No, Russia is nowhere near victory on the battlefield. Putin’s troops have managed some tactical advances in the Lugansk province, but the Ukrainian army is making them pay dearly for every inch.
The Russians have learned their lesson in the ABC of offensive strategy: concentration of forces. At the beginning, they tried to advance in nine different directions, something that first-year students of military academies get marked down for suggesting.
Now the Russians have progressed beyond the freshman year and focused all their resources on two sections of the front, creating a sizeable numerical advantage. That has enabled them to push the Ukrainian forces back a few miles here and there.
However, having scraped the bottom of their military barrel, the Russians don’t seem to have the reserves to turn tactical gains into a strategic breakthrough. Therefore my title above refers to another war, where they are indeed reaping a more bountiful harvest.
That war is fought not in the steppes of the Ukraine, where Putin and his KGB government are out of their depth. The battle is raging in the arena where their stock in trade really comes into its own: propaganda, blackmail, recruitment.
Swarms of Russian agents, propagandists, ‘useful idiots’ and sympathisers do Putin’s bidding, screaming about the cataclysmic consequences of offering help to the Ukraine.
The main thrust of their efforts is easy enough to understand. The Ukrainian army has shown the world it has the skill, courage and motivation to send Putin’s bandits packing – and it can do so on its own, without any direct involvement of Nato forces.
All they need is weapons, and those they can’t procure on their own. They depend not just heavily but absolutely on Western supplies. That’s why President Zelensky keeps appealing to Nato with impassioned paraphrases of Churchill’s plea to FDR: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”
Alas, some Western powers are a great deal less accommodating than Roosevelt was. And much of their reluctance to act on their stated commitments to Ukrainian defence is down to Putin’s agents working overtime to seduce, bribe, threaten or cheat Western leaders into insisting on the Ukraine’s surrender.
Macron and Scholz are openly agitating for the Ukraine to give up territory in exchange for a ceasefire the Russians need to refresh their offensive vigour. The catchphrase is “Let’s help Putin save his face”, and they don’t mean paying for Vlad’s next Botox.
The fascist Russian regime can supposedly avoid painful humiliation only by grabbing even more Ukrainian territory than it has stolen already. Anything short of that will rankle so badly that Vlad may just push that proverbial red button.
Macron is the third French president to feel Putin’s pain as his own. His predecessors Sarkozy and Hollande were equally sensitive – and equally disposed to appease the fascist dictator as a way of sparing his self-esteem.
As to Scholz, he is a political child of the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whose name should replace Quisling’s as the proverbial personification of treason and collaboration. Scholz too comes from a long line of collaborators, starting from Willy Brandt and all the way to ‘Putin’s favourite woman’ Angela Merkel.
I don’t want to venture a guess about the true allegiances of those French and German leaders. Suspicions were indeed voiced about Brandt, whom many counterintelligence experts treated as a Soviet agent.
Merkel too wasn’t above suspicion, considering her full-time youthful career in Freie Deutsche Jugend, technically a young communist organisation, but in effect the Stasi breeding farm. She was active in Leipzig at the same time Major Putin served in the KGB’s Dresden station, just 70 miles down the road.
What matters to me, however, is action, not its motivation. It’s possible, for example, that Merkel did all she could to increase Germany’s dependence on Russian energy out of her misguided understanding of political economics. It’s also possible that Scholz is driven by short-term economic considerations only. It’s even possible that Macron is too stupid to realise that Russia is waging war not just on the Ukraine, but on the West at large.
What’s not possible but definite is that they don’t understand the nature of Russian fascism, which leads them to believe that some peaceful accommodation is possible. It isn’t.
The situation has gone binary, with every shade and nuance blown to bits by Russian rockets. Either the Ukraine wins the war or the first phase of Putin’s war on the West triumphs, and he can start setting up the next phase. That’s it. Nothing in between.
This gets us back to the tools necessary to finish the job. So far the Ukrainians have been fighting mostly with Soviet heavy weapons, either those they already had or those they received from the former Soviet colonies in Eastern Europe. The ordnance for such weapons is manufactured in Russia only, and the Ukrainians have already depleted not only their own stocks, but also those of their Eastern European allies.
