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Foolish war

A blitzkrieg Russian invasion of Ukraine it was not. Marshall Zhukov, the Soviet Union’s famed tank general, must be rolling in his grave. Had Stalin still been in the Kremlin, Russia’s generals and defense minister would have by now been shot. At that time, the Red Army and its 50,000 tanks were believed able to burst through Germany’s Fulda Gap and central Austria and reach the key US supply base at Rotterdam in a week.

After three months of desultory fighting, the Russian army has managed to occupy some border areas in Ukraine and the key communications hub of Mariupol, cutting off Ukraine from its access to the Black Sea. Ukraine’s very important exports of grains have been blocked, undermining its economy but not proving a decisive move to end the war between self-proclaimed independent Ukraine and its western allies on one side and Russia and neighboring Belarus on the other. The proposed joining of Finland and Sweden to Nato is a political backfire for the Kremlin, but means little from a military viewpoint since both nations have long been covert Nato allies. ‘Neutral’ Switzerland has also been another not-so-secret member of the alliance.

But in fact, the US and its Nato allies have been locked in a nasty, covert war against Russia that threatens to erupt at any time into a conventional, then nuclear conflict. This quasi-war is the result of the refusal by the US and Nato to exclude their alliance from formerly Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe and pushing it to Russia’s very borders. The conflict has re-awakened dangerous problems that date back to the end of World War I when the victorious British and French, along with the credulous Americans, sought to alter Europe’s map. Vast swathes of territory were torn away from Germany, Austro-Hungary and Russia leaving dangerous disputes active to this day.

What’s wrong today with Russia’s current army, once the terror of Europe? First, it’s too small. Early on, President Vlad Putin ordered serious reductions in the size of Russia’s then huge armed forces. China did the same. That was fine for peace-time, but not for waging war. Russia sent only 100,000 men to occupy and subjugate Ukraine, a vast territory the size of Western Europe. I suspect that Putin’s goal was to annex key border regions, then leave independence-minded Ukraine isolated and in grave economic distress. The expected western economic war against Russia would be partially mitigated by the economic/financial distress caused to the west and its vassal states like Egypt.

A Russian airborne attack on capital Kiev failed miserably due to Western special forces and a new supply of top-attack anti-tank weapons. Usually reliable Russian military intelligence was ignored. Civilian intelligence was allowed to design the military campaign which as we have seen turned into a stalemate.

Excerpted: ‘Putin’s Foolish War, Poorly Waged’.

Eric Margolis, "Foolish war," The News. 2022-06-04.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political backfire , Soviet union , Economy , President Putin , Russia , China , Ukraine