There are two wars that are going in Ukraine at the same time.
The United States, Europe and Ukraine have come together in a war against Russia backed by China, India, Iran and few other countries of the former third world. This is the hybrid war that goes mostly in the field of economy and finances, but in that war, Ukraine and Russia fight as military vanguards of confronting alliances. The outcome of this war will determine the architecture and new fundamental, including moral, principles of international relations and the balance of power for the coming decades.
The second war is between Russia and Ukraine, and the analysis of this conflict and its causes that are generated by the crisis that has been going on in the post-Soviet space since the collapse of the USSR, do not receive due attention. This war will decide the future of «Russian civilization» that was created on the territory of the Ancient Russia, later was integrated in the Great Horde and transformed into the Russian Empire and the USSR that disintegrated in 1991 into fifteen states. This war will also decide the future of Europe, because Europe is now inextricably linked with the Russian world and deeply involved in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as the rear of Ukraine, being one step away from the direct war with Russia.
Ukrainian funnel into World war
No one wants a world war, no one aspires it, and yet the world is rapidly being drawn into the Ukrainian funnel of a full-scale war.
The loss of control over the course of hostilities by Russia, Ukraine and the West that I wrote about in my previous article, has now become not just a fact, but a dominant factor that determines the further development of the situation.
The loss of control over consequences of hostilities and development of the situation at the front is not yet recognized by Moscow, Kyiv, Washington, London or Brussels. Neither side appears to have realized yet that they are losing control over escalating conflict. They still hope to win this conflict without causing themselves unacceptable damage. That makes the situation even more dangerous.
It seems that the participants in the war see it in a false mirror, in a distorted form, having lost the ability to adequately perceive reality. Moreover, the ruling elites seemed to be deprived of the moral foundations on which they could rely to stop the fall into the abyss. The moral foundations have been replaced by the fetishisms of «nationalism», «patriotism», «humanism», «democracy» and «liberalism» that have replaced long back the real ideas of patriotism, rule of people, equality and justice.
The loss of a correct perception and understanding of reality leads to mistakes, to decisions that the participants in the conflict would like to avoid.
War that neither could be allowed, nor avoided
Before the start of Russia’s military special operation in Ukraine, few observers outside of the Kremlin believed in the possibility of Russian invasion. To me, this invasion that was not needed in the first place by Moscow, the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin personally, seemed unlikely.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially in the form of a military special operation, code-named «Pounce of Mongoose» according to some media reports, was the biggest success of Ukrainian and Western intelligence agencies in the post-Soviet period. Modern Russia has never seen such a failure of foreign policy analytics and intelligence.
This failure came as a complete surprise to the Kremlin. No one could have foreseen such a failure, although given the level of corruption and the clan system of governance in Russia and Ukraine, such a failure, as well as a similar failure in the future, could not be and still cannot be ruled out. However, it required a number of extremely negative factors to come together to persuade Putin to take the decision on the military special operation “Pounce of Mongoose”…
Ukraine was heading into a full-blown economic crisis. The population was getting poorer, the economy was falling. From the most prosperous and economically developed republic of the USSR, Ukraine turned into the poorest and most corrupt state in Europe, which was kept from falling into the abyss of social and political crisis only by the remnants of economic ties with Russia, primarily supplies of electricity, fuel, coal and energy from Russia and Belarus, by money transfers from millions of Ukrainians who emigrated to Europe and Russia, and by loans from international financial institutions.
The rating of the Ukrainian President Zelensky was falling. According to a closed public opinion poll conducted just before the start of the Russian special operation, the number of supporters of Zelensky in Ukraine fell to 25%, while more than 40% of Ukrainians had a positive attitude towards Russian President Putin. That poll didn’t account several million Ukrainian citizens who moved to live in Russia, several million residents of Crimea and the separatist republics of Donbass, as well as millions of Ukrainians who had emigrated to the West. Most of them hated the Zelensky regime.
Ukraine was all in debt, and the payments that had to be paid for the debts increased every year. Zelensky and his team had neither opportunity, nor experience, knowledge, or ability to break out of the vicious circle of the economic crisis and social collapse. More, the global financial and economic crisis was approaching.
