Ukraine crisis escalating – WWIII looming

General context

Great power relations form that framework, where all single particular events, crisis, wars and processes take place in time continuum. There are three bilateral relations, the US-China, the US-Russia and China-Russia as well as the triangle game, which emerge from the dynamics of mutual interaction relationship.

In last 10-15 years, there has been some permanent hot spots in Sino-American relations: Taiwan’s position is the most important followed by South China Sea & “freedom of navigation” as well as the fact that China is the main geopolitical competitor to the US worldwide and for the whole century.

In the US-Russia relations, the hot spots have been NATO’s eastward expansion and Ukraine crisis as well as geoeconomic competition regarding Russia’s huge natural resources.

In the triangle game, strengthening and deepening cooperation between China and Russia in political, economic and military sectors, has been a real game-changer in the great power relations.

The development in the military technology and the situation in the posture of nuclear weapons has been and is such that the relative power position of the US, compared with its peer competitors China and Russia, will deteriorate in growing speed during late 2020s.

From the US point of view, the next 3-5 years (2022-2026) will be the last promising years to escalate tension between great powers, giving the US a competitive edge versus its peer competitors. In late 2020s and especially in early 2030s, the relative military positions of great powers will evolve, from US view point, in deteriorating way giving too much military benefits to China and Russia.

This appears to be the most important single reason, why the US is so intensively striving for accelerating competition and confrontation with its peer competitors China and Russia, even in parallel.

I have studied these topics widely and numerous articles are available on this website like those here below:

Taiwan case right now / the US – China relations, August 2, 2022

Ukraine and Taiwan on Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, July 13, 2022

Early summer potpourri 2022, Part 1, June 5, 2022

New World Order in the making, April 2, 2022

What is the key issue in Ukraine crisis? March 4, 2022

Strategic and military balance of great powers in Spring 2021, June 1, 2021

As mentioned frequently, in the Ukrainian crisis, the key issue is the emerging of new world order. The new East Camp, led by China and Russia, is making a multipolar world, where the polarity is multipolar and political project (ideology) is multilateral (non-uniformized ideology). The West Camp, led by the US, is clinging to its dominant position, where the US has its unipolar position and political project is “liberal democracy and free market” (rules-based order, defined by the US).

On February 21, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his 18th annual Address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow. One can say that Putin’s address can be seen as “a methodological basis for understanding, describing and constructing multipolarity.” The emerging multipolar world will comprise high speed physical and geoeconomic interconnectivity on the Eurasian platform. Both Putin and Xi Jinping, each in their own way, are conceptualizing different aspects of multipolarity and the base for the new world order is the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

Actual military situation and some special characteristics

The fall of Bakhmut, a prelude to the fall of Ukraine?

Russia’s long “meat grinding” tactics to take the strategically vital city of Bakhmut is nearing it ends. Bakhmut may not be as economically important as Mariupol, which fell to the Russians last May, but it is geographically and militarily significant. That is why Ukraine fought so desperately to hang on to it and expended the lives of tens of thousands of its soldiers in a vain effort.

March 2-3, Ukrainian troops have started retreating from the eastern shore of Bakhmut, the fighters of the Wagner began operations to clear the area from the Ukrainian soldiers remaining there. In addition, the Ukrainians began to withdraw from the rest of the city along secondary roads, after the “musicians” took fire control of the main supply routes. Troops retreating has accelerated on March 4-5. Bakhmut marks the second case since the start of the war that Ukraine has been unable to stop a comprehensive Russian attack and unable to mount a counter offensive to rescue trapped forces. The first was Mariupol.

The total AFU losses since the start of the war have been utterly momentous. Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University) tweeted the following on March 3:

Ukrainian casualties, 260,000 KIA, 247,000 WIA and 84,000 MIA, amount up to 600,000. A year ago, the size of AFU was approx. 500,000 servicemen + reserves, which means that Ukraine has lost its whole initial army!

In my earlier articles, particularly that of January 27, 2023, based on calculated numbers of destroyed equipment and material, one can say that by now, Ukraine has lost the nominal equipment of two larger armies.

