Ukrainian / European Quagmire
Russian meat-grinders’ slow motion and AFU “counteroffensive”
Russia has admittedly been slowing down its operations so as to minimize civilian casualties as well minimize its troops losses & maximize AFU (armed forces of Ukraine) losses and restore peace in the areas it controls. Albeit ridiculed by the Western press, this allegation seems to be indeed credible, considering the fact that Ukraine has, from the very beginning, militarized residential areas as part of human shields tactic and also considering the factual tactics Russia is using in military operation.
Obviously, President Zelensky is forced to declare any victories on any front lines. Firstly, he had to prove the effectiveness of foreign military equipment supplied to the AFU by the Western allies. Secondly, any large-scaled operations would bring the war in Ukraine back to the headlines of the MSM (mainstream media), pushing the European governments to increase their support to Kiev. Therefore, Kiev’s regime has tried to maintain the concept of AFU counteroffensive in the Kherson region in last two months, starting a serious attempt at the end of August.
Russia repelled the first phase of AFU counteroffensive 29.-30.8 and incurred very heavy losses to AFU, some 5.000 troops dead and wounded as well as massive material losses (48 tanks, 46 IFV, 65 other armored vehicles, 52 artillery units). More very heavy losses (well over thousand killed, 54 tanks, 42 IFV, 48 other vehicles) took place in Wednesday (31.8.), Thursday (1.9.) and Friday (2.9.) The whole “counteroffensive” has proved to be a bloody failure with only very small local advances but at the extremely high costs
Western “so called military experts” have tried to explain away this situation but their explaining aspirations are of substandard reading. All the hospitals in Nikolaiv, Odessa and other southern Ukrainian places are full of thousands wounded AFU soldiers and due to lack of Ukrainian hospital beds and care material, hundreds of injured soldiers have been sent to Romania, Moldova and Poland.
By September 5.-6., almost all front lines in Eastern and Southern Ukraine are marked by heavy positional battles, artillery duels. Neither of the warring sides can confirm new gains on the battlefields and heavy losses of AFU troops and equipment go on.
AFU commando attacks and artillery shelling on Zaporozhye NPP (ZNPP)
Thursday (1.9.), the AFU tried to seize control of the ZNPP. Right before the IAEA mission arrived to the station, the Ukrainian military shelled the residential areas of the city of Energodar and the territory adjacent to the NPP. As a result of damage to power transmission lines in the city, there was a voltage failure on the power lines leading from the ZNPP, as a result of which automatic protection system on the fifth power unit went on.
Then 2 commando groups totaling 60 soldiers on two crafts landed near the ZNP. They were detected and destroyed by the Russian aviation. Two hours later, the Ukrainians used two barges carrying an entire battalion (200-300 soldiers) for this suicidal mission. They were detected and sunk. All that while the IAEA inspectors were already at the nuclear power plant.
Late Friday 2.9., a new AFU commando group once again tried capture ZNPP but met the same destiny, a total failure. This failed attack took place despite the presence of IAEA representatives at the facility. Two commando groups of a total of 42 cutters and motor boats with over 250 servicemen from special operation forces and foreign mercenaries on board made an attempt to disembark at the shore of Kakhovka reservoir near Energodar. Russian Aerospace Forces eliminated 20 cutters and boats, the rest of the vessels turned back and headed towards the Ukrainian coast.
An inspector team under IAEA director Rafael Grossi was on its way to the ZNPP on Thursday (1.9.). “There has been increased military activity, including this morning — until very recently, a few minutes ago,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Thursday morning. But he added defiantly: “Having come so far, we are not stopping. We are moving now,” despite the fact “the risks are very very high.” Grossi concluded his press statement by saying: “Wish us luck, we are moving now … It’s very important that the world knows what’s happening here.”
The Ukrainian saboteur group was tasked with laying low until the inspectors arrive. It would then take over the plant and prevent the IAEA inspectors from leaving. They would then be hostages at the plant which would guarantee that the Russian side would be unable to retake the site.
ZNPP employees have told the director general of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, from where the nuclear facility has been attacked, Vladimir Rogov from the main council of the Zaporozhye Region’s military-civilian administration, said on Friday. According to Grossi, the team of international inspectors obtained key data on the situation at the power plant and they will continue their mission, since a lot of issues require a more detailed consideration. The IAEA will set up a permanent mission at the ZNPP, Grossi said. Energodar residents, who Grossi talked to, handed him a petition calling to stop Ukraine’s provocations against the nuclear power plant.