The only area in which Ukraine gained strength and developed was military, its armed forces and defense. It was the defense capabilities where the West really supported Kyiv. Starting in 2007, the West has been supplying weapons to Ukraine, training its military personnel, developing and equipping special services, including the SBU and military intelligence, as well as helping to build capacity in the field of propaganda and information war based on the ideology of radical anti-Russian nationalism.
In this situation, in order to return Ukraine to Russian control, squeeze the West out of the military, economic and public spheres and to change the ideology on the territory of Ukraine, Moscow, no matter how cynical it may sound, had to generate and use economic collapse within Ukraine, to create a new political crisis and another Maidan, followed by taking over of Ukraine by the armies of the pro-Russian republics of Donbass to bring pro-Russian politicians to power, and then return stability, order and prosperity to Ukraine. This is exactly what I thought Putin and his group in the Kremlin would most likely do.
However, there were difficulties in implementing that plan, and those difficulties did not allow the Kremlin to choose the course of action that could allow to avoid direct military intervention by Russia in Ukraine.
Special operation born of betrayal, corruption and deceit
The main problem for the Russian ruling elites was that the cessation of supplies of electricity, coal, oil and fuel, as well as industrial products and other goods necessary for Ukraine, as well as the economic crisis and chaos in Ukraine, could inevitably deliver a blow to the interests of influential groups and clans in Russia, as well as to the Ukrainian clans and groups associated with Russia. Those clans that received and shared profits from supplies to Ukraine and controlled a vast share in the Ukrainian economy, made up the “fifth column” that pushed the Kremlin into the funnel of a military special operation.
The strength and influence of this Russian-Ukrainian «fifth column» can be judged by the list of Ukrainian companies, real estate and businesses owned by the leaders of Russian political parties, bank and corporate owners, and top Russian officials. It is enough to look at that list to understand who initiated the «pounce of mongoose into the abyss.»
Making money is the main goal and moral value of the current political and business elites in the post-Soviet states, including Russia and Ukraine. Greed, moral and intellectual inferiority of many of them are irresistible. The Ukrainian-Russian clans took under control all ties between two countries, including intelligence, political contacts, research and analysis, worked out and presented to Putin a plan that could, in their opinion, allow them to save their profits, contracts, cash flows and to get Ukraine back under control by Moscow, while retaining the current ruling Ukrainian elites, who have been fed at the expense of Russia for decades. The fact that these elites had long been deeply integrated into Western financial and business structures, and were inevitably under the strict control of the Ukrainian special services, did not frighten the Russian «fifth column», because the Ukrainian secret services had always been considered as branches of the Russian intelligence. However, the time has changed.
By the way, some of the leaders of that “fifth column” have now got out on Russian TV channels defending the “special operation”, “our commander in chief, who did everything right”, cursing the West and its sanctions.
New unification of “Russian Lands”
However, it should be recognized that the Zelensky regime created three serious threats for Russia that Moscow had to eliminate as soon as possible.
The first threat was that Ukraine had already turned into the US and NATO military foothold. Over time, as the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense believed, military bases would inevitably be created in Ukraine, strike missile systems would be installed, including hypersonic missiles that have been rapidly developing by the United States. That created unacceptable strategic threats to Russia. Moscow had little time left. It was necessary for Putin to act.
The second threat was the growth of anti-Russian nationalism in Ukraine that spurred anti-Russian sentiment in all other countries that were once part of the USSR. Ukrainian nationalism undermined the authority of the Kremlin and stimulated the further disintegration of the civilization that was once called the «Russian world» and then the «Soviet world.»
After the rejection of communism, in the absence of any other state ideology in the countries of the post-Soviet space, nationalism became the only ideological basis in all the states of the former USSR without exception. The development of radical anti-Russian nationalism in Ukraine and strengthening of Ukraine as a state, especially from military point of view, would inevitably lead to the unification of all post-Soviet countries against Russia, as has already happened with the Baltic countries, Moldova and nearly succeeded in Belarus.
The third threat was that in the event of successful economic and political development of pro-Western and anti-Russian Ukraine, Kyiv could become a “second Moscow”. Kiev could begin the process of gathering Russian lands around itself in the same way as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia, which included most of the territories of modern Ukraine and Belarus, tried to do in the 13th — 16th centuries.
