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I did not expect Russia to invade Ukraine. I was quite definite about it several times: “Russia will not invade Ukraine” I said. I envisaged several possibilities but nothing like what we have seen in the last weeks. My argument was based on the assumption that Moscow did not want to take ownership of, in Åslund’s words, “the poorest country in Europe“. I still do not think that it does – I believe that Moscow wants a neutral and de-nazified Ukraine that is a buffer between it and NATO. I am also coming to believe that Novorossiya, more or less in its historical borders as formed by Katherine when recovered from the Ottomans, will be independent. The chance that it would remain part of Ukraine has probably passed. As I wrote in 2014 “In short, the West broke Ukraine, it now owns it. Or, to put it more precisely, it owns that part that Moscow doesn’t want. And what part that is is entirely up to Moscow to choose“. Moscow is choosing now.

So why was I wrong? What did I miss?

I believe I missed three things – two I didn’t know about and one that I did but did not properly weigh. These are: the nuclear weapons issue, the planned strike on LDNR and the biolabs.

At the Munich Conference, Ukraine President Zelensky alluded to the possibility that Ukraine might make nuclear weapons. There is a widespread belief that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons after the breakup of the USSR but that is nonsense. Yes, some of the USSR’s nuclear weapons were based in the Ukrainian SSR, but they were no more under Kiev’s control than the American ICBMs in Montana are controlled by the state government in Helena. The West was delighted when Moscow undertook responsibility for the USSR’s nuclear weapons just as it was delighted when Moscow undertook to give Russian citizenship to any Soviet citizen left over, to move all USSR weapons and troops out of Eastern Europe and take on the USSR’s debts. Imagine if Moscow had said that it would only take on the RSFSR’s share (about half) of these things and Moldova, for example, should be responsible for its share. It was later that Moscow’s acceptance was re-purposed into accusations – we (and I well remember it) were very relieved at the time: no abandoned nuclear bombs or missiles, leftover weapons, ownerless armed soldiers, unpaid debts, people without citizenship. So Ukraine never “had” nuclear weapons. But Zelensky’s raising the possibility was seen in Moscow as a real threat: if not a fully functioning nuclear weapon, then surely a dirty bomb could have been constructed – there’s plenty of radioactive material at Chernobyl after all and Ukraine inherited a stock of Tochka missiles. So that was a factor. Whether Azarov’s assertion that NATO was actually planning such a thing is true or not, Moscow could not afford the possibility. Putin himself mentioned this as a factor.

The second reason for the attack was the assessment– and some documents have been said to have been discovered – that Kiev was planning an assault on LDNR in March. Definite proof has not yet surfaced but the fact that the bulk of the Ukraine Armed Forces were positioned to attack LDNR rather than to defend Ukraine’s borders is suggestive. Observing this, Moscow evidently decided on a pre-emptive strike. Putin has mentioned this as a factor.

I knew there were a large number of US biolabs around the world – indeed the whole world is now aware of the one in Wuhan and I think I was generally aware that there were some in Ukraine. In this respect the investigative reporting of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is essential reading. A “conspiracy theory” only a week or so ago, none other than Nuland herself has admitted their existence. The story has therefore morphed from conspiracy theory, through a few benign labs to the Russians might make an attack with dangerous materials from them. I remembered the revelation some years ago that the US military had been collecting DNA samples of Russians. But I didn’t put these fragments together. How big an issue this actually was we should find out: documents are said to have been captured. Putin has referred to this issue.

So there are three reasons for an attack now: a pre-emptive attack to stop the possibility of nuclear or biological attacks and to protect LDNR. It is now evident that the “ultimatum” was a last chance: had Washington, the actual power behind the scenes, seriously addressed Moscow’s concerns – NATO membership for Ukraine and forcing Kiev to follow the Minsk Agreements – there would be no war today. Moscow evidently decided on Plan B sometime towards the end of 2021 and began preparations.

