Meaning in History: https://meaninginhistory.substack.com/p/briefly-noted-ukraine-escalation
Briefly Noted: Ukraine Escalation Update
I’ve been holding off commenting on the Russian military response to the Ukrainian truck-bomb terror attack on the Kerch Bridge—the latest in a series of terror style attacks. That response has come, as I’m sure readers have heard, in the form of massive Russian missile strikes throughout Ukraine. Here are a few tweets that provide the general picture of these strikes—apparently largely cruise missile strikes, including from the Russian Black Sea Fleet—in graphical form:
And an English language map:
“Just a warning” is of a piece with Putin’s statement back in July that “everybody knows” that Russia hasn’t really begun its military operations. “Everybody” most prominently includes the United States. For all the propaganda about how Russia is failing, the US knows. Even if some are trying to delude themselves.
The obvious concern is, How far will this escalation go and what might it lead to? There is additional military news that shows that Ukraine is running scared. For example, reports are that Ukraine has blown all bridges between itself and Belarus—this would concern the stretch of the Pripyat River that forms the NW border of Ukraine with SW Belarus—amid Ukrainian fears of a Belarus/Russia invasion via Belarus. In that regard, as I noted in a comment, Douglas Macgregor mentioned very recently that Russian forces are “backed up from Minsk [capital of Belarus, in the center of the country] to western Russia [i.e., just north of Kiev].”
Overall, I expect—based on zero inside info—that Russia’s response will remain measured. It will, in other words, proceed as a “warning” to Ukraine to cease and desist from terrorist acts. That is why I use the word “terrorist”—it’s the word that the Russian government uses and fits in with the speculation, going back some weeks, that the Special Military Operation will be upgraded to an Anti-Terror Operation. Of course, an ATO will proceed pretty much as a full scale war, which is the significance of the Russian change of command at the top. The Russians are shifting to a combined arms approach rather than the SMO, involving all branches of their military under a unified command. That means that similar strikes will probably continue and that, eventually, Russia will launch a massive invasion in a combined arms manner in order to bring this whole episode to a close.
The question, then, is: Will any of this lead to WW3? I think not, and Jordan Schachtel has a smart substack that discusses precisely this question:
None of the major parties involved in this conflict want nuclear armageddon via WWIII.
The bottom line is that the US has been using Ukraine as a proxy, and will abandon Ukraine when it is no longer of any use. Here are the most trenchant paragraphs from Schachtel’s article:
[The NATO] powers remain committed to propping up Kiev as the tip of the spear in what they hope is a long, drawn out conflict with Moscow. They do not seek a Ukrainian victory over Russia, but an Afghanistan-like perpetual war that acts both to weaken their foe and facilitate several forms of laundering for the global elite.
Thankfully, the leaders of Western powers don’t actually believe the hysterical nonsense about Putin being some kind of imperial Hitler-like figure who seeks to conquer the entirety of Europe.
The Russians don’t want World War III either. Their overt goal, as articulated by the Kremlin, is to eliminate the threats to their territorial integrity. Their more unspoken goal, as proven by Russia’s political and military actions, is to secure territory that is both strategically valuable and populated by citizens who welcome or are indifferent to the idea of switching sovereigns. Russia is a minimally expansionist power, in a limited setting that targets friendly populations.
Zelensky has miscalculated, badly, because none of the internationalist players involved in propping up Kiev actually care about Ukraine. If they truly did care about Ukraine, they would seek a cessation to hostilities. Instead, the direct opposite is happening, and Ukraine has become the new gold mine for the military industrial cartel.
Zelensky and his more recent predecessors have completely botched realpolitik. Instead of harnessing Ukraine’s power as a neutral buffer state, his government went all-in on becoming subservient to one coalition while antagonizing its more powerful neighbor. This has had devastating consequences for the Ukrainian people.
Going forward I think we can trust Dmitry Medvedev’s words. He says he’s expressing his “personal” views, but since he is the Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Security Council, his words are undoubtedly intended to have a public significance—as a warning to both the collective West as well as to Ukraine. Russia, as Putin has repeatedly said, remains open to negotiations, but Medvedev is stating bottom line positions. Russia will negotiate how to arrive at that bottom line, but it remains a bottom line:
Medvedev Says Russia Will Conduct More Attacks Against Ukraine
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said that Ukraine will face more attacks after massive missile strikes on Kiev and other cities on Monday morning.
“The first episode is over. There will be others… I will express my personal position… The Ukrainian state in its current configuration with the Nazi political regime will pose a constant, direct and clear threat to Russia. Therefore, in addition to protecting our people and protecting the country’s borders, the goal of our future actions … should be a complete dismantling of the political regime of Ukraine,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel.
Schachtel describes, in conservative terms, the Western bottom line—which will certainly come into play as Russia pursues it’s long and openly stated goals:
While it would certainly be a setback for the NATO coalition if Kiev was lost to Russia’s sphere of influence, their actions showcase that it is not something worth fighting World War III over. This concerns Zelensky, because the game would be up for him and his allies in government. Therefore, hoaxing the world into World War III is the go-to strategy for Kiev. Luckily, for now at least, no major power wants to pursue that route.
Moreover, the collective West is likely to become increasingly preoccupied with its own self-inflicted wounds. With pacifying its own home front.