The IAEA delegation arrived at the power plant on the afternoon of September 1. Experts will remain at the NPP until September 4 or 5 to assess the situation, and in the future the head of the IAEA hopes to ensure the permanent presence of the organization’s employees there. “We plan to form something like a permanent representative office of the IAEA at the station, so that experts give us a constant, objective assessment of what is happening,” Grossi said. Members of the IAEA mission, who remained working at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, plan to leave on September 6.
Despite the presence of IAEA representatives at ZNPP, AFU continued provocations. On September 3, AFU used 8 unmanned aerial vehicles armed with outboard projectiles for launching attacks at the nuclear power plant. Russian electronic countermeasures have blocked the arriving drones and forcibly made them throw grenades to secluded areas at over 1,5 km from the plant’s security perimeter.
At the same time, on request of IAEA Secretariat, Russian party provided the arrival of over 60 representatives of mass media, including from France, USA, China, Denmark, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, South Korea, Vietnam and other countries to cover the mission’s work.
In the morning on September 1, the journalists that arrived in Energodar happened to witness the unsuccessful attempt to assault Zaporozhye nuclear power plant by Ukrainian saboteurs and experienced personally an artillery shelling launched by AFU at the nuclear power plant and residential areas of Energodar while hiding in a bomb shelter.
Silence speaks in volume, no comments by the UN or Western media
September 1, The Russian Defense Ministry was puzzled by the lack of public response from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres regarding Ukraine’s actions over the ZNPP. The Ministry emphasized that “not only does this reticence cast a shadow and cast doubt on the objectivity of the UN approaches to the situation around the ZNPP but also leads to further escalation of the situation there with full impunity for the Kiev regime.”
“In this regard, we completely understand the deathly silence of all Western handlers of the Zelensky regime, which in fact confirms their tacit participation in the preparation of today’s provocation at the ZNPP,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
In Western mainstream media, neither the bloody defeat of the “counteroffensive” in Kherson nor the attempted raids on the ZNPP ever happened. The only mention of it I found in the New York Times (1.9.2022): In a statement, the Russian defense ministry claimed that Russian forces had intercepted two groups of Ukrainian commandos, up to 60 troops combined, who crossed the Dnipro River in boats to sabotage or seize the plant.
In total, the “counterattack” on Kherson was a big failure, a bloodbath, that predictably ended up destroying Ukraine’s main military reserves and a major part of the stock of heavy vehicles it had received from the West.
The ZNPP, which was the main “PR-target” of the whole affair, is still in Russian hands and now secured by the presence of a permanent IAEA delegation. “The IAEA is there to stay for as long as it is needed. We are not leaving.” IAEA director Grossi said. “For those who may have intentions on the plant, knowing that international inspectors are there, witnessing and informing immediately what is happening, has an important stabilizing effect.”
It appears that these suicidal missions of AFU are tied to the upcoming meeting of the so-called NATO’s Rammstein Group on Ukraine on the 8th of September and serves a “PR purpose” in order to convince Western masters that AFU still can fight.
Kiev regime sacrificed thousands of its soldiers’ lives for sake of media hype. Ukraine’s statements about major successes spread in the Ukrainian and Western mass media and social networks have proved to be inferior media stunt, which cost thousands of Ukrainian soldiers their lives. It appears to be a bitter result especially for American and British military, because they have been in leading roles to plan, organize and conduct these operations.
European sacrifices, sanctions backfiring
Beyond the damage in Ukraine, the war also has significant casualties in the rest of Europe as the continent is losing its most competitive energy supplies, compromising the region’s manufacturing edge and accelerating an inflation wave that through higher energy costs will severely affect the wellbeing of its population this coming winter.
The European leadership has been unable to foresee the true economic consequences in Europe and beyond of the economic war / sanctions unleashed against Russia. One explanation for the boldness and self-confidence surrounding the European standing against Russia at the beginning of the war was a strong belief that the combination of anti-Russian sanctions and military support to Ukraine would cause a significant weakening of Russia’s political, social and military standing leading to its defeat.
