On 22 July, 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to kill Hitler, unsuccessfully. In the aftermath, almost 5,000 conspirators were executed.
Many of them were high-ranking generals, including Erwin Rommel, one of Germany’s most talented field commanders. All those officers wanted to wrestle political control from Hitler and seek favourable surrender terms, thereby saving whatever was left of Germany.
Reading today’s news from Russia, I’m here to report that exactly the same thing has… not happened there. But the operative word here isn’t ‘not’. It’s ‘exactly’.
For something has happened that suggests that the generals are telling Putin in no uncertain terms that they’ve had enough. More important, he is forced to listen.
Four days ago, deputy head of the General Staff, Gen. Rutskoy, hinted that the war objectives were changing. Russia was abandoning the idea of total victory and was ready to limit her appetite. Instead of capturing Kiev and putting paid to the Ukraine’s sovereignty, the Russians were prepared to consolidate, and slightly expand, their hold on Donbass.
That wasn’t just a lowly Major-General running off at the mouth, as it turns out. Earlier today Defence Minister Shoigu, flanked by the Who’s Who of the Russian high command, held a teleconference in which he admitted defeat by claiming victory.
“Overall, the main goals of the first stage have been accomplished,” Shoigu said, trying to sound triumphant, but failing. “The combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has significantly decreased which allows us to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.”
Excuse me? Since when is that “main goal” so puny? When Putin launched the ‘special operation’, he stated much loftier objectives: the “demilitarisation and denazification” of the Ukraine. That is, liberating not just Donbass but the whole country from her Nazi regime (led by two Jews, Zelensky and his defence minister Reznikov).
In other words, wiping an independent Ukraine off the map and reincorporating her into whatever the Russian Empire calls itself these days. And now the generals are openly admitting the war objective hasn’t been achieved. That’s how military defeat has been defined since Thucydides at least.
It’s also a message to Putin: you can scream about ridding the world of the Judaeo-Banderite Ukrainian Nazis to your heart’s content, but the army has had enough.
Some 15,000 Russian men have been killed, at least seven of them generals (for comparison’s sake, America has lost two generals in all her post-1953 wars). Most of their bodies were left where they fell, to rot in the field and to be devoured by wild beasts and stray dogs.
That treatment of fallen soldiers is nothing new for Russia, of course. Thousands if not millions of soldiers killed in the Second World War were never buried properly. And the burial sites of even 43 (!) generals remain unknown to this day.
But Putin isn’t Stalin, much as I hate to break the news to him. And his generals, while not quite matching their Nazi colleagues in professionalism, are perhaps taking their cue from the Germans’ treatment of impending defeat.
None of them has so far done a Stauffenberg, but the very fact it’s the generals, rather than their Commander-In-Chief, who have made the announcement speaks whole libraries, not just volumes. No matter how they spin the war, Russia has lost.
Khrushchev also tried to spin the Cuban crisis, presenting it as a victory. Yet no one believed him, and his Kremlin days were numbered.
Then the Soviets tried to spin their 1989 retreat from Afghanistan as a resounding success, and the USSR collapsed in 1991, partly as a result of what everyone knew was a humiliating defeat (another comparison: in the past month the Russians have lost roughly as many men as during the 10-year war in Afghanistan).
I don’t want to jump the gun, as it were. It’s possible that the teleconference and the Russian troop movements in the Ukraine are merely a ruse de guerre. The Russians may be trying to create a long operational pause, regroup and then go on the offensive again, perhaps this time with doomsday weapons.
One can’t put anything past them, and yet it does look as though Putin no longer has the support of the army, and quite possibly of the other siloviki (FSB, internal troops, National Guard, armed police units etc.). If so, and you know how much it pains me to say so, it’s not just his political life that’s hanging by a thread.
Generally speaking, I try not to indulge in conjecture and guesswork. Cassandra’s fate isn’t something that appeals to me. But one has to analyse what one sees, especially if such analysis isn’t peddled as God’s own truth.
Let’s wait for Putin’s announcement. Will there be one? Ever? I don’t know. But then it’s not just faith and charity that are cardinal virtues, but also hope.
P.S. Shoigu also mentioned in passing that no general mobilisation is on the cards. No doubt millions of Russian mothers heaved a cautious sigh of relief.