Russian Military has reportedly focused on maximizing Ukrainian military losses rather than taking territory. Former senior advisor to the US Secretary of Defense, US Army Colonel (ret.) Douglas McGregor, reported accordingly that “the Russians went over to a defensive posture and they have ground away at the Ukrainians who poured tens of thousands of soldiers into their meat grinder. The Russians have taken very light casualties compared to the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians have lost most of their capable forces and capable manpower.” Former US Marine Troy Offenbecker, who fought in the International Legion on the frontlines in Ukraine, strongly supported Colonel McGregor’s statements, summarizing the state of affairs for Ukrainian and allied forces in Bakhmut: “a lot of casualties. The life expectancy is around four hours on the frontline.”

During the last year Ukraine has enlisted hundreds of thousands of new recruits, but these new soldiers are being sent to the front with only minimal training. Moreover, more and more of those newly recruited are 16-17 aged kids or 60+ aged oldies. Ukraine does not have the number of trained, experienced soldiers required to mount a massive counter offensive. The lack of personnel is compounded by the inability of the West to supply ammunition and vehicles in sufficient numbers to sustain intense operations.

According to Andrei Martyanov, who has good sources in Russia, the 300,000 reservists called up last August have not yet been deployed to the front lines. The meaning is simple — Russia enjoys a massive advantage in terms of manpower, tanks, artillery, ammunition, missiles and combat air.

The fall of Bakhmut is a major blow, not just to Ukraine, but to the United States and NATO. This sets the stage for the West doing something desperate, while Russia is content to continue to pulverize what is left of the Ukrainian military.

“Cauldron battles”

Russian forces are positioning themselves for wide-range “cauldron battles” in eastern Ukraine designed to shatter the Ukrainian army and gain more terrain. Kyiv has a limited window of opportunity to conduct a series of localized counterattacks that limit Russia’s ability to encircle the Ukrainian armed forces.

In military theory, a cauldron battle is an operational maneuver to surround the enemy on at least three sides. The idea comes from the German “kesselschlacht”, in which the goal is to force the enemy into a self-defeating battle of annihilation, surrender, or retreat along a narrow front ceding territory to the attacking force. The maneuver is a variation of a pincer movement, or double envelopment, in which an advancing force attacks both flanks of the defender.

Despite its German origins, the maneuver has long been used by Russian forces. In Russian military history, the classic example of a cauldron battle is Stalingrad, where the Soviets encircled the GermanSixth Army in November 1942. More recently, the Russians executed a cauldron battle in the Battle of Debaltseve in 2015 during the hybrid fighting in the Donbas region that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The AFU should avoid and prevent Russia’s cauldron tactics by blocking encirclement. First, Ukrainian forces could launch a series of spoiling attacks that prevent Russia from building up forces. While large-scale spoiling attacks are risky, smaller “hit-and-run ambushes” alongside sabotage by Ukrainian special forces are sustainable and pull Russian forces away from the front. Second, the Ukrainian forces could transition from defensive war to offensive action. On the other hand, this situation may disclose the essential weakness of AFU today, that is a desperate lack of capable combatant troops as well as lack of heavy weapons and ammo.

Accelerated NATO involvement

It seems NATO member Poland has secretly supplied Ukraine, not only with tanks and shells and other military material but also with manpower. According to unofficial info (local officials and civilian eyewitnesses), about 20,000 Polish fighters have arrived in Ukraine, particularly in Bakhmut, Liman and Kupiansk areas. Anyway, Poland is a pivotal place to receive and further deliver nearly all military material the NATO is supplying to Ukraine. Poland’s position is absolutely fundamental in this supply chain.

As the fighting has reaching the point of “last Ukrainian”, it appears that NATO is preparing Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to send more troops to the battlefield to fill the “Ukrainian vacuum”, now that Ukrainian military officials have to resort to call 16-17 years kids and 60+ oldies for military service. The Biden administration and the EU elite have asserted they will supply more material and financial aid… or at least they believe so.