It can be argued that the wrong assessment on the war outcome has its roots in faulty US-British intelligence, which forecasted Russia’s defeat through economic warfare and therefore a limited impact of sanctions on Europe. The political fallout is already taking place, with Britain and Italy’s prime ministers being the most visible casualties as victims of domestic political events unleashed by their own Russian sanctions. More importantly, it doesn’t seem that the remaining European leadership (led by von der Leyen, Macron and Scholz) is willing to change course without losing significant credibility.
So, due to the intensity of the energy shock, the economic timetable is moving faster than the military. Unless Europe engages in a major course correction, and we don’t see how this can happen, the European economic crisis looks set to become devastating before Ukraine is formally defeated. This shock will be so severe, if nothing is done (and it’s hard to see anything meaningful enough being done), that the result will be not a recession, but a long-term depression in Europe.
As Europe implodes, it plans “Radical Intervention” including price-setting, suspending derivatives markets and Europe-wide margin call bailouts.
A few days after the EU threatened commodity traders it would stage an “emergency intervention” to crush energy prices, which were rising at a pace of about 20% per day, a move which actually worked for a few days until Gazprom suddenly decided it would “completely halt” all Nord Stream 1 transit altogether. This news obviously sends global stock markets plunging and threatens to push European gas and power prices back to all-time highs when markets reopen on Monday.
Sweden and Finland were to follow Austria and Germany in bailing out energy companies as Nordic authorities warned of a “Lehman” moment risk. Late on Sunday Bloomberg reported that European ministers will discuss “special measures to rein in soaring energy costs – from gas-price caps to a suspension of power derivatives trading – as the bloc scrambles to respond to latest developments in the deepening crisis.”
A draft document seen by Bloomberg News notes that the Czech Republic, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, is set to include those tools on a list of emergency intervention options to be discussed at a meeting of energy ministers on Friday. At the same time, tens of thousands of Czechs protesting in the streets this weekend served as a reminder of the social and political risks.
While anything it does is doomed to fail, Europe has been scrambling to stave off an energy catastrophe that’s threatening to become an economic, social, and even financial crisis too. European leaders have been working for months to try to offset the impact of Russia’s squeeze on gas — a move they describe as the weaponization of energy. But the decision late Friday by Gazprom to keep the crucial Nord Stream pipeline shut brought on a new sense of panic.
In response to soaring energy prices and rationing of firewood, over the weekend, Germany – the country most affected by the Nord Stream cutoff – unveiled a $65 billion package meant to boost demand and to protect consumers, with a levy on windfall profits, in effect completely undoing the ECB’s efforts to squash demand by hiking interest rates and ending QE, similar to what the Biden admin is doing to the Fed in the US.
So, what can Europe do?
Nothing really, but it will pretend to be in control until the bitter end. The options the Czech presidency is set to suggest – according to Bloomberg – would complement measures floated by the European Commission in a policy note seen by Bloomberg last week. They included a power-demand reduction and price caps on renewables, nuclear and coal, all of which are of course dead-ends. The presidency is poised to propose similar “solutions” in the power sector and float the following additional tools to limit the impact of gas prices on power prices:
- temporarily capping the price of gas used for electricity generation
- putting a price ceiling on gas imported from Russia
- temporary exclusion of power production from gas from merit order and price setting on the electricity market could also be an option
Someone should tell EU Commission that since Russia is already barely exporting any “weaponized” gas to Europe to destroy the continental economy, setting a price cap on whatever molecules of gas are left won’t really do anything at all … no impact on any energy price. Bloomberg, quoting Goldman Sachs analysis report, uses harsh sayings, when assessing EU Commission’s mental ability and proceedings in the energy policy.
EU Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine for Europe’s energy crisis. Before the EU energy ministers’ meeting this coming Friday, she said electricity and natural gas prices should be decoupled and that she supports a price cap on Russian pipeline gas exported to Europe. What the Commission cannot realize, is its own sanctions policy, which is now backfiring and destroying the European economy.
On Monday, September 5, the euro and European stock futures dropped after Russia escalated the continent’s energy crisis by shutting off key gas taps, signaling a long cold winter ahead for businesses and households.
