Saturday 8 October 2022

Putin's can-kicking: as far as the Crimea road

A couple of weeks ago, we noted that Putin's rather nuanced nuclear-tinged rhetoric at the time of his 'partial mobilisation' was a can-kicking exercise that would rebound on him just a short while down the road ("October, in fact"), when big new Ukrainian successes would put him under pressure to respond in some dramatic fashion.  The Russian pro-war camp believe they have heard the words "nuclear" and "not bluffing" in the same sentence, so they'd expect him to deliver. 

Later, we suggested that it's even worse for him than that, because having 'annexed' 4 new Ukrainian oblasts into the bosom of Mother Russia, essentially placing them in the same category as Crimea, what had heretofore been de facto a pass granted him by the rest of the world on the 2014 Crimean seizure, was in danger of being de facto revoked - by virtue of Crimea being now in just the same category as the other 4, i.e. under relentless counterattack from Ukraine, with no sign of Putin reacting to any of those attacks in a manner consistent with what the pro-war faction would consider 'appropriate'.

Blunder upon strategic blunder.  It's quite extraordinary that he still has any apologists outside of a Moscow TV studio whatsoever.

Since that post, incidentally, and in rather stark contrast, the Ukrainians have been conducting a multi-front campaign of striking operational excellence with superbly calibrated strategies, each one clearly devised for the specifics of the front in question (at least four can be clearly identified).   

And now.  With the Crimea bridge having been spectacularly attacked this morning ... what does he do next?  The foreseen moment of maximum danger is here.  FWIW (and I stand to have egg - or worse - on my face within hours), I still think the nuclear rhetoric was a bluff.  BUT we may be pretty sure there will be at very least a big retaliatory attack of a non-nuclear nature.  

Or - given the quite staggering ineptitude of Russia's ability to execute anything half-competently - an attempt at such.  Given the sheer difficulty this 'war machine' faces when essaying anything of a strictly military nature, I greatly fear this means it will be multiple attacks on soft Ukrainian targets.  We probably don't have long to be speculating.



jim said...

What is to stop Putin taking the job seriously - carpet bombing Kiev and threatening roads and rails in/out of Ukraine with nukes - just little ones you understand.

Following the Yes Minister play - salami sliced nuclear button , no one is likely to go full MAD just because of one or two little bombs - especially if the intention is well choreographed. The Americans will wail and gnash teeth but do a Uvalde.

He might get away with that but the big problem is where does it get him - apart from deeper do do. The question is how to re-normalise from this new situation of total ownership of Ukraine - if only he could hold on to it. Any fool can let off a nuke but what do you do then? And he most likely could not hold on to Ukraine, not without some well OTT intimidation. Best to draw stumps and go back to sulk in Moscow.

dearieme said...

A man of imagination would fell the Golden Gate Bridge.

He must surely have explosives-packed cargo containers all over the USA. Mustn't he?

Anonymous said...

You have an enemy that vows to hit some civilian target; bridge, Gas pipeline, Nuclear power plant. And broadly speaking your defences make it very difficult for your enemy to do what he wishes to do. But then one day he gets lucky and knocks out a bridge.

This is a new defination of incompetence and graft?

Presumably anytime the IRA managed to detonate a bomb in Northern Ireland, or on the mainland, feg, at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, that would be a marker of incompetence and graft in the British army and police force?

Talking about incomeptence and graft our own government just tried to, or worse, didn't try to, but very nearly managed to destroy our own financial system, and the governments own ability to sell its own debt what, only a week ago? That was pretty clever! But not incompetent, aparently.

The West has decided to 'sanction' Russia, by refusing to buy its oil. Sanction Russia, don't make me laugh! Russians don't look like they're going to go cold or hungry this winter.

"appologist for Putin"

Don't make me laugh. I'd support a competent administration. But the shit show we've got, is just a terrible joke.

Nick Drew said...

Dunno which man of straw you have in mind this time, anon, but it sure ain't me

- nothing here suggesting an attack on their bridge represents Russian "incompetence and graft" (your own little coinage, I think)

- nothing here suggests an assessment of the Truss government that's anything but the most gross incompetence

still, there you go ...

Anonymous said...