Up to now, majority of EU people and Americans have been sleepwalking as to the Ukraine war but it appears that some sort of awakening may be at hand. During last four weeks large anti-war, pro-peace demonstrations have taken place around Europe, the largest in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium. People have begun to realize, where the limitless war escalation by the EU elite is leading. Naturally, the mainstream media has not told anything about these demonstrations.

AFU drone attacks to Russia

In recent days, numerous AFU drone attacks, targeted various regions of Russia and Belarus. On February 26, there was a drone strike at the Machulishchi military airfield located near Minsk. Belarusian opposition claimed that the Russian A-50 AWACS aircraft was hit. However, satellite imagery did not confirm any damage to the aircraft and later that aircraft was seen to take off from the airfield.

Four Ukrainian UAVs, packed with British-made PE8 I23A1 explosives, were intercepted by Russian electronic warfare over the city of Belgorod, one of the UAVs crashed in the Surazhsky district in the Bryansk region (Russia). The UAVs were suppressed by electronic warfare units. One of the targets of the attacks was an oil depot in the city of Tuapse, where the facility had been attacked by an Israeli-made tactical Aerostar UAV packed with explosives. The second UAV was the Soviet-made Tu-141 Strizh, which crashed near the village of Novy in Adygea, damaging a local farm. For the first time, a Ukrainian UAV reached the Moscow region. The Ukrainian-made UJ-22 Airborne crashed near a gas station in the Kolomenskoye district.

During the drone attacks on the Russian territory, several aircraft of the US Air Force and its NATO allies operated simultaneously over the Black Sea. On February 28, an American RQ-4B drone, British RC-135 accompanied by two Typhoon tactical aircraft, a French E-3F and an Italian G-550 AWACS aircraft were spotted in the area. This is the evidence that the Ukrainian military is not only using NATO weapons to strike Russia but these operations are also closely coordinated by NATO intelligence units.

On the night of March 1, ten unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over the Crimean Peninsula. Six Ukrainian unmanned strike vehicles were shot down by air defense and four more Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles were disabled by electronic warfare. During the drone attack, a US reconnaissance drone “RQ-4B” was spotted in the Black Sea region.

Enlarging special projects

Russian forces struck the Ukrainian army’s radio-electronic intelligence center in Brovary, in the Kiev Region over the past day during the special military operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov reported on Monday, February 27.

Terrorist attack, in the morning of March 2, a group of Ukrainian saboteurs crossed the Russian border in the Klimovsky district in the Bryansk region. Saboteurs shelled civilian car near the village of Sushany and a man who was driving children to school in the morning was killed. The 10-years child was wounded. Ukrainian saboteurs blew up an electrical substation and a gas station in the village of Sushany. The Russian military launched an operation to eliminate the sabotage group. No doubt, similar terror strikes will be organized frequently in the near future.

Transnistria invasion by AFU seem to be in the making. AFU has concentrated troops and equipment near the border of Transnistria, the estimated size of troops is 10-15 thousand. The aim is obviously to take over the Soviet-era ammo warehouses, particularly the largest of them near Kolbasna Village. Military analysts assume that so soon Bakhmut will collapse, AFU starts the operation in Transnistria.

Perhaps this is the reason, why Russia has been so active in Kherson region utilizing very active artillery duels and destroying even more AFU troops and equipment than in many hot spots of the frontline. The political situation in the neighbor country Moldova is very tense and large anti-war demonstrations have been organized. This might be the “last powder keg”, which triggers the pan-European war.

Rising tension between China and the US

In parallel with Ukraine crisis, the tension is rising also in the Pacific area. Various incidents around Taiwan are on daily bases. “Balloon soap opera” (US aircraft shot down Chinese weather research balloons) indicated and disclosed how easily the relations of two great powers can be spoiled.

US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has warned several times China, not to supply any weapons to Russia. China has every time rebuffed statements by the US and accuses America of interfering in internal affairs of China.

This topic will be studied in details in the coming article on this website.

