The inevitable globalization of war
In this series of articles, I analyse the war in Ukraine as manifestation of conflict of civilizations. It is this conflict, — global and systemic in nature, — that affects the course of the war in Ukraine, as well as most of other important events and processes in the world. Conflict of civilizations determines their development, consequences and results, often unpredictable and contrary to the wishes of those who plan and implement them.
The present crisis in international relations is caused by contradictions between the main civilizations, primarily Western, led by the United States, and other great civilizations, including Chinese, Russian, Indian, Latin American and the Arab world that realized their ability to limit and even to end dominance of the West in world affairs. This process was initiated by China, which relies on its financial and economic power, and Russia, the only country that can destroy the West.
Other civilizations that have decided to «quietly» join China and Russia, have realized that new competing center of power is emerging in the world, and they have opportunity to participate in its creation and build a new system of relationships in the world that will take into account their interests.
This emerging bloc of civilizations demanded that the West changes architecture of international relations, provides members of new block with equal guarantees of strategic security and equality in taking decisions that determine the future of the world.
The rebels were represented first by Russia that, openly supported by China, demanded that the United States and NATO withdraw from the Russian borders and recognize the territory of the former USSR as Russian zone of influence and responsibility.
Having accumulated military potential and gained lead and advantages in certain types of strategic weapons, Vladimir Putin decided that Russia was ready to put forward demands on the West, and when these demands were rejected, to apply «military-technical measures» by going into an armed local conflict not only to demonstrate Russia’s determination and ability to fight for its rights, but also to guarantee to Moscow position of one of the equal leaders in the world of new order.
Ukraine became zone of contention between Russia and the West due to its deep division. Part of Ukrainians, who shared nationalist ideology that had originated in Poland and Austria, where Ukrainians for centuries had been subordinated nation, and who have grown significantly over the years of independence, advocated further separation from Russia and accession to Western civilization. The other part retained Russian civilizational identity and wished to remain in the Russian world and reunite with Russia. The military operation in Ukraine came as the first attempt to restore the “Russian world”.
Having launched “military special operation” as local conflict directed at changing the Zelensky regime to pro-Russian and at forcing the West to abandon plans for Ukraine joining NATO and for using Ukrainian territory to host Western military infrastructure, including bases and strike missile systems, the Kremlin failed to fulfill its initial plan.
In that failure, there was one nuance hidden from the world and mass media, and that nuance played important role in shaping events.
According to some sources in Russia, the Kremlin counted on Washington and NATO to stay out of the war in Ukraine and not support the Zelensky regime. This confidence was based on the agreements reached between Biden and Putin during their meeting in Geneva in June 2021, and later at their video summit. The two leaders discussed possibility of cooperation in restructuring of international relations and have reached certain agreements that were confirmed during direct contacts between American and Russian high-ranking diplomats, including during Victoria Nuland ‘s visit to Moscow.
At that time, the White House demonstrated readiness to compromise with Russia and China and to set up new Super Group of Three that will rule the world, despite the obvious displeasure of the US European partners. To avoid the EU and NATO protests, Washington suggested that these demands come from Moscow and Beijing. Putin visited China and reached agreement with Xi, and the leaders of China and Russia came out with joint statement demanding from the US equal strategic security and rights to determine world relations.
The summit with Biden and visit by Nuland to Moscow, from the Kremlin point of view, gave green light to changing regime in Ukraine. The West would remain aloof from the conflict, condemning Moscow, but not preventing it from taking Ukraine under its control…
Only after the failure of the initial stage of the special operation did the Kremlin started realizing, rather slowly, that Washington had made a trap for Moscow… Or, Washington changed its position and used opportunity to benefit from the Russian failure in the first days of the invasion. That change in Washington position and attempt to benefit using Russian failures was typical and natural for the Western mentality, but for the Russian mentality that was treason…
More, it appeared that the war in Ukraine had no chance to remain just a local conflict, because the “special operation” being part of the global conflict of civilizations, could not avoid expanding and acquiring global dimension. It was the global scale of the conflict between civilizations that determined the fate of the local «special operation» in Ukraine, no matter what plans the Kremlin might have.
