As we approach the beginning of 2023, there will be a lot of predictions. Niels Bohr  said, “prediction is difficult — especially about the future.”  One of the biggest news events last year was the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  There has been much to digest. The Russian Army folded badly and the American government laundered aid to Ukraine to fund democrats in the mid-terms through the now-defunct FTX cyber currency Corporation. At the end of 2022, the Russians are running out of ammunition, and the American media and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have ignored the criminal laundering activity, which doesn’t surprise anyone.  America is a one-party system in the same way that China is. Surprisingly, Russia has a multi-party system that grows stronger and hasn’t had a communist form of government for 30 years.

The Russian total defeat in Ukraine is now viewed as possible and nobody including the Russians themselves can predict what that will look like. A depleted and somewhat broken Russian Army leaves the East open to an invasion by Communist China. The idea that Putin’s administration might collapse is almost impossible for them to visualize. Putin and his system are so deeply embedded in their experience of Russia that even the most clear-eyed Russians believe that even if the Russians lose, Putin would hang on to power in some weakened state. Such assumptions look shaky.

Russia’s catastrophic defeats on the battlefield narrowed Putin’s diplomatic exit ramps. His sham annexation of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, an emerging opposition in Russia, new reservations expressed by Putin’s foreign allies, the desperation shown by his highly unpopular “partial mobilization,” and the stampede for the exits that the mobilization has inspired. Near destruction of the Kerch Strait Bridge was both a symbolic and strategic blow to Putin and his war. The bridge — which links the Russian-held Crimean peninsula to Russia — was a point of pride for Vlad. He attended the opening in 2018. It’s a strategic nightmare because the bridge is a critical supply route for the Russians in Crimea.

Ukrainians have battlefield momentum at the end of 2022. Their forces are advancing on two fronts, either taking or threatening territory that Putin announced  would be Russian territory “forever.” U.S. and NATO weapons flow. Reports of chaos and even anger within the Russian army come almost daily. Militarily, the Russians have failed in their theater-level strategy — unrealistic estimates of the force required, an absence of senior enlisted leaders empowered to make decisions at the front, and a gross underestimate of the Ukrainian and NATO responses. Russia will not be able to train its new raw (and perhaps unwilling) recruits adequately, nor equip them properly, in time to swing the battlefield momentum. Any war’s success rests heavily on whether individual soldiers are ready to risk their lives to defeat an opponent. An army arrives at that readiness through some combination of strong identification with a cause, a government that commands respect, and a conviction that one must destroy the adversary to save oneself and one’s comrades. By now, it is clear that on all these fronts, the Ukrainians hold an overwhelming advantage.

Putin shifted his war aims and narrative multiple times since the first troops rolled in as “victory” has been re-defined. Ukraine plans to expel Russian forces from those territories they held prior to the war in 2014. Analysts have argued that Russia still has a vast military that it has yet to commit. but where is it? If he really holds that military strength, why must he mobilize 300,000 untrained and unwilling Russians to continue the fight in Ukraine?

Russian doctrine allows for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the event its conventional forces are overwhelmed, but this has never been tested on the battlefield. The Pentagon and the Europeans are gaming those scenarios and potential responses. The best odds anyone can give regarding Putin going nuclear is that the chances are not zero.

If Putin did resort to nukes, what would the U.S. and its allies do? The U.S. has impressive conventional capabilities and might would not have. to use nukes to make its point in a devastating way. A Russian nuclear attack would confront China and Putin’s other enablers — all of whom oppose any first use of nuclear weapons — with an act they would almost certainly deplore and probably condemn outright.

Under Putin’s own last round of constitutional changes, in the event that a sitting president leaves office, the prime minister (currently an obscure former taxation official hand-picked by Putin), would become president for 90 days or until a new election can be held. Of course, the problem with this orderly scenario is that no one sees Putin allowing it to happen. Putin drives Russia to a crossroads in 2023, and nobody knows where that will end.

The peace talks that Putin called for today won’t be acceptable to Ukraine.  They want to hold onto Ukrainian territory and at this point, Ukraine won’t go for it.

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Ukraine forces have the same kind of momentum as meat being fed into a grinder.

    Your assessment for Ukraine’s prospects is entirely too optimistic. What is staring NATO in the face is the SMO not only demilitarising Ukraine, but disarming NATO to boot. Russia is largely autarkic and still largely industrialised, while the EU is in the process of de-industrialising, and both Europe and the US have hollowed out the industry they still have. The only saving grace is that 150m Russians can’t overrun 500m Europeans and 330m US persons, but the remaining 20m or so Ukies will not be much of a factor., and the Western powers in their current configuration are not in any position to halt the inevitable without the US itself first going nuclear.

    • You make assertions, but have not backed them up.
      Where is this vaunted Russian military? Where is their might?
      Aye, I don’t see any counter invasion going well, not for long at least, for Russia does have a long and storied history of making any invader pay in blood – their own and Russia’s – for every foot of land taken.
      But that is a history that Ukraine shares as well.
      And the meat grinder in Ukraine has chewed up and spat out Russians at a rate no one expected before this.
      What should have been a “short victorious war” favoring the Kremlin has instead turned into a drawn out disaster. They have called in at short notice forces unprepared and given them equipment badly degraded – when they were equipped at all – to fill in the gaps left by the fallen elite Russian super soldiers. And as LL points out, the potential risk to Russia from China should not be lightly dismissed either. They too have numerical superiority, except over Russia this time.
      As for the vaunted and feared Russian nuclear arsenal, where is it? They announced a while back that they were running a test in violation of treaty, then abruptly said they had cancelled it. Could it be they did try to set one off in ultimate saber rattling fashion, and it failed? I am not willing to bank on all their bombs being nonfunctional, but that sort of that requires certain flexing to demonstrate capability in this age. If Putin did fire ten nukes, but only two detonated, would that invite the appropriate fear, or would it demonstrate that the Russian bear, although still dangerous, is weak, old, and missing half its teeth instead? Better to keep growling in threat, than to show the world their shaking and weakened limbs, I suspect.
      .
      You know, there was another time, a little less than two and a half centuries ago, that another group of farmers and the like stood down what was one of the world’s preeminent militaries as well. True, the farmers, much like Ukraine, received large amounts of funding, aid, and advisement from the other contacting world power of the time, but it was a sham dunk conclusion that those farmers, no matter how valiantly they fought, would be forced to submit or die in defiance. And many did die. But the Thirteen Colonies, admittedly with help, defeated the British armies and navies, and brought the world’s superpower of the day to the surrender table in application.
      Ukraine is, obviously, not the proto-USA. Vast differences exist between us and them. However, the parallel does still apply, I believe.

      • I can just imagine watching Russian launches of ultimately non-functioning warheads being countered by an armageddon of fully functioning US warheads.
        For apparently, ultimately, no good reason.

        • Let’s try and avoid that one. Some</i of the Russian nukes are bound to work, after all.

          Also, incinerating millions of people is rarely a good thing.

          -Kle.

  2. “Any war’s success rests heavily on whether individual soldiers are ready to risk their lives to defeat an opponent. An army arrives at that readiness through some combination of strong identification with a cause, a government that commands respect, and a conviction that one must destroy the adversary to save oneself and one’s comrades”.

    After reading this, I started thinking if our armed forces are in any better shape?

    • WSF, I can’t speak to this generation. During my time in service, which was after your time, I saw the Russians first hand, not through a propaganda lens, and the degradation of today started then and has not abated. US troops, and particularly elite troops, would not have folded the way that the Russians did in Ukraine. Part of that comes with the logistics train that the Russians don’t have even on their own borders. Logistics wins wars.

      • SloJo and Ho plus the woke crowd doesn’t speak to warriors. Old Air Force NCO likens our current Generals to French Generals at the start of WWII. Iwo Jima, to pick just one battle, wasn’t won by woke marines and soldiers.

        Seems like the elites, who have never put their own precious asses on the line (and never will if they can help it), see our Armed Forces as an available social experiment resource. McNamara’s 100,000 as an example.

        In fact, they don’t care. Consider Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road lyric, “Around here the draft the white trash first, anyway”.

        • My best guess is that the US military’s capabilities have been degraded, but not yet to the pathetic 3rd World status of Russia’s.

          But I could be wrong, of course.

          -Kle.

  3. As long as slow Joe and rest of his cronies keep buying oil from Russia ignoring China and laundering their latest 1.7 trillion spending bill through Ukraine then I don’t foresee any reason why they would start lobbing nukes anytime soon. Then again I don’t have a crystal ball.

    • Agreed. The democrats will be carving up the spoils, laundering it through crypto and various NGOs and FBI/DOJ will provide top cover.

  4. So, we have 150 million Rooskies what can’t manage to overrun 20 million Uke’s. It seems that things have changed since 1945, I wonder what?

    “Don’t turn around, uh oh
    Der Kommissar’s left town, uh oh”

  5. Dear colonel, I’m inclined to go with Cato and Kermit, but haven’t your expertise.

    Regardless, imagine an alt universe where Russia rolled Ukraine and steamed into Europe. Who’d stop them, the mighty British Army with its ONE combat arms division? Maybe the, haha, French? Perhaps the Germans? ROTFL. I know, maybe the Dutch military would stop the Russkies, with reefer and MDMA. OK, we’d get there, in time. Happened before.

    But reflect, who’s more Red these days, us or Russia? Just a thought.

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