I’ve seen many commentaries of the war in Ukraine, and even the realistic ones keep talking about Russia changing strategy, making mistakes and so on. Basically, the Russians underestimated the level of opposition from the Ukrainians due to faulty intelligence; then they made a mistake trying to negotiate with the Ukrainian government and even showed a “good faith” move by removing their military from Kiev, not understanding that the Kiev government is basically a Washington sock puppet and peace is simply not an option, ever, because America wants this war as means of weakening both Russia and Europe. I could go on, but the general idea is that the Russians had to change strategy and adapt as they went along. Also, the general assumption is that Russia wanted to have a negotiated solution where they would have the Ukrainians cede Crimea and Donbass, and accept neutral status.
None of this really makes any sense, because I don’t see a process where Putin needed to learn about the situation by trial and error. If anything, there was a significant portion of the Russian people that were sympathetic to the West, and reluctant to accept Putin’s very clear and accurate picture of the geostrategic situation. The gradual and underwhelming nature of this war seems to serve the purpose of showing the Russian people what they are actually facing, and get them on the same page with Putin; not because he’s that much smarter, but because he simply knows more, due to the nature of his job.
So, basically, the reason why Putin couldn’t escalate war too steeply is because he had to give time to the West to show how much they really hate the Russians, and to introduce all kinds of sanctions that would actually cut the puppeteering threads used to control Russia and keep it subdued economically, mostly because the West simply forgot what mechanisms they had put in place and with what purpose, due to several generations of diversity hires being promoted through the ranks, and “boomers” and rational people in general being sidelined and/or retired. All Putin had to do is make a very small military incursion into Ukraine that was of very little consequence regarding the situation on the ground, and he got the West to overplay its hand to the point where Russia is now forced to develop its own resources and rely on its own strength, and the Americans can no longer just print money to bribe people in Russia to use American equipment instead of the perfectly good Russian equivalents – for instance, shelving perfectly good Russian passenger planes in order to buy Boeing and Airbus, or neglecting Russian semiconductor foundries for decades because the market is flooded by cheap imports. Russia is now forced to get out of its medically induced coma simply because the Americans sanctioned its oxygen, forcing them to use their own lungs to breathe. I think this would go down in history as the most ridiculous case of a self-inflicted wound of all times, because the West makes almost nothing other than “finances” and money printing, Russia makes almost everything other than the few connective items to bring it all together, and it has all the resources in the world; Russia has the nuclear technology, the hydrocarbon resources and technology, heavy industry, agriculture, hard science, sophisticated technology, and it has human resources, and what it doesn’t already have, it’s currently building. The worst problem is that everything was scaled down and stunted due to extreme import pressure and foreign-financed corruption (“buy American thingy instead of a perfectly good domestic one, and you’ll get a commission”), and there is not a clearly defined civilizational goal within Russia; basically, Russia doesn’t have a motivational idea of its own, after socialism was discarded, and if they don’t find it, I’m afraid they won’t have a future.
Also, they now have an unwinnable war at their hands, because let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they destroy/conquer Ukraine, kill all the NATO troops there, and secure the Western border. America can produce a new Ukraine quite easily – Poland, the Baltic states and so on, they proved very easy to indoctrinate into anti-Russian hatred and could be used as new proxy-battlegrounds. The only way Russia can actually win this is if the war lasts long enough that America is taken out economically, which is not a crazy idea at all, because I’ve seen America making desperately destructive moves that traded the future for present since 2008, and they are functioning on fumes and borrowed time for quite a while. The fact that America managed to spend a significant portion of their weapons and ammunitions stockpiles just by feeding Ukraine shows that their military industry is excellent for sucking the budget dry, but isn’t nearly as good at actually producing weapons in quantities one would need to fight a peer. The stories about Russia running out of weapons are an interesting case of projection. Also, one thing America is really scared of is sending their top weapons to the war, only for it to be revealed that they are not really anything special, and, if anything, that they are poorly designed, breakable, overhyped crap.