Ramifications on the world scene

Although many remember February 24, 2023, as the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s Special Military Operation is actually the next phase of a wider conflict that began in 2014, when CIA organized Maidan color revolution. This is a key point often overlooked, because the narrative built in the West is that Russia’s intervention was an “unprovoked invasion” with the sole purpose of territorial expansionism.

The majority of the humankind, which the West incorrectly refers to itself (international community), has rejected this narrative. To the disappointment of Western leaders, rest of the world, particularly Global South, has instead deepened their ties with Russia.

However, this narrative (unprovoked invasion) has been exposed in the West as a fallacy and even ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted in December 2022 that “the 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give time to Ukraine.” Merkel’s statement confirmed that the Minsk Accords, a series of agreements, which sought to end the Donbass war, was only intended to give the Ukrainian state more time to militarily strengthen. It also proves that the Western party of the Minsk Accords never intended to use this mechanism to find peace and address the concerns of local residents.

Therefore, the Russian intervention was not necessarily a surprise and perhaps the West were even expecting it, remembering that the US was issuing warnings only weeks before the invasion began.

However, what was an absolute surprise for the West were the geopolitical and economic ramifications – all to the detriment of the West and to the advancement of Moscow.

It cannot be denied that sanctions had an impact on the Russian economy but the European Union has demonstrated that it is nothing more than a political dwarf that has no autonomy from Washington. Sanctions have had a limited effect on Russia given that it is a completely self-sustainable country, unlike Syria and Iran (which are also heavily sanctioned but without the capacity for self-sustainability). Rather, the sanctions have actually accelerated the de-dollarization of the global economy and deepened the economic crisis in Europe.

In the West, there was evidently naivety and a false belief that Russia would capitulate to sanctions pressure. Instead, Europe is experiencing an economic crisis that has crushed the Middle Class through a cost-of-living crisis. Meanwhile, Russia has greater prospects for recovery compared to Germany and the UK. The latest statistics and prognosis of the IMF and World Bank have confirmed unequivocally this matter.

There are four reasons why Putin has so far been able to shrug off Western sanctions, according to Peter Rutland of Wesleyan University. First, for much of 2022 Russia was earning $800 million every day from energy exports. Second, countries that represent 40% of the global economic output are still willing to do business with Moscow. Third and fourth, Russia’s economy has been battle-hardened and elites remain loyal to Putin.

India and China are helping Russia alleviate the stress of decoupling from Western financial institutions and trade exchanges. Many experts believe that the 21st century is the “Asian Century” and expect the world’s major financial centers to shift from the West to the East. In this light, Russia’s exclusion from the West has left it with no choice but to strongly project to the East, something that India, China and other countries have enthusiastically taken advantage of.

The 20th century was dominated by the bipolar system and a short-lived unipolar system but the 21st century will be more multipolar in nature. What the West does not realize is that in such a global system, it is Russia that hugely influences whether the US or China will triumph. Russia has effectively been given no choice but to pivot towards China. Future generations in the West will learn that this was a strategic blunder.

The war in Ukraine was expected to be another advancement of liberalism and Western internationalism. However, what has transpired instead is the weakening of Western hegemony.

The Biden administration expected most countries to fall in line and impose sanctions against Russia, however, this did not trend in Asia, the Islamic World, Africa or Latin America. Although the West is persistently and arrogantly defending the Kiev regime against the reality that Russia will triumph in the war, it continues to ruin its own reputation in the eyes of the actual international community by lambasting countries, such as India, for not following their orders. This will have long-term negative ramification for the West as its influence is weakening and mistrust is deepening.

The local and regional crises since the Soviet Union’s collapse and the Maidan coup in 2014, which has escalated into violent conflicts, are significant indications of a political and economic transformation, which will not only impact Russia but also the emerging new world outside the so-called “Collective West” (US/EU, NATO). This transformation has already been named: Multipolarity.

Following Putin’s speech, the visit of Wang Yi to Russia can be considered as the first handshake of this new era. As expected, the meeting between Wang and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov conveyed the message that “China and Russia are moving forward confidently towards a multipolar world formation.” During his meeting with Putin, Wang also noted that China-Russia relations are “resisting pressure from the international community and progressing steadily.”

