by Alastair Crooke
“NATO has never been stronger; Russia is a global Pariah; and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience; in short, Russia has lost, Russia has lost strategically, operationally and tactically – and they are paying an enormous price on the battlefield”.
He, (General Mark Milley, US Chief of Defence Staff) doesn’t believe a word of that. We know that he doesn’t believe it because, two months ago, he said the exact opposite — until he was chastised by the White House for straying off the Joe Biden message. Now he is back, playing on ‘Team’.
Zelensky likely also doesn’t believe the word of the recent European promise of tanks and aircraft (88 Leopard tanks will winnow down to 14) — and he knows it to be mostly a chimaera. But he plays on Team. A few extra tanks will make no difference on the ground, and his fifth mobilisation is being resisted at home.
The European militaries are waiting-out this episode, their armouries running on ‘reserve tank’.
Zelensky repeatedly says he must have tanks and planes by August to sandbag his haemorrhaging defences. But contradictorily Zelensky is warned, It’s critical; “make significant gains on the battlefield” now – as it is the Administration’s “very strong view” that it will be harder thereafter, to obtain Congressional support (i.e. August is past time; it will be too late).
Clearly the US is preparing the ground for a Spring ‘Victory Announcement’ — as Milley’s delusional comments foreshadow –and a pivot – just a whisker ahead of the US Presidential Election calendar kick-off.
The ‘narrative’ in the MSM has already begun to transition to that of a coming crushing Russian offensive – and of heroic Ukrainian resistance overwhelmed by crushing force.
“The critical nature of the next few months has already been conveyed to Kiev in blunt terms by top Biden officials — including deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and undersecretary of defence Colin Kahl, all of whom visited Ukraine last month” (Washington Post) — with CIA Director Bill Burns travelling to personally brief Zelensky just a week ahead of those officials’ arrival.
Zelenksky was put on notice. Results now, or else!
But then Seymour Hersh finally says out loud, an unspoken harsh reality — one with hugely complicated political consequences (taken from Hersh’s subsequent interview with Berliner Zeitung, (Google translation)). “No, not the Nordstream sabotage (we knew that), but that of reckless misjudgement and rising anger in Washington — and contempt for Biden and his close team of neocons’ immature political judgements.“
It’s not just that the Biden Team ‘blew up the pipelines’; they’re proud of that! It’s not just that Biden was prepared to eviscerate the competitive ability and employment prospects of Europe for the next decade (some will applaud). The explosive part of the narrative was that “At some point after the Russians invaded, and the sabotage was done … (these are people who work in top positions in the intelligence services, and are well trained): They turned against the project. They thought it crazy”.
“There was a lot of anger among those involved” noted Hersh. Initially, Biden’s Nordstream narrative — ‘it will not happen’ –was understood by the Intel ‘pros’ as simple leverage (linked to a then prospective Russian invasion) — an invasion which Washington knew was coming, because the US was prepping Ukrainians furiously — precisely in order to trigger the Russian invasion.
Yet the Nordstream sabotage was postponed — from June until September 2022 — months after the invasion had happened. So, what then was the point of crippling the European industrial base through imposing sky-high energy costs on it? What was the rationale? And there was more anger at Biden’s Team members ‘shooting their mouths’ about Nordstream, effectively boasting ‘damn right, yes, we ordered it’.
Hersh comments that although the CIA answers to ‘power’ in the broad meaning, rather than to Congress, “even this community is horrified by the fact that Biden decided to attack Europe in its economic underbelly – in order to support a war that he will not win”. Hersh opines that in a White House obsessed with re-election, the Nordstream sabotage was seen as a ‘win’.
Hersh said in his Berliner Zeitung interview:
“What I know is that there is no way this war is going to end the way we [the US] wants it to end … It scares me that the president was ready for such a thing. And the people who carried out this mission believed that the president was well aware of what he was doing to the people of Germany. And in the long run, [they believe] this will not only damage his reputation as president, but also be very harmful politically. It will be a stigma for the US”.
The concern is more than that – it is that Biden’s obsessive zeal is turning the Ukraine from a proxy war into an existential issue for the US (existential in the sense of the humiliation and reputational damage if the war was lost). It is already a Russian existential issue. And two nuclear powers in an existential confrontation is bad news.
Let us be very clear: This was not the first time that Biden did something — regarded by the US intelligence professionals — as wholly reckless: Robert Gates, the former Defense Secretary said on Sunday that Biden has been wrong on nearly every major foreign and security issue over four decades. In February 2022, he seized Russia’s foreign exchange assets; he expelled its banks from SWIFT (the interbank clearing system) and imposed on her a tsunami of sanctions. The Federal Reserve and the ECB said afterwards they were never consulted, and if they had been – would never have consented to the measures.
Biden claimed his action would ‘reduce the rouble to rubble’; he was grievously mistaken. Rather, Russia’s resilience has brought the US closer to a financial precipice (as dollar demand dries up, and the world shifts eastwards). From the perspective of significant financial actors in New York, Biden and the Fed now must hurry to rescue a systemically fragile US.
Simply said, the import of Hersh’s Berliner Zeitung interview (and his other pieces) is that factions within the US Deep State are furious at the circle of neo-cons (Sullivan, Blinken and Nuland). Trust is ‘done’. They are coming for them; and will keep on coming … Hersh’s piece is but a first taste.
For the moment, the neo-cons’ Ukraine project remains ‘current’, with Team Biden demanding all western allies remain tightly on message, ahead of the 24 February first anniversary of Russia’s Special Operation.
It would appear the critical window for Ukraine somehow to ‘magically win’ however, is being cut from months to a few weeks. ‘Winning’, of course, remains undefined. Yet the reality is that it will be Russia, rather than Ukraine, that will be mounting the Spring offensive — and possibly along the entire length of the Contact Line.
The ‘writing is on the wall’ for Ukraine (albeit with Kamala Harris dispatched to the Munich Security Conference) to plug the Team ‘line’ of an ‘enduring commitment to Ukraine’ by the collective West for the long haul.
Paradoxically, behind the curtain, this ongoing ‘civil war’ in the US Establishment threatens to become ‘the writing on the wall’ for Biden too — as he approaches that 2024 Candidature decision moment. Can Biden be trusted not to be reckless, the US Intelligence Community must be asking itself, as Ukraine grinds into entropy under a Russian surge across all fronts? Will Biden again become desperate?
Can we imagine that the US might just throw-up its hands and concede Russian victory? No — NATO might disintegrate in the face of such spectacular failure. So the political instinct will be a gamble; to double-down: A NATO deployment into western Ukraine as ‘a buffer force’, to ‘protect it from Russian advances’ is under consideration.
It is not hard to see why factions within the Deep State are “appalled”: America’s defence industry products are being consumed in Ukraine faster than they can be manufactured. It is adversely changing the US calculus on China, as the US military inventory burns away in Ukraine. And the Ukraine war easily can spill across eastern Europe …
The bottom line is the unexpected insight (for the élite) that the US itself may be the biggest loser in the war on Russia. (Moscow understood this from the outset).