Ukraine sliding into a real war

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

A recurring feature of the Cold War was that the United States almost always placed great store on the optics of a Soviet-American affair while Moscow chose to concentrate on the end result. The Cuban Missile Crisis is the best known example where the denouement was about the publicised abandonment of the planned Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba and a US public declaration and agreement not to invade Cuba again. But it later came to be known that there was also an unpublicised part, namely, the dismantling of all of the Jupiter ballistic missiles that had been deployed to Turkey.

The behavioural pattern remains the same in Ukraine. Per the western narrative, Russia is staring at the abyss of defeat amidst the “rout” in Kharkov Region. Interestingly, though, at the responsible levels in the Beltway, there is noticeable reticence about beating the drums presumably because of their awareness that the Ukrainian forces simply re-entered the Balakleysko-Izyum direction to occupy areas that Russians had planned to vacate.

Moscow is once again leaving the optics almost entirely to the American journalists while Moscow concentrates on the end result, which has had three dimensions: one, complete the ongoing evacuation from the Balakleysko-Izyum direction without loss of lives; two, exploit the Ukrainian troop movements to target the forces that came out into the open from well-fortified positions in the Kharkov Region; and, three, concentrate on the campaign in Donetsk.


Lavrov is on Blinken’s list of people to call

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov rounded off a tour of African states in a blaze of media publicity despite US hopes to “isolate” him.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press availability at the State Department on Wednesday made the dramatic announcement that he intends to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov “in the coming days...for the first time since the war began” in Ukraine on February 24.

Interestingly, he gave an alibi that harks back to the Soviet era — prisoner exchange. The US is offering a swap of a Russian entrepreneur Viktor Bout, who was arrested in Thailand in 2008 on a US warrant and later convicted to 25 years in prison on charges of weapons trafficking, in exchange for Brittney Griner, a basketball star who has been detained at Moscow airport on drug charges and, importantly, Paul Whelan, an ex-US Marine, who was arrested in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison two years later on charges of espionage. Whelan surely was a prize catch for the Russians. The American ambassador in Moscow had been visiting him in prison.

Blinken also added a second topic he’d like to discuss with Lavrov —implementation of the recent “grain deal”. Washington played no role in negotiating the deal and is presumably hoping to make a lateral entry into the matrix now. Blinken claimed he is “seeing and hearing around the world a desperate need for food, a desperate need for prices to decrease. And if we can help through our direct diplomacy encourage the Russians to make good on the commitments they’ve made, that will help people around the world, and I’m determined to do it.”


West at inflection point in Ukraine war

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR


France's President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Joe
Biden, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Euro-
pean Commission President Ursula von der Leyen walk
along the boardwalk during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay,
Cornwall, south-west England on June 11, 2021.

Henry Kissinger predicted some three weeks ago that the Ukraine war was dangerously close to becoming a war against Russia. That was a prescient remark. The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a weekend interview told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that in the alliance’s estimation, the Ukraine war could wage for years.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine. Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices,” Stoltenberg said. He added that the supply of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would increase the chance of liberating the Donbass region from Russian control.

The remark signifies a deeper NATO involvement in the war based on the belief not only that Russia can be defeated in Ukraine (“erase Russia”) but the cost shouldn’t matter. The NATO chiefs traditionally take the cue from Washington, and Stoltenberg was speaking just a fortnight before the alliance’s Madrid summit.


Ukraine after 90 days of war

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR


Amidst intense fighting under way, Russian forces entered Severo-
donetsk city in Luhansk, Donbass region, May 24, 2022.

The Western narrative that Russia is facing defeat at the hands of the Ukrainian military is falling apart. The contrived narrative that Ukraine was “winning” made Kiev delusional which in turn created conditions for Washington and London to extend the war and incrementally enter into it laterally and turn it into a war of attrition against Russia.