"nothing here suggesting an attack on their bridge represents Russian "incompetence and graft""

You have on a number of occasions put forward that Russian society is riddled with stupidity and corruption. This is just another of the same ol' same ol.


"given the quite staggering ineptitude of Russia's ability to execute anything half-competently - an attempt at such."

Now, in a year or so, if like the British government, the Russians have capitulated to their enemy to the extent that, perhaps, Zelensky is mayor of Zaporizhzhia, as for instance Britian did with Gerry Adams, and Michael McGuinnis. Then I might concede your point.

Untill then stop with the rubbish commentary. The BBC's Jeremy Bowen does it better and with more of our money - but even on the BBC budget he has shown himself to be a lying propagandist rather than a reporter. BBC incompetence? Quelle suprise!

lilith said...

I'm afraid I can't bring myself to follow this war in Ukraine. At least, not by paying attention to BBC reporters or the newspapers. Not after the Syrian debacle where the sources were all "rebels" aka jihadis with tall tales of supposed governmental chlorine attacks and Aleppo eventually "falling" to the Syrian government. Can't believe a word of it.

Sackerson said...

It's all too complex for me. I'm still trying to work out why it was necessary to overthrow the government of Ukraine and viciously persecute its Russian-speaking minority of (?) eight millions for eight years and so provoke an invasion.

We hear from time to time about Ukrainian forces sporting Nazi-type emblems; remember the 1941 murder of 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar and the 1943 massacres of c. 50-100k Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia? Seems like that fire in them hasn't burned out.

What are we doing, and why? Is this something to do with mid-term elections in the US?

Is Elon Musk evil for suggesting NATO-observed referenda? Is Zelensky good for telling him to choose between Ukraine and Russia (i.e. to choose war) and to propose pre-emptive (presumably nuclear) strikes on Russia?

I may be dumb but it seems to me the world has gone worse than mad. I begin to suspect that there is such a thing as evil at work.

Po said...

It is not that hard to follow. Putin wanted to make all the nations on his border, his alone. He got away with it until he didn't. Same as all previous dictators.
Now he is in a bind.

The getting into a war is the easy bit.
Getting out is the issue for the ablest of nations.

Putuin's is a paper tiger. In a puddle. China is the beneficiary. But not even them. The Chinese communist party are the largest supplier of ideologically unsound western consumer capitalist imperialist goods in the world. Putin's recession might shut the factories again.
So the Chinese might tell him to pack it in. As he's ruining the whole steal your neighbour's ox bit, for everyone.

E-K said...

Turns out Nick Hancock was quite the *details man*

E-K said...

As regards Putin going nuclear or not - one helluva risk to take so that Ukraine might join the EU at a time that we're shit scared of leaving it over the IRA.

And so we face energy and fuel shortages and hundreds of thousands are dead Ukrainian and Russian and a country in ruins...

Bluff or no bluff on nuclear (we can only hope not) this has been one mighty blow to Western Europe and GB in particular.

As for:

"the Ukrainians have been conducting a multi-front campaign of striking operational excellence with superbly calibrated strategies"

Oh come off it !

You've just admitted gaslighting Putin. He was absolutely right. The USA and GB had been priming Ukrainian forces against him for some while. As well as causing a civil war in which Biden Jnr took a senior position in Ukrainian gas exploration without qualifications.

Otherwise you expect your readers to believe that the ramshackle Ukrainian forces developed superlative expertise and weaponry out of nowhere under the pressure of invasion.

Bill Quango MP said...

Ukraine have been being supplied, troop trained, standardised and assisted, even force training on NATO Exercises since 2016.
It’s not a secret.
It’s bee officially reported on the NATO website since 2015.
It’s still there.

“NATO is actively helping Ukraine strengthen its institutions and reform its security and defence sector. Ukrainian forces are continuing to improve their ability to work with NATO militaries by taking part in the Partnership Interoperability Initiative.”

You should think about at what NATO actually is. What it is for.
Ukraine might seem like some faraway, eastearn European, balkanised, Bolshevik cow-shit throwback to the Cold War that no one cares about, so is nothing to do with the UK or America.

But they have been fighting a war against Russia since 2014.
The countries nearest toUkraine don’t see Russia as a misguided kid, who just needs the love of the west to become less delinquent and a fully rounded member of society.