European nations led by Germany announced measures over the weekend to tackle a cost-of-living crisis and spiraling energy prices after Russian state gas producer Gazprom Friday said it would indefinitely halt supplies through the Nord Stream pipeline. The common currency dropped as much as 0.7% to 98.80 US cents on Monday (5.9.), the weakest since 2002, while Euro Stoxx 50 futures slumped as much as 3.3%.
There are growing expectations for the ECB to raise rates by 75 basis points as soon as Thursday. The decision remains a challenging one as chief Christine Lagarde and her colleagues manage the twin problems of high inflation and an impending recession.
At some point markets may start to question how much inflation central banks are willing to tolerate, if economies slip into recession, especially, if that root of that inflation is supply. Weaker growth or recession and a weaker labor market are ultimately the price to be paid but prolonged elevated energy prices could temper the extent to which the ECB moves both this week and over the cycle.
In a sign of the severity of the problem, Germany unveiled Sunday a relief plan worth about 65 billion euros ($65 billion) while Finland said it would stabilize the power market with a $10 billion program. Sweden on Saturday announced a $23 billion emergency backstop for its utilities as it seeks to head off a broader financial crisis.
The world’s second-largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, is the latest industrial company to announce a plant closure in Europe due to soaring gas and energy prices. ArcelorMittal will shut one of its two blast furnaces at its steelworks site in Bremen, Germany, from the end of September until further notice, due to the “exorbitant rise in energy prices,” the company said in a statement on Friday. The high energy prices are undermining the competitiveness of steel production and the company is taking this step in Germany because it cannot operate all plants economically.
Aluminum smelters in Europe have also been closing in recent weeks, due to sky-high energy prices.
In Germany, one of every six industrial companies feels forced to reduce production due to high energy prices, a survey by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, DIHK, showed at the end of July. Nearly a quarter of the companies forced to reduce production had already done so by end-July, and another one-quarter are in the process of scaling back production due to sky-high energy prices, according to the survey of 3,500 companies from all sectors and regions in Germany. The energy-intensive industries and firms are particularly hit, as 32 percent of the companies plan to or have already started to reduce production and even halt entire production lines, the DIHK survey showed.
Stainless steel mills shut down across Europe. As August ended, more and more reports came in detailing European stainless steel producers having to scale back or shut down production altogether. Europe faces a catastrophic energy crisis. While many economists remain focused on the coming winter, gas cutoff has done plenty of damage already. So far, around three million tons of Europe’s stainless steel capacity is at risk. With energy costs surging, many plants simply can’t afford to “keep the lights on.”
Earlier in August, the Belgian Aperam Mill shut down its mill in Genk. Soon after, they reduced production at their Chatelet Mill. More recently, Spanish company Acrinox announced it would cut production and place around 85% of its employees on short-time work. Obviously, all eyes are now on other major European producers, many of whom have just as much incentive to cut and run.
Behind Europe’s destiny, plotting by US and NATO
On August 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg himself, while urging Western nations to continue providing aid to Ukraine, admitted that it will be hard and that European countries will have to “pay a price” for such a support. There will be “consequences”, according to him, “not only in the military sphere, but also for industries”, and therefore Europe must increase its production. He added that the coming winter will be tough, but also said that it could take “years” to support Kiev. While supporting Ukraine, he said, NATO must also make sure there is no escalation.
Those are indeed hard sacrificing the US-led NATO is asking of its European members. One wonders how exactly the European bloc might benefit from such an endeavor. Due to the stupidity of Europe’s political leadership, the US has managed to push it towards committing economic and social suicide.
At the heart of Europe’s current troubles is its inability to balance its economic and security interests with enough autonomy to be able to look after its own interests. European ambiguity is not new, has its roots on the post-World War II architecture and the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in relation to Ukraine it manifested in its ineptitude to enforce the Minsk agreements that clearly offered a Russo-Ukrainian peace path but were unable to be enforced by France and Germany due to relentless US and Ukrainian pressure.
It seems that only significant political alterations in the European countries that matter -namely France, Germany and Italy- will allow a meaningful change of course from the current path of confrontation with Russia and ultimately economic self-destruction. Otherwise, any political initiative towards solving the war will be left in the hands of Russia and the United States.
It would be tragic that a core European problem like the Ukraine war is finally solved through the dealings of a Euro-Asian and an American power.
What worries American diplomats is that Germany and some other NATO countries along the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment.