Then, as the war progressed, I forgot Clausewitz’ famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means and over-estimated the speed of developments. At the start, Putin put out the aims: de-nazification, disarming and no NATO. The first to be accomplished by killing them and by trials and exposure of the survivors, the second aim is mostly completed and the third has not yet happened (although Zelensky periodically hints at it). These aims can be achieved by violence or by negotiation (aided by violence – the “other means”). The Russian operation will continue until all three are accomplished. I do not foresee Russian troops advancing much into Western Ukraine: let NATO, Poland especially, have the joy of dealing with Galicia.

But, at the end of the day, there will still be something called Ukraine and plenty of Ukrainians next door to Russia. Moscow prefers that these Ukrainians not hate them and that requires careful and cautious movement and the least number of widows and orphans. Therefore, the first week was fast moving but since then there have been many pauses for talks – without much result as far as we know – pauses for humanitarian corridors and local ceasefires. As Colonel Macgregor says, the Russians are trying to minimise civilian casualties.

Russian forces have a good deal of experience in this sort of thing from Syria and we see the slow encirclement of cities and military deployments always with exit routes to allow civilians (and combatants who have lost their will to fight) to get out of the way. The Chechens in particular are skilled at this. (And not least because of their experience of fighting Russia in the First Chechen War. And who would have expected that turn of events?) Larry Johnson puts Russia’s advances in context here.

Therefore the military operation is in service to the politics and is slower than it would be if only destruction were the aim.

(Republished from Russia Observer by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Bioweapons, NATO, Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. Bemildred says:

    I don’t believe you got anything wrong, the situation changed. Situations do that.

    But it is always the right thing to acknowledge a change when it happens, so you’ve done that too now.

    • Replies: @follyofwar
  2. BuelahMan says:

    Translation of text:

    I got it wrong over and over again, but trust me, I got it right this time.

    • Replies: @HallParvey
  3. anonymous[139] • Disclaimer says:

    American policy is to get as many Ukrainians and Russians killed as possible. This is to create lingering bad feelings and to hopefully undermine Putin domestically. This is the most cynical and inhuman policy possible. The western media and all its cheerleaders are engaged in a disgusting blood sport as though they’re in a Roman coliseum, screaming for more blood. The puppet government is just getting their citizens killed for no benefit to the country but going according to the script given them by the US. Zelensky’s speeches might even be getting written by US agents.
    The nuclear weapons were just stationed there and were not of Ukrainian origin. Can you imagine the insane reckless regime there having control over such things?
    Coverage of the various wars is glaringly different. With Iraq it was all rah rah, Shock&Awe, the camel jockeys are crumbling before the mighty Americans, and so on. Now it’s different as they emphasize the ugliness of war. The US has been at war almost continually yet wags its finger at others. This entire mess has been engineered by the US. More dead people, more ruined countries thanks to the US.

  4. likewise. Haxo expected Putin to wait until late spring or early summer,

    when Russian AFV’s could get off the roads w/o getting bogged.

    gotta disagree re his so far botched little war tho. The situation

    demanded a blitzkrieg: intitial pulse weapon to paralyze Uke C&C,

    then a 72-hour Uncle Schmuel-style Shock and Awe aerial blast

    to knock out all Uke military AND government facilities, and then

    a land invasion with his entire Southern Military District, c. 500,000 troops.

    Instead, due to insufficient force clumsily applied, it’s now a sitzkrieg . And

    that just gives the transnational ZOG more time to muddy the waters and escalate.

  5. @Bemildred

    I generally read every one of Paul Craig Roberts’ columns. He has been writing ever since the 2014 coup of Ukraine’s legally elected pro-Russia government, that what is occurring today was bound to happen, mostly due to Putin’s passivity in not putting down the CIA-orchestrated plot in its infancy and allowing the Donbass to be shelled by the Azov Battalion for 8 long years, resulting in thousands of deaths in the breakaway republics. I think PCR had it right from the beginning.

    As Machiavelli wrote centuries ago: “There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed TO THE ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS.”

    • Replies: @Bemildred
  6. i did not think they would invade either. There was no reason to do so – none. They had made their point. The parties had backed away from the NATO issue. After years of demonstrating some very astute foreign diplomacy, I thought it unlikely, at best that Pres Putin would do any such thing.

    I was surprised and disappointed. And disappointment turned to something else as I listened to the rationale for war — which given the circumstances made no sense. And worse suggested — very clearly, that this was only the beginig.