But the compelling reality is that the Russian forces are steadily seizing the upper hand in the Battle for Donbass. The Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday that “the most active phase” of the Russian special operation has begun in Donbass. In military terms, Russian forces face the daunting task of taking over the best-fortified areas of Ukraine, which have been carefully preparing for this battle for seven years. But on the other hand, after their triumphant victory in Mariupol, Russian forces have the wind on their sail.

Looking back through the past 3-month period, Russia’s topmost priority has been to establish a land corridor to Crimea and put in place the economic underpinnings for the region’s development. That objective stands fulfilled. It is from such a viewpoint that the current operation in Donbass needs to be understood. Ukraine and its Western allies are pinning hopes that the sanctions will eventually exhaust Russia’s military and economic potential.


Russia’s Ukraine operation has no deadline

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR


Fall is imminent of Azovstal iron and steel works, Mariupol, where
thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO officers are trapped.

In his first extended remarks in nearly a month about the conflict in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that peace talks had reached a “dead end” and pledged that Russia’s “military operation will continue until its full completion.”

Putin defined a more limited aim for the war, focusing on control of the Donbass — and not all of Ukraine. [He] reiterated that Russia’s actions so far in several regions of Ukraine were intended only to tie down enemy forces and carry out missile strikes with the purpose of destroying the Ukrainian military’s infrastructure, so as to “create conditions for more active operations on the territory of Donbass.” In his words,

💬 “Our goal is to provide aid to the people of Donbass, who feel an unbreakable bond with Russia and have been the subjects of genocide for eight years.”

Asked why the operation cannot be speeded up, Putin told reporters:

💬 “I often get these questions, ‘can’t we hurry it up?’ We can. But it depends on the intensity of hostilities and, any way you put it, the intensity of hostilities is directly related to casualties.”

He made it clear that...

💬...“our task is to achieve the set goals while minimising these losses. We will act rhythmically, calmly, and according to the plan that was initially proposed by the General Staff.” He added, “The operation is going according to plan.”


Russian forces double down to complete operation

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

Turning point: Russian special forces have entered the strategic industrial port city of Mariupol on the Black Sea coast

After substantially degrading Ukraine’s military capabilities, Russia is poised to escalate the special operation leading to the victory lap. Moscow has given signals in this direction.

The most significant signal came from the Kremlin spokesmen Dmitry Medvedev, who said on Monday, “Russia has a sufficient potential for conducting the special military operation in Ukraine. The operation is proceeding in accordance with the original plan and will be completed on time and in full.”

As I had written more than once previously, Russian military strategy is on course, contrary to what the hyped up western disinformation has conveyed, namely, that the special operation has “failed”. Peskov hinted that there is no question of stopping the operation prematurely. He spoke amidst western calls for “ceasefire.”

Peskov disclosed that President Vladimir Putin had specifically ordered the armed forces to refrain from an immediate assault on the cities, including Kiev, so as to prevent heavy civilian casualty. The operation, therefore, took into account the ground reality that the extremist Neo-Nazi groups had deployed weapons in densely-populated residential areas. This meant that the tactic narrowed down to...

“...working with modern high-precision weapons, hitting only military and information infrastructure facilities.”

Clearly, this also explained the slow pace and low intensity of the operations interspersed with lulls in the fighting and the tactic of encircling large settlements instead of attacking them frontally.


Reality Check for US’ Indian Partner

M. K. Bhadrakumar

What happened in the US-Indian diplomatic row over the arrest and detention of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York and her return to Delhi last week is fairly straightforward: the US intelligence made a concerted attempt to “recruit” an Indian career diplomat, and Delhi successfully thwarted it.

The American side has been taken by surprise. Their perception of the working of the Indian foreign and security policy establishment turned out to be way off the mark. In the recent decade when glaring espionage activities by the CIA surfaced – when they smuggled out a top intelligence official (2004) or when they breached the security perimeters of India’s National Security Council [NSC] in 2006 – the spooks in the American embassy in Delhi got away scot-free.

