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Ukraine war - a new stage

by Bernhard Romeike and Tomasz Konicz
One of the peculiarities of this war is that it remains a war of aggression by Russia, but some characteristics have changed. When Tsar Putin gave the order for war in February, the war was against fascism in Ukraine...Putin's order for partial mobilization is also good news. It means that nuclear weapons will probably not be used in the new stage of the war
Ukraine war - a next stage

by Bernhard Romeike
[This article posted on 9/26/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.linksnet.de/artikel/48452.]

The German media interpreted the Ukrainian army's terrain gains with its counteroffensive near Kharkiv almost in unison as a "turning point" in the war. It had inflicted "a serious defeat on Russia" and "things were getting serious" in the east. Even before that, considerations of military theory had led to the conclusion that the actually surprising result of the war was the ineffectiveness of Russian warfare. Journalist Wolfgang Michal, however, sharply criticized in Freitag "the desk heroes of the FDP and the Greens" who want to "wage a new tank battle for the Donbass" with German tanks in Ukraine. This is 80 years after the great tank battles of World War II; in 1943, the largest of these battles was that at the "Kursk Arc," with which the Germans finally lost the initiative of warfare. Now "revenge for Kursk," and the Ukrainians are fighting it out?

Political scientist Johannes Varwick wrote: "At the beginning of the war, the majority of analysts - myself included - saw little chance for the defenders to withstand the supposed superiority of the aggressor. The shortcomings of Russian warfare were surprising. Abysmal operational command, poor logistics to weak soldierly morale - this in contrast to the Ukrainian resistance force, whose intensity was equally surprising."

This, too, must be seen as a consequence of the change of system. In World War II, the Soviet Union had a communist government, a communist military leadership, and party members up to the soldier level in the troops who rushed forward to the assault, even if they themselves inevitably died "for the cause." Putin had condemned the Communist seizure of power in 1917 for sabotaging Russia's conduct of the war in World War I and preventing it from sitting on the side of the victors in the peace negotiations at Versailles in 1919. Putin's power is not the continuation of the Soviet Union by other means, as uninformed interpreters sometimes interpret it, even in Germany, but he wants to continue the rule of the tsars.

Their warfare, however, was mostly militarily ineffective and costly. Peter I's Northern War took over 20 years to permanently gain access to the Baltic Sea, and Catherine II needed six years of war against the Ottoman Empire to gain the Crimea and the annexation of the Black Sea. Consideration was not given to casualties among one's own troops and among civilians, generals were often incompetent, and troop commanders and suppliers corrupt. "Russia is great and the tsar is far" usually applied to military leaders as well. In this respect, we are not dealing with any phenomenon in Russian warfare today that has not existed in Russian history.

Nevertheless, the Western howls of victory are premature. Bismarck's famous phrase, "Russia is never as strong or as weak as she seems," holds true today. Varwick therefore emphasized that "despite the 'fog of war'" - which is a phrase of Clausewitz regarding the uncertainties of any war - "the military and political balance of power" can be clearly determined. That is, "The Ukrainians do succeed in achieving selective local superiority through the massing of forces, as well as billions of dollars in Western arms deliveries and assistance with training, reconnaissance, and targeting, and thus in achieving local breakthroughs. However, the escalation dominance is on the Russian side." Such a statement is considered "pro-Russia" today, Varwick notes, but is in fact only a realistic description of the situation. That is, "Russian capabilities are by no means at an end. Rather, Russia is ready and able to achieve its self-defined military objectives in Ukraine with cold and long breath." And Varwick added, "However, it is unclear what those objectives are." That remains the real problem. As long as no one knows what Russia's ultimate war aims are, all speculation about how to arrive at a political-diplomatic exit from this war is also pure speculation.

One of the peculiarities of this war is that it remains a war of aggression by Russia, but some characteristics have changed. When Tsar Putin gave the order for war in February, his justifications that it was against fascism in Ukraine and that it was a war of the West against Russia seemed monstrous and purely expedient propaganda - like once the claim of the U.S. administration under George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and therefore Iraq had to be invaded immediately. The longer the war continues, however, the more it takes on the character that Putin claimed at the time. That it is now a war of the West against Russia, in which Ukraine provides the cannon fodder, is unquestionable.

As for the other point, a few years ago the phrase was true: In the struggle between the tsar and the boyars, the tsar won in Russia and the boyars won in Ukraine. Meanwhile, in the name of martial law, Selensky has subjugated the Ukrainian oligarchs all to his power. The president banned opposition TV stations, his prosecutors charged his predecessor Petro Poroshenko with treason, he reshaped the Supreme Court in violation of Ukraine's constitution, signed laws discriminating against the Russian language, and banned 11 political parties. The Western propaganda claim that Ukraine is defending "our freedom" is proving to be a pure lie.

On the morning of September 6, Selensky virtually opened the New York Stock Exchange. He announced that the country was open to $400 billion in investments from foreign companies. To this end, markets have been opened, tariffs lowered, industrial regulations deregulated and labor laws neoliberally leveled. U.S. economist Michael Hudson assessed that the "new anti-labor emergency laws" imposed by the Ukrainian government could only be compared to Pinochet's neoliberal agenda after the 1973 coup against Allende. Assuming that Ukraine's only chance of victory is to "drag the West deeper and deeper into the war" (Michal), selling out to Western capital is the next best thing.

