Of Sanctions and Strategic Bombers

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In the aftermath of the First World War, military theorists across the West were desperate to fashion a path around the next war’s trenches. Engineers and tacticians spent that war tinkering away on machines that promised an escape from attrition: the gas shell, the U-boat, and the armored tank were all deployed with these hopes. All were found wanting. The aeroplane was not expected to have quite the same impact. The flying contraptions of the First World War were feather-like: they were both too light for heavy ordinance and too slim for bulky fuel storage.  Few of these biplanes and triplanes could penetrate deep behind enemy lines. None carried a payload capable of making a serious dent in the nearer trench works. Thus the incipient air forces of the First World War were chiefly used to reconnoiter the static defense works of the enemy—or to shoot down the enemy’s reconnoiterers.1 But the airmen flying and dying in Europe’s gray skies dreamed of something more.

1

My comments here on WWI and the interwar developments broadly follow David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy (New York: Basic Books, 2009); 143-157; Tami Davis Biddle, Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914-1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 11-69; Jonathan House, Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2001), 43-49, 68-70, 168-173; David Jordan et. al, Understanding Modern Warfare, 2nd ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 250-266; Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 123-145.

Two developments allowed these dreams to take flight. Improvements in engine strength and aeronautics led to larger, longer ranged planes capable of carrying much heavier payloads at much higher altitudes. The concurrent creation of independent air arms allowed airmen to free themselves from the tasks that army officers most wanted planes to be used for—reconnaissance and close air support. The airman wanted to fight for the air. But what good was winning the air, exactly? Why should politicians and general staffs allow them to prioritize destroying an enemy air force over an enemy army? What plausible need was there for the institutional independence of the airborne?

The answer to these questions was “strategic bombing.”

The most important technology of the First World War was not the machine gun but the railroad: only the constant clacking of railcars loaded down with ammunition kept the perpetual conflict machine going.2 Supplying the railroads were thousands of factories and millions of factory workers; behind them, an elaborate consortium of merchants, bureaucrats, and central bankers pulling strings and passing memos to ensure that all the cogs were being paid on time. The men in the trenches were the just the cutting edge of an entire nation mobilized in a life-or-death fight to the finish. The aim of the airmen was to jump over this cutting edge and directly target the fragile inner gears that kept the machine in motion.

2

As Marc Ferro points out in his classic study of the war, Joffre was the first commander to realize this, and the French victory at the Battle of Marne can be attributed to this realization. See his The Great War, 1914-1918, trans. Nicole Stone (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 61.

With the power to leapfrog the tanks and the trenches, attrition would be relegated to the wars of the past. The fight of the future would be a short, sharp contest for the skies. The victor of that bout would then turn their focus to the cities of the enemy, unleashing a rain of fire that would force the enemy’s civilian populace into a panic—and the enemy government to surrender. I described these visions last year in an essay for Palladium:

The strategists… proposed that civilians unused to military discipline would meet the destruction of their cities with “panic on such a scale [that] their governments would have to abandon the war.” British strategist J.F.C. Fuller described their visions of future warfare vividly: “if a fleet of 500 aeroplanes” came to London, he wrote, it would “throw the whole city into a panic within half an hour of their arrival.” For several days, London would become “one vast raving Bedlam,” where “the hospitals will be stormed, traffic will cease, [and] the homeless will shriek for help.” As for the government, “it will be swept away by an avalanche of terror. Then will the enemy dictate his terms, which will be grasped at like a straw by a drowning man.” For elites, the disastrous element of this hypothetical panic would be the loss of political control over the masses.

This belief was soon entrenched in militaries across the world—at least those militaries that had no firsthand experience as a target of enemy bombing. Great Britain’s Marshal of the Royal Air Force channeled the new airpower consensus when he argued in 1937 that the Royal Air Force must reorient itself around air defense. There was no other defense against the potential “panic [caused] by indiscriminate attacks on London.” If Britain could not defeat enemy bombers before they released their payloads, he wrote, “we might possibly be defeated in a fortnight or less.” Similar beliefs drove the RAF’s offensive thinking. The purpose of the British bombing campaign of German cities and civilian targets, commanding officer Arthur Harris wrote in a 1943 memo to his subordinates at Bomber Command, was “the breakdown of morale at home and on the battlefront by fear.”3

3

Tanner Greer, “The Myth of Panic,” Palladium , 15 July 2021.

Just under a million Chinese, Japanese, British, and German civilians were killed when these theories were operationalized in the Second World War. In their book The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Lawrence Freedman and Jeffrey Michaels describes the appeal of targeting civilian populations as bound up in with the belief—shared by both the airmen of both the Axis and the Allied powers—that a sharp distinction could be drawn between the “masses” and the “elites” of the enemy, and that fault for the war lay with the latter. To quote Freedman and Michaels:

 On both sides during World War II there were assertions that the enemy elite in crucial ways was alienated from the masses, committed to the war for its own purposes but able to use the state apparatus to mobilize the masses to follow its lead. There was an obvious propaganda element in such assertions. At the same time, they reflected a widely held assumption that the government hold over the population was tenuous. In this sense the mass was the elites ‘Achilles heel’— a soft target that was also the foundation of the national effort. Aerial bombardment would jolt the populace into an awareness of the risks they were running for the government’s war policy. The relationship between the mass and elite would be disrupted: either the people would cease to do the bidding of the government through a generally lackluster approach to war projects or else, preferably, they would demand of the government that it sued for peace.4

4

Lawrence Freedman and Jeffrey Michaels, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 4th ed (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 9.

The bombers’ theory of victory was premised on flawed psychology. Panic is a myth: human societies respond to sudden catastrophe not with disintegration, disorder, or abject terror, but with feats of sacrifice, a spirit of stoicism, and the strong sense of solidarity that comes only through shared suffering.5 Moreover, nationalism and the mass ideologies of liberalism and fascism were powerful forces in the lives of ordinary men and women. These civilians did not need to be manipulated or coerced into sacrificing for such causes—especially in the early stages of the conflict. Contra the expectations of the air theorists, the war united mass and elite more often than it divided them; in one nation after another, class alienation was subsumed under shared struggle against a deadly outside threat.

5

See footnote 3, also Lee Clarke, “Panic: Myth or Reality?,Contexts, vol 1, iss 3, 21-26 ; Charles Fritz, “Disasters and Mental Health: Therapeutic Principles Drawn From Disaster Studies,” University of Delaware Disaster Research Center: Historical and Comparative Research Series #10 (1996); Rebacca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster (New York: Penguin Books, 2010).

The air theorists’ faulty psychology reflected the general biases of their class: as a rule modernist intellectuals represented the masses as an easily manipulated and mercurial mob.6 But this was not the theorists’ only problem. Freedman and Michaels identify several conceptual flaws in their theory of victory that would pose problems for the belligerents even if enemy masses had acted as mob-like as the strategic bombers had hoped:

  1. There was nothing stopping manipulative elites from using attacks on civilians to redirect anger away from themselves and towards a hated enemy.
  2. There was no reason to believe that “a change in attitude [among the civilian population] would automatically result in a change in behavior—and that this would take the form of activism rather than apathy.”
  3. There was no reason to believe that “the means would be available for mass activism to transform the government conduct of the war”—especially if said government was as coercive as its enemies portrayed it.7
7

Friedman and Michaels, Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 9.