Everyone has his own Cross and Hell
For the conflict that Moscow conceived as local «special operation», the West and Ukraine turned out to be more prepared than it had been portrayed to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin personally by Russian special services, political and military analysts, as well as by their Ukrainian «friends».
The West and Kyiv were preparing for protracted and bloody war with Russia, and they had been preparing for the last eight years…
However, not only Moscow, but Kiev and the West as well, saw the goals and possible results of that forthcoming war differently.
Kiev counted on difficult “peremoga” (“overcome, victory”) in bloody and protracted conflict that should end in victory over Russia crushed by sanctions and blown up by pro-Western opposition from within. If Ukraine fails to achieve this result, then Kyiv hoped to conclude peace treaty that would give Crimea to Russia, but would be able to return the Donbass and to receive large-scale economic, political and financial assistance and moral support from the West. That support would allow Ukraine to easily join NATO and the EU, to take important place in European politics and in Western military-political alliances … And later Kiev could return to conflict with Russia and attempts to take back Crimea…
Most important, the authority of Kyiv and Ukraine could grow tremendously in Russia and in other former republics of the USSR, to the extent that Kyiv could stimulate disintegration of the Russian Federation, and then to come out as new center for unification of civilization, the “Russian world”, turning Moscow into provincial city of the new Russia…
Here, I would like to stress one important point,
The military clash between Ukraine and Russia, as part of global conflict, also had important for both sides intra-civilizational dimension. It was supposed to determine the fate of Russian civilization, the “Russian world”.
The West understood that Kyiv had almost no chance of winning war against Russia. As a result of the war, the Zelensky regime would be overthrown. At best, Kyiv will be able to sign peace treaty that allows Russia to take control not only of Crimea and Donbass, but also, possibly, over large part of Ukraine, including Kyiv, and pro-Moscow regime will be created in the rest of Ukraine that will not allow Ukraine to become member of NATO or EU.
However, this option suited the US, EU and NATO, because the Ukrainian-Russian war could create opportunity to change regime in Moscow and remove Putin from power. Even if the Putin regime does survive and not collapse into opposing and confronting clans and regional elites, Russia should have been exhausted by war and economic sanctions. As a result, Moscow will get ruined, deprived of industry and mired in debt bleeding and Russian-hating Ukraine, and Russia will be surrounded by fearful former Soviet republics, whose elites will be even more eager to integrate into Western political, economic and financial structures.
The West acted according to the recipe of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who unified Germany in 1871, and before that for many years was the ambassador to the Russian Empire. Bismarck wrote: “The power of Russia can only be undermined by the separation of Ukraine from it … it is necessary not only to tear off, but also to oppose Ukraine to Russia. To do this, you only need to find and nurture traitors among the elite and with their help change the self-consciousness of one part of the great people to such an extent that they will hate everything Russian, hate their own family, without realizing it. Everything else is a matter of time.” Those words came as manifestation of the European vision and understanding (or, misunderstanding) of Russia that shaped the Western policy and created through the centuries even more problems to the West itself…
As a result of the war, the United States expected to weaken Russia, to rally NATO and the EU and to get Western alliances ready to confront China. Most important, that will allow Washington to build new architecture of international relations in the US interests, to build up its influence in the post-Soviet space and to ensure preservation of unipolar world.
Here, I would like to highlight three aspects:
- Russia and the West viewed the upcoming war in Ukraine as local conflict, tactical operation with no prospect of developing into major regional conflict that would involve the United States and NATO countries, and even more so into new world war.
- The current expansion of the conflict, its transformation into global hybrid war, is happening contrary to their plans and against their expectations, but they are not yet able to find a way to stop globalization of the conflict without admitting their defeat. They prefer to raise the stakes and hope to maintain control over hostilities.
- Russia and Ukraine are now solving their strategic problems, determining the future fate of the «Russian civilization». The intra-civilizational nature of the war predetermined the harshness and stubbornness of hostilities and significantly limits ability of the West to influence further course of the war, including its involvement in direct clash with Russia.