On the Russian side, I think there has been a huge revelation that changed their entire thinking: it turned out that the suicide drones, of both the Geran and Lancet kind, are incredibly effective. I think they are still trying to figure out what to do with this information, but it is definitely going to influence their actions in the future. Also, they are seriously annoyed by the fact that the Americans are very openly providing intelligence to the Ukrainians, from the space assets that are supposedly untouchable, and from the military bases such as Ramstein and others, also supposedly untouchable, in order to perform attacks of the kind Ukraine on their own would be perfectly incapable of. This means the Russians have to fight America dressed up as Ukraine, but they aren’t actually allowed to hit America proper, and have to pretend the golden rain is falling. As the Americans keep testing Russian defences in deep Russia proper, I think the Russian generals are running out of patience and are advising Putin to give Americans a lesson they will never forget, and if there’s a nuclear response, so be it, because fuck this shit already.
The expectation is that Russia will do a very powerful land offensive during this winter, and basically take Kiev and Odessa and possibly the entire Ukraine; I’m actually not sure it’s the right thing to do. It is militarily expensive, and it will achieve very little besides moving the front line away from the Russian borders, and even that isn’t going to do much, considering how the Americans can always finance and equip some terrorist within Russia to blow something up, and how they can trivially make Poland into a next Ukraine, thus forcing Russia to continue militarily crushing neighbouring countries and expending resources, while their true enemy is protected behind the ocean. No, that’s not going to achieve anything, other than forcing the Russian military to improve its tactics and weapons and bring them into the 21st century (remember those suicide drones?), and expend Western resources, because the West doesn’t have neither the energy, the raw materials nor the human resources to actually fight a proper war at such a scale. They can do posturing and terror attacks, but they would be annihilated in an all-out war with Russia, whether they know it or not. So, peace by Russia winning in Ukraine doesn’t seem like a realistic option; peace by Russia playing a resources game against the West is unlikely to be attained since the West will use the nuclear option in desperation, as they are defeated economically and militarily.
So, barring some unexpected event that will change the strategic scenery, this is going to get worse, and worse, and worse, and the feeling I had in the fall of 2019, that this is the peak of this civilization and it’s downhill from there, seems to have been on point.
It’s no wonder the Russians prefer to play this out as a slow grind, attracting the resources of the collective West into the meat grinder of Ukraine, that they seem to operate with their little finger; this is the move that reduces the risk of escalation, employs a near-minimum of their resources, keeps their economy at near-peak efficiency by not depleting it of manpower, is testing their tactical ideas and equipment in a real-life scenario, and is keeping the sanctions alive, which strengthens their economy and allows them to develop financial mechanisms that completely remove the West from the world trade, thus performing a truly fatal blow to America without firing a single nuke. Also, it allows them to be seen as reasonable and moderate by their non-Western partners, which makes them trustworthy.
What do they gain by conquering Ukraine in a huge offensive? Several things. They get to demonstrate strength, and discourage enemies; that’s not going to show in the Western media, of course. They get to move the line of contact with the enemy further to the West, and Dnieper river seems to be an ideal natural border; however, settling for Dnieper would introduce significant problems, such as giving up on Odessa and Kherson city, which is now Russian territory, and that would be a bad precedent. Also, breaking Ukraine in such a way would introduce significant problems to the NATO alliance, since Poland, Hungary and Romania have territorial claims to Western Ukraine, and that would mean all sorts of infighting, where the Russians could make popcorn and watch. Also, winning means a psychological conclusion of the war for the Russian people. Past that, I hardly see advantages, because any incursion further west from Dnieper gives them control of land with increasingly hostile population, which seemed to be the problem in Kherson city. Having control over land where people hate you is not a good thing. Creating a meat grinder and having all who hate you jump into it until they are all safely dead, all their support is exhausted, and a devastated Western Ukraine being a burden to your enemies, is highly preferable strategically. One also needs to keep in mind that irreversibly destroying the infrastructure in Western Ukraine and having the winter kill everybody there is a realistic and very price-effective course. Having in mind that the Russians must know all this, let’s see what they do next.