Then the struggle for dominance in Eastern Europe and for the legacy of the Great Horde was won by the Moscow Principality. In 1380, with the victory in the Battle of Kulikovo over the army of the Horde, Moscow declared itself as the rising center for collecting Russian lands. This process was especially intensified under Ivan III in the 15th century, when Muscovite Russia finally freed itself from its nominal dependence on the disintegrated Horde and became the main candidate for the inheritance of the largest empire in the history of the world. It was during this period that the aggravation of rivalry between the Moscow Principality and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia for the role of the center of Russian civilization began. This struggle ended with the victory of Moscow and the creation of the Russian Empire, and then the USSR.
Now, in a period of the post-Soviet weakening of Russia by anti-patriotism, clannishness and corruption of the elites, Ukraine received a chance to become a new center of the Russian world. With the support of the West, Ukraine presented alternative option of development of the post-Soviet new Great Russia and received a chance, albeit a ghostly, to become the center of unification of the new Russian civilization.
The trouble with Ukraine is that as an ideological alternative, instead of the rational nationalism of modern Russia, Kyiv can offer only the radical nationalism of Western Ukraine, extremely militant, born under oppression, with militarized morality based and subordinated to the fight against the “Vorog” — «Enemy», no matter who the enemy is.
For the traditional Russian mentality, the Ukrainian version of nationalism is unacceptable. For other nations that received statehood after the collapse of the USSR, Ukrainian nationalism causes fear and alertness even among local nationalists. The elites of the former Soviet republics understand that the Russian world, headed by radical nationalists who came from the West of Ukraine, will pose incomparably greater threats to them than the current Russian elites.
The West does not yet see a threat in Ukrainian nationalism. Washington, London, Berlin and Brussels do not understand that they are turning Europe into a semblance of the Middle East, and the Christian and liberal world into the zone of action of “new East European al-Qaeda”, which may rise on the remains of “Azov”, “Trident”, “Right Sector» and other radical “regiments” that will receive heroization during the war with Russia.
Moscow could fight all these threats by demonstrating success in development of modern Russia, in creation of a state with socio-political and economic system based on traditions, moral values and mentality of the civilization that existed on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the USSR, its peoples, and at the same time that meet the requirements and challengers of the modern scientific and economic revolution, based on humanism and real democracy.
However, the current Russian elites cannot develop and present that kind of state model, or at least an idea of the future that is capable of attracting peoples and elites in the post-Soviet states. Unfortunately, Russian elites can’t import such ideas from the West or China also. Starting from the late 1970s, the political and scientific elites in the USSR, and then in the post-Soviet space, became accustomed to «grab» like fish concepts and fetishes that were hooked on and thrown at them as «fashion» ideas by Western elites who were exporting ideas as a commodity, as fashion brands. Apart from ideological «Guccis», Russian state ideologists, politicians and propagandists knew nothing. All that led to the fact that in the Kremlin, despite the demand and obvious attempts to create something or to find ideas and adapt them to Russian realities, the ruling elites could not get anything worthy in the field of ideology.
The current socio-political model that has been created and now operates in Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan, as well as in all other post-Soviet states, is based on pragmatism in politics and nationalism in ideology. Moscow could not offer anything else or new to other countries of the Russian world.
That is why, not being able to attract and lead, in order to return Ukraine under control, Russia had only the option of coercion.
Two mistakes of the Kremlin
The first mistake was the invasion in Ukraine. No matter how Moscow tried to cover it up with “enemy plans”, no matter what explanations it gave, even truthful ones, in the eyes of the world community, Russia became and declared itself an aggressor, with all consequences.
Let me remind that Stalin had dozens of intelligence reports that Hitler was planning an attack on the USSR in June 1941. Stalin had doubts, and these doubts had real grounds. In particular, Germany did not start the production of winter uniforms for military personnel. More, Germany also did not start the production of fuel necessary for combat operations in the conditions of the Russian winter.
For any Russian, it was hard to imagine that Hitler intended and planned to end the war before winter. Even if German troops captured Moscow by winter 1941, it was impossible to imagine that the Soviet Union, Stalin would agree to stop the war or even start thinking about a truce.
