With that in mind, Russian news sources report that the Russian military is holding their own, if not actually winning in what's now become a war of attrition. Meanwhile, in the West we're told that the Ukrainians are giving the Russian troops a good old fashioned butt kicking (naturally with Western aid).
Russian tanks and mobile units are being decimated while Russian planes and helicopters are being shot down with impunity. As for the much ballyhooed Black Sea Fleet, it's been rendered impotent. We're even told that the Russian military to running on empty when it comes to keeping their war machine supplied with fuel, replacement parts, ammo, and even food, water, and medicine.
Video footage (often provided through the Ukrainian Government) of captured Russian troops are repleve with stories of being randomly drafted, given little or no training, and simply dropped off at random sites in the Ukraine and to await instructions which never seem to come. Many just wonder into the nearest Ukrainian town or village and simply surrender to the first Ukrainians they see...military or civilian. In short, they're there to use up Ukrainian ammunition as cannon fodder and live (for the moment) targets.
Meanwhile, there seems to be no shortage of scenes of smoldering or abandoned T-90 tanks, or planes and helicopters being shot down on social media outlets, yet curiously few scenes of the obligatory dead Russian soldiers and pilots which are displayed as proof of victory.Starting in the 1950's, Americans lived in fear of ruthless Soviet expansion throughout the world likened to a game of dominos.
In school, we were taught to hide under our desks or along the hallway wall in case of a nuclear sneak attack (which hung over us and our parents like a sword of Damocles). Looking back, I guess that was so the survivors knew where to find the little piles of our ashes. We were told to "drop and cover" behind sidewalk curves or drive to the nearest fallout shelter, which were usually located downtown. You know. Right where the bomb would hit in about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile selected government officials were to be secretly evacuated by the military to their own nearby private bomb shelters under the auspices of "continuity of government" and all before the ice in their glasses of scotch melted.
We fought countless wars directly and indirectly, overthrew governments, and assassinated duly elected foreign leaders throughout the world to make it "safe for democracy" (sarcasm intended). Then, we watched with a certain measure of glee as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, only to get bogged down in their own Vietnam (a lesson we repeated and took us 20 long years to learn with the same results), and downright cheered when the USSR imploded and collapsed in 1991.
So, now what for Putin? Well, if we are to believe the mainstream media, President Putin is stuck between a rock and hard place. On the one hand, his generals are extremely frustrated with the progress (or lack thereof) in the Ukraine while many members of the Duma (Russia's version of Congress), along with large numbers of the populace, are increasingly angry over the quagmire that is Ukraine.
Some of the military and political hardliners are urging the use of some of their 5,977 nukes, specifically the smaller "tactical" warheads of which there are about 2,000. Even some members of the powerful state security apparatus, the FSB (successor to the feared KGB) seem to agree.
These smaller yield warheads have an explosive output of approximately 15 to 20 kilotons of dynamite, which are close to the explosive power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,which killed or outright vaporized a combined 105,000 lives. The resulting fallout caused the deaths of tens of thousands for months and years afterwards, not including the thousands of birth defects which continued to appear decades later.
Most Western observers reject this scenario, saying Putin may be crazy, but he's not stupid. I agree that it's highly unlikely that Putin would use nukes. First, he would be unanimously condemned by the world. There's even the possibility of a coup. Those nations which have remained on the sidelines throughout the conflict would immediately provide Ukraine with humanitarian aid. Some might add military aid as well. There would be near universal economic and political sanctions imposed on Russia would stagnate it for years if not decades.
Secondly, the nuclear fallout could drift westward, affecting Poland, Hungary, and Romania or spread further west to Germany and Scandinavia. Depending on the targets and wind direction, it's not out of the question that Turkey, not to mention Russian controlled Crimea and the Black Sea with its fishing industry and critical production of oil and gas would be affected.
