By John Helmer [From Dances with Bears]
In the history of the wars of the world, it almost never happens that the military strategy of a fighting state directs and revolutionizes the political strategy, and not the other way round — as aspiring politicians, military officers and policemen are taught by the venerable Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz to believe.
But it is happening in Europe now, on the Ukrainian battlefield, and in the war of the US and NATO alliance against Russia.
So long, Sun; so long, Carl; so long, Pardner!
For Russia it would never have turned out this way if President Boris Yeltsin had decided to run for a third term, ruling as medically incapable as President Joseph Biden, but deferring the succession until after Mikhail Khodorkovsky had sold the Yukos oil company to the US, and the other Russian oligarchs created by Yeltsin had followed suit. Heart, brain, and liver disease stopped the Yeltsin part of that. The Vladimir Putin succession plan then failed to deliver what had been intended.
What has remained of the plan of the destruction of Russia from those days is what there is today.
The oligarchs survive but, according to the terms of the US and NATO sanctions war, they cannot have their assets and freedom of movement back unless they overthrow Putin, change the regime in the Kremlin, and destroy the capability of the Russian military to defend the country.
The defensive strategy in response is obvious. Not only must the capacity of Ukrainian forces and their NATO weapons be destroyed at the front, and their remainder driven to a territorial line west of the Dnieper River, between Kiev and Lvov, out of range of Russian Crimea, Zaphorozhye, Kherson, Donetsk and Lugansk. Also, each of the NATO weapons must be defeated and destroyed which the US sends to the battlefield, and the airborne and ground systems for directing them at their Russian targets neutralized. .
If this Russian strategy succeeds, the implication for Europe – and the rest of the world (Taiwan) – will be plain. The US cannot defend NATO and NATO cannot defend its member states with a military capability that has been defeated. Article Five of the NATO treaty will become a dead letter. If and when that happens, the all-for-one-one-for-all principle of security in Europe which Article 5 promises will be replaced, first by the principle of every one for himself, and then by the principle of reciprocal security and non-aggression; that was the proposal of the Russian treaties of December 17, 2021.
The political strategy of the US and NATO for Russia, having failed with Yeltsin’s replacement of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, and then with Putin’s replacement of Yeltsin in 2000, now depends on the survival of the oligarch system inside Russia. This too is under attack — not from the Kremlin, but from the US and European sanctions war which has paralyzed the oligarchs and their networks in the west, and suspended their capital export schemes.
For the Russian oligarchs to hope to resume their business as usual in the post-war period, as they say they want, the war on the Ukrainian battlefield should be short and the terms of armistice and settlement suspensive, equivocal, inconsequential – like the Minsk accords of 2014-15. Ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande have acknowledged why that is impossible for the Russian president, the General Staff, and the Russian people to accept.
The alternative Russian political strategy is the redirection of trade, capital, transport, and financial logistics to the east and south – principally China and India, but also Iran, Turkey, the Arab world, and in time, the African one. For this political strategy to succeed, the success of the military strategy in Europe is a parallel requirement, a pre-condition almost. And so, in the practical logic of politics, for Russian military strategy to succeed on its terms, the Russian oligarchy must be transformed. This is happening.
As the Russian military strategy succeeds on the battlefield, the political will of the European people must also be transformed. This too is happening. Not every battle on every front can be explained at once, though.
Listen to the discussion of Russian tactics in the Donbass, the General Staff strategy for the Ukraine, and the political divisions widening inside the NATO states.
Article 5 of the NATO Treaty isn’t exactly Alexander Dumas’s four musketeers leaping into swashbuckle and swordplay, or William Shakespeare’s excuse for the Etruscan nobleman’s attack on his friend’s wife in the Rape of Lucrece.
Read the NATO treaty words carefully: it is plain that each of the NATO states keeps the right to self-defence on its own terms; that individually and collectively the reaction to an attack on one of the treaty states would be considered according to the war power laws and constitutions of each state – this is what the “deems necessary” clause means.
Also, the reaction of the NATO states is subject to Article 51 of the United Nations (UN) Charter and to the requirement that the UN Security Council must agree on “measures to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
Article 51 of the UN Charter allows self-defence until the Security Council acts, but disallows unilateral action without Security Council approval, or in defiance of it.
To preserve the threat of US and NATO power behind Article 5, behind the propaganda, there has been a US-directed, German, French and British attempt to slow down and stop Russian military victory on the battlefield by conceding some Ukrainian territory in exchange for the rearmament of Ukraine as a NATO member state. This is the lunch-with-Zelensky scheme – the “peace talks for arms” proposal discussed by Biden with the Ukrainian president in Kiev on February 20, and in the earlier luncheons in Paris with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron on February 3, then with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and King Charles III on February 9. Read the details in the Murdoch press leak of February 24.
Two days later, when Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Burns announced on television there are no negotiations, he was lying.
Left: Zelensky at Prime Minister Sunak’s front door on February 9; source: https://www.independent.co.uk
Right: King Charles III receives Zelensky at Buckingham Place.
From the Ukrainian point of view, any negotiated concession of these terms is a sell-out. From the NATO point of view, public discussion of the terms is a threat to the willingness of European voters to continue paying the bill for the war. This is also a threat to vote out of office the politicians who have been taxing the voters for the money.
