This is the second in a three-part series on the Ukraine war. You can read the first part here.
GRADUALLY, the established Western commentariat is understanding that the proxy war in Ukraine is lost. Take Colonel Richard Kemp, the Telegraph’s exceptionally hawkish commenter on the Ukraine conflict. He conceded recently that the summer offensive is set to fail, thereby humiliating the Nato alliance. This is correct. However, his proposed remedy, an orthodoxy among the neoconservative hawks, is to ‘redouble’ our efforts in arming the Ukrainians for a fabled great victory next year – a renewed spring offensive in which the Russian army finally disintegrates. We have, surely, heard this all before. Such naïve, circular thought is part of the general tendency towards utopian delusion that is now rampant in the modern West – the great ‘nonsense machine’ that was described by the late British philosopher Roger Scruton.
However, this aggressive pursuit of endless war is the bien pensant view of the establishment commentariat. As the distinguished scholar of international relations John Mearsheimer observes, many former senior officers and other thought-leaders know that their positions as the de facto military consultants of the Western elite depend on parroting these essentially ideological lies. An accepted commentator is expected to insist that Russia is perennially on the verge of collapse, and that, if given more equipment, Ukraine will suddenly prevail. Indeed, David Petraeus, former US Army general and director of the CIA, argued recently that he expected the Russian army to ‘crumble’ in the face of this Ukrainian offensive, and urged that more materiel be handed to Kiev to guarantee the impending victory. There are exceptions, as we have seen in these pages. However, it is a defining characteristic of our era that the established ‘experts’ are perpetually and catastrophically wrong with impunity.
In their ignorance, these men believe themselves to be embodying the spirit of Churchill. Yet the moral of Churchill is that he defied the spirit of his age – and consequently suffered at the hands of the hysterical, ideologically-uniform mob. Conversely, these modern hawks are unthinkingly orthodox: they give the age what it wants in the form of a simplistic and ahistorical morality tale that preaches the rejection of diplomacy and glorifies the terrible sacrifice of a hopeless cause.
The proposed neoconservative strategy in Ukraine is unequivocally absurd. Who will provide the thousands of additional tanks and armoured vehicles required to reach parity with the Russian force? What use is a small fleet of F-16 jets against more than 700 Russian fighter aircraft, as well as ground-based air-defence systems designed specifically to combat the F-16? Which nation will compensate the vast ammunition shortages Kiev faces? Who will bankroll such a strategy? Who will replenish the lost equipment among our own militaries? The entire notion of arming the Ukrainians to victory against an overwhelmingly superior Russian force is both ignorant and credulously fanciful.
As Mearsheimer notes, Russian war-manufacturing has aggressively outpaced Western production, which is chronically in hock to private contractors. A Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report observed that ‘the Russian onslaught consumes ammunition at rates that massively exceed US forecasts and ammunition production’. The Russian defence manufacturing industry employs between 2.5million and 3million workers. The US defence industry, by contrast, employs around 800,000 workers. Moreover, Putin announced recently that military spending will account for nearly one third of Russia’s total expenditure in 2024. As the New York Times reported in September, Moscow’s military-industrial base is already out-producing those of America and Europe combined by a profound margin. Hence the hysterical strategies of the commentariat’s high priests are nothing but a naïve delusion – a fantasy that neglects our own systemic limitations. The Ukrainians are implored to fight to the death by their Western handlers in spite of the known chronic shortage of the material means required for victory.
However, there is a deeper question that emerges from the neoconservative prescriptions: what would actually happen in the event of a rapid Russian defeat in eastern Ukraine? In January 2023, the RAND Corporation, a US government-sponsored research institute on global affairs, published a detailed essay on the hard realities of this war, which caught the attention of many Western officials. First, the authors acknowledged that Russia perceives this war as existential: the Kremlin – and, crucially,the Russian people– regard Ukraine as a vital strategic territory that cannot, under any circumstances, fall into Nato hands. The flatlands of the Ukrainian steppe, used repeatedly by European invaders, are the geographic pathway to Moscow. The steppe is, historically and strategically, hallowed ground to the Russian nation. This fundamental fact, indispensable to understanding the genesis of the war, is rarely mentioned in mainstream commentary.
As written previously in TCW, this is the reason that such care has been taken by the Kremlin legally to incorporate the seized territories into the Russian state. The four most eastern oblasts (regions) of Ukraine contain at least 60 per cent of Ukraine’s industry and natural resources, and are now governed by Moscow. These territories thus constitute the de facto western edge of the Motherland and will be defended by all means available. Short of an outright Russian defeat in the region, these lands are no longer negotiable and, crucially, any peace settlement will be limited by that proviso.
Second, the RAND paper argues that Russian military strategists regard tactical nuclear weapons as legitimate battlefield instruments in times of crisis. In the event of a Russian military implosion, the use of such weapons against military targets, or civilian populations, is a ‘plausible contingency’. Nuclear escalation is not an idle threat, as the Western neoconservatives constantly insist. Rather, it is built into the Russian strategic rubric: the final defensive measure against the collapse of Moscow’s sacred western flank. The point, once more, is not that it is right that the Russians regard their nuclear arsenal in this way: the fact is that they do regard it as such. That this profound threat is treated with such shallow levity marks the worsening fatuous ignorance of modern statesmanship.
Third, and critically, the RAND authors contend that the Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons would inevitably escalate to a strategic nuclear exchange, in which American, European, and Russian cities are flattened within hours of each other in chaotic events that no government is able to comprehend or control. As I have explained elsewhere, leading research institutes and former officials of the US Defense Department regard the collapse of the Russian army on its western flank as the leading potential trigger of nuclear warfare in the modern era. Moreover, such experts observe that the Russian nuclear arsenal is both larger and more technologically advanced than that of the US, having been refurbished in the 2000s in response to the expansion of the Nato alliance into Eastern Europe.
Importantly, we are never told that there is no effective defence against strategic nuclear weapons, each of which breaks into multiple hypersonic warheads, travelling at seven miles per second. They are essentially unstoppable. Hence, the Kremlin is fond of remarking that it needs only two warheads to hit the East Coast and one to hit the West Coast of the US for the nation to be de facto annihilated. The only conceivable ‘defence’ is the obliteration, in kind, of the Russian nation: the dreadful spectre of mutually assured destruction that many believed was consigned to history with the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Two points are thus clear. The West’s finest experts say that the Russian threat of nuclear warfare is not a bluff but is in fact a serious prospect that would lead to global catastrophe. And, furthermore, it is the rapid disintegration of the Russian army in Ukraine – the very thing, indeed, for which the elitist hawks of the mainstream yearn – that is projected by scholars to initiate that nuclear disaster. It is obvious that we have listened to the wrong people: the strategy of the neoconservative mob has failed; and, were it to succeed, it would almost certainly reap catastrophe.
This failed, stupid, lethal policy in Ukraine is merely a symptom of the delusional political idealism that now reigns in the West – the nonsense machine. And as we will see in the final essay of this series, the neoliberal warmongering will meet with its nemesis before long.
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