I share Paul Craig Roberts’ disgust for the behavior of Western media in their coverage of the war in Ukraine. Not only does Western reporting show these “newspeople” to be nothing more than a pack of idiots and whores, as Roberts suggests, but the heavy handed propaganda effort makes it damned near impossible for most of us to gain an informed idea of what is actually happening in Ukraine. What is happening? I will try to sort out the true situation and establish a framework for discussing the many facets of the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” that is the war in eastern Ukraine.
At a macro level, this is a re-ignition of the Cold War. Some just can’t pass up a chance to tweak the Bear’s nose and are oblivious to the possibly of deadly consequences. Others have long memories and precious little forgiveness. Russia can deal with all that as long as Ukraine is not a hostile outpost of NATO on their border. But I believe it is the Neocons and R2P-ers most responsible for this mess. They’ve spent five billion and twenty years getting to this point and they appear willing to double down. I think they had dreams of Sevastopol becoming a NATO/US naval base. That would be tweaking the Bear’s nose just a little too hard. Beyond the whole spreading democracy vision thing, there is now the specter of a world economy arising to compete with the petrodollar based Western economy. That scares the hell out of some dangerous people… or perhaps it just presents an investment opportunity.
Much has been made of leadership changes and internal turmoil in Kiev and in Donetsk/Lugansk. I don’t think we should read too much into this. Both the junta and Novorossiya are new entities born out of violent upheavals only months ago. They are fighting a civil war and Kiev, at least, is subject to the outside pressures I noted earlier. It is too much to expect stability in the leadership circles of either side.
As in many countries, Ukraine has its share of internal tensions and differences. These differences did not guarantee the start of this civil war. What upset the societal equilibrium was the West’s investment in the worst element of Ukrainian society. Nuland and her cabal used the ultra nationalists of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda to push their own neocon agenda. The crazies got the money, the training, and the weapons and took over the asylum. The Russian speaking East Ukrainians had no choice but to leave, revolt or die at the hands of the rabidly anti-Russian Banderites. Even the Ukrainians in the western oblasts are beginning to revolt against the junta's call for reserve mobilizations. And in my opinion Putin had no choice but to return Crimea to Russia before the crazies had a chance to ruin it.
The military situation appears to be in a state of dynamic equilibrium. The Ukrainian forces have, up to now, been able to mount battalion or more sized armored thrusts into weakly held rebel territory, but these thrusts, more often than not, got badly chewed up and surrounded. They've lost at least six brigades this way. The rebels recently captured documents where the Ukrainian military command admitted to 14,378 KIA and WIA, 158 POWs, 8,972 deserters, 31 planes, 20 helicopters, 307 tanks, 145 BMPs, 121 BMDs, 283 BTRs, 14 Grad and 11 Uragan MLRS. Rebel losses are unknown. They have much better opsec. Neither side maintains solidly held continuous front lines. This is what allowed the junta to make these armored thrusts, but it also allows the rebel saboteur-reconnaissance groups to range behind the junta lines to destroy their artillery and logistics bases. This video gives a good view of a rebel unit and the nature of most of the fighting in Novorossiya. Of course this kind of fighting is interspersed with artillery and multiple rocket launcher strikes such as this. An accompanying video of the same unit at rest gives some great insights into the mindsets of the rebels.
Artillery has been critically important for both sides. A central element of junta military strategy seems to be the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the killing/terrorizing of the populace. Andrew Kramer of the New York Times gave a good account of this a few days ago, which shows not all MSM reporters are idiots or whores. Artillery has taken the place of airstrikes for the junta forces. However, the rebels are also amassing an impressive artillery force and even the Ukrainian military admit the rebel's fire is accurate and effective.
I use the past tense to describe the armored thrusts of the junta forces because they appear to be losing the ability to concentrate sufficient forces to execute major attacks. They are on their third mobilization. That's a clear sign of running on empty. In order to address the growing unrest in Transcarpathia, the junta had to withdraw 1,200 troops from the front last week. They have no strategic reserve. At the same time a rebel leader announced that 1,200 rebels just returned from four months of training in Russia as reinforcements ready to fall in on a substantial amount of recently captured heavy equipment.
There are also increasing signs of mounting guerrilla operations throughout eastern Ukraine. Small things like the burning of one of Komoloisky's banks in Dnepropetrovsk and the ambush of Polish PMC vehicles and the sabotage of defense maintenance facilities in Kharkov are becoming more commonplace. Partisan groups are increasing sabotage activity around Slavyansk and Krasny Liman, areas where Strelkov withdrew from last month. The partisan activity is strong enough to incite junta artillery to begin shelling Slavyansk from Karachun Mountain once again.
So, where do the opposing forces stand today? If you look at the first map accompanying the NYT article, you would think the rebels are very close to defeat. However, that map shows the high water marks of the junta forces over the course of the four month war. A better set of maps is available here. Look at these maps over time and see the fluidity of the battlefield. Yes, the rebels are giving up ground, but they are preserving their combat forces. The junta is squandering theirs. Every time you read an article like this NYT piece, which proves Paul Craig Roberts’ original point, look for an article like this to balance the view.
Last week I said I sensed the junta forces are reaching a culminating point. I still believe that. I don't see them in any position to take Donetsk or Lugansk or to ever seal the border with Russia. The rebels are not collapsing, nor are they ready to march on Kiev. There is a dynamic equilibrium, but time is on Novorossiya's side.
Reprinted with permission from Sic Semper Tyrannis blog.