They, especially Poland, Czechia and the Baltics, give the Ukraine their own T-72 tanks (the numeral refers to the year they entered service – hardly state of the art), which Nato has undertaken to replace with up-to-date Western weapons.
The first part of the programme is ongoing, if only in fits and starts; the second one, much less so. The Poles have already complained that their own defences are being denuded by the West’s sluggishness in replacing the weapons Poland sends to the Ukraine.
Russian blackmail, boosted by Macron’s and Scholz’s inexplicable desire to appease the fascist regime threatening all of Europe, succeeds in spreading scaremongering propaganda about ‘red lines’.
This imaginary line supposedly separates weapons enabling the Ukraine to fight hit-and-run guerrilla action from those she desperately needs to win the war. Manny and his German colleague are panic-stricken at the thought that some Ukrainian weapons may have the range to hit Russia proper.
Now, Russian bases on the other side of the border are clearly legitimate military targets. That’s more than one can say for Ukrainian schools, hospitals and apartment blocks the Russians are reducing to rubble.
Denying the Ukraine weapons she needs to engage the enemy properly is yet another exercise in appeasement, tinged with secret admiration for Putin’s muscular approach to international affairs. The Ukrainians are cast in the role of the bull in the ring. They are allowed to fight, but they aren’t allowed to win.
Nor is it just Germany and France. Having made a big show of passing the Lend-Lease bill, the Biden administration is dragging its feet on fulfilling its own commitments. Specifically, it has refused to transfer to the Ukraine the long-range MLRS and HIMARS rocket systems, the ‘long-range’ modifier being the hold-up.
At the same time, the Americans are sabotaging the transfer of Polish Mig-29 fighters to the Ukraine for fear that the Ukrainians will use them to attack Russian territory. God forbid they’ll save a few thousand Ukrainian lives by strafing Russian rocket launchers on just the other side of the border.
The once and, he hopes, future President Trump is also doing his best for his friend Vlad. We must spend our money, he declared the other day, on our own schools, not the Ukraine. Let’s just say that, had FDR attached a similar relative value to public education and geopolitics, Hitler would have won the war.
Over the past two months Germany has sent just two arms shipments to the Ukraine. These included only anti-tank mines, machinegun parts, hand grenades and other explosives. The Ukrainians are begging for German Leopard tanks, but they get nothing but procrastination in response.
Israel is in the same appeasement boat. The other day the US requested that Israel supply to the Ukraine the Spike anti-tank rockets. Israel refused, saying that, should Israeli weapons be used to kill Russian soldiers, Russia would respond by “damaging the interests of Israeli security in Syria”.
All in all, the Ukraine has received many promises of heavy weapons, but precious few heavy weapons. Every time the planned delivery deadline approaches, it’s pushed back – from late May to June, from June to July, now from July to August. One can confidently predict that, come August, a new deadline will come into play.
The Ukrainians, and all anti-fascists around the world, are grateful to the West for its shipments of armaments, without which the war would have been lost already. Yet, should the West continue to honour the ‘red lines’ being touted by Russian agents, witting or unwitting, all those hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians will have died for nothing.
Evil would triumph, and the world would never be the same. Dreams of going back to business as usual will turn to the nightmares of more and wider wars.
Your calendar is wrong, ladies and gentlemen. We live not in 2022, but in 1938. With one minor difference: we can still make sure 1939 doesn’t happen.
P.S. A few years ago, I diagnosed perseveration as Peter Hitchens’s psychiatric problem. Such patients repeat endlessly the same words and phrases.
In his case, it’s his ubiquitous mantra that the current war was caused by the ousting of the Ukraine’s legitimate (meaning Putin-run) government in 2014. I wonder why he doesn’t bemoan the 1989-1991 removal of similarly legitimate governments of Eastern Europe.
But even supposing that the Yanukovych government was overthrown illegally, that doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion. The Ukraine is a sovereign country, and how she goes about her politics is her business and no one else’s – unless she threatens other countries, which she manifestly doesn’t.
But those Putin stooges will say anything, however idiotic. It doesn’t bother them that shilling for evil is evil in itself.