These failures to think through the sticky points of strategy mattered. When combined with the flawed psychology informing the entire enterprise, strategic bombing could not attain its planned purpose. Bombs were dropped; governments did not fall. Cities were burnt to the ground; the war continued. Slowly the goal of strategic bombing changed from shock to pain. The trouble was that by the time strategic bombing began in earnest, pain was something the nations of World War II were already well acclimated to. The amount of pain these nations could absorb were staggering. Neither Japan nor Germany was pushed to the negotiation table by the firebombing of their cities. Only the singularly destructive power of the atom bomb was capable of doing that.

Later defenses of the air theorists would argue that the Allied strategic bombing campaigns contributed to the economic exhaustion of the Axis powers, and with that their eventual defeat—but this was a modest gain in light of the theorists’ original aims. Instead of making war by attrition obsolete, strategic bombing turned out to be nothing more than another instrument of attrition.

*

No one argues for old style strategic bombing anymore. It took several decades—including an utterly futile strategic bombing campaign over North Vietnam—for the U.S. military to fully realize the limits of strategic bombing. But the lessons have been learned. The strategies of the early air theorists, however, are not entirely dead. They live on through two more successful descendants. Men like John Warden and John Boyd would reimagine the structure and purpose of the air campaign in the 1980s, arguing that the collapse imagined by the early air theorists of the ‘30s was possible if the indiscriminate carpet bombing of World War II were replaced by surgical, precision strikes on enemy fuel depots, transportation nodes, communications hubs, command and control headquarters, intelligence centers, and surveillance assets.8 The goal of this bombing campaign was not pain but paralysis. The 1991 Gulf War is the classic demonstration of this sort of successful shock campaign.

8

Frans B Osinga, Science, Strategy, and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (New York: Routledge, 2007); John Warden, The Air Campaign, rev. ed (Excel Press, 1999).

The second child of strategic bombing is nuclear strategy. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, military theorists have recognized that nuclear weapons are chiefly about the threat of pain. Atomic forces once did provide a shortcut between attrition and surrender. But the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings occurred when the United States possessed an atomic monopoly. That advantage was fleeting. By the mid ‘50s the situation had changed entirely—and both sides of the Cold War recognized that the amount of pain a nuclear stockpile could unleash loomed too large for practical use. For the last sixty years nuclear strategy has been less about unleashing pain on the enemy than on the deterrence posture and bargaining tactics needed to keep a nuclear enemy from unleashing pain on you.9

9

Friedman and Michaels, Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 83-129.

Today the closest analogue to the logic of the strategic bomber lies in the world of economics. I speak of sanctions. The parallels are plentiful. Neither trade embargos nor financial sanctions targeting entire banking systems are precision instruments. Just as the bombers of World War II did not have the means to distinguish civilian targets from military ones, so too do attacks on a foreign economy fall hardest on vulnerable civilians. We imagine that the pain these civilians experience will translate into political change—either a change in regime, or a change in regime behavior. But as was the case with strategic bombing, the mechanism by which civilian suffering leads to change is not made clear.

This is most clear in our recent sanctions campaign against the Russians. As with strategic bombing, the entire enterprise is premised on exploiting a psychological and social divide between ruler and ruled that might not exist.  Like our grandfathers before us, we have a difficult time accepting that the everyday citizen of an authoritarian regime might be motivated to sacrifice their lives and living standards for abstract, nationalist ideals. As in World War II, we deny these civilians culpability for the war while simultaneously devising tactics that make them the first target of our fury.

Our campaign against the Russian economy even follows the traditional arc of the strategic bombing campaign: early hopes that the shock of sudden economic assault might upturn the Russian regime or war effort have faded. Now we tweet about the need to “pressure” Putin with maximum economic pain. The sanctions we impose will eventually have a material effect on the front—but only in the attritional and indirect fashion that firebombing Japanese cities degraded Japanese fighting capacity over time.

There are many plausible reasons one might inflict economic harm on an opposing country: pain might be used to try and compel a foreign power to change its behavior. Restrictions might be intended as a bargaining chip for the eventual war settlement negotiations. Or they might be kept in place to degrade the Russian economy over the long term, thus frustrating Russian attempts to modernize their military in the decades to come. The use of sanctions may be principally about credible deterrence—the threat of sanctions will only deter hostile powers from taking actions if they believe we are willing to accept the costs of employing economic weapons. We must act now to make those threats credible in the future.

It is not clear to me which, if any, of these rationales motivate our current sanctions regime. The popular press shows an extraordinary disregard for this question. New York Magazine asks “Are the Sanctions Against Russia Working?” without ever stating what work the sanctions should be doing (see also Michael McFaul’s argument that  “sanctions are working, but need to work better” ). The Washington Post describes “why sanctions can be so effective” without telling us what they are effective at achieving. The New York Times reports a list of every sanction the United States has levied to “pressure” Russia without writing a line on what this pressure aims to accomplish.10

10

Michael McFaul, “The West Needs To Up Its Sanctions Game,Washington Post (3 May 2022); Kevin Dugan, “Are the Sanctions Against Russia Working or Not?,” New York Magazine (9 April 2022); Andrew Van Dam, Youjin Shin, and Alyssa Fowers, “How Russia Will Feel the Sting of Western Sanctions,” Washington Post (24 March 2022); “How The World Is Seeking to Put Pressure on Russia,” New York Times, last updated 26 May 2022.

Biden officials are usually no better—take Janet Yellen’s explanation for the most recent round of sanctions:

Today we are further constricting Russia’s economy and access to services and technology it needs to conduct this unprovoked invasion,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Preventing Russia from accessing the United States’ valuable professional services increases the pressure on the Kremlin and cuts off its ability to evade sanctions imposed by the United States and our partners. We are also targeting Putin’s ability to generate revenue that enables his aggression, as well as entities and their leaders who support his destructive actions. 11

11

U.S. Treasury Takes Sweeping Action Against Russia’s War Efforts,” Press Release, Department of the Treasury, 8 May 2022.

With the exception of the line about Russian government revenue, all Yellen tells us is that the sanctions will “increase pressure on the Kremlin,” and more effectively target “entities and leaders” who support Putin. How this pressure and targeting will translate to better outcomes for the United States, or for Ukraine, is not stated. The aims of our sanctions regime remain under theorized.

The aims matter. There is a difference between a sanction campaign that attempts to destroy an enemy industrial complex vs. a campaign aimed at compelling an enemy to change their aggressive behavior. In security parlance, that second sort of campaign is labeled coercive diplomacy. “Escalation is the currency of coercive diplomacy,” writes Richard Nephew in The Art of Sanctions. If your aim is “to inflict some measure of pain in order to change [the] policy” of an enemy state, then “opponents must believe that you are not only prepared to go further, but that doing so is inevitable without resolution of the underlying problem.” The goal of the sanctioning state is to offer a choice: “you can stop this now or suffer worse.”12

12

Richard Nephew, The Art of Sanctions: A View From the Field (New York: Columbia, 2017), 11, 50.

But in order to offer this choice, the sanction setters must also “define [the] minimum necessary remedial steps that the target state must take for pain to be removed.”13 Have we done this? Do we have any clear idea of what specific steps the Russians should take for the West to let up on the pain it now inflicts? On the other hand, can we credibly commit to escalate the pain we impose if Moscow does not change course? Or have we repeated the error of sanction’s regime against Iraq, where the sanctions were so onerous to begin with that the U.N. could neither negotiate easily nor threaten further?