Don’t trust Ukrainians promising Power
The main achievement of Ukraine and the West at the first stage of the Russian special operation was the very fact that they managed to draw Putin into conflict as initiator and aggressor and make the Kremlin believe that Ukrainian elites, Armed Forces and special services, as well as majority of Ukrainian people, especially in the Russian-speaking regions, were ready to go over to the side of Russia and support the invasion of Russian troops, as well as the troops of the Donbass separatist republics, and to free themselves from Western political dominance and ideology of radical nationalism by throwing followers of Bandera and Shukhevich from Kiev and power.
Russian invasion allowed the West using advantages in intelligence, information and propaganda warfare, to present Russia in the world media as aggressor, despite the attempts by Moscow to build legal justification for the invasion of Ukraine: the Minsk agreements were not implemented by Kyiv, eight years the republics of Donbass were bombed and blockaded, these republics held referendums and declared their independence, they turned to Russia with request to recognize their independence, Russia recognized their independence and signed agreements with them on mutual assistance, the bombing and attacks by Ukrainian army and nationalist regiments continued and increased, moreover, there was information about impending attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the independent republics of Donbass. All that gave Russia the right to stand up for them…
However, only the Russian media spoke and wrote about this, and even they did it reluctantly and only for the Russian audience. Almost no one in the world knew about bombing of cities and villages of the separatist republics. Nobody knew that during the period starting with Euromaidan in 2014, almost fifteen thousand pro-Russian separatists died in fighting and from bombing and shelling by the Ukrainian army. Even Russia Today and Sputnik were silent about it, as if they were affiliates of CNN or the BBC, and not the foreign propaganda machine of the Kremlin.
Due to inefficiency, inability, corruption and venality of the Russian elite clans, primarily those who were responsible for Ukrainian affairs and propaganda, as well as those who controlled money flows from Russia to Ukraine, not only Russia was easily presented as aggressor and Putin as “villain”, but Russian troops were rebuffed instead of being welcomed that caused them significant damage.
However, the weaknesses and mistakes of Russia in the information sphere had reasons due to the peculiarities of Russian civilization.
Russia viewed Ukraine as “its own” temporarily lost territory and Ukrainians as brothers temporarily under the rule of Ukrainian nationalists and the West, who would inevitably return to the “Russian world.” Russian propaganda was limited in its approach and means. It could only criticize the existing regime and nationalist regiments. People of Ukraine could not be criticized or disrespected.
Moreover, with all the tension in relations between Ukraine and Russia, there were powerful clans in the elites of the two countries that continued to cooperate in managing joint projects and financial flows. The Russian propaganda machine had to be careful not to affect their interests.
However, the Ukrainian power elites and the majority of Ukrainians who grew up during the years of independence, shared nationalist views and viewed Russia and Russians as enemies and rivals. For them, war with Russia was not only possible, but inevitable. The main slogan of Ukraine after the Euromaidan and the coup d’état of 2014, was revised and supplemented slogan of Ukrainian neo-Nazis who joined Hitler’s army during World War II: “Glory to Ukraine! Death to the enemies!” In 1941, the “enemies” were mainly Soviet Russians and Soviet Ukrainians. In 2022, the “enemies” became Russians and Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists.
Here, I consider it necessary to highlight several important aspects:
- If Ukraine and the West were preparing for an open and bloody war with Russia, the Kremlin was preparing for return of Ukraine and its people under Russian influence.
- The information war against Russia was planned as tactical by Kyiv, Washington and the NATO countries. It was designed for conflict that was supposed to last for several months only.
- The Kremlin, unable to compete with the West in the information field abroad, has focused on the information and propaganda within Russia and Ukraine.
- So far, the Kremlin has not found opportunities or appropriate means to achieve access to the global audience. However, the main work of informing the world community through Youtube, Telegram, etc. was undertaken by hundreds of independent Russian and Ukrainian bloggers, non-state public news agencies and amateur correspondents, including among the military themselves, who are fighting on the fronts of Ukraine. That created new independent and powerful public information sphere in Russia and Ukraine with growing access to the world that will influence not only the presentation of the war, but further political and social development of Russian civilization.
“No one expected that everything was so bad in Russia”
From the first stage, the invasion by Russian troops in Ukraine did not go as planned and expected not only for Moscow, but also for Kiev and Washington, and the failure in planning was predetermined by difference in assessments of situation, intentions of opponents, misunderstanding of civilizational differences not only between Russians and Western Europeans and Americans, but also between Russians and Ukrainians.