On September 21, it was announced that Putin had ordered a partial mobilization, calling 300,000 Russian reservists, already militarily trained, to the flags. In the West, this was interpreted as a "sign of weakness." In fact, this follows military logic since Peter I: if the military forces provided so far are not enough, new ones must be provided from Russia's depths. While the Ukrainian forces - already when one sees the pictures of the "victorious" soldiers, they are mostly older men - had achieved a selective superiority at individual front sections due to the levée en masse, the Russian army can position itself with fresh forces in such a way that it achieves a new superiority at the individual front sections. And if necessary, on the Black Sea coast, it can also advance to the Romanian border to make Ukraine a landlocked country.

Nevertheless, Putin's order for partial mobilization is also good news. It means that nuclear weapons will probably not be used in the new phase of the war that is now coming.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Turning point in Ukraine?

by Tomasz Konicz
[This article posted on 9/14/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.streifzuege.org/2022/26399/.]

A military disaster threatens Russia's army in northeastern Ukraine. While Western public opinion, to the extent that it still follows the war in Ukraine, which has coagulated into normality at all, was primarily aware of the offensive around the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, a rapid assault in the northeast saw major gains in terrain by combined Ukrainian units.

Ukrainian units were able to break through Russian lines southeast of Kharkov on a broad front and gain dozens of kilometers of ground within a few days, between September 4 and 9. Even pro-Russian propaganda sources openly admit this (http://www.moonofalabama.org/2022/09/the-izium-counteroffensive-success-disaster.html#more) Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops are reported to be outside Kupyansk , the main Russian-occupied city in Kharkov oblast (twitter.com/IAPonomarenko/status/1568185503962259459). The main supply route of Russian army units in the western Donbass around Izium also passes through Kupyansk. Consequently, cutting this supply route would be devastating for Kremlin operations in eastern Ukraine. The attacks by Ukrainian troops in the south thus appear to have contributed primarily to weakening the Russian front in the north - and it was precisely these weak points that Kiev's army command was able to correctly identify and exploit, probably by evaluating
Western information.

The Russian defense, which was thinned out by troop deployments to Kherson and sometimes consisted of conscripted reservists from Lugansk and units of barracked police, is said to have literally collapsed. Ironically, the Ukrainian army successfully employed the same tactics that the Russian army leadership failed to implement at the start of the war. Small mobile units of combined forces have advanced far into enemy territory after breaking through on the front lines, without capturing the towns and settlements where significant Russian occupation forces are entrenched. The difference so far, at least, is that the demoralized and encircled Russian troops are not leading attacks on Ukrainian supply routes and supply lines, as Ukrainian soldiers did during the Russian advance at the outbreak of war.

Currently, thousands of Russian soldiers are said to be in these encirclement areas west of the Oskol River. It is shaping up to be a disaster for Russia's army,3 the likes of which were hardly thought possible even by Western military experts before the outbreak of war (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2QOiMeaYYk). In the coming days, it will be determined whether Ukrainian forces can hold these terrain gains, or whether Kiev overestimated its forces, overstretched supply lines - and Ukraine faces similar setbacks in Russian counteroffensives as Russian invasion forces did at the start of the war.

In response to this disaster, in which terrain was lost within days that had to be painstakingly captured over months, the Russian Army is expected to mass strong formations in the region to quickly reverse Ukraine's terrain gains, as long as they were not secured by defenses, and to dislodge the encircled Russian forces. But this will weaken other front lines as Russia attacked Ukraine with a vastly outnumbered army and the initial military-technical and equipment superiority of Russian forces increasingly fades due to Western arms deliveries and war-related attrition.

Further attacks by Ukrainian forces thus seem likely. But this would ultimately mean that the strategic initiative in this war would pass to Ukraine after weeks of de facto stalemate. Russia's invading army would thus be put on the defensive, while Ukrainian formations exploit weak points to break through thinned Russian fronts and make repeated gains in terrain. The coming days will show whether this latest offensive by Kiev southwest of Kharkov actually marked a strategic turning point in the war. The decisive factor will be the extent to which Kiev's forces will be able to maintain these terrain gains in the face of Russian counterattacks.

On September 10, the first photos of Ukrainian soldiers from the strategically important city of Kupyansk appeared on the web - as mentioned, this is where the main Russian supply line to the western Donbass runs. Apparently, parts of the city were abandoned by Russia without a fight. It takes Russia months to capture Ukrainian cities. Ukraine appears to be taking them in a hand sweep. Russian troops south of Kupyansk, especially near Izium, are now in a very difficult position. Indeed, it appears that Russia will lose all conquered territory west of the Oskil River. Izium is almost surrounded by the Ukrainian army, thousands of Russian troops are threatened with capture or death.

But the decisive moment in the Ukrainian offensive is its total surprise effect. Russian reconnaissance and intelligence (satellites, aerial reconnaissance, informants) seem to have been blind. It is 2022, every major Russian troop movement is known to the West, indeed sometimes troop deployments - as most recently towards Kherson - are even discussed on the net. The Russian army, however, seems to have been "blind" and unaware of the significant deployment and preparations for the Ukrainian offensive - this in the era of satellite-based reconnaissance.

The desolate state of the Russian army, which suffers not only from corruption and mismanagement, but also from an archaic command structure, enormous casualties, and rapid wear and tear on materiel (Putin made representations to North Korea to procure ammunition), seems to have put the Kremlin in a position similar to that at the beginning of the war: When the Russian lightning advance on Kiev and Kharkov failed, Moscow had to choose between withdrawal and escalation. Putin opted to expand the war

The Kremlin will face a similar decision very soon if the current Ukrainian offensive is successful: either concede defeat, which is sure to cost Putin his head in the medium term, or escalate further. Russia certainly has the means to continue following the military escalation logic - but at the same time this increases the danger of a devastating large-scale war.
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