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Blood on the Steppes
A Year of War in Ukraine
HERMES: And so I don’t know if you’ll ever see Peace again.
TRYGAEUS: Why, where has she gone?
HERMES: War has taken her and thrown her into a deep dark cave.
- Aristophanes [Peace, 221-224]
“Man is a creature who gets used to everything, and that, I think, is the best definition of him.” - Dostoevsky [Notes from a Dead House, I.I]
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February 24th marked the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “intervening” in the country’s long-simmering civil war. It seems incredible it has been so long, but such is the nature of both time and man. With that action, the world changed; at the same time, most of our lives are fundamentally the same, and thus it is a challenge for the empire managers to maintain interest in Ukraine. While Ukraine still has “current thing” status, it is unclear for how long that will continue before the mindless masses are moved on to the next concern, though fortunately for the Ukraine war boosters, hobby balloons didn’t move the narrative away from Ukraine for more than a week. As someone who was born just too late to remember the Cold War, I always wondered what it was like to live with that degree of nuclear tension. Clearly the answer is that it is stressful initially but you grow used to it. I certainly have.
Regardless of what anyone says, the longer this goes on the worse it is for Ukraine, and a year is not particularly long as far as wars go. Russia is showing a level of patience that is incomprehensible to many in the West, and the idea that one year of war is all the Russian public will withstand is nonsense. At the same time, to Westerners who have no tangible interest in the Russia-Ukraine border, “Ukraine Fatigue” is building.
This loser is some sort of major reporter at NBC, and I’m not even sure what “read the room” means in this context; presumably he means history is unkind to people who care about the degree of popular support an endeavor has. Richard Engel would find that history is much less kind to people unable to “read the room.” This tragic conflict is likely to either drag on until one side dramatically collapses or to become a “frozen conflict” that leaves Russia in control of much of pre-war Ukraine. Of the two countries, it is only Russia which has the resources to do this near indefinitely. At the same time, war is one of the most unpredictable activities known to man, and Russia could easily push too hard and fall down. For the rest of us, in the countries funding this madness, time goes on as we hope this doesn’t lead to the ultimate escalation, though admittedly, sometimes the cringey stupidity of the NATOstans does make me wish humanity would end. After a year, the only things certain are that we have grown used to the Russia-Ukraine War, and that the West has spent a whole lot of money for questionable results.
Along with many others, I was wrong in believing Russia would not invade Ukraine. It was a combination of our rulers constantly “crying wolf” and having grown used to the restraint of America’s real or perceived enemies. I remain convinced that Biden did not have intelligence that an invasion was imminent, but instead Biden caused it to happen by going around saying it would and thus showing diplomacy was not possible. What mainstream discourse has primarily failed to pick up is that Russia’s invasion truly shattered the post-WW2 “peace.” While the end of World War II represented a “new era in international relations,” it was always a mistake to assume it was a permanent era in international relations, and that all of history would be divided as before or after World War II. This is drilled into the head of almost anyone you speak to, that “things are different now” than in the past, but they really aren’t. It had been obvious to me for a long time that it wasn’t viable for the winners of one large conflict to maintain permanently advantaged positions in international relations. Others somehow did not see that, even 75 years after the war. The reality is that it is normal that after a major conflict a winner or a group of winners gains a great deal of power over war and peace, such as the British following the Napoleonic Wars. The UN Permanent Security Council system is no different- five nations took control over matters of war and peace. What wasn’t ever agreed to was the US unipolar world that persisted for three decades after the collapse of the USSR. There was an opportunity to make much of peace and produce a better world, but instead those with an obsessive desire for power aggressively played their hand and sought eternal influence and expansion. It was inevitable that a major event such as the Ukraine War would ultimately come, though it’s unclear if this war was the result the Western empire managers wanted.
Now, a year on, we are still bombarded with propaganda that the Russians expected this to be a swift war and did not expect to meet Ukrainian resistance. However, “Kiev will fall in 72 hours” is something US General Mark Milley simply made up. This has been a constant feature of coverage of this war: inventing Russian objectives then claiming they are failing to meet them. The truth is, similar to George Costanza saying “I don't think I've ever been to an appointment in my life where I wanted the other guy to show up,” anyone who attacks a country hopes those he is attacking choose not to fight. Cities have commonly been betrayed to enemies, perhaps more commonly than they’ve been besieged [it should be remembered, a “key to the city” was once a literal key to the gate, and not a ceremonial award.] Having to fight the war is never the preferred option compared to the enemy surrendering.
