by Larry Johnson
What a difference a couple of weeks make. Remember the meme that “Russia is losing” or even “Russia has already lost.?” Exactly one month ago the U.K.’s chief of defense staff said the following:
The head of the UK’s armed forces says Russia is losing in Ukraine, offering a blunt assessment of the state of the war as Moscow’s unprovoked invasion creeps toward its 10-month mark.
“Russia is losing” and the “free world is winning,” Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the United Kingdom’s chief of defense staff, said Wednesday during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London.
That was then. Now, in the wake of the fall of Soledar and intensifying pressure on Bakhmut, some journalists are starting to sing a slightly different tune. Leading Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman grudgingly admits Russia is not losing on the battlefield and may be on the verge of taking over Kiev and ousting the Zelinsky government:
“Don’t write off Russia” — that was the muttered warning of a European diplomat, with long experience in Moscow. It is a fair point. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has gone badly wrong. But Russia remains a huge country, with plentiful resources and a ruthless, brutal government. Ukraine’s intelligence services think that further conscription drives may allow Russia to deploy an army of 2mn for a renewed offensive later this year. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently warned that Moscow might soon make a fresh attempt to capture Kyiv.
But even a battlefield breakthrough could not deliver Russia a lasting victory. Imagine that Putin’s forces achieved some kind of malign miracle, defeated Ukraine and overthrew the Zelenskyy government. What then? The reality is that a wounded and isolated Russia would then be stuck in a decades-long guerrilla war that would make Afghanistan look like a picnic. Occupying forces or a collaborationist government in Kyiv would be under constant attack. “Victory” would lock Russia into a long-term disaster.
Looks like Mr. Rachman has bought into a new fantasy. Ukraine is the new Afghanistan. Really? I guess he has not consulted a map. For starters, there are no huge mountains with endless valleys scattered throughout Ukraine. There are no regional tribes or ethnic clans with their own language or dialect. (There are “clans” but these are criminal organizations.) The ability of Ukrainians to sustain a guerrilla war ignores Russia’s experience in the Chechen region. Putin and Medvedev faced a formidable Islamic insurgent force and defeated it. You see, Russia knows the culture and the language. It is not like a Russian intelligence officer trying to infiltrate a Hazara or Baloch tribe. Very difficult to appear like a native. That is not the case in Ukraine. Ukrainians and Russians come from the same ethnic stock.
Gideon Rachman also makes the mistake of arrogance — he presumes that Russia’s lack of relationships with the United States and Europe means that Moscow is isolated and alone. Someone needs to remind Rachman that there are some other countries in the world not willing to ignore Russia, such as China, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Brazil, just to mention a few.
I think the Russians have discovered they can live without Starbucks and MacDonalds and their lives are not damaged. In fact, if Russia is deprived of Western junk food they just might have a healthier population.
The West is in desperation mode. They are throwing feces against the wall and hoping something sticks.