13

ibid, 4. For more on this point, see 181. On Iraq, see pp. 25-26.

One could contrast the slap-dashery of the sanctions campaign with the carefully calibrated military and political response to Russia’s invasion. NATO will soon include Sweden and Finland inside the alliance, billions of dollars of equipment have been securely delivered to the Ukrainians, intelligence assets have been mobilized to supply the Ukrainians with information needed for battlefield victories, and a rotation of statesmen, politicians, and diplomats make their way to Kiev—and all this has been done without moving up the escalation ladder. We are less likely to be sucked into a general war with Russia today than we were in February. The Biden team should be credited with these accomplishments. With the  exception of Biden’s unfortunate off-the-cuff speculation on the need to remove Putin from office a month back, the Biden team has hit the right diplomatic notes at each stage of the crisis. Their actions have been substantive—but also measured, proportional, and carefully planned. The purpose of their actions on the security front have been clearly and convincingly articulated. They possess a coherence that our sanctions regime against the Russians lacks.

Here is my hypothesis for this discrepancy: Washington has a stronger memory of Cold War style conflict bargaining. We know what nuclear brinkmanship looks like and have long theorized how to respond to it. We know what military coercion is; libraries have been written on the sort of response it demands. In the realms of diplomacy and hard power we have reduced the linkage of ends, ways, and means down to formula. This is not true when it comes to economic coercion.

Earlier I quoted from Lawrence Friedman and Jeffrey Michael’s The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. The book is a compendium of the debates theorists and practitioners have had about the nature of nuclear forces and nuclear posturing from 1945 to the present day. It is 804 pages long.  It references hundreds of sources. A similar compendium of sanctions strategy—perhaps it would be titled The Evolution of Economic Coercion—could not be written. There simply is not a comparable wellspring of theory and practical experience to draw on.

The irony here is that sanctions—including banking sanctions—are actually older than nuclear weaponry. W.N. Mendlicott’s two volume The Economic Blockade, Nicholas Mulder’s The Economic Weapon, Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon, Edward Miller’s Bankrupting the Enemy, and Michael Barnhart’s Japan Prepares for Total War lay out the origins of modern economic coercion in the first decades of the 20th century. But our record of the decades that follow is spottier.

There is a small academic literature which is assesses whether sanctions are statistically correlated with successful compellence; there is also a literature estimating the economic effects that this or or that set of sanctions have had. But they are not large. More recently a new literature on “weaponized interdependence” has sprouted up, which sketches out positivist accounts of the newer methods of financial coercion. Juan Zarate’s memoir narrates his role inventing and implementing some of these new tools of financial coercion. To my knowledge, Richard Nephew’s The Art of Sanctions: A View From the Field is the only attempt to provide a prescriptive, user-oriented theory of economic coercion that we have.14

14

Gary Hufbauer, Jeffrey Shott, Kimberly Elliot, and Barbara Oegg, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 3rd ed, is the most comprehensive catalog of trade sanctions activity between 1945 and 2010 and is the foundation of the literature on sanction’s effects. Robert Pape and David Baldwin’s debate in “Evaluating Economic Sanctions,” International Security 23, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 189–98, along with the Pape paper it was written in response to, set the terms of academic writing on sanctions for the last two decades. Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman’s “Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion,” International Security 44, no. 1 (July 2019): 42–79, is the most important development in the literature since then. A recent edited volume on weaponized interdependence gives a sense for this research agenda’s growth: Daniel Drezner, Henry Farell, and Abaraham, The Uses and Abuses of Weaponized Interdependence (Washington DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2021). Worthwhile work has also been done in law journals on all of this, cf. Suzanne Katzenstein, “Dollar Unilateralism: The New Frontline of National Security,” Indiana Law Journal 90 (2015): 293–351.

 So much is still lacking. We lack any systemic account of economic and financial coercion between the Second World War and the War on Terror. We lack detailed histories of economic coercion under Bush and Obama, when the new financial tools used by the Treasury Department to punish America’s enemies were invented (the world cries out for a biography of Stuart Levy—easily the most significant figure of this century that no one recognizes!).15 Most of all, we lack the Thomas Schelling and John Warden of economic coercion. Men like Schelling and Warden did not just write positivist, social scientific descriptions of strategic decision making, but provided tools for action. We need theorists who can detail the ways and means of a successful sanctions campaign. We need theorists who can lay out the principles of the strategic interaction in the coercive economic domain.

15

Robin Wright, “Stuart Levey’s War,” The New York Times, October 31, 2008, sec. Magazine,

 In time this might happen. Richard Nephew’s book might be the first from many retired practitioners with practical experience waging economic warfare. Rising scholars like Nicholas Mulder, Erik Sand, Edourdo Saravalle, and Moana Ali might be up for the challenge of integrating their accounts with larger historical experience. But for the moment we grope in the dark, as the strategic bombers once did. We, like them, are condemned to inflict mass suffering because we lack the theory to do otherwise.  

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35 Comments

There is a general swing away from the idea that the bombing campaign against Germany was ineffective. Primarily because the case against it was never particularly strong. The complaints of ineffectiveness was a result of looking to closely at the trees and not seeing the forest.

Adam Tooze in his Wages of Destruction probably does the best economic number crunching. The bombing did have an effect. Even directly. The Germans had about the same number of people working building aircraft as the United States did: look at the production numbers. Even the Soviets (also not seriously bombed strategically) outproduced the Germans in many categories. The Germans, who granted weren’t as good at mass production as the Fordist Americans, had to disperse their production to an extreme degree. Trying to build stuff in underground caves doesn’t work too well.

The second major advantage of the bombing campaign was that it took the Luftwaffe away from the battlefield: particularly in the East where most of the war’s fighting took place. In 1943, the Soviet air interdiction over Kursk takes a major drubbing. Something in the order of f10:1 kill ratios. By 1944, the German fighter planes are all over the Reich. Operation Bagration, probably the German’s single most biggest disaster of the war including Stalingrad, has one major problem it need not contend with. The same goes for Allied Operations in Normandy.

The bombing of Japan was effective. The problem with showing that it was economically effective is that you submarine campaign strangling the island, and a naval mine campaign that was even worse. So you get a little bit of the bouncing the ruble effect.

Oddly the most effective single strategic bombing raid of the war may have been the B-25s of the Dolittle Raid. Grossly ineffective in material terms, it helped lead the Japanese down the path to Midway.

Strategic bombing was grossly ineffective according to the theory that originally justified it. Strategic bombing did not lead to civilian pressure on enemy regimes to surrender at an earlier date; it was not a successful tool of coercive bargaining; it was not a short cut. There is strong evidence that it worked as a tool of attrition — but it was promoted as an escape from attrition, not as the culmination of it.

How is the entire German armament industry being forced to work out of caves fit your attrition model? The lack of German fuel? No German Luftwaffe over the battlefield?

Did it work how the original theorists thought it would? No. But drone-warfare is working very well. New technology is often over-hyped, or maybe it would be better to say wrongly-hyped. Take drones: Even if they aren’t (yet?) living up to their hype – killer drone swarms – the side without it has been losing lately – often very badly.

