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Has the Kremlin Finally Realized that Ukraine Is No Longer a “Limited Military Operation”?
Paul Craig Roberts
“The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has finally turned into a state of war between Russia and NATO with unpredictable results for all parties in the conflict.”
As I have pointed out from the beginning of the conflict, the Kremlin’s presumption that Russia’s military intervention could be limited to driving the Ukrainian forces out of the Donbass region was a strategic blunder, especially the go-slow feature as it gave the West plenty of time to widen the war. A much wider war has now occurred if Southfront’s report is correct that one-third of the forces used in Ukraine’s “counteroffensive” in the Kharkov region were supplied by NATO member states.
According to Southfront’s report, thinly spread Russian forces, aware that an attack was coming, withdrew to a consolidated position and suffered few losses. The Ukrainian/NATO force suffered heavy losses. With Russian reinforcements now approaching the scene, the Ukrainian/NATO force will likely be destroyed as was the fate of the Ukrainian “counteroffensive” in the south.
It appears that finally it has dawned on the Kremlin that Russia is at war. but has it really? Southfront reports that in 7 regions of eastern Ukraine Russia knocked out power plants leaving regions from Kiev to Kharkov to Odessa without power. This is what should have happened just prior to the Russian military intervention, but for unknown reasons the Kremlin did not take action to hamper Ukraine’s ability to resist the Russian forces. Why has the Kremlin limited its attack on Ukrainian infrastructure to Eastern Ukraine? The constant instances of the Kremlin’s restraint has convinced Washington that Russia can be defeated, because her heart is not in the war.
It seems Putin has had a difficult time understanding that he can’t just partially fight a war, especially one that drags on and on until all can get involved.
I was criticized as “blood-thirsty” by commentators incapable of strategic thought when I said that a limited operation would result in a wider war and more casualties to both sides than a swift conquest of Ukraine before the US and NATO had a chance to get involved. What Southfront calls the “unpredictable results” of the widening war will continue to prove me correct. Everyone who watched Washington’s limited involvement in Vietnam grow into a full-fledged long war should have known better than to repeat the folly. Apparently, the lesson escaped the Kremlin.
Perhaps Putin won’t be able to stomach war with his “Western partners,” or the NATO countries will back out of the war in order to secure Russian energy and forestall economic and political collapse. But perhaps not. I don’t think the Ukraine/NATO offensive in the Kharkov region was a success, but the media has played it as one and this will encourage the Washington neoconservatives, who have controlled US foreign policy since the George W. Bush regime, to push harder. As the US and NATO are already deep into the conflict, providing weapon systems, intelligence and targeting information, training, and now military personnel, it is easier for them to get in deeper than to withdraw. Putin might like to withdraw as he watches a dangerous wider war creep up on him, but he can’t without being regarded as a failure who led Russia to defeat. I conclude that the odds seem to be in favor of a larger war.
To be clear, my purpose is not to pillory Putin or to produce a Russian victory. My purpose is to avoid a conflict that neither side can afford to lose. The only way to insure that outcome would have been a swift Russian victory over the entirety of Ukraine, not a “military intervention” in one corner of the country that festers month after month.
A convincing demonstration of Russian military prowess would have dissuaded Finland and Sweden from joining NATO as it would have demonstrated the inability of the limited forces at NATO’s disposal to defend anyone against the kind of attack Russia could have unleashed on Ukraine. I even entertain the possibility that NATO would have dissolved as Europe realized that its real interest is to be at peace with Russia.
Unfortunately, those opportunities have passed untaken, and now we are faced with an interminable conflict unless the Kremlin abandons its failed policy and acts decisively.
With winter approaching Europe will soon be overwhelmed with economic and political problems produced by being cut off from Russian energy by Washington’s sanctions. Unless Putin rushes to Europe’s rescue, Europe will soon be out of the conflict.
As the Western media functions as a Propaganda Ministry, few people in the world understand that Russia has committed few troops to the conflict. The Russian force has always been outnumbered by Ukraine’s forces, but superior Russian firepower has made the difference. If Putin were to commit another 100,000 soldiers and deprive Kiev and Western Ukraine of power and communication, he could still bring the conflict to an end before it widens out of hand. What is required is acceptance that the war has widened and requires decisive Russian action to bring the war to an end before the war widens further and becomes uncontrollable.
The question is whether Putin is capable of acting decisively. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov again made Russia look indecisive and weak by offering “victorious” Ukraine peace talks in the face of the Russian withdrawal from its Kharkov front lines. https://www.rt.com/russia/562738-ukraine-turning-point-kharkov/ 
I increasingly wonder if what Putin and Lavrov really want is not Russian sovereignty and a multi-polar world but to be part of the West, and that this delusional desire makes them incapable of conducting war. It remains to be seen if Putin and Lavrov will give up Russian sovereignty in order to be part of the West. That is the only condition that can open Western membership to Russia. Russia, like all of Europe and the UK, must accept Washington’s hegemony.
Listening to Putin going on and on about international law, a total nonentity in Washington’s mind except as an excuse to punish enemies, such as the Germans at Nuremberg, makes one wonder what world Putin lives in. Clearly not the real one.
The real world is based on power, and Russia’s delusional restraint on the use of its power has left Russia at extreme disadvantage. With Russia perceived in the West as weak and indecisive, Washington will push until Putin has no alternative but Russia’s surrender or nuclear war.
Former Russian President Medvedev speaks forcefully, unlike Putin who is perceived in the West as a weakling, not that he is. Medvedev declared that the West’s involvement in Ukraine with its “unrestrained pumping of the Kiev regime with the most dangerous type of weapons,” means that Russia will move to the next level where restraints on the conflict are removed. “And then,” Medvedev said, “the Western nations will not be able to sit in their clean homes, laughing at how they carefully weaken Russia by proxy. Everything will be on fire around them. Their people will harvest their grief in full. The land will be on fire and the concrete will melt.” https://www.rt.com/russia/562734-medvedev-apocalypse-revelation-ukraine/ 
Thus, Medvedev brings home the correctness of my warnings.