Any humanitarian relief efforts transported directly into Ukraine would likely be under the protection of NATO. Any provocation by Russia, intended or not, would be all the excuse needed for things to get "hot", thus forcing Russia to pull back to avoid any possible "misunderstandings". To put it another way, everything would be locked and loaded and the safeties would be off. Lastly, it would give NATO all the justification they need in the eyes of the world to fully admit Ukraine into NATO as a full partner. Nukes would be a no win scenario for Putin.
A good argument could be made for Russia to simply withdraw from the Ukraine proper and focus its energies on the contested Donbas region, which is comprised of roughly 40% ethnic Russians. After all, Russia's military has pretty much mucked up most everything in western Ukraine while invigorating Ukrainian resistance.
Russia's badly depleted and demoralized military would have a substantially smaller area to contend with, and they would have the support of a large pro-Russian minority. The Donbas could provide a link with Russian controlled Crimea.
It's worth noting that several Western pundits claim that the Ukrainians are doing such a marvelous job in fighting Russian troops, that after driving them out of the country proper, they should move into the Crimea and retake it. An interesting notion but unlikely. The Crimea has strong links to Russia dating back to the late 1700's. A substantial portion of the population (about 60%) are ethnically Russian, speak Russian, and identify with Russia.a referendum for the Crimean people. They were to decide to rejoin Russia or readopt their 1992 Constitution which gave them autonomy. With a turnout of about 83%, some 96% voted to rejoin Russia. Critics of the referendum (mostly Americans) cited no outside observers to verify the election results, and therefore rejected the outcome. I suppose the same argument could be used for our recent elections too don't you think?
Regardless, Russia has been in the Crimea since Czarina Catherine the Great's annexation in 1783. It's home of one of their largest military installations, Sebastopol, and it's the source of vast amounts of oil and gas which has been propelling Russia's economy (perhaps the main reason Kyiv wants it back).
The Donbas (formed from the name of the area---Donets Basin) is comprised of two pro-Russian provinces, the Luhansk and Donetsk. 68.8% and 74.9% respectively speak Russian. Fighting has been going on there for roughly 8 years, resulting in the deaths of somewhere around 14,000 people. Control of the Donbas would allow Moscow a direct connection to Crimea and the all important Sebastopol. However, it's more than just having a land connection to Crimea. The Donbas is resource rich, especially in coal.
The hard coal reserves in the Donbas are one of the largest in the world, worth in the neighborhood of $57 billion dollars. It is also rich in methane gas, rock salt, limestone, mercury, and various types of ore. The Donbas had a gross regional product output in 2020 of 7.0 billion Euros and accounts for 6% of Ukraine's GDP.
Prior to the 2014 invasion, Kyiv had an agreement with Royal Dutch Shell to develop one the key Yuzuvska natural gas field. Due to the war, that was suspended in 2014. Royal Dutch Shell finally withdrew from the agreement in June 2015.
Russia should no more been expected to accept such as a fait accompli than the U.S. would with a Chinese military and economic presence on our Canadian and Mexican borders. His invasion was in many ways as colossal a blunder as Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 or Hitler's in 1941, but from his perspective, it may have been the lesser of two evil.
At the same time, a complete withdrawal would devastate Putin's credibility at home, especially with its powerful oligarchs, military and FSB, and key members of the Duma. Such a move would likely result in a coup with Putin's removal from office either voluntarily or horizontally. Failure to leave will led to more dissent at home, and again, a possible ouster.
Securing the Donbas offers Putin with a chance for a militarily victory and stability at home before things spiral too far out of hand, but it leaves him with a dangerous enemy in Kyiv who will undoubtedly seek revenge by keeping the Donbas unstable. It also provides Kyiv with the best excuse it could ever have for full NATO membership, and with it, protection of the global corporate elite.
Finally, Russia will remain outside the reach of the Western capitalism and its ruling elite, where perhaps it should be. The sanctions will likely remain for now, as much as punishment for rejecting Western neo-feudal capitalism as for its invasion of Ukraine. Putin will be portrayed as unstable and a tyrant in the West for his disruption of the "Great Reset" of the New World Order.
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