Without following the pattern of pretending to have some sort of deep knowledge about Putin’s thinking, it’s obviously the case here as well that Russia hoped Ukraine would surrender or collapse, but also had a plan to fight a war if they did not. I don’t think Russia’s movement of troops towards Kiev, which resulted in a Russian retreat in just over a month, was a “feint,” but by any standard it wasn’t enough troops to capture a city of that size if facing resistance. The logical conclusion is that the hope was it would threaten them into surrendering, which did not work. At the same time, anyone can be excused for thinking the Ukrainian government was about to collapse; urging the general public to make Molotov cocktails is the most desperate move imaginable. Further, the Russians didn’t necessarily read Ukraine itself incorrectly, as it was widely reported that former British PM Boris Johnson visited Ukraine and talked them out of negotiations. It seems of everything, what Russia may have had the poorest read of was the extent to which the United Kingdom does not accept its reduced position in world affairs.
Ukraine’s initial disorganized panic is a strange thing which speaks to how much the media manipulated our perspectives with nonsense. Ukraine’s government actually should have been in an strong position to resist the invasion. The “rule of thumb” is that attackers need a 3:1 advantage in personnel, and Russia attacked with under 1/3rd of Ukraine’s forces [including reserves,] meaning Russia should have had a force roughly 9 times as large to conquer Ukraine. This rule primarily applies to breakthroughs in areas with concentrated troops, but it still means it should have been substantially difficult for Russia to advance at all. This knowledge alone really emphasizes the bullshit we have been fed from the start. For one thing, Russia clearly never believed it could conquer the entirety of a resistant Ukraine, much less rapidly, with an army of that size. However, it does seem likely they were overly optimistic about Ukraine collapsing, though given the ramshackle nature of their government, it is an understandable miscalculation. As I have said for a long time, Russia isn’t showing any desire to rule ethnic Ukrainians or the whole of the country, so the idea that Russia would erase or “genocide” Ukraine is nonsense. Russia has never stated or otherwise expressed a goal to conquer and incorporate all of Ukraine. That as a purpose of the war is simply made up to create the illusion of an epic battle between good and evil and obfuscate the fact that NATO was seeking to use Ukraine as a noose around Russia. Instead, what Russia is doing is creating a buffer zone of ethnic Russian areas, and most importantly, is “pacifying” Ukraine in the Roman sense: their goal is the destruction of Ukraine’s, and now NATO’s, military capacity.
At the beginning of the war the United States also claimed it had tried to evacuate Zelensky from the country. This is when we got the supposed line “I need ammo, not a ride.”
It needs to be pointed out that, though they did arm the citizenry, Ukraine’s army, the second largest in Europe, immediately being out of ammunition in a conflict could only possibly be due to corruption…or I suppose using all of their munitions shelling Donbass for the prior 8 years. [Amusingly, Netflix’s Undercover season 2 from 2020 is about arms trafficking out of Ukraine.] In retrospect, it seems the US never had any intention to evacuate Zelensky and it was a lie to create the “plucky underdog” narrative we’ve heard about nonstop. I have to admit I fell for aspects of this narrative, most of all because the Molotov cocktail thing was so wildly desperate and irresponsible; they are fortunate that Russia did not reach Kiev as Ukrainians would have managed to burn it down themselves. Knowing Ukraine had an army that should have wholly been able to turn back a force of Russia’s size makes this look like a sort of morbid farce. At the same time, Russia’s massive artillery advantage is deadly for an army set on defending fixed positions. I have to give everyone involved in crafting these narratives more credit than I did for managing expectations, though I still think they will ultimately face catastrophic narrative collapse. Still, Ukraine began this war with what was ostensibly a large, experienced, and well-equipped military, so it is peculiar they were desperate for aid from day one.
Another thing we were subject to an enormous amount of early on is the sweatsuit crusader Zelensky claiming Russia was trying to kill him. This, of course, while being recorded in public places by people using phones, but they are relying on a public stupid enough to not know about signature strikes. It’s obvious that if Zelensky was killed by external forces he could only possibly be replaced by someone more experienced and competent at military affairs. There was never a way in which the murder of Zelensky would have achieved Russia’s goals. But the very stupid fell for the whole thing and he became the cringiest popular hero in modern history. The NPCs, and ever more the West generally, cannot seem to distinguish reality from their favorite movies, and such people love Zelensky.
Meanwhile, as I covered recently, we are still being subjected to constant contradictory narratives arguing that Ukraine is simultaneously winning and needs aid as it is on the brink of collapse. The Leopard tank debacle is making the NATO countries look comically weak, as it exposes they haven’t been keeping any large body of tanks in working order. In fact, they are now saying Ukraine is using munitions faster than the West can produce them, which is really concerning for the Western security situation, given that Ukraine would be but one theater in a world war and NATO is meant to be able to field an army much larger in a major conflict .