Across most of Europe – outside Russia, that is – most governments are nervous coalitions suffering from steadily deteriorating poll ratings. The tax they are imposing to pay for the war is not a popular one. Just how unpopular becomes clearer when the size of the tax is compared from one European and NATO member state to the others.
The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IFW) is a think tank paid for by the German state. On that tab, it has assigned itself the regular report it calls the “Ukraine Support Tracker”. The IFW calls itself “an independent foundation…[to] provide impartial, open-ended advice to German, European, and international policy makers as well as institutions, trade bodies, and businesses.”. In practice, the IFJ isn’t independent, impartial, open-ended, European, or international – it is the mouthpiece for German warfighting policy against Russia, and it makes no pretence of this on its home page, organizational chart, and publications. From time to time the research data crack open to reveal the opposite of the propaganda line.
One of the charts the IFW has just published calculates the share of the defence budgets of each of the Russia warfighting states – the NATO members and other allies – which is being spent on military trainers and advisers, weapons, and other military aid to the Ukraine. For the complete dataset and latest report, click to read this and this.
SHARE OF COUNTRY DEFENCE BUDGET TRANSFERRED TO UKRAINE AS MILITARY AID
In the broadcast, the percentage differences between the big-paying and the low-paying states are discussed, together with the economic and commercial factors driving the social tax to pay for the war and subsidize profiteering by the gas, oil and coal exporters (Norway and Australia, for example); by the aerospace and arms manufacturing states (UK, US, Germany and France); even by the one diamond trading state in the alliance, Belgium. For the Belgian tradeoff between money for the Ukraine battlefield and sanctions relief for the Antwerp diamond trade, read this.
(Inside NATO there is no windfall profit taxation for those companies whose profits are booming from the war.)
The success of the propaganda war in convincing the European peoples that the Ukraine war tax they are paying is a worthwhile outlay for their security, and that they will also be better off domestically under US and NATO protection, is now one year old. Spanish opinion polling reveals that this success will continue so long as no Spaniard is contracted or conscripted to fight on the battlefield, and no one comes home dead.
This view reflects itself in the very low proportion of Spanish voters who identify the war against Russia to be a problem affecting them directly and personally. This percentage has been statistically unchanged over many months between 1% and 3%. This would change dramatically, however, if Spanish soldiers, technicians and trainers accompanying the anti-aircraft missile systems and Leopard tanks promised by the Madrid government for delivery are killed in the Ukraine.
In the meantime the Spaniards are not indifferent. One in four reports being “very worried” about the war, and another 49% acknowledge they are “quite worried”.
SPANISH OPINION TOWARDS THE WAR, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023
The poll results for January 2023 above have been repeated with statistically insignifiant change in February 2023. Source: https://www.cis.es/
There has also been almost no change of Spanish opinion since the July 2022 poll: https://www.cis.es/
At the same time, over the first year of the war Spanish voters have dramatically changed their opinion of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) which won the April and November 2019 elections with more than 28% of the vote, leading the conservative People’s Party (PP) at 16.7% and 20.8%. The PP has now doubled its rating to 32%, the PSOE has dropped to 26%; click for more details.
There has been a similar loss of confidence in the socialist government of Portugal. The Socialist Party (PS) won the election of January 2022 with 41.5%. It has now lost 11 points and is in equal running with the conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD). Portuguese voter disgruntlement has turned to support of the rising Chega (“Enough”) group.
There are no regular Portuguese polls on priority issues comparable to those in Spain. However, European Union polling last June revealed that Portuguese voters were already apprehensive that they would suffer direct economic losses and decline in personal living standards in consequence of the war. “Almost 50% of people in Portugal think maintaining standards of living should take precedence over the defence of democracy and freedom… These numbers clearly show that Portuguese people are already feeling the impact of the war on their standards of living.”
Direct country polling evidence like this reveals growing disunity and division between the European states. Only by concealing or misrepresenting these polls can European Union or NATO funded think tanks make the opposite appear to be true. Click for more evidence of think-tank trickery.
The broadcast concluded with a discussion of President Zelensky’s call for US troops to fight in Europe after Article 5 is triggered. “The US is never going to give up on the NATO member states,” Zelensky said on March 2. “If it happens so that Ukraine, due to various opinions and weakening – depleting – of assistance, loses, Russia is going to enter Baltic states, NATO member states, and then the US will have to send their sons and daughters, exactly the same way as we are sending, their sons and daughters to war. And they will have to fight, because it’s NATO that we’re talking about. And they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing. I wish peace and Ukrainian support to the United States.”.
This is how Zelensky attacks the Biden, Scholz, Macron and Sunak proposals for concessions which have been in negotiation through February. Zelensky is claiming that if the Biden Administration presses territorial losses for the Ukraine now, US troops will have to fight to preserve the Baltic territories. It’s desperation talk.
Listen to the way in which Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, engaged to represent the US Army, responded on June 9, 1954, at a hearing of a US Senate committee run by Senator Joseph McCarthy. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” Welch said. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you lost your sense of decency?”
Listen also to the full interview between George Eliason and Russia’s Deputy Permament Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky.