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While it’s been a while since yours truly has posted on the war in Ukraine and our determination to mix things up with China, we seem to be in an intermediate phase of sorts. Major country leaders in the West remain focused on the conflict. The Collective West is trying hard at the G20 to muscle more countries in line, after an embarrassing fail in a similar exercise with Global South invitees to the Munich Security Conference. Biden and then Janet Yellen went for Kiev photo ops with Zelensky. That Biden trip, which made the Administration neglect of the East Palestine toxic train blast more galling, gave Republicans, most of all Trump, an easy win.
But there are more signs of anxiety and erratic behavior by key players. While the structure of the system looks the same, more and more energy is being pumped into it. Either it will be released somehow, say by an aggressor de-escalating, or the pressure will keep rising until we have a state change. And state changes means the system becomes chaotic. The September 2008 financial crisis was an example.
While we won’t dwell on China escalation today, the over-the-top, paranoid response to
Commies under the bed peregrinating balloons looks like big time displacement activity. We are in no position to whack China so we’ll whip ourselves in a frenzy over something we can (eventually) destroy. Then the US and its NATO stooges went into effrontery overdrive at the Chinese presenting a high-minded napkin doodle and overselling it as a peace plan. Mind you, there were cool headed ways of saying China has no nexus to this conflict save via its burgeoning friendship with Russia, and the latter means it can’t pretend to be a fair minded interlocutor. Instead, the ham handed outrage made the West look anti-peace, as opposed to anti China trying to play nicer hegemon. And then we have the conveniently timed reheating of the lab leak theory on shoddy “new” evidence, and the House launching a “cut China down to size committee.
The most charitable interpretation is China demonization is being readied as the next shiny object to divert attention from the coming Western defeat, which will be very hard to ‘splain away. But there are competing interests at the top, with the Atlanticists very much committed to breaking Russia, not caring what the effect might be on the China project. While the arms makers theoretically make out no matter what, they can’t deliver quickly enough to make a difference in Ukraine, and they run the risk of having Russia demonstrate that our super-pricey, over-fussy weapons aren’t very effective in combat. So even more demand for hardware is not necessarily a boon. To fight an industrial war, we need lots of comparatively low tech munitions that they don’t regard as lucrative enough to interest them.
Mind you, the fact that principals are trying to increase pressure does not mean that they will succeed. Propaganda and optics and arm-twisting off and on allies only goes so far. A realistic trajectory for the Ukraine conflict is Western support will fizzle out as the Russian campaign continues to drain Western weapons stocks.
In keeping with that possibility, recall all of the drama of the buildup to the “anniversary” of the launch of the Special Military Operation last week. Western pundits and the press blathered on about how Russia was going to launch its over-anticipated offensive, even though Russia has insisted that it does not have a timetable for this campaign. Oh, and Putin’s overdue State of the Unions speech was not on the date when Russian forces moved into Donbass, but when Putin announced Russia was recognizing the breakaway republics.
Biden tried to upstage Putin with his trip to Kiev and then a speech in Warsaw.
And Putin refused to play to demands of warmongers by stating that Russia was not going to go on wartime footing, and delivering an otherwise informationally dense and long talk, treating his zinger, the suspension of Russia’s participation in the START treaty, as almost an afterthought at the end.
Not only did Russia not meet escalation expectations last week, Ukraine didn’t either. Zelensky had promised a big speech for the anniversary of the invasion, and Ukraine boosters expected something more, if not an offensive, at least a stunt, as in a headlines-getting jab that made Ukraine look like it was on the front foot even if in the end it would not affect outcomes. The Kerch Bridge bombing and the misuse of the grain corridor to attack the Sebastopol naval base are examples.
And there’s evidence that Ukraine is closer to the end of its rope than the press would have you believe. Brian Berletic has been relentlessly chronicling how US weapons deliveries to Ukraine have been falling, to the degree that the US has stopped putting numbers on many items. The commitment that Biden made in his Kiev trip was meager. Dima at Military Summary pointed out that Ukraine shelling has fallen markedly in the last week, suggesting Ukraine is forced to ration ammo. Dima has also been pointing out that the daily Russian “clobber lists” have almost no tank kills on them, contrary to earlier in the war, and instead mainly features destroyed armored and too often, passenger vehicles. That suggests that either Ukraine is hoarding its remaining tanks for its long-touted counter-offensive, or is really pretty much out of them. Big Serge, in a new piece, mentioned (as Dima has) rumors of a few of the Polish Leopard tanks having been deployed to Bakhmut. If true, Big Serge argues that would be proof that Ukraine is unable to accumulate reserves for a later offensive.