One year on, it’s been big profits for arms contractors, but the Western military industrial complex has been exposed as a sort of paper tiger, which is designed to generate profits, not to win wars.
On the economic front, the Western track record has been even more dismal. Here is what Biden told us to expect at the end of last March:
Yeah…well, that certainly didn’t happen. Russia’s economy only contracted by 2.1% in 2022. That is basically just kind of a bad year under normal circumstances. This represents an abject failure of the sanctions regime. This was obvious at the time, as I wrote in my piece “The Revenge of the Rouble.” One year after the invasion, we can confidently say the rouble did not collapse.
Granted, the rouble had already fallen by February 24th, 2022, due to concern about a war starting, but it is practically even with where it was 2 years ago. Meanwhile, the British Pound has fallen over 11% compared to the dollar during the last year. Apparently just being British in the 2020s is harder on a currency than this entire sanctions regime.
Despite that they consistently don’t work, our ruling class maintains boundless faith in sanctions. They are even going to be imposing new sanctions on Russia, as if that somehow will accomplish something. At the same time, Europe reels from energy costs and Russia’s oil exports and profits are both up, regardless of reduced access to European markets. Even in the US companies continue to rely on Russia for essential products. As I live near northern Idaho, in this region most wood products are locally produced, but I just learned today that plywood is a major import into the United States from Russia. Only tariffs, not sanctions, were put on Russian plywood. While Russian plywood orders were cut in half in 2022, $1.2 billion worth of plywood was still imported into the US. It is understandable that Europe, with its few wild spaces, is dependent on Russia for a variety of resources and thus cannot cut off their own access, but it is incredible that even America, the leader of the sanctions effort, remains this reliant on Russian timber for key industries.
After a year, as is their habit, The New York Times tepidly admitted the truth once it was obvious to all:
It wasn’t that long ago that I first heard the observation that The New York Times is the harbinger of allowable discourse, but it’s certainly true. Over and over again, it is The New York Times that ultimately admits what’s gone wrong and brings it to the mainstream; just by appearing there something enters the “Overton window.” They make points I was making almost a year ago:
I wrote about “The Exclusive International Community” in March. It was obvious that none of this was working or would work. I have tried to make ever fewer predictions because I’ve been wrong about other things, but the sanctions have been even more ridiculously ineffective than I imagined. This one’s easy, though, because sanctions never work. I can’t think of a single example where sanctions seriously damaged a regime in a timely fashion and had any meaningful result besides civilian suffering. Ironically, it appears to be the European civilians who are suffering, not the Russians. Britain is running into major food supply problems, while everything is fine in Russia.
It’s gotten so bad that they had a “Let them eat cake” moment, but with turnips, a food traditionally associated with poverty in Europe.
This is a totally normal problem to have, food shortages in a modern, industrialized country that is nominally at peace. I understand sanctioning specific war related products, or the actual Russian military and security agencies- though it would be mostly pointless it does feel wrong to do such business while siding with Ukraine. However, these broad sanctions never work, and will never meet any metric of success that allows them to be ended from a strong place. It will be like everything else, where they try to quietly move on and not have anyone think too much about why a destructive policy which accomplished nothing was pursued. On top of consumers suffering, the systems we inherited which have allowed for Western domination and prosperity are failing, and they are not that hard for rivals to replicate. For just one in a long string of examples, Iraq has announced it will be accepting yuan instead of dollars from China [and after all we did for them!] This sort of thing is being replicated all over the world in various forms, and the self-inflicted wound of all of the Russia sanctions will almost definitely prove the end of Western financial hegemony.
On the diplomatic front we have seen the most cringe-inducing insults to our intelligence. I don’t know what it is about these people, but for the same reason they fell for Sam Bankman-Fried, Zelensky’s sweatsuit routine works on them:
I can’t believe a newspaper would say that out loud. It works for a not very smart person who is not properly examining things, but exposed to the most modest amount of light the sheer absurdity looms large. It is one thing running around Kiev [which isn’t a war zone, by the way,] but he won’t wear a suit even visiting the British King in the United Kingdom. In me, at least, this generates enormous amounts of contempt, as it is an insult to my intelligence that he is playing this cheap character and I am meant to fall for it. It also makes him look like the wrong person to back, if one has any understanding of how the world works and isn’t consumed by simplistic fantasy narratives. You want to back the stoic leader, not the panicked desperate guy playing soldier. What kind of person would fall for this sweatsuit schtick?
