Paul Craig Roberts: Ukraine Update #2

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Soldiers, War, Gun, Battle, Ukraine

by Paul Craig Roberts via Institute for Political Economy

The function of the Western media is to turn fiction into fact and lie into truth. Once the narrative is established, it is repeated endlessly.  I worked hard yesterday to give my readers a true account of the situation.  Today I will update the military situation and point out difficulties that the Kremlin might have overlooked.

Using high precision missiles, Russia destroyed Ukraine’s military infrastructure. The strikes were limited to military airfields, air defenses, munition and fuel depots, and military communication centers.  There were and are no strikes on civilian populations.  The Kremlin’s operation contrasts starkly with Washington/NATO indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Pakistan.  Hypocritical Western “leaders” shedding crocodile tears for the few casualties in Ukraine never showed even fake concern for the tens of thousands of civilians they slaughtered in their illegal wars based on lies such as “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.”  Western presstitutes such as CNN have tried to create the impression that Russian forces are attacking civilian populations by showing at a distance smoke plumes rising in a city.  In reality the smoke is from precision hits on military communication or storage locations. The Russian weapons are extremely precise, so the Russians don’t need to bomb everything in sight, leveling every building in order to achieve military purpose.  Russia will get no credit for this humanitarian policy, and might be forced to abandon it, a question I will explore later in this report.

As far as I can tell, the initial Russian strikes prevented any coordinated military action by the Ukrainian armed forces which doesn’t seem to have been very determined.  Some Ukrainian soldiers laid down their weapons. Others, according to reports, are helping Russian troops guard the nuclear power plants from CIA sabotage.  Many Ukrainian border guards sought refuge in Russia.  The Russian troops are doing their best not to kill Ukrainian soldiers.

The neo-Nazi militias with their CIA advisers are a different matter.  Both in the territory of the Donbass republics and in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and, no doubt, in other Ukrainian cities or towns, the neo-Nazis are using civilians as shields by positioning themselves in populated civilian areas. In Kiev, the Nazi militias have set up rocket launchers with which they attack the Russian troops occupying the Kiev airport.  Under the existing Russian orders, the Russian soldiers cannot direct fire into the civilian areas in which the remaining resistance has located itself.

Here arises a problem for the Kremlin’s strategy. Russia allowed the nazification of Ukraine to go on for so long that a network is in place for a Washington-supported insurgency.  To destroy the Nazi militias could cost, on the one hand, a lot of Russian lives in street by street fighting, and on the other hand many civilian lives in artillery and bombing barrages like the US and Israel use.

I wonder if the Kremlin understands that it is up against psychopaths, not soldiers. The Kremlin needs to bring the situation to a quick end, but the Nazi militias can prolong the conflict as long as the Kremlin is committed to minimizing civilian casualties.  Recognizing the difficulty, Putin said the Ukrainian military must not allow their government to use their “children, wives and loved ones as human shields.” He has appealed to the Ukrainian military to “take the power into your own hands.” Putin said that the Ukrainian military would be a better negotiating partner than “a bunch of drug addicts and neo-Nazis” who have “entrenched themselves in Kiev,” and have been holding the people hostage.

Russia’s strategic weakness is not her military. Her weakness is her respect for international rules of war and her desire not to harm the Ukrainian population in the interest of good relations once the Nazi elements are removed.  The Kremlin actually cares about what people think.  This is a frustration and a weakness for Russia, because she has no way of controlling the narrative.  Whatever Russia does will be painted black, so she might as well do whatever is necessary to clear out the Nazis before she is faced with a self-imposed stalemate. The Kremlin does not seem to understand that if only Russia abides by international law, there is no international law.  Indeed, the Western countries do not even abide by their own domestic laws.

The problem did not start with the Russian intervention yesterday.  It began with Washington’s overthrow of a democratically elected government and installation of a puppet regime powerless to prevent the Nazis from developing an independent military force.  The Kremlin should have nipped this in the bud, but naively believing in diplomacy failed to do so.  

Russia is in trouble because she is forever imposing limits on her use of power.  This works only if your opponents have the same mentality.  Unfortunately, Russia’s opponents do not.

We see the same Russian unwillingness to act in her response to the latest round of sanctions.  True, the sanctions do seem to be more damaging for Europe and the US than for Russia.  But humiliation remains in a powerful country accepting sanctions from two-bit punk countries that she could destroy completely in two minutes.  

To stop sanctions and all talk of sanctions, all the Kremlin needs to do is to stop the gas flows to Europe. As the president of one of the large EU energy grid companies said, if this happened German industry would have to be taken off the energy grid.  In other words, a complete shutdown of German industry–the same as if it were bombed into oblivion.  As it is still winter, a lot of Germans would have cold weather inside their homes.

But what do we see?  We see this:  The head of the Russian Senate, Valentina Matviyenko said that Russia will remain a reliable gas supplier for Europe despite measures taken by the US and Germany against the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Berlin decided to put an immediate halt to the certification of the project even before Russia launched its operation in Ukraine. The decision was taken following the official recognition by Moscow of the two breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk Republics earlier this week.

The EU sanctions on Russian banks were altered in order to take advantage of Russian stupidity:  Germany’s finance minister said on Friday that EU sanctions over Russia’s military operation in Ukraine had led to Russian banks being nearly completely blocked in his country. The only transactions still allowed were those by German companies to pay for Russian gas, Christian Lindner said. 

We can say it is not stupidity, that Russia is simply complying with contractual agreements, showing herself to be a good and reliable business partner.  Or we can say that Russia’s incompetent economists and central bank have convinced the Kremlin, whose specialty is not economics, that Russia needs the foreign exchange from gas sales.  But it is stupid. Russia will get no credit for being a reliable business partner. Certainly Germany has no interest in being a reliable partner for Russia as demonstrated by cancelling the Nord 2 pipeline.  As for foreign exchange, Russia has no need of it and it will only be confiscated by sanctions if it is held in instruments denominated in US or EU currency.  The Russian central bank does not need foreign currency to finance Russian economic development.  If Russia is content for Europe to deplete her energy resources, she should bill in rubles in order to strengthen her currency rather than the currency of her enemies.

So, despite her military predominance, Russia’s position is weak.  It is weakened further by Putin’s commitment to globalism.  Here is an amazing inconsistency in Putin’s position.  Putin is committed to Russia’s sovereignty, but the sovereignty of countries is inconsistent with globalism. Putin can have one or the other but not both.

I suspect that if the West is able to bring Russia down, it will be because of Russia’s commitment to globalism.

Permission to reprint Dr. Roberts’ columns does not imply that Dr. Roberts endorses the websites or media organizations that republish his columns or that he approves of the content of the websites, media outlets or books that republish his columns.

Reprinted with permission from Institute for Political Economy.