If one side can strategically attack with no response back, it is has a huge advantage. It might not have been “effective”, but the North Vietnamese bombing was a pretty good prod to get them to the peace table.

But your entire piece is entirely dismissive.

Drones without strategic underpinnings are just overhyped wunderwaffen. The widely cited examples of the Turkish Bayrektar strikes in Libya against a mercenary pilot only equipped ragtag air arm of former CIA asset Gen Haftar and an Armenian defense of Ngorno Karabakh that had virtually no airpower at all…clearly did not scale to a war the sheer size of Ukraine, where the adversary has the world’s most advanced AD AND enough air and cruise missile power to destroy the vaunted Bayrektars on the ground. TB2s only did damage around Kyiv where they weren’t flying so high and Russian logistics were bunched up and their armor funneled into urban kill zones. Once the distinctly unstealthy TB2s actually had to fly high and slow to their targets they were easy pickings for Russian fighters and SAMs.

The Switchblade loitering munitions were supposed to be another gamechanger, but their range and warheads proved too small to make much difference or pack as much punch as Russia’s own models copied from Israel’s Harpy.

Right now the latest game changer HIMARS are clearly doing some damage and slowing the Russians down. But the Russians are adapting by dispersing their ammo stockpiles further back from the frontlines and better positioning their point defense AD to shoot the incoming rockets down. HIMARS do not fly low or perform evasive maneuvering and fall on a predictable ballistic trajectory. Shoot and scoot tactics preserve the HIMARS from counterbattery fire, but not from spetsnaz teams being fed general coordinates from Russian radars of the last HIMARS salvo and calculating driving distances to the next hiding spot, or AOs courtesy of Russian moles in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense hunting them and their (allegedly totally Ukrainian, no one would dream of ‘ex’ US Army artilleryist PMCs operating) crews down.

Doubling down on HIMARS draining half the US Army/USMC arsenal followed by introducing F16s via Poland-based ‘pit stop’ at western Ukrainian bases tactics this autumn/winter will likely be the last desperate throws of the dice for this failing all out NATO proxy war.

As for the latest offensive that punched through a very narrow salient near Kharkov 20 km behind the existing lines this week — it’s exceedingly at risk of getting cut off, for the same reason Russia’s ‘thunder runs’ into the Kyiv suburbs took painful casualties — not a broad enough axis of advance (the Germans besides literally running out of gas also had this problem in the Battle of the Bulge where they initially routed some GI replacements before hitting an 82nd Airborne wall at Bastogne). Plus hostile locals, who don’t like their blue gold flag patch ‘liberators’ especially not the foreign mercenary ‘volunteers’ among them. Hearing stories about ‘collaborators’ being summarily executed by the NATO backed ‘warriors of light’ in Balaklaya as they did at Bucha and blamed the Russians for all the killing will either make them flee to Russia (an outcome Kyiv doesn’t mind aka ethnic cleansing) or for the younger and more hardened, back Z more.

The Russians have a large, possibly even army corps sized force they are keeping in reserve in eastern Kursk region mostly beyond HIMARS range from the border — and not one soldier from the 100,000 man Belarussian Army has joined the fight. They just had a Vostok exercise this week with the Chinese in the Russian Far East (and a lot of Russians are pretty upset those troops and tanks aren’t in Belgorod already). The claims ‘the Russian military is running out of shells’ (I’ll believe the North Korean shells are on their way to Donetsk when the USIC produces actual proof from the front like the wreckage of the shot down by Russian SAMs HARMS) or ‘running out of cruise missiles’ have been made for the last three months and proven false, even if NATO logisticians temporarily solved the Ukrainians’ getting fuel to the frontlines problems (Toyota and Ford pickup technicals burn gasoline, not tons of diesel like the divisions’ worth of Polish T72s already wasted on the Kherson offensive).

I do not subscribe to any 5D chess theories when incompetence, and Putin’s reluctance to escalate to a true non-nuclear WW3 by massive mobilization across Russia or engaging in tit for tat Iranian militia proxy targeting of Americans in Syria explains most of the present (temporary) stalemate on the ground in Ukraine, which will surely break this winter. But neither do I think the constant Biden Administration gloating to the press about the U.S. having no fear of any escalation is going to leave the hardliners who think Putin’s been too soft with much choice. I don’t think Sinologists like our host grasp that Xi and his hardliners cannot afford to let Russia fail. Nor are the woke GWOT last war fighting generals going to succeed in driving the Russians (many of whom have ‘occupant’ relatives in the area) out of eastern Ukraine on the cheap with Syrian rebel type tactics, without any actual airpower (but hand lofted drones) or massive rebuilding of the UAF’s artillery capabilities (the latter of which will test the bounds of plausible deniability concerning former US and British Army artilleryists on the ground). And since the kitty is mostly empty for Europe, including nearly all the post-Soviet caliber cannons and NATO accessible MiG/SU jets, that can only be done realistically by stripping the US Army, Army National Guard (already rumored to be happening) and USMC inventories — leaving not much arty or MLRS left to send to Taiwan to repel the Big PLA paradrop of 2025.

The milspooks found a weak spot manned by Donbass grandfathers and punched through, credit to the most pervasive satellite and signals intelligence on the planet. But winter is coming. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. It’s not the U.S. but its Russia-obsessed British allies and the sick of the Greens Germans who are about to get punched by General No Gas. The Globo-Blob probably thinks its going to beat down Germans protesting their already insane bills and looming mass furlough inducing gas brownouts this winter, just the way Macron dealt with the Yellow Vests in France and Trudeau bloodlessly crushed the Canadian truckers’ strike. But there will be mass protests across Washington death-gripped Europe the same, and once there’s no leaves on bare trees and the ground around the UAF’s trenches freeze infrared scanning Russian drones (supplemented by swarms of cheap Iranian and Chinese loitering munitions that unlike the NoKo munis, are probably indeed on their way).

Attrition matters, miltwitterers who think only in terms of maneuver are largely mis or mal-educated by the legacies of 19th century warfare and failed blitzkrieg generals who wanted to ingratiate themselves with their new Allied hosts by denigrating the Soviet Russian operational art. The post Western trans Atlantic leadership hasn’t rebuilt the industrial base of the U.S. to fight a war anywhere on our adversaries doorsteps against the combined Russian-Iranian-Chinese axis, because that would require sacrificing both some of their woke anti-masculinity and non-fossil Green energy priorities. And they’re about to starve of energy a good chunk of Europe’s industry particularly metallurgy without which even hyper-prioritized Euro defense manufacturers like Rheinmetal can’t build cannons. Something tells me a lot of German boomers aren’t going to be thrilled with risking Oma and Opa freezing to death for the sake of Ukraine.

You can scoff and say ‘oh the all powerful West once it gets through this difficult winter can keep this up for years’. Yes, I suppose until they start running out of Ukrainian military age males to keep pushing into artillery meat grinders far from the recent dashing advance (that is being used to deflect from horrendous losses the UAF took in Kherson). But the flip side to the coin of you wanting to use Ukrainians to bleed Russians is the Chinese and to a lesser extent Iranians can use Russians to bleed and demilitarize/drain of its stocks NATO. China in particular has an incentive to see American volunteers alongside the UAF (or ‘volunteers’) get sent home in body bags and a lot of vaunted US systems like HIMARS get incinerated by cheap Iranian or Chinese drones and loitering munitions. And they will take that opportunity in 2023, you can count on it. I hate the fact that Tucker Carlson is basically the only commentator allowed on TV who sees the danger that China will use Russia and Iran to bleed us, above all economically.