Analyzing the initial period of the Russian “military special operation”, I would like to highlight the main impression by Western military analysts and politicians that was expressed by British General Nicholas Carter, who held the highest positions in the British armed forces until 2021, including Chief of the General Staff, and who took active part in planning and preparing for that war on the part of Great Britain and NATO.
Speaking at Dinner hosted by the Defence and Security Forum in Navy and Army Club, General Carter named the main lessons of the first stage of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and his conclusion was as follows: “We were not ready, did not assume and did not guess how unprepared the Russian army and command, as well as the entire political leadership, would be for military operation. We could not even imagine how inefficient and disorganized the leadership of the operation would be… «
So, how did it come?
Over the past few years, the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin personally received information that created a certain picture of what was happening in Ukraine, and according to this information, the dissatisfaction and frustration of Ukrainians in the regime has steadily grown. At the same time, Ukrainians’ sympathy for Russia and personally for Putin grew also. The financial flows that came from Russia through the Russian-Ukrainian political and business clans, as well as through the special services, further strengthened the ties of the Ukrainian elites with Russia and created incentives to turning them into pro-Russian clans.
The Kremlin was informed that the West was trying to control and subordinate political and business elites and structures of Ukraine, as well as to increase the military potential of Ukraine, although that has not yet brought significant results. Most of the aid and weapons received were stolen, but nevertheless, the West was pushing Kyiv to aggression against the Donbass and Crimea and to direct conflict with Russia.
Ukraine could soon build up its joint forces with the West to the extent that war against Donbass becomes inevitable. In that situation, Moscow should be better the first to start. As Putin once recalled his lessons learned in childhood, “life in Leningrad taught me that if a fight cannot be avoided, one must strike first.”
This campaign of disinformation has been going on for all eight years. The main thing in that picture was hidden, and hidden was the fact that much of what was called as goals of Kyiv and the West, in reality, had already happened and became reality.
Behind the picture presented to Moscow, there was another one.
Build-up of capabilities of the Ukrainian army and special services exceeded the level reported to the Kremlin. The West had obtained full control over Ukrainian special services and armed forces. Political and information structures were prepared for war, fortified areas were constructed and prepared for combat, military operations were planned, weapons and machinery were modernized and stockpiled, military personnel trained and went through combat fighting against detachments of separatist in the Donbass. The Ukrainian army was ideologically and psychologically prepared…
Information received in the Kremlin about technical level of both the Ukrainian special services and Armed Forces was far from reality. Level of modernization in the Ukrainian army, including modernisation of the Soviet equipment, tanks, armored personnel carriers, their provision with special equipment, including space and other modern systems of communication, night vision equipment, drones was much higher and more successful than it seemed in the information received in the Kremlin. As a result, technical, combat capabilities and level of training of the Ukrainian army became unpleasant surprise for the Russian political leadership.
However, the West also saw political and military Command of the Russian Armed Forces different from reality, but close to the picture painted in the Kremlin by pro-Ukrainian elite groups and parquet generals in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the FSB, who achieved high positions not by years of service in the army and in real combat operations.
For example, the Minister of Defense of Russia, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, before his appointment as Minister of Defense, served as governor of the Moscow region, and before that as Minister for Civil Defence and Emergency Situations. Shoigu did not serve in the army for a single day before he became Minister of Defense, as well as some of his deputies who came to the Ministry of Defense with him. Shoigu received the title of Hero of Russia for reconstruction of destroyed cities in the aftermath of the war in Chechnya, in 1999.
As it turned out, Putin was persuaded to conduct special operation based on the experience of the “green men” special operation in Crimea, in 2014. This time special operation was planned to be carried out by small forces and in short time, as demonstration, parade and special operation of the FSB, but not as real military operation…
As a result, the Western intelligence services and the command of the Ukrainian army were pleasantly surprised that the units of the Russian army were not specially selected, they consisted mainly of conscripts. The command and control of the special operation, to the great surprise of the West and Kyiv, was entrusted to the parquet generals of the FSB and the Ministry of Defense, as well as to the curators of Ukraine in the Administration of the President of Russia, who were for years protecting interests of Ukrainian “pro-Russian” business clans and allowed Ukraine to get out of the influence of Russia and turn into anti-Russia.