Stalin knew that Hitler specifically studied the history of Napoleon’s campaign in Russia in 1812. Hitler studied Napoleon’s mistakes so as not to repeat them. How could one imagine that Russia would sit down at the negotiation table in the fall of 1941, knowing that Napoleon had received a proposal from Russian tsar for peace negotiations in the very first days of the war, and when Napoleon, laughing, refused, the Russian general, who came to Napoleon with a proposal to make peace, said to the Frenchman: «Emperor, you missed your last chance.» A month later, and then repeatedly, Napoleon himself offered the Russians to start peace negotiations. No one spoke to Napoleon again. And Hitler knew about it…
However, it was not these doubts about the correctness of the reports that determined Stalin’s decision to abandon the preliminary strike. It was not these doubts that became the reason for Stalin’s orders to avoid any military clashes with German troops, or to give a reason to be accused of provocation or assault. The main reason was that Stalin did not want and could not afford to look like an aggressor. Stalin could not allow the USSR to look like an aggressor in the eyes of the world community.
Stalin knew about the decision of the United States in the event of a direct military conflict between the USSR and Germany to support the side that would be the victim of aggression. Stalin knew that the United States and Great Britain would support the USSR only if Hitler attacked the USSR, but if the Soviet Union looked like an aggressor, then no one would support Moscow. Moreover, the United States and Great Britain, would support Germany and drag out the war, bringing Berlin and Moscow to exhaustion. Hitler also knew about position of Washington and London, Hitler also wanted Germany to look like a victim of aggression by the USSR. Hitler’s problem was that he had little time, and Stalin had time …
Putin has become anti-Stalin. He did not understand how important it was not to be an aggressor, but a victim of aggression. Deceived by intelligence agencies, analysts, advisers and the “fifth column”, he decided that a quiet operation, similar to the one carried out in Crimea in 2014, would bring the Ukrainian public to come out with Russian banners to meet Russian troops and allow everything to be presented as an act of support and liberation of the Ukrainian people from the “Zelensky gang”, but not aggression.
Putin was deceived, and he did not even understand it. He did not understand what happened, because a month later he made a second mistake: he again believed in a deception and withdrew troops from the territories of the Kiev, Chernihiv and Sumy regions. He has done what is absolutely impossible to do in any war.
Although, there were hints in Moscow that the withdrawal of troops had an explanation and that the Russian troops were forced to withdraw because Ukrainian and Western intelligence services lured Russian troops into the areas, including Chernobyl nuclear power station, in order to carry out a large-scale provocation to accuse Russia of using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The provocation had been prepared long in advance, and what could and should have happened on the territory controlled by Russian troops would have surpassed Bucha in consequences many times over.
Putin was forced to remove troops in order to reduce the scale of possible disaster, but he still allowed the Russian army and himself to be presented not only as an aggressor, but also as war criminal, murderer, guilty of genocide, massacres and inhumanity. He allowed to stick to himself and Russia all the dead bodies not only in Bucha, but beyond Bucha wherever the Russian troops left, and then also where the Russian troops remained.
What are the consequences of the Kremlin’s mistakes?
Officially, the military special operation continues, its second stage has begun. However, everyone understands that this is no longer a «pounce», but a large-scale and protracted war, the victims of which will be hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians. The number of refugees to Europe may exceed 20 million. This war will lead to the destruction of dozens of cities and towns. It has already led to the destruction of the great Soviet heritage, the military industrial complex of Soviet Ukraine.
The Russian high command and its diplomats have acknowledged that the operation is no longer limited to the Donbass. Russian troops at the second stage of the “special operation” will occupy and liquidate the current regime not only in Donbass, but throughout Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The entire Black Sea coast will be under the control of Russia, from Moldova and Transnistria to…
So, this may mean that Russia will not stop at the second stage, and there will be the third stage…
Why did “Moskva” sink?
The fighting in Ukraine has already taken the form of a large-scale war, although not declared by any of the participants, and it still retains some organizational forms of a special operation, limited in terms of territory, scale, types of weapons and methods of warfare, legislation restrains, as well as functions and tasks assigned to certain state military and civil structures involved in the war.
In Russia, the transformation of special operation into full-scale war is moving forward, though rather slowly. This creates contradictions between the forms of the special operation and the requirements of a large-scale war.
These contradictions can be used and are used by opponents, who use any chance to cause military damage to Russia or its image. Unfortunately, all participants in the war in Ukraine do not show the ability to calculate and foresee the consequences of their actions that are pushing Russia, Ukraine and the West to fall into «circles of Hell».
What happened to the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser “Moskva”?