The city of Kharkov changed hands four times in the First (41), Second (42) and Third (43) battles of Kharkov during WW2.

And if Kyiv tries the Toyota Tundra technical blitzkrieg tactics in Kherson (already failed once), Ugledar or Donbass expecting another victory on the cheap courtesy of wunderwaffen and US intel, where Russian and LDPR troops are far more numerous they’ll get killed and wounded in large numbers. Starting to suspect Russia places vastly greater importance on the Black Sea coast and eventually seizing it all the way to Odessa and Transnistria than they ever have on Kharkov (even if this is a strategic mistake), despite the latter’s far greater proximity to their border. For those who say attrition doesn’t matter because poor territorial defense conscripts can act as meat shields for Kyiv’s elite NATO trained maneuver units, please tell me then why Ukraine is starting to conscript military age females…

Winter is coming. Along with civil unrest in gas-starved US European allies, and swarms of cheap $250,000 Iranian drones killing $15 million HIMARS launchers ahead of the Russian 3rd Corps winter offensive.

I disagree. This author’s argument no doubt receives strong support from segments of the business community. The idea that any given U.S. government action “might not work” is the cover they use to conduct business with genocidal governments like Russia, the PRC, and others. In the end, there’s no way to justify that sort of business. The only question is, “How quickly can our governments crack down on it and help the business community to make better choices?”

The argument of efficiency is not the strongest argument. In a just war, the destruction of enemy infrastructure, including civilian infrastructure, is appropriate punishment. And after all, it was the Germans who began the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, London of course, but beginning with Wielun in Poland on the first day of the war. The destruction of Dresden was entirely appropriate and necessary. In the same way, sanctions against Russia today have perhaps more to do with refusing to deal with an evil regime than with “punishing” the local population by denying them McDonalds or Ikea. The notion of morality has been attenuated in arguments over public policy just as much as with individual behavior. But it remains present, if often unspoken.

“And after all, it was the Germans who began the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, London of course, but beginning with Wielun in Poland on the first day of the war. The destruction of Dresden was entirely appropriate and necessary. ”

No it isn’t. I don’t see women and children deserving death for existing. What did they do wrong?

“And after all, it was the Germans who began the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, London of course, but beginning with Wielun in Poland on the first day of the war. The destruction of Dresden was entirely appropriate and necessary. ”

And all of our Ancestors did similar things. Does that justifying murdering innocents? If so then all the Human race isn’t safe.

Dresden was firebombed for the same reason Nagasaki was incinerated on the same day the Soviets launched their massively successful attack on the Japanese Empire in Manchuria: to overawe Uncle Joe and the emerging Soviet Bloc with Anglo-American aerial might.

https://asiatimes.com/2020/08/red-storm-on-rising-sun/

Strategic bombing once done on sufficient scale as well as ‘carpet bombing’ for tactical breakthroughs as in the Normandy breakout worked during WWII — just at a much higher cost in airmen (the US Army Air Corps suffered more KIA in both theaters than the USMC during its bloody war with Japan) and civilian lives. The real failure of strategic bombing would await the U.S. in Korea and Vietnam.

In other words 2 wrongs don’t make a right. One injustice cannot be balanced with another injustice.

Because it violates the rule of Lex Talionis. Which only punishes the guilty. Not the innocent that happened to be connected to the guilty.

But who is truly guilty? Not the common soldiers compelled to fight under duress, under pain of imprisonment or worse. They possess no agency. Even if they are volunteers, are they not tragically brainwashed, deceived through no fault of their own? Therefore, abstract notions of “guilt” don’t seem a useful guide.

The degree to which Kyiv has managed to keep gushing middle aged conscripts and even grandfathers in their fifties like a firehose at the various hot spots along the 1,200 km (900 mile) frontline in Ukraine in an era of smartphones and Telegram is truly astounding.

Of course, the Russians clearly underestimated the Ukrainain will to fight and the extent to which the whole country had been ‘Galicia-nized’ (absorbing by education and media the worldview of the far western Ukraine that collaborated with the Nazis and was previously ruled by the Hapsburgs never the pre-Soviet Russian Empire) over the past thirty years. And obviously revanchism particularly among central Ukrainian Russian speakers in Kyiv and Dnipro whose grandparents served in the Red Army has accelerated since the humiliation of losing Crimea to Russia in 2014. And granted as well the Ukrainian government is being propped up with tens of billions in our tax dollars and by the most powerful intel and information warfare system on the planet, but still, they weren’t so foolish as to believe that historically well known in Russia ‘die for you? f–k that!’ Ukrainian pragmatism would prevail, so that 100s of thousands would flee the draft sergeants to the West (tens of thousands clearly did, when the invasion began). I had thought in the 21st century no Verduns or Stalingrads would be possible, but I’ve been forced to reconsider that somewhat naive view now. I also used to believe a conventional third world war was impossible, it would go nuclear sooner or later, probably sooner because the U.S. would not be able to stomach WW2 level casualties from carriers sunk by Chinese (or made in Russia fired by China) hypersonic missiles. I am reconsidering that view as well. For now the Blob has succeeded in making its frontline garrison state proxy simply accept WW2 and damn near WWI level casualties as a new normal.

It seems to me a major difficulty in scientifically breaking down economic sanctions is the state of economics itself. Economics is not science any more than adding equations to astrology makes the latter scientific.
A second difficulty is that the international economic structure is certainly a major factor in and of itself – specifically the dominance of the US over international finance ranging from the World Bank/IMF, to the petro-dollar, to the US dollar trade reserve status, to the rest of the Washington Consensus. This is then complicated by the fact that this dominance is failing: the US was something like 50% of world GDP in 1945, but US GDP is only 15.83% today. The US held 80% of world hard currency reserves; today there pretty much are no hard currency reserves since there are no hard currencies.
This latest round of sanctions seems clearly to be hurting the US/EU far more than it is hurting Russia; it is the ebbing Washington Consensus vs. Russia’s outsized role during a commodity supercycle upswing.

I don’t necessarily agree with the last point – Russia’s fiscal health, buffeted by years of amassing currency reserves, a successful ‘skimpy’ approach to COVID related social expenditure from its Central Bank and fiscal policy alike, and rising commodity prices is not and will not be the area to evaluate – the shock of the central bank sanctions and initial run on the ruble were more a consequence of the human capital related issues that set in, but never should have been looked at as a sustainable trend. The area to look at will be in the coming months related to import substitution, technology shortfalls, and to what extent the intermediary actors in the Russian economy – not the state giants or the subsistence informal sectors in the poorest regions – neither of which are that exposed – are able to maintain operations.

As for the impact on US/EU economies – this may be an issue of standards of expectation. A bad bout of inflation, driven in part because of energy cost rises (and this issue predated sanctions), is the primary issue, but it is nothing akin to, say, losing 15% of GDP (at best). The latest bout of sanctions do not alter the core issue at hand for either Russia or the EU, but they do put more pressure on the intermediate actors in the Russian economy – manufacturing firms in the Russian ‘rust belt’, as well as metallurgy and chemical plants that often sustain the many “One Company Towns” scattered across European Russia and the Urals. It is these areas that will be hit hardest – and these are certainly not the richest parts of Russia, but they are also not the poorest – the poorest are the ethnic republics in the North Caucasus and Inner Siberia that also supply a disproportionate amount of the contract soldiers in the Russian Army, and so their toll is more of a personal one, but economically speaking, these areas are not impacted substantially by sanctions because their economies are more informal and subsistence based.