Neither military Command center, nor military operation headquarters had not been set up to command the invasion. Most of the units that participated in the special operation went into Ukraine without understanding what they should do, many believed that they were going with a peace mission …
The military personnel and their commanders, up to the generals, were not provided with special means of communication and used unsecured lines and mobile phones that could easily be tracked, recorded, tapped and used to determine their location and destroy them. It was possible, by recording mobile conversations, to kill not only soldiers, but also commanders, up to generals …
Even helicopters with elite paratroopers, who flew out in a “crowd” into a set trap, having received the task of capturing an airfield near Kyiv, turned out to be an easy target for the Ukrainian army that was ready and waiting for them…
Columns of tanks and infantry armored vehicles that moved without artillery or air force cover and support were destroyed. They just moved in columns along the roads from which it was impossible to turn off or leave, and they were shot as targets…
It seemed that it was complete failure of Russia, failure of the Kremlin…
Unpredictable Russian stupidity
“Never fight the Russians. For each of your
military trick they will answer with unpredictable
stupidity.» Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany
As it turned out, Russian stupidity also needs to be used correctly. It must be properly understood, evaluated, and its consequences foreseen and calculated. Most importantly, you need to respond to it correctly. Western politicians and analysts have never been able to do this due to significant civilizational difference in mentalities of Europeans and Russians…
Western leaders and the military did not expect that Russian troops would be unprepared for invasion of Ukraine, that military high command of the troops would be absent, parquet generals would lead “special operation”, preparing to hoist flags, receive awards, orders and titles from Putin, and most importantly, new appointments and «fields for feeding» their clans…
As a result, all assessments and decisions prepared in the West, including in Washington, turned out to be just as deeply erroneous, as was Moscow’s failed preparation for invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, in terms of their consequences, the mistakes of Western politicians and their advisers turned out to be much more painful for the world, including for the West itself, than the mistakes of the Kremlin in planning the invasion of Ukraine.
The West proceeded from the fact that the special operation would last from several days to several weeks, maximum of couple of months. Therefore, the United States and NATO at the initial stage refused to provide military support to Kyiv, including in the supply of lethal weapons. As a result, the West was not ready to provide military assistance to Ukraine when the Western leaders suddenly understood the need for this support, and it took considerable time and considerable effort to arrange supplies.
The second mistake was the rush introduction of economic sanctions that were absolutely ill-conceived in consequences. These sanctions gave impetus to rising prices for oil and gas, grains and fertilizers, which led to the record prices in the world, and put many nations on the brink of starvation, and gave Russia additional income. In the first three months of 2022, Russian budget revenues from exports grew by 30%, followed by 100% rise in four months period.
The sanctions led to the blocking of accounts and the seizure of fortunes not so much of those who supported Putin, but of those who were oriented towards and depended on the West, who comprised financial backbone of the pro-Western column in Russia, as well as those who, after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, fled from Russia abroad. 80% of them had to return to Russia after few weeks…
The sanctions hit the economy, first of all in Europe, and then the United States, and gave Russian business opportunity to fill the niche in the Russian economy that was controlled by Western corporations and became vacant after Western companies left Russia.
Most important, sanctions broke dependence of the Russian financial system on the West. That was only the beginning…
(I will analyze the course of the sanctions war in a separate series of articles)
However, it was not only mistakes in imposing sanctions that caused the change of mood in the West by the end of March, a month after the start of “special operation”.
The Kremlin understood very quickly that the “special operation”, the way it was planned and started, was a big mistake. Putin understood this and turned to professionals, generals with combat experience. The General Staff got control over the operation, and the Kremlin stepped aside, concentrating on politics, economy and reconstruction of the Ukrainian cities now under Russian control.
However, at the end of March Moscow committed a new stupidity that pre-determined unsuccessful for Russia finale of the second stage of the war. And this new Russian stupidity again made the West to cause damage to itself more than to Russia…
(To be continued)