Trends in the West

Western leaders privately have told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine cannot win the war against Russia and that it should begin peace talks with Moscow this year in exchange for closer ties with NATO. The private communications are at odds with public statements from Western leaders who routinely say they will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes until it achieves victory on the battlefield. 

The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the private remarks to Zelensky, said: “The public rhetoric masks deepening private doubts among politicians in the UK, France and Germany that Ukraine will be able to expel the Russians from eastern Ukraine and Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014.

“We keep repeating that Russia must not win, but what does that mean? If the war goes on for long enough with this intensity, Ukraine’s losses will become unbearable,” a senior French official said, “And no one believes they will be able to retrieve Crimea.”

Ukraine has sought to join the US-led military alliance for years. After Russia’s invasion of the country, President Zelensky asked for that request to be fast-tracked. Ukraine also applied for EU membership days after Russia invaded and gained candidate status in June 2022.

“NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that is a long-term perspective,” Jens Stoltenberg has told many times. “What is at issue now is that Ukraine can prevail as a sovereign independent nation.”

President Joe Biden in recent visits to Ukraine and Poland, hailed the “unity” of NATO and the transatlantic alliance. The reality is the Western transatlantic alliance is showing signs of fragmenting, because of the immense strain on Europe’s economy due to European governments following Washington’s hostile policy towards Russia.

Street protests across Europe are growing for peace and against NATO and governing elites seen to be servile to American policy. This is not just about the war in Ukraine. The whole Western political order is shaking at its foundation, largely because of Biden administration’s hegemonic ambitions. The Ukraine war is merely a manifestation of underlying geopolitics.

Contrary to Western great expectations, the Russian economy is holding up strongly and its military operations in Ukraine seem to be gaining the upper hand. This is in spite of the US-led NATO bloc “throwing everything they can” at Russia to defeat it, from endless supplies of weaponry to support the Kiev regime, to endless rounds of economic sanctions in an attempt to collapse the Russian economy.

Professor Glenn Diesen explains that Russia has long been preparing for confrontation with the United States and its European allies. Ever since the US-backed coup in Kiev in 2014 and the Western betrayal of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk peace agreements, Moscow quietly realized that it would have to reinforce its economy to withstand the anticipated Western showdown.

Hence, Russia built up its military forces knowing that a conflict was coming. Just as importantly, Moscow took strategic steps to protect its economy by diversifying trade with the emerging Eurasian engine of global growth. Russia had resolved to abandon the centuries-old notion of focusing on Western partnerships for development and instead orientated its economic interests towards China, India, and the Global South. The West has not realized the deeper geoeconomic shifts and thus presumed that they could punish Russia economically.

That explains why Russia is not breaking from Western sanctions or from the ferocious military hostility that the US and its NATO have unleashed via Ukraine.

Diesen contends that the strategic confrontation embarked on by Washington against Russia (and China) will rebound by fragmenting the Western transatlantic alliance. We are already witnessing mounting public anger across the European Union against governments who have “committed economic suicide” by siding with Washington.

The European governments have recklessly and foolishly bought into Washington’s agenda for pursuing Western hegemony. In doing so, European elites are destroying their own national economies and provoking growing public discontent and protests. European states and the European Union itself are in danger of collapsing from economic ruination, not Russia.

President Biden’s rhetoric about “Western unity” seems to be more hubris before the fall than a reflection of reality. The West has miscalculated the impact of the Ukraine war because it failed to understand the emergence of the multipolar global economy and how their economic sanctions have no longer the coercive power they once had. Russia is not backing down because it doesn’t have to. That cannot be said for the US and its European allies, who are increasingly looking at a weakened geopolitical position.

Closing words

If the EU elite and the Biden administration cling to the present trend, “war fervor” (more war and more aid to Ukraine), instead of trying to find a diplomatic way toward peace or at least ceasefire arrangement, then the result will be a conflagration, not only pan-European but worldwide. But in order to avoid this “Armageddon scenario”, absolutely requires that ordinary people both in Europe and America need to wake up and realize to which direction our elite is leading us.