It would appear to me that we will have to wait until September to really be able to say one way or another – its possible Russia will successfully implement import substitution and the net impact of sanctions will be limited to discomfort on a personal level for those most plugged into the international payment processing system, or it could be something far more drastic as the Russian Economy reverts to something like a Neo-Brezhnev system with the state having to nationalize the spare parts and metallurgy supply chain for its military industrial complex, and more regions of Russia revert to the kind of informal economy that existed in the late 90s-early 2000s before the last big commodity boom. I lean more towards your analysis, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it actually ended up being quite bad.

sent here by Nakedcapitalism.com link. Excellent article. It seems to me that shock and awe of Gulf War would fit into strategic bombing but in that instead of killing civilians directly to stir them up, it was a fraud purposed to kill them by denying them food, water, medical care in order to drive the evil US puppet no longer in favor from power. I’d not be surprised now, though I did not look for it then, if cholera/dysentery delivery packages were dispersed along with the explosive bombs. All not so much for the effect, but for the profit motive. The labs had to get in on the act, and if Ukraine’s number of labs are to be believed, multiplied by the number of other nations that US labs, it’s a successful scam. It seems that the MIC-IMATT has expanded into so many areas, and created so many excuses that they desperate. They are running short of areas of exponential growth(linear won’t do), and we are not being subjected to a campaign to prepare for war against non-existent aliens, just as non-existent foes had to be created (PutinXi/Khomeini to the rescue of greater returns just won’t cut it any more, Latin America/Africa too small). Pursuit of a bigger and better annual report is reaching it’s limit on growth, and will be the death of us all.

This is rather scattered, but I hope it was entertaining and maybe gave a tiny bit of value in return for your excellent writing.

I mean, the theorists were right: the masses *are* often an easily-manipulated and mercurial mob. Trouble is, they’re much more easily manipulated by the government that’s right there and controls their media than they are by some random explosives falling from the sky…

I agree with most of this article. But when speaking of WW2, I have to think the closest thing to strategic bombing meeting its original vision wasn’t Germany or Japan but Mussolini’s Italy. There, the bombers didn’t exactly do the job on their own, but they seem to have done a lot to cut through Fascist propaganda and drive a collapse in public opinion by underscoring the disaster that was happening on the front lines. The anti-Mussolini coup wasn’t exactly a grassroots movement, but public opinion was crucial in persuading the King to move.

The Fascist collapse probably matched the vision of the original proponents of strategic bombing in one respect: Italy went to war for the grand imperialist ambitions of Il Duce, on which the masses don’t seem to have ever been really sold. But there was also one factor the original bombing proponents didn’t value that probably also made it come together: the Italian people could cast resentment on their German “ally” for their suffering, instead of the Anglo-Americans. The masses always and everywhere seem more eager to support the overthrow of their own government if it can plausibly be portrayed as a puppet of foreign powers.

For that reason, Mussolini’s government almost surely wouldn’t have fallen so easily if, instead of occurring in a grand WW2, the military events of the Mediterranean Theater had played out in the context of a narrow Anglo-Italian War.

Typical. You complete edit out the ongoing ground war. Can’t let the Ukrainians have agency, no decadent Europeans can’t do anything so that you can do your fatalist whining. Especially given Russia is the most reactionary of the Western/European cultural families. You remind of Germans/French/Japanese/Indians who think they can sweet talk Russia into turning against China because they think kindly of its agenda culturally.

The comparison here isn’t necessarily World War 2 but the European colonial wars of the Postwar era, most notably France’s in Algeria and Indo-China. The Colonial power is fighting a expeditionary war of choice while the anti-colonial side is fighting a Total War of national survival. That motivational difference is clear by Putin’s clear terror about letting any conscripts enter the fight.

Sanctions are the 2nd front here, like maritime blockades were traditionally in Britain’s wars, inflicting costs, degrading fighting capacity and creating bargaining chips at negotiations. Indeed the latter historically is when sanctions are most powerful. The decisive front remains the land battlefield, can the Ukrainian break Russia’s meatcleaver artillery army given that its no longer has the mass of the USSR and hasn’t generated the professionalism to compensate?

Constantly obsessing about “we didn’t think this through” misses that the other guy has his own agenda that will never conform to your reasoned timetable. Russia started this game of Russian roulette long before you had time to ponder thoughtfully. America’s great geopolitical mistakes of the Postwar era have come from places of security and overthinking the wrong dangers. Responses to emergent crises (e.g. Korea, collapse of the USSR) have usually been more effective.

I am going to let this through Borners, but if you don’t play nice this will be your last comment on this site.

“Sanctions are the 2nd front here, like maritime blockades were traditionally in Britain’s wars, inflicting costs, degrading fighting capacity and creating bargaining chips at negotiations.”

This is a possible theory of victory — though not one articulated by the sanctioners.

In any case, I don’t think highly of Russia’s cultural agenda. Among other things, they have gone out of their way to grind my people–the LDS saints–out of existence there. No use reading other people’s stuff into what I wrote–it is not there.

“Responses to emergent crises (e.g. Korea, collapse of the USSR) have usually been more effective.” A Korea 1953-style armistice with some sort of artillery distancing DMZ along the southern Dnieper while Kyiv keeps a south defensive perimeter extending along the Odessa, Mykolaiv, Dnipro and Krivoy Rog arc (how they will prevent a collapse in Kharkov if the war drags on through next spring/summer remains a mystery to me) is likely the best case scenario for the U.S. position in Europe at this point. Notice I did not write that would be best case scenario as envisioned by the delusional bipartisan consensus in Washington, which still is deluded enough to think Europeans led by the Germans can get hammered with brownouts and crippling gas shortages this winter, but will continue to fall in line, regardless of the political cost and surge in discontent and calls particularly in France, Italy and Germany for following Viktor Orban’s accommodationist peace initiatives.

No one here and very few people I read are denying the agency of a broad swathe of Ukrainian society to fight on as long as the U.S./UK/EU keep providing the weapons and money to continue the struggle. However the country is increasingly relying on its poorer Galician nationalist heartland for manpower, while more affluent Kievans and even Lvov residents flee abroad or pay bribes to avoid the draft. Zelensky’s recent shake up of his security cabinet and firing of even a childhood friend suggests all is not well in Kyiv when it comes to morale among the elites. As for the ‘the anti-colonial side is fighting a Total War of national survival’ line, the Donbass natives and pro-Russian Ukrainians fighting for Moscow clearly don’t see it that way and they have a powerful will and agency of their own as demonstrated by them taking thousands of casualties to expel Ukrainian troops they view as NATO-proxy occupiers from the Donbass.

Hmm… I agree that the severity of the sanctions caught everyone off guard. This includes the Russian government, the governments of other non-Western countries, the Western media, the Western populace. Everyone is scrambling for explanations, no-one knows anything, and it’s very unlikely that Western governments that levied the sanctions are going to have any better idea about why exactly they’re doing this than the public.

