wins the war. Putin’s popularity surges and he is stronger in power than ever before. Russia has international partners that help it keep its economy going, while the West loses its unity.

4. Neo-Stalinist fortress Russia. Putin has made Russia a global pariah state. China, India and others abandon their tacit support and Russia is forced to become almost entirely self-sufficient. The regime continues its reign through brutal repression and propaganda.

5. The Wild East. After continued humiliation and a defeat on the battlefield, Putin’s regime loses legitimacy, withdraws from the south and east of Ukraine, and Russia begins to implode. Russia descends into organised chaos with high levels of criminality reminiscent of the early 1990s

6. Dissolution without a nuclear solution. A catastrophic military defeat leads to the implosion of the Russian Federation, after which regional warlords seize nuclear assets to deter the rump state Muscovy. While some entities are recognised by China or other powers, Muscovy remains revisionist and deeply hostile towards the West.

A vote for Trump and MAGA republicans is a vote for #3. That’s what they’re actively working towards.

Last edited 2 months ago by Greg