If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO? And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on US exporters and investors? Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.
The only way left for US diplomats to block European purchases is to goad Russia into a military response and then claim that avenging this response outweighs any purely national economic interest.
As hawkish Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, explained in a State Department press briefing on January 27: “If Russia invades Ukraine one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” The problem is to create a suitably offensive incident and depict Russia as the aggressor.
Chinese views on Ukraine crisis
Many Western experts have been advising Washington to exercise restraint, while concluding that the current crisis was caused by the US own overextension of its power and by NATO’s expansionism. Chinese experts, such as Cui Heng, an East China Normal University’s research fellow, hold similar views. He sees the current Russian military campaign as the “aftershock” from a 2014 crisis initiated by NATO’s expansion and American use of “color revolution to jeopardize regional order and balance of power.”
Song Zhongping, adjunct professor and commentator, in turn argues that, while facing NATO’s eastward expansion, Moscow had no choice but to try to create a buffer zone to safeguard its own national security. The conflict, he adds, may have benefitted American industrial complex, but has brought major social and economic troubles to Europe. He concludes that a prolonged conflict can backfire on the US itself, as its sanctions have brought a “reverse-dollarization” and even fomented a new multilateralism tendency amongst African, Asian, and Latin-American states, which have been increasingly opting for non-alignment and multi-alignment.
Song Zhongping’s point is clearly exemplified by the BRICS group consensus at broadening BRICS+ cooperation so as to include other emerging states, such as Turkey and even Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have come to find the US dollar to be quite risky and is therefore seeking alternatives.
The US announces more billions military aid to Ukraine as America appears to fall apart and US World System collapsing
According to numerous American patriots, watching Biden bragging about sending billions of dollars to corrupt leaders overseas with American cities looking like bombed-out Iraq or Libya is US foreign policy in a nutshell. The Washington elites tell the rest of America that they must “promote democracy” in some far-off land. Anyone who objects, is considered in league with the appointed enemy of the day. Once it was Saddam, then Assad and Gaddafi. Now it’s Putin. The game is the same, only the names are changed.
What is seldom asked, is what is in this deal for those Americans who suffer to pay for US interventionist foreign policy. Do they really think a working American in Ohio or Pennsylvania is better off or safer because we are supposedly protecting Ukraine’s borders? Most Americans would wonder now, why they aren’t bothering to protect our own borders.
On the other hand, the six largest European NATO-countries have given Kiev no new military pledges since July, this being the first time such a thing has happened since the beginning of the conflict in February. Besides Spain, France, Germany and Italy, not even the UK and Poland have made any new military commitments to Ukraine, which is quite surprising considering they had been such staunch supporters. In any case, European military support had been decreasing since April. It would seem Europe is quietly and silently “abandoning” Kiev. Overall European aid to Ukraine is in any case but a fraction of the total US aid, exceeding already $10 billion.
Week ago, the Pentagon announced that yet another $775 million would be sent to Ukraine. As Antiwar.com reported, it was the eighteenth weapons package to Ukraine in six months. Many Americans ask, has there ever been a more idiotic US intervention in history?
Supporters of this proxy war may celebrate more aid to Ukraine, but the reality is that it is in no way aid to Ukraine. That’s not how the system works. It is money created out of thin air by the Fed and appropriated by Congress to be spent propping up the politically-connected military-industrial complex. It is a big check written by middle America to rich people who run American military-industrial complex. The war in Ukraine was root caused by the US regime change in 2014 In Ukraine and the neocon insistence that Ukraine join NATO.
On August 24, Ukraine’s Independence Day, Washington announced about $3 billion in military aid to the country. According to the White House, Kiev is to receive “air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars” to ensure it can “continue to defend itself over the long term”. The question is precisely how long – the United States is already overburdened there, as Europe is quietly abandoning the case, while the Americans are also escalating tensions in Asia with China over Taiwan.
Six months on, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has brought millions of migrants and refugees to Europe. In a post-pandemic global economy already in a bad shape over a global supply chain crisis, the heavy sanctions against Moscow have, to a large degree, backfired against the US and Europe and also increased the risk of food insecurity in Africa and the Middle East.
To sum it up, the US-led world order seems to be collapsing, while Washington tries, at any cost, to prolong a conflict, which benefits no one.