However, with all that in mind, I’d like to note that, just because sanctions are unlikely to cause a coup in Russia that everyone seems to misguidedly effect, doesn’t mean that the sanctions aren’t, or cannot be, effective in other ways. I think that the sanctions are currently achieving, or will soon achieve the following effects:

· Galvanize the Russian population against the West – judging by the expectation of a coup, this alone would appear counterproductive. I agree that, in this aspect, sanctions are akin to strategic bombing. However, they also;
· Hurt the Russian industry and war economy. Ostensibly the sanctions on this front have been active since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and inciting in the Donbass – they’re possibly the main reason why Russia has been incapable of producing T-14 Armata tanks, Su-57 jet fighters and other types of new military equipment, as most Russian military industrial production has been dependent upon Western machine tools and know-how from Siemens, Rheinmetall, Eroglu and other companies. On top of that, if Russia was spending 4.1% of its GDP on its military, then crashing the economy can reduce military spending in absolute terms – Russia might increase military spending proportional to its economy to compensate, but I’m not sure they can keep up the industrial same pace with the economic rug pulled out from under them.
· Allow the West to diplomatically unify behind the implementation of co-operative punishment action. I’m usually opposed to virtue signalling when done by individuals in the context of peace-time culture wars – but I’m willing to make an exception in case of banding together to oppose a literal war raging on in Europe.
· Signal internationally that the West is capable of imposing extreme sanctions on a country in case that country breaks the peaceful world order and goes to war (at least in Europe). Sanctions that were levied against, say, Venezuela due to Maduro’s recent political repression and communism LARP seemed too trivial – it appears to be a relatively unimportant third-world country that the US can cut off from world trade without a second thought. But that the West was also willing to cut out a nuclear country that also appeared up to this point to potentially become a world hegemon surely must have shocked the world – even China ought to be concerned if its adventures in Taiwan might see a similarly ruinous response.
· Puerile revenge against the Russian people for being silently complicit in the Putin regime’s imperialism. I’ve been radicalized by vatnik behavior in Ukraine recently such that I, personally at least, don’t care that much about millions of Russians sinking into poverty. Let’s hope that remains just me.

Speaking of sanctions and their effectiveness or lack thereof, Bloomberg is reporting that China’s SMIC has successfully introduced 7 nanonmeter chips, despite the Trump and now Biden Administration’s attempts to block the Chinese from obtaining and implementing this technology.

RT.com gave the story plenty of prominence on their page, perhaps as a signal to Washington that Moscow will soon benefit from a steady supply of the same Chinese chips.

The salvo after salvo of cruise missiles Russia is pummeling Ukraine with daily into the scores (40-60 missiles per day if you include the ‘Tornados’ and ‘Iskanders’) of precision strikes likely include not only Chinese chips, but likely entire circuit boards or sub assemblies (perhaps from the same assembly lines the PLAN use for their cruise missiles) made in China.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-21/china-s-top-chipmaker-makes-big-tech-advances-despite-us-curbs

As it relates to the broader topic of Western sanctions failure and Tanner’s concern of there being little to no objective measurements of U.S. imposed-sanctions actual successes whether vs Iran or Russia, much of the failure is owed to the American higher education institutions that prepare so-called elite thinkers viewing things like iron/steel and raw materials production as relics of the old outdated industrial past. That is to say, the bias toward grossly overrating the paper GDP of service-based economies bled over into massive miscalculation of the true ‘correlation of forces’ to use the old Soviet econometrics of warfare term. It’s also crystal clear that the Russians ability to bombard Ukraine with something between 40 and 60 precision cruise/aeroballistic missile strikes per day achieving semi-strategic effects from decapitating Kyiv of competent mid-level commanders (that is, the Pentagon’s belief that ‘remote control’ war and command without risking its own commanders butts on the ground dying in those same missile strikes also is hubris) are being sustained by Chinese components, not just chips but likely entire subassemblies and possibly rocket motors in common with Chinese naval cruise missiles (I’m not an expert in this area but there are many superficial similarities between the Kalibrs and YJ18). The fanciful belief that Washington could intimidate Beijing from supplying those key components to the Russian war machine demonstrated arrogance and stupidity on the part of the Biden Administration.

Eh, we don’t even have to look beyond to Chinese supplies, just an honest look at GDP. Russia is relatively detached from the global economy, so the GDP per exchange rate isn’t quite as useful, and PPP is more useful. And by that, the US/Russia GDP comparison shifts from 14-1 to 6-1. That 2.4x GDP inflator means the Russian pre-war millary spending was closer to $156 Billion effective, and in May Russian war spending was already at $100 billion annual, and I could easily see it rising to $180 billion annually, 10% of GDP, which might be equivalent to $400 billion in PPP spending.

$180 nominal would put Russian military spending above US Army spending in absolute spending ($177 in 2022) and $400 billion would be 50% of total US military spending. And this is at merely 10% GDP into military spending, USSR peacetime spending, so probably sustainable long term.

This is far more scale an any foe we’ve tried to fight in this manner for a long time. It also recommends the scale of aid necessary, especially if the Ukrainians need to go on offensives: heavy mobilization of Ukraine in PPP terms might be $100 billion. To match Russian spending thus requires around $300 billion in aid, maybe $100 billion if Ukraine can use the stuff more efficiently.

And that’s to get parity! Superiority likely requires $500 billion to $1 trillion per year for decisive offenses. So, we would be talking about committing the equivalent of the entire current defense budget in aid. Which the US could afford, but it would be a real sacrifice, and not just pocket change like were used to.

I don’t want people to get the wrong impression of what I’m saying as I wrap up any further UKR posts on this thread, as I don’t want to annoy the host.

Clearly Ukraine will continue to fight for many more months — whether that’s 18, 24, 36 I don’t know and no one can really know even given the econometrics and closely guarded real rather than inflated body counts on both sides. I would never deny the agency of the clear Ukrainian majority that absolutely opposes ever being part of Russia again. But the Donbass, which has almost fully mobilized its military age male population, has just as much agency to never be reabsorbed by Kyiv or be under the Galicia-centric Ukrainian nationalist if not ‘Banderite’ boot again either. There also remains a minority within Kyiv controlled territory that is pro-Russian, or more accurately these days doesn’t trust Putin but hates the Zelensky regime as a U.S. puppet government sending their neighbors into an absolute meatgrinder. And while Kyiv’s recent territorial gains have been exploited to assure any ‘turncoats’ and ‘traitors’ that they will be punished, perhaps even summarily executed as some were in Balaklaya, an underground Russia can use to guide precision strikes and even plant some car bombs of their own to take out key leaders and NATO advisors still exists, from Kharkov to Odessa. Or do people honestly think Russia is using only satellites/backdooring UKR cellular tower signals intel or its own network of informants within the GUR (and in Zelensky’s own unbombed offices) to guide all those Kalibrs and X101s, to where scores of Ukrainian territorial defense or Western ‘volunteer’ mercenaries are sleeping? Of course the Russians like the Ukrainians, have their own informants in the enemy’s territory!