Any country with self-respect would have reacted strongly when such subversive acts by a foreign power surfaced, but India chose to shove the incidents under the carpet for reasons that are beyond comprehension. Whether it was because of the sense of vulnerability on the part of the Indian functionaries holding fort in the foreign policy and security establishment at that time or because of political interference – Delhi was negotiating the nuclear deal during those years – remains anybody’s guess. All that can be said is that if the Americans developed a sneering contempt toward the Indian establishment, it wasn’t entirely their fault.

The Americans got the impression that the Indian establishment was impotent and highly vulnerable to US pressure and the elites were lacking in integrity and a sense of honor. Delhi must be one of the few capitals where minor flunkeys of the American embassy take undue freedom to backslap cabinet ministers at public receptions. Arguably, a point has been reached where it has become difficult to lend credence to media reporting – from Delhi or Washington-based reporters alike – on matters affecting the US-Indian “defining partnership”.


Egypt’s Junta Has Nothing to Lose

M. K. Bhadrakumar

The US is immensely pleased with the Egyptian junta.

The appointment of Robert Ford as the new American ambassador to Egypt was indeed an ominous sign that the Obama administration expected civil war conditions to arise in Egypt. Ford’s forte during his hugely successful «diplomatic» assignment in Baghdad in the middle of the last decade was to organize the notorious death squads, which tore Mesopotamia apart and destroyed Iraq almost irreparably.

Equally, Ford played a seminal role in his subsequent ambassadorial assignment in Damascus in 2011 in successfully triggering the Syrian civil war. Ford is the living embodiment of the stunning reality that between the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, there has been no real shift in the United States’ policies in the Middle East aimed at perpetuating its regional hegemony…

Make no mistake about it that the US game plan is to destabilize and destroy Egypt just the same way Iraq and Syria have been destroyed so that Israel’s absolute security is assured in the region for the conceivable future.

This is the conclusion that can be safely drawn as the Egyptian junta launched the mass murder of hundreds of Egyptian protestors on Wednesday. A bloodbath of horrendous proportions has commenced in Egypt.


It Is Going To Be Syria's Turn

M. K. Bhadrakumar

If the likeness between ravaging regime-change scenarios in Iraq and Libya is any indication, the future of Bashar al-Assad’s sovereignty in Syria might be hanging by a thin thread. The heart of the matter - underscores this analyst - is that regime change in Syria is absolutely central to US designs on the Middle East. The stakes are so intertwined that a host of stragetic gains could be achieved in one fell swoop, not least shaving Russia’s and China’s clout in the region. This is not an opportunity that Washington would want to miss.

The visuals beamed from Tripoli last night had an eerie familiarity. Cars blowing horns, Kalashnikovs firing into the air, youth and children aimlessly wandering on streets littered with heaps of debris, western cameramen eagerly lapping up the precious words in broken English by any local fellow holding forth on the stirring ideals of the 1789 French Revolution and the Magna Carta – the images are all-too-familiar. Somewhere else, some other time, one had seen these images, but couldn’t exactly place them. Could they have stealthily crept up from the attic of the mind, a slice of memory that was best forgotten or purged from the consciousness? Now, the morning after, it is clear the television channels were only replaying the scenes from Baghdad in 2003.

The narrative from Tripoli bears uncanny resemblance to Baghdad: A brutal, megalomaniacal dictator, who seemed omnipotent, gets overthrown by the people, and a wave of euphoria sweeps over an exhausted land. As the celebrations erupt, the western benefactor-cum-liberator walks on to the centre stage, duly taking stance on the ‘right side of history’. In the 19th century, he would have said in Kenya or India that he was carrying the ‘white man’s burden’. Now he claims he is bringing western enlightenment to people who are demanding it.

But it is a matter of time before the narrative withers away and chilling realities take hold. In Iraq, we have seen how a nation that was tiptoeing toward the OECD standards of development hardly 20 years ago has been reduced to beggary and anarchy.


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