Poland, Romania, Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, didn’t want Russia’s benevolence to happen to them.
So Ukraine was equipped and trained and guided and advised. To keep that border away.
They were far more prepared than 2014. Which is why the nuclear threat has to be waved about now. To frighten the West.

There are plenty of steps In between war and MAD.
Mass barrages from multiple launcher artillery onto ancient cities. Thousands of Air-launched cruise missiles with multiple warheads. Their submarine fleet that has very long range, small yield, nuclear warheads for destroying the U.S. carrier task forces. Biological shells. Chemical shells. Nerve agents. Viruses. Plain old mustard gas if needs be. Doesn’t even need the missiles. Doesn’t even need to launch any weapon that can be tracked on radar.

His old favourite, some polonium on the bus, is enough to close a city for a year. What’s the betting he wants some nice radioactive isotopes from that nuclear reactor his forces occupy?

‘ What? what? Me? Poisoning western cities? I would never do that! Look…these are Ukrainians grains of radioactive sand. Those nasty subhuman Uke fellows must have put them in your reservoirs. Oh well, what a shame. Millions sick. You should nuke them. I would if I were you! So untrustworthy.”

Good old, innocent, uncle Putin can kill a lot of Ukrainians before he needs to worry about striking London. But if he wants to kill us, he will.

Like before.

Sackerson said...

@Po, Bill Quango: thank you for making it all so simple. So Peter Hitchens is obviously wrong about the leadup to 2014.

Anonymous said...

Jim: " What is to stop Putin taking the job seriously - carpet bombing Kiev "

Nothing, he could take a leaf out of 'Bomber Harris' playbook. But so far he has chosen not to.

Bill Quango: "Good old, innocent, uncle Putin can kill a lot of Ukrainians "

Actually Bill, as you pointed out in your preamble, NATO killed lots of Ukrainians, when they assembled the largest most well armed army NATO had in Europe, over a period of eight years.

You are on the threshold of recognising the truth. It just takes a little more intellectual vigour.

Bill Quango MP: "Mass barrages from multiple launcher artillery onto ancient cities."

'Ancient cities", you've got some chutzpah! Dresden, Hamburg, Frankfurt[1], Rotterdam, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Agent Orange sprayed over Vietnamese forests, Half a million children killed by the USA and allied forces in Iraq alone, ( the price was worth it according to the despicable hag Allbright ), Libya, destroyed on the whim of the vile Hilary Clinton - who then gloated over the bestial murder of Gaddafi.

The USA is still illegally occupying Syria and stealing it's natural resources!

Don't give us your moral outrage.

Bill Quango MP: " before he needs to worry about striking London. "

'Putin' doesn't need to worry about striking London. The moronic WEF placewomen Truss is doing his work for him.


Sackerson said...

? Comment by Elby at 08.31 today binned?

Google at work? Readers may find this real-time censorship 'interesting'...

Nick Drew said...

Dunno, Sackers - but it sure as Hell wasn't the management: manifestly, we let almost any old rubbish sit here indefinitely, though why, I'm not sure (on both counts)

... and Elby is a most welcome guest!

on the subject of "I'm not sure why I do it ..."; there's long been a really strange BTL thread going here, which is more or less centered on a proposition like this (I paraphrase):

- Russian forces in Ukraine are weak**, horribly outnumbered, and facing a fully-equipped, fully-trained NATO proxy army

This then takes off in more than one direction:

(a) SO obviously Russia isn't, and never was, a threat to anyone in NATO: we should leave the poor man alone / let him have what he wants / make sure his ego isn't dented

(b) in the face of a NATO army in Ukraine, what else could Putin possibly do except invade?

(c) the paucity of his forces proves that all Putin ever wanted was to have a little nibble, in earnest defence of the Donbas

These are all patent non sequiturs: there's a much easier explanation for all of this, viz, Putin's judgement is very poor indeed.

indeed, as set out here in stark polemic terms, it should be so obvious that I can imagine the next burst of BTL activity will be to assert that it's me attacking the man of straw, and that nobody has ever said anything of the sort paraphrased above

well, as noted at the very start of this comment, we really don't delete stuff around here... (despite gross provocation).
** naturally, since consistency is irrelevant for anons (which clearly exempts Kev, mostly a model of consistency), we also find "if you think Russia is running out of ammo / is making crass strategic judgements / is the slightest bit perturbed about the loss of its Potemkin convoy north of Kyiv ... you've another think coming!