To hear the U.S. legacy media and the Ukrainian propaganda machine tell it, Moscow has already committed the vast bulk of its armor, artillery, and most laughably nearly all its aircraft to this war, far beyond the more reasonably estimated 10 to 20% maximum of the actual Russian Army’s combat strength that’s been rotated through the ‘SMO’ these past seven months. I repeat, Russian units including those supposedly exterminated like the Gostomel Airport raiding VDV have been rotated. Unlike some of the LDPR republicans, they haven’t been in continuous combat since February, enjoying only a few days of home leave for breaks like most of the exhausted Ukrainian territorial units (whose job is to act as meat shields for the ‘elite’ NATO trained troops you saw in Kharkov with very heavy foreign contingents). Kyiv’s territorials are by their own recorded complaints reconstituted WW1/WW2 style, with inadequate weapons and green barely trained replacements until the greybeards are mostly dead or wounded.

Therefore as even NineteenFortyFive.com acknowledges even before we factor in greater ‘Eurasian Lend Lease’ from China and more of those loitering munitions/combat drones from Iran, this war is far from over, and the Russian military is far from ‘culmination’ of its combat power that we’ll see by summer 2023 with partial mobilization. The Russian Air Force in particular demonstrated in Chechnya and in Syria it was more than capable of inflicting mass casualties on determined, ready to die defenders dug into urban areas. How much longer do the US/UK generals who are reportedly really running the Ukrainian general staff show from Poland and deep bunkers under Kyiv think the Russians will remain pilot and aircraft loss averse, such that Kyiv can protect its own 1,200 km front line (900 miles?) with a couple dozen surviving late 1980s Soviet vintage BUKs and a couple of S300s (I doubt the FSU Israeli technicians or Georgians were able to seriously upgrade those, even if NATO provided the money for it)?

The RuAF may not be able to hope to match the USAF or South Korean air force of 2022, but if it’s merely at a 1972 Linebacker II level of lofting dumb and thermite bombs using onboard GLONAS computers, its more than capable of inflicting mass casualties on the remaining fortification lines in the Donbass where Ukrainian troops staying dispersed and hiding behind civilians is harder than in Kharkov or Kherson/Mykolaiv regions in the south and east.

To all the the Ukro-NATO triumphalist claims of the past week, I would ask how is that really possible, even with a wildly lopsided tooth to tail ratio, when Russia has one million soldiers in its army the majority now contract rather than conscripts and an estimated million man reserve, plus the 100,000 man Belarussian Army (that’s without Minsk calling up any of its own reserves), and throwing in future DPRK ‘volunteers’ blessed by the CPC at their upcoming Party Congress this October along with direct Chinese arms transfers (with maybe a few ex-PLA special forces ‘Wolf Warriors’ trying to blend in with the North Korean contingent coming to Donetsk?), plus the Syrian Arab Army volunteers, as well as plenty of convicts led by veterans in Wagner PMC.

If you’re Uncle Xi, and you *know* that massive quantities of Russian oil and gas plus coal coming overland that the US Navy can’t blockade without risking thermonuclear retaliation from Russia will be essential to your Taiwan invasion war effort, is there really a chance you just leave Putin twisting in the wind without willing North Korean troops or new Chinese drones/kamikaze munition toys, out of fear Uncle Sam might apply MOAR sanctions? Isn’t Washington applying sanctions against China about Taiwan even without any invasion as of yet? Of course Beijing is going to back Moscow with everything short of sending their own troops. They can’t afford in my estimation not to do so and let the U.S. sit back and bleed Russia without helping the Russians do some bleeding and ‘demilitarizing’ of their own.

Putin declared partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists, and the State Duma legalized the active recruitment of foreign volunteers (hello North Korean People’s Army and SCO Foreign Legion fighting and killing NATO Foreign Legionnaires we insist aren’t very recently discharged disavowed combatants). For all the ‘Russia will run out of weapons any day now’ crowd, note Putin did not announce this move until AFTER he met Xi in Samarkand. Draw your own conclusions as to whether DJI is setting up a whole production line for Chinese made hand lofted drones and isn’t sending loitering munitions and drones to the Russian military.

Russian ally/satellite Belarus, which has over 100,000 active duty troops facing Kyiv’s northern outskirts and the critical highway/s down to Volyn where vital NATO supplies and fuel from Poland comes through, is also quietly mobilizing. Once the Anglo-American generals directing Kyiv’s war effort and making the UAF generals look like geniuses by spoonfeeding them targeting coordinates from US satellites 24/7 do the attrition math, as to how much longer the Ukrainian Army can sustain these casualty levels of dead and wounded (Ru Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said 60,000+ KIA another 50,000+ WIA, I’d say that’s a low end, estimate as are the admitted RuArmy combat deaths of around 6,000 that didn’t include probably 10,000 from LDPR and Wagner PMC combined), the Polish Army will start calling up their reserves. DoD has a plan for the Poles representing and accompanied by U.S. and British Army advisors to enter western Ukraine all the way up to Kyiv and the Dniepr as rescuers from Russian occupation (nevermind if the Polish troops bring sledgehammers for those statues of Stepan Bandera and avenge the Volyn genocide by destroying them contrary to orders). At which point, without an immediate ceasefire that will be a partition we’ll be in WW3. The neocon lunatics of course, especially the fanatical Brits, will never accept this, so ‘Ukrainian’ F16s piloted by American Viper jocks and Abrams tanks Kyiv will have a hell of a time keeping fueled up and Patriot batteries to replace the UAF’s destroyed Soviet legacy SAMs are next.

God help us all.

In proxy wars as in direct wars the enemy gets a vote. And internationalizing or flooding a conflict zone with arms can be a two way highway with no divider.

Does not wanting to see recently discharged MOS 13s coming back to Oklahoma, California or Wyoming in caskets and obits not disclosing how they died after getting killed by one of these while supervising a Ukrainian HIMARS crew…does that make me pro-Putin, or pro invading countries in general?

https://twitter.com/the_hindu/status/1569654653096181761

Also how many blue gold flag waving blue check marks on Twitter will suddenly start caring this week about the sacred sovereignty and territorial integrity of another post Soviet state, Armenia?

The mobilization announcement today and the reported 600+ RU tactical aircraft now likely to escalate the Russian air and drone strikes campaign once the ‘green cover’ leaves fall this autumn also will mean one other thing:

it’s about to get a lot harder for the legacy media not to notice the number of recently discharged JSOC and MOS 13 funerals in places like Alabama, Oklahoma and Wyoming. And some of their relatives may start talking to the alt media or going on Tucker Carlson.

And winning a war without air superiority relying on the same Soviet legacy SAMs your troll army derides as junk is about to get harder for the Anglo-American brass running Kyiv’s war.

The delusion of bleeding the hated Russians on the relative cheap ‘without a single [official active duty you mean] American soldier’ having to bleed and die alongside the Ukrainians for the UAF to achieve anything lasting is about to go away. Some Americans too, are going to start opposing the escalation and asking whether the most corrupt government in Europe is worth American lives to prop up.

No lies detected — though the April peace deal may have been somewhat illusory, at least people with solidly anti-Putin and anti-Trump credentials like Fiona Hill believed it could’ve happened.

https://www.breitbart.com/clips/2022/09/23/fncs-carlson-today-is-the-closest-we-have-ever-been-to-nuclear-conflict-in-history/

The only voice of foreign policy sanity left on cable news is the older more mature husband and father who wore a bowtie on CNN during the Iraq War. We all can learn from our mistakes.

Signing off.