In December, Zelensky made his first “known” trip out of Ukraine since the war began, addressing the US Congress on the 22nd. Again, he refused to dress properly, and as rare as it is for a foreign leader to directly address Congress, he must be one of the only people in history to address them in pajamas. Perhaps this should bother me less, but the low quality manipulation combined with a client’s blatant lack of respect for his patron gets to me. In antiquity, it was commonly the case that supplicants would dress in rags, but that was when begging for mercy from the one threatening them. From a highschooler trying to get a scholarship to a world leader, one dresses up when going around asking for money. However, as Ukraine is constantly showing that beggars can be choosers, this petulant peace-refuser is making sure his lack of respect for those who support him is ostentatiously displayed for the entire world to see. For some reason this act works on the Boobus Americanus.
Biden returned the favor by visiting Ukraine in February. To the NPCs, his doddering around the streets looking half-dead was a sign of courageous statesmanship. Never mind that they alerted Russia in advance [which was the correct decision, it’s just relevant to how “brave” the decision was.] A CNN reporter stated he hadn’t heard any sirens for at least three days before Biden was walking the streets with the tragic clown Zelensky. They used the sirens to clear the streets, make things easier on Biden’s security detail, and get the video. The next day, Biden gave a speech in Warsaw:
"When Russia invaded, it wasn't just Ukraine being tested. The whole world faced a test for the ages. Europe was being tested. There should be no doubt. Our support for Ukraine will not waver. NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire.”
Thus mumbled Sleepy Joe. This has perhaps been the biggest theme of the one year anniversary: we will do this indefinitely. It’s ever more apparent that they truly will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. Woe to he who lets his country be used in such a fashion.
We have been subjected to a variety of stupid takes about this anniversary, enough so that I could go on all day. Reuters wants us to believe it is incredible Ukraine has survived:
It is somewhat surprising that Zelensky’s government has survived, but as said above, Russia has never made a goal of ending Ukraine as an independent political entity. They are still basing this on little besides Milley’s “72 Hours” comment. It was plausible the country could have been partitioned or under a pro-Russian government while an insurgency raged, but the country would have been relatively less destroyed in either of those circumstances. Once again, Ukraine’s pre-war standing army was larger than Russia’s invasion force, so this isn’t the story they want to make it to be.
The Baltic war queen, Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, never one to shy from making stupid statements, said, “The war will end when Russia realizes it was a mistake.”
It’s funny she should say that, not only because it is not currently obvious how this has been a mistake for Russia, but she is attributing a great deal more wisdom to Putin than we ever see from the West. When was the last time you saw the Western-led countries end an endeavor when they realized it was a mistake? For example, the “Fool’s Errand” of Afghanistan went on a full decade after everyone realized it was pointless, and then ended with the dramatic Fall of Kabul to the Taliban. As long as Ukraine and NATO keep delivering up soldiers and arms to be destroyed faster than they can be replaced, there is no real reason for Russia to want this to end rapidly. This all comes back to the incredible impatience of the West as a whole. This is perhaps demonstrated by the covid response more than anything, but the Western leadership is in the habit of taking drastic irresponsible actions then letting the resulting policy drag on forever, whether it succeeds or fails. She has accidentally admitted that she sees Putin as being much more reasonable than her clique of world leaders, even if she lacks an explanation for in what sense it is a mistake [presumably the enthymeme here is that Russia expected Ukraine to fall in 3 days because Russia gets its advice from Mark Milley.]
NATO itself takes the cake for idiotic, cursed takes:
We are not ruled by serious people. We are ruled by people who cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, targeting an audience who suffer from the same affliction. This is even worse than the people who think “Russia invaded Ukraine” is a complete argument. I barely even get half of the references in that Tweet, though I’m somewhat surprised they weren’t too woke to reference Harry Potter. People claim that anyone who dislikes Ukraine, Zelensky, or NATO’s involvement in the war could only possibly be inspired by Russia propaganda, but the source of my animus is wholly them acting like this. These people are allegedly the strongest military alliance in world history and they have the understanding of international relations you would get from an obese, asthmatic 13 year old. This kind of reasoning cannot be allowed to triumph.
In this instance they’ve weaponized cringe to the point that it should be a war crime.
Putin, of course, also had to give a speech for the one year anniversary. It was mostly what you would expect. He said the “Special Military Operation” was achieving its goals and would continue to, he touted economic development in Russia-occupied regions, spoke of Ukrainian ethnic hatred for Russians, and attacked a decadent and corrupt West for its hostility towards Russia. The only, and unfortunate, surprise was he suspended participation in the New Start nuclear treaty, the last functioning arms control treaty between the countries. The treaty expires in 2026 and Russia is unlikely to renew.
And so, the Ukraine War drags on with no end in sight. Notorious warmonger Eliot Cohen argued at The Atlantic that Russia "has been reduced to one last hope: that Vladimir Putin's will is stronger than Joe Biden's." That doesn’t sound the way he thinks it does. Putin is in what the West has ensured is an existential conflict for Russia and for himself, whereas Joe Biden can’t walk up stairs.
I would say it is obvious who will blink first, however that expression doesn’t really work here because whatever they give Biden’s re-animated corpse to keep it going has a way of stopping him from blinking. Further, in around 6 months the US election will already be pulling US policy in all directions, and he will most likely be out of office in under 2 years. Joe Biden’s personal problems aside, its highly probable that Putin can simply wait out Biden’s term in office.
What the West somehow can’t understand, despite all of their breathless exaggerated rhetoric basically arguing the same thing, is that Russia’s goal has become to destroy Ukraine’s military and economy. Since the differences between Russia and Ukraine have proved irreconcilable, the only thing for Russia to do is to keep the country weak for decades to come. Ukraine and its Western sponsors continue to obsess over territory and time, but the longer this goes without a cease fire the more beneficial this is for Russia. With the way the West has been consumed by ethnic hatred they’ve made it clear to the Russian public that this is Russia vs the West, to the death. Here is just one thread showing how hateful and wildly illiberal Ukraine supporters tend to be:
Meanwhile, propagandist Julia Mendel wants us to believe Ukraine will emerge from all of this stronger. [Though the English spellings of Ukrainian names becoming progressively more absurd is one of the great running jokes of this war, I cannot stand to go along with it.]
That is some unmerited optimism, given that the country’s now-destroyed infrastructure was primarily built by the Soviets, and Ukraine had lost around a quarter of its population in the last 30 years before Russia invaded. Add to that casualties from the war, territories annexed by Russia, and people who stay abroad after the war [or men who join their wives abroad once they’re allowed to leave] we are looking at an entirely hollowed out country. As of October the Ukrainians [who of course are always trying to grift] claimed it would take $750 billion to rebuild their country. That is 10x more than the United States, the largest contributor by far, admits to having sent since the war began. And that is simply the building, not the cost of defending the country or what is being built. You can be assured nothing will come in under cost, and all of the Western economies are reeling. Once again, clear truth is the longer this goes on the worse it is for Ukraine and- to a point- the better it is for Russia. Ukraine was a shithole when this started, and it is unlikely to recover its pre-war economic status in our lifetimes [assuming nuclear war does not make it entirely uninhabitable.]
Though many, including Mark Milley, admit the war will “end at the negotiating table” no one in the West is actually willing to “negotiate” with more realistic terms than demanding Russia’s unconditional surrender. China released a modest and careful plan for a ceasefire for the war’s anniversary, but it was seen as “non-credible” by Ukraine’s Western sponsors. This despite the fact that both Russia and Ukraine are willing to consider aspects of China’s plan. It seems the most likely China knew NATO would not allow peace, and it was meant to provide them an opportunity to draw closer to Russia while openly opposing the continuation of the war.
Our rulers make it so easy. The media always wants to portray this as clever Chinese tricks or 4D chess or something, but any reasonably intelligent person could think of such a move, with it being obvious how NATO would respond. There will be no earnest talk of peace.
By now, we have all grown used to this war. It could turn out like Korea, and go on in some form for the rest of our lives. There are still a lot of Ukrainians left to run through as sacrificial pawns. The Cold War lasted 40 years, and we survived it by dumb luck, I don’t feel great about going 2 for 2. Soon the public will believe we have always been at war with Russia: perhaps we have been. At this scale, Russia is at no risk of running out of men or materiel, and seems to be thriving under this failed economic siege. However, Ukraine has fought back enough that Russia needs to gain quite a lot to justify what the war has cost them, so freezing at the current lines is probably not acceptable to Russia even were it possible. Instead, as the body count rises we’ll continue to be subjected to idiot takes, contradictions, and the maddening stupidity of Ukraine supporters, while no one with power works towards peace. We will live every day with the risk of apocalyptic nuclear war.
Oh, what could have been were we ruled by wise men.
I will leave you with Tucker’s piece on the anniversary. He wholly recognizes the futility of the war and brilliantly describes the death of the global systems which have defined our lives so far, something rare for a man in his position. It is a shame he’s a China hawk:
Correction 3/1: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Russia “pulled out” of the New Start treaty. Russia actually “suspended participation” in the treaty, which will remain nominally in effect until 2026.
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