The cruiser «Moskva», to some extent, has become a symbol of the late USSR and modern Russia. The Soviet missile cruiser, which at the time of its creation bore the name «Slava» (“Glory”), was commissioned and put into service forty years ago in the city of Nikolaev, the Soviet Ukraine. At the time of the collapse of the USSR, the cruiser «Slava» was already standing under overhaul in her hometown of Nikolaev.
The Soviet Black Sea fleet refused to fulfil the order to be transferred to Ukraine and remained the Russian fleet stationed in Sevastopol, Crimea. However, Nikolaev became the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.
“Slava” stood for 10 years in Mikolaiv due to lack of funding. There was a discussion about decommissioning the cruiser, but the command of the Black Sea Fleet, desperate to find support in the Ministry of Defense and the Russian government that was busy with privatization of Soviet property, turned to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov with a request to help finance the overhaul and modernization of the ship from the Moscow city budget. Luzhkov arrived in the Ukrainian Crimea, where the Russian Black Sea fleet was stationed according to the agreement signed between Russia and Ukraine, and was greeted as a hero. Luzhkov promised necessary funding, and the cruiser was renamed “Moskva”.
Luzhkov partially kept his word, the capital of Russia allocated funding and saved the cruiser. Political propaganda campaign was launched around this (Luzhkov had presidential ambitions at that time), but the funding was not enough to pay the debts to the Ukrainian shipyard. As a result, in order to pay debts, the command of the Black Sea Fleet decided to pay debts with equipment and weapons, including the armament of the cruiser, in particular, shipborne automatic artillery units. At that time, the Ukrainian leadership had plans to build its own cruisers… or pretended to have such plans. Ukrainian cruisers were not built, and Russian «mechanisms» and weapons, including the cruiser automatic artillery units, were sold somewhere…
In 2017, the cruiser «Moskva» again stood up for a major overhaul. Moreover, the Ministry of Defense considered termination of operation of the cruiser due to lack of funds for modernization. By that time, Russia concentrated on design and production, in addition to submarines and landing ships, of less expensive frigates, corvettes that were to carry medium-range strategic missiles, cruise and hypersonic missiles.
The cruiser “Moskva” was left at the pier until funds were allocated to repair its engine and to replace electric generators and cables. Moscow decided to revive the shipyard in the city of Sevastopol after twenty-five years of devastation under joint Ukrainian-Russian management, and the cruiser “Moskva” has become the first major Russian battleship to be repaired in the Sevastopol shipyard. In 2020, after three years of repair work, the cruiser “Moskva” went on military mission to the Mediterranean…
What happened to the cruiser less than a hundred kilometers from the Ukrainian and Romanian coasts? What did the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet do so close to the enemy shores during the war, let it be called “the special operation”?
Did the fire start in the compartments where the engine or electric generators had been installed in the shipyard of Sevastopol?
Or, the Ukrainians attacked the cruiser with their Neptune missiles that no one saw, except in the cartoon film presentation, and that no one will definitely see, since the plant that created these missiles was destroyed by Russian missile attack the next day after the sinking of the cruiser…
Or, it was a sabotage by the Ukrainian «fur seals», who retained some traditions of the glorious Soviet combat divers. By the way, two of these «seals» were killed a few days before sinking of the cruiser. They were killed on the Russian occupied territory, wearing the uniform of Russian officers and transporting the US-made explosives…
Was it a sabotage organized by Western «fur seals»?…
Or, as some retired Russian generals and marshals said in Russian internet, these were the Norwegian rockets NSM, the modern anti-ship missiles, used to strike “Moskva”. NSM rockets are stealth and during the storm could fly at low altitude above the waves that hid its flight, so that they could hit the cruiser. The Norwegian rockets have very small range of flight, but here comes the question: why was the cruiser “Moskva” stationed for a long time so close to the Ukrainian and Romanian coasts?
The Russian experts, who come with that version of the events, stressed that if NSM rockets had been used, only NATO military personnel could have carried out the strike. That means a direct NATO attack on the flagship of the Russian fleet …
So far, the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense remain silent on the reasons for the sinking of the cruiser, except for the first report of a fire on the cruiser, but the Russian public is getting angry and desperately demands an official report on the investigation of the tragedy, and if NATO’s guilt is suddenly confirmed, the Kremlin has to respond…
In any case, the fate of “Moskva” sends signal that the war is going out of control, and the world can soon again see consequences that no one expect…