Postscript on Ukraine: A contrarian view

Postscript on Ukraine: A contrarian view Featured

AS intense as the skirmishes on the battlefield are the fights between legacy and social media to present the facts on the ground. This rivalry between the two types of media platforms shapes public opinion and influences the war narratives while the dynamics of the conflicts are evolving. For long, newspapers, television and radio have directed public discourse. Not anymore. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide real-time images, alternative perspectives and opinions by any Tom, Dick and Harry in possession of handheld internet devices, which can be uploaded. Therein lies the crucial difference: while traditional legacy platforms adhere to journalistic principles, fact-checking and are subject to editorial oversight but are relatively slow in propagation, the nature of social media's decentralized dissemination relies mostly on subjective and instant spread of information, challenging more often than not the narrative controlled by the legacy media. All of this relies on the personal biases of the purveyor of the news.

The Ukraine war fought in the media has partisans taking sides. From where one sits, one has the choice of who to root for. My columns have so far depicted Ukraine winning. This time, this column portrays the contrarian viewpoint. Ukraine is losing the war and its implications for NATO, particularly its main sponsor — America.

I draw from the blogs, podcasts and video clips of a certain Col. Douglas Macgregor and Scott Ritter, who both claim to be former US military and intelligence operatives and are widely followed on social media. But I mix this up with the assessment of John Mearsheimer, a noted American political scientist. I don't purport to go deep into the backgrounds and motivations of these people. But I compare their pronouncements against those of other platforms presented "as facts."

Instability caused by US/NATO

This is a takeoff from last week's column on CFR's Richard Haas's pronouncements that "the United States has become the most profound source of instability throughout the world." The Ukraine crisis could be traced to what America did in the early part of its ascendancy as the world's lone hegemon in a unipolar world after the end of the Cold War. Excerpts are cited from my columns of March 9, 2022, "Ukraine: Putin's war — a briefer" and "Closing act to Putin's war," March 16, 2022 — all written two months after the Ukraine invasion. After 17 months of the war, a different perspective on the war is developing.

All these started upon the dissolution of the USSR when Washington assured Gorbachev that NATO would move "not an inch eastward" with the withdrawal of the Russian troops from East Germany and the eventual German unification. NATO was not to expand into the ambit of Russian influence in the crumbling Warsaw Pact. At that point, there really was no longer any need for NATO. It won the Cold War. But NATO was more a business of arms and weaponry, influenced most by the military industrial congress complex (MICC) which marches to the beat of American hegemony whether the US government is run by GOP or Democrats. America reneged on that promise.

As I wrote back then, John Mearsheimer came up with a disturbing but logical conclusion negating the conventional wisdom that Putin and Russia bear the primary responsibility for the Ukraine crisis and the Russo-Ukraine war that long started with the Euromaidan movement protests, culminating in the Revolution of Dignity and eventual regime change in Ukraine and the ouster in 2014 of President Victor Yanukovych, who fled to Moscow. The CIA was believed to be heavily involved in fomenting these protests, and the subsequent Ukrainian governments were sympathetic to joining the EU and eventually NATO.

Putin considered the new Ukrainian government illegal. In response, Putin annexed Ukraine's southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and recognized the Russian-sponsored separatist states of Donetsk and Luhansk in the southeast, collectively known as the Donbas region. In 2016, the UN General Assembly condemned the annexation as "...the occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine — the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol."

With the help of Germany and France, a series of protocols called the Minsk Agreements were hammered out in 2014–2055, aimed at establishing a ceasefire and a political framework for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. These were agreed to and signed with provisions to run for eight years. Looking back, Ukraine Presidents Poroshenko and Zelenskyy, French President Francois Holland, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch considered these agreements a sham. Its provisions were never going to be implemented but were designed to buy time for Ukraine to build its military capability. In fact, the US/NATO built training facilities in Western Ukraine in 2015 where battalion-sized Ukrainian forces were trained to NATO standards and sent to Donbas to fight.

Putin had been had! The US/NATO used diplomacy as a shield to build up Ukraine's military. By early February 2022, Russia had officially recognized the breakaway separatist Donbas region, declaring that the Minsk Agreements no longer existed. On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Status of the war

Seventeen months after the invasion, both protagonists have not gained the clear upper hand. But since the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, several weeks ago, things are coming to a head — events that may augur well for Russia. The much-heralded spring counterattack to retake Russian-occupied territories and Crimea seems to have petered out. Zelenskyy's demands for more advanced NATO war material could not be met, and Ukraine's NATO membership has been tabled for another time. This has now become a war of attrition, and this hiatus will work to the advantage of the home team rather than NATO. Putin can sit this one out while continuing to build his forces. Reportedly, they now have 750,000 men at arms, ramping up to a million. Ukraine, though having an excellent war machine but a smaller population, will deplete its manpower over time. It's a mathematical certainty.

And as Russia's cities are untouched, their production facilities are intact and are operating 24/7. There is no danger of Russia running out of ammo, drones, missiles, parts or equipment to fight a war. US President Biden recently admitted they're running out of logistics and couldn't transfer sorely needed materiel from other theaters. The US/NATO will not put boots on the ground, nor do they have the forces for conventional warfare.

Zelenskyy is in panic mode and may know Ukraine is losing. The reluctance of the US to supply cruise missiles may be a prudent move. In desperation, Zelenskyy may just go rogue, raining those missiles on Russian cities and dragging the US and NATO into a wider war, something Americans ignorant of the nuances of what's happening did not sign for. Supplying such weapons is an invitation to disaster.

The conundrum of why Russia moves cautiously and deliberately avoids major confrontation may be explained by the fact that it is confident of its eventual triumph by attrition, knowing full well that the US will not spill American blood in Ukraine. But this can change with dumb things happening with a desperate Zelenskyy.

This explains Putin's tolerance for Zelenskyy, allowing him to live. Putin needs the man to surrender all Ukrainian forces.

To be continued

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