Well, I'm an empiricist: I always have another think coming.

Bill Quango MP said...

“Bill Quango: thank you for making it all so simple. So Peter Hitchens is obviously wrong about the leadup to 2014”

Which is the same argument, ( your use of a previous event to justify a current aim, not his take on the Ukraine elections) that makes the Iraq war of George W and Tiny B, entirely justified. They were provoked into it.

The situation in Ukraine was really bad in 2014 so that nation must be invaded in 2022 so it does not happen again.
Iraq was using Geneva convention banned poison gas on its own people in 1988. So they must be invaded in 2003 so that does not happen again,

Sackerson said...

@Nick: it may be to do with the email notification system, if you hit the wrong option to send a reply it goes to the commenter not the original post?

Elby said (re my 'evil' thesis) "Lils and I have come to the same conclusion" - and I replied (this may be on your patch of expertise):

"Perhaps when Nietzsche wrote 'Beyond Good and Evil' it was the starting gun for simply going beyond good."

Also @Nick: I'm an empiricist: I always have another think coming.' - cf. Graucho: 'Those are my principles, and if you don't like them I have others'

@BQ: Bush was not provoked into a war with Iraq by the destruction of the Twin Towers by Saudis.

Don Cox said...

" Bush was not provoked into a war with Iraq by the destruction of the Twin Towers by Saudis."

It was more a case of having to do something dramatic against some Muslims, and Saddam was convenient unfinished business. See the book "War and Decision" by Douglas Feith for details.

At that time the USA was still dependent on Saudi oil, so an attack on Saudi Arabia was out of the question. And anyway the Saudi rulers were not really responsible for the antics of Bin Laden.

Don Cox

Bill Quango MP said...

Sackerson. “Bush was not provoked into war by the destruction of the twin towers.”

I know.
I am agreeing. He was not provoked. He just wanted to invade Iraq. Didn’t even provide many excuses.

WMD or .. Nazis in the woods. Neither very convincing.

Putin was not provoked either.
He just wanted to do it.

( As Mr Drew was writing, the comments do wander about.
To me It matters not that much why Putin thought he could attack. Only that, astonishingly, he did send his forces in. And did not instant win.
I was fairly sure he would have already had his victory day parade in Kiev and be at the point about now of offering Europe all the gas and coal and oil it would ever need at a discounted price, if they just see sense and accept the situation. I’m still not entirely sure why that didn’t happen. Except for the determination of the Ukrainian forces and the ineptitude of the Russian ones.

Mr Drew was far, far less confident that would occur. )

Sobers said...

"“Bush was not provoked into war by the destruction of the twin towers.”

I know.
I am agreeing. He was not provoked. He just wanted to invade Iraq. Didn’t even provide many excuses.

WMD or .. Nazis in the woods. Neither very convincing.

Putin was not provoked either.
He just wanted to do it."

Yet Putin will either die an international pariah in his own country or in a war crimes jail, were he to ever leave Russia. George Bush on the other hand........

International law and diplomacy has nothing to do with right and wrong, if it were then Bush and Blair would be locked up right now. It has everything to do with raw power. No-one locks up Bush (and his mini-me mate Blair) over Iraq because of what the US would do if anyone tried. Similarly the Saudis should be international pariahs over their human rights abuses and behaviour in Yemen, but they aren't because oil. Ditto the Chinese because they make all the sh*t the West buys. So colour me sceptical of those who are climbing on their moral high horses about Putin's actions in Ukraine. There is no international law, just vested interests of various players of differing degrees of power. The powerful can do as they please, the not so powerful may be held to account, if it suits the powerful. Morality doesn't come into it.

jim said...

Seems to me Putin is the nasty boy on the estate - scratching cars, breaking windows, frightening old ladies and pussy cats. All pointless and none of the girls like him. Eventually he grows out of it - after a spell inside usually.

But this nasty boy cannot be hauled before the beak or given a clout round the ear. But even he will start to notice if none of his games work out and nasty surprises keep turning up on his doorstep - or railway network. Seems to me we have keep encouraging unpleasant responses to bad behaviour and perhaps some nicer responses if he puts on a suit and tie and cleans his fingernails. Pavlov and all that.

dearieme said...

I saw a comment on another blog thread that said that Colin Powell had promised that the USA's compelling evidence that Bin Laden was the instigator of the 9/11 attacks would be released to the public. But, said the commenter, it never was.

Was the commenter right? It's not a thing I've followed with any care once I decided that Afghans and Iraqis were being slaughtered because some Saudi Arabs had staged a terrorist triumph.

Caeser Hēméra said...

Well, we're seeing the response. Flinging conventional missiles.

They're reopened part of the bridge, including the rail section, not that I'd like to risk going over the part of the structure that recently well heated and then cooled with salt water. That suggests pride may go before a rather literal fall, depending on just how hot and how exposed to that water any steel got.

Damaged (and shattered) metal doing that in the distant past at uni.

Still, be some grim amusement if The Vat(nik) Controller sent Nigel the Nuclear Tank Engine over it, only for it to go for a bit of a swim.

Wildgoose said...

This article is from June but it's interesting and still pertinent. "[We] need to have a dirty, contemptible compromise."

"a properly supervised plebiscite in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and may the best man win. Putin can turn around and tell the Russian people he won a great victory, the right of plebiscites for the poor Russians. If he loses the plebiscites, so be it. To have a plebiscite you have to have first a negotiation, which requires an armistice. To have an armistice you have to have a cease-fire. The moment there is a cease-fire, you lift all the sanctions, so that the Russians have a reason to respect the cease-fire. Lift them all at once. And that’s how we get out."

Anonymous said...

Impressed with Mr Luttwak, I always thought he was one of those hawks who hate Russia because of what Cossacks did to great great grandaddys shop in 1882

Caeser Hēméra said...

@Wildgoose, that article is just like saying getting to the moon, all you need is a rocket. It's true, but blissfully ignores a whole raft of complexities and realities.

Putin is not ever going to allow another referendum in those areas, it would be a humiliating climbdown he'd not survive.

There won't be a ceasefire until Russia exits territory Ukraine regards as its own, any wiggle room on Crimea is getting pricier by the day, plus Putin isn't going to exit anywhere he's just declared as Russia as its just another shortcut to the grave for him.

And no one is going to trust a referendum, no one trusts the Russians, and the Russians don't trust anyone (including themselves.)

Putin has tied himself to this wars mast, he either gets through the other side, or sinks with it, and whoever follows him will only be temporary as handing back the Ukrainian territory will be as lethal to them as it would be to Putin.

The likelihood is that this will end when some Russian patriot does the calculation that it's either Putin or Russia, as both cannot survive this, and Putin will not be the one chosen to survive.

Anonymous said...

Caeser Hēméra, I don't know what makes you think Russia are going to lose. For them, it's existential. Not so for the US or the UK.

Of course, so far the US have escalated every time, so we may see American missiles taking out Russian power stations in a day or two and be a stap closer to WW3.

A huge pity though (assuming we avoid WW3 which seems increasingly unlikely) that the US are driving Russia and China together. Disaster for Europe. Must fill up today, French garages are empty of fuel.

Seeing Russian reports of attempted TurkStream sabotage, for what that's worth.

PS compare today in Kiev with Baghdad 2003. And that was the opening of the war. Russia is like little soft hearted baby.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@Anon - It's not currently existential for Russia, it is existential for the Putin regime though, which his own stupidity.

They're also not fighting the US or the UK, they're fighting the Ukrainians, for whom this *is* existential, who have been trained and supplied by NATO nations.

Russia is now also losing gained territory apace, has poor logistics, poorly trained troops and supplies that have gone through an entire chain of Flash Harrys taking their fat cut.

The partial mobilisation has seen Putin's power slightly diminish in the hinterlands and the smarter Russians get out of Dodge. The bodybags of the mobilised have barely started to come back, come spring, that will will change.

Russia still has a great deal of capability to wreak havoc, but their targeting of purely civilian infrastructure - unlike multi-use like bridges and railways - advertises their weakness, which when you're meant to be the second best military on the planet, really is something to hold in contempt.

For Russia to turn this around is going to take something incredible, and, more importantly, time, something Putin hasn't got.

They may yet surprise, as the fat lady has yet to sing, but her throat has most certainly been cleared.

E-K said...


The narrative that Putin has invaded an innocent country is a lie.

The narrative that Putin was inventing stories about NATO expansionism is a lie.

Ukraine (itself a gangster state) was being prepared militarily for absorption into both the EU and into NATO and while we beggar ourselves with hardships hardly known in living memory and bring ourselves to the brink of nuclear conflict, to support that nation's right to join the EU, we cannot leave the EU for fear that the IRA might bomb a few pubs.

We now face political, banking and energy crises of existential proportions because of an invasion which was provoked by the West and one which was perpetuated by the West when settlement was available. Even if only 1% of Putin's warheads work it might do us all a favour and clear the decks for a new start.

Disclaimer - I dislike Putin but not nearly as much as I do Biden and Son who are up to their necks in Ukrainian gas.

Anonymous said...

E-K: "We now face political, banking and energy crises of existential proportions because of an invasion which was provoked by the West ... "


But ... it gets worse.

It wasn't the invasion that was provoked by the West impoverishing the West, it is the Western response ( Moronic sanctions on raw materials that we depend on. ) to the invasion that was provoked by the West, that is impoverishing the West.

It's like some sort of Marx brothers black comedy.

And this is beyond parody:

"Ukraine have been being supplied, troop trained, standardised and assisted, even force training on NATO Exercises since 2016.
It’s not a secret.
It’s bee officially reported on the NATO website since 2015.
It’s still there. "

And Russia has been telling the West that it wasn't acceptable. That too have been published and those Russian concerns are still on public record too.

Ukraine isn't officially in NATO, but NATO is going to finance, equip and train the largest army in Europe, right on Russia's doorstep.

Why is Russia getting so upset ??

Bill Quango MP, just doesn't understand!

Presumably, BQ would have us believe it was Poland, or Romania, or Hungary that the biggest army in Europe was being assembled to attack?

Much is made of how stupid Russians supposedly are, but they could see this coming for eight years.

Anonymous said...

The Russians have also "been telling the West that it wasn't acceptable" that NATO expanded in the Baltics.

Well, f**k 'em! Why shouldn't Estonia & co join a defence union against a plainly dangerous neighbour?

As regards Ukraine tooling up after the severe kicking it received at Russia's hand in 2014, it reminds me of the old French saw. "Cet animal est très méchant, Quand on l'attaque il se défend."

E-K said...

A bloody putsch which ousted a President and where revolutionaries were given cake by the EU High Representative took place in 2014... during which senior Americans were caught on tape determining who would be leader ...and Biden's Son was awarded a top contract in a gas company.

Ukraine is wrecked too BTW.

Putin was provoked.

Anonymous said...

"Why shouldn't Estonia & co join a defence union against a plainly dangerous neighbour?"

The delusion is strong with this one.

The USA has just bombed the energy supply lines of Germany, just so Germany can't go 'off piste'. Now Germany will enjoy overpriced American energy[1], which is, according to Blinken, a tremendous opportunity. But not for the Germans!

In your wildest dreams do you imagine the interests of the USA will be put in second place to those of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia?


Anonymous said...

Apparently the attacks yesterday sadly killed between 12 and 17 civilians, depending on who you read. To put it in context, about 430 Iraqi civilians died on each of the 21 days of "shock and awe".

The NYT argues that the low civilian casualties mean the missiles are crap!

Thud said...

fuck me! with the honourable exception of BQ and Nick its a self hate Putler fan club here....I enjoyed it when it was capitalists at work not a hate the west love me some dictator support group.

visc said...

Interesting point from elsewhere re tactical nukes, being that a good proportion of them (tactical nukes), have about the same power as the MOABs used by our best friends the US.

Of course if used the word "nuclear" is used, and a great propaganda victory for the western war party.

Interesting to see the comment above saying "There won't be a ceasefire until Russia exits territory Ukraine regards as its own" - strange then the deal on the table in Turkey scuppered by Johnson (likely at Biden's behest), was practically just that, with Ukrainian neutrality. The exception being Crimea - if you think Russia is going to give up Crimea - please read your history. we need to talk practical negotiated settlements.