    In my view, the US, NATO and the EU had no choice but to respond in like manner — tanks rolling. I still believe that despite the so called clarification of the goals and rationale = which still serves no justification for war.

    The cat as they say is out of the bag and the US had better get ready fi not ready for a conflict.

    Biolab — around the world . . . biolabs that used to belong to the Russians in the Ukraine, transformed by the Ukrainians and the US as new biolabs — shocking I say shocking save its not.
    Apparently counties around the glove are running biolabs for various reasons.

    Try all of the gymnastics you’d like — what actions a sovereign state engaes for its defense is their business. There was no imminent attack against the Russians. No plans for a missile attack . . . no evidence supports your speculations, but we are entering a period of new policies for war justification based on how one feels might happen in some distant future.

    All of Russia’s suspicions are not a justification for invasion of a sovereign state, including here desires for an old way of life, which upon examination was not much than a burden on her finances and resources. She needlessly changed the nature of the debate and should answered in kind.

    And the very idea that she would suggest nuclear war — is cause enough to warrant more than sanctions, in fact, the US could lift sanctions altogether and still respond in kind.

  7. Bemildred says:

    I think Mr. Roberts is a bit over the top at times. I have to admire his spirit though.

    I will pass on whether this was inevitable or not, but one can certainly say that a lot of people have worked hard to make it happen.

    Time and chance happen to us all, as they say. Perfectly sensible predictions fail all the time. Sometimes you can see trouble coming, but can’t predict what form it will take.

    I am somewhat reluctant to make predictions, for that reason.

  8. anonymous[261] • Disclaimer says:

    US development and use of banned biological weapons has been a suppurating pustule for 20 years.

    A later tranche of curated evidence from Ukraine shows clear offensive intent:

    And this impounded evidence, already probative at the ICJ or ICC, is just the tip of the iceberg. The world consensus is that US impunity makes its command structure hostis humani generis and a threat to the earth itself.

    CIA was going to provoke Russia until it triggered armed conflict, but it was their banned biological weapons that did the trick.

    • Thanks: Ann Nonny Mouse
  9. anon[966] • Disclaimer says:

    Anyway, the big question is, Who will suffer for Langley’s public humiliation?

    The world has seen NATO not fought, not beaten, but flicked away like a gnat. Eight billion people have seen the Petrodollar shitcanned and the reserve currency forked. This is beyond defeat. This is national irrelevance. This is Suez plus Waterloo plus Aegospotami plus Hitler and Eva eating a gun in the bunker after one last big wet love dump right on the forelock.

    Who will pay?
    – current presidential figurehead Biden?
    – the Pentagon? (CIA would need to fake up new Pentagon papers)
    – a new foreign devil? (someone the USA could fight, like Eswatini)
    – Burns goes for a midnight paddle?

  10. Bemildred says:

    anon[966] • Disclaimer says:
    March 20, 2022 at 1:17 am GMT • 100 Words

    We are all going to pay, just like always. Thinking that the sort of low-level skulduggery the spooks indulge in was going to result in global domination, well that was always a stupid idea. It’s been tried many times now. We used to know our limitations better.

    All those biology labs too, all around Russia & China, looking hard for another super-weapon, now that everybody has nukes too, or can get them.

    Maybe we should aim lower and just try to govern the USA well. That will be pay better, in the long run.

  11. @BuelahMan

    Predicting the future with accuracy is restricted to those prophets who are sensible enough to not be too specific. It’s easy to predict the end of the world when you don’t have to specify a date and hour. And then there is always equivocation.

    I predict that in the next 36,500 days we will all be dead. It’s entirely possible that I might be wrong, but not likely.

  12. anon[309] • Disclaimer says:

    Larry Johnson also points out another crucial component of the police action: swatting illegal NATO combatants like flies. With hypersonic missiles they can’t match.

    More NATO tank parades can’t conceal this humiliation. The US can’t do jack shit in response and the whole world knows it. All that remains is for Americans to hang these beltway fuckers upside down like Mussolini.

    • Thanks: nokangaroos
  13. When you have no idea about something, the best thing to do is not to talk about it. Not pretend to be some expert. And then try to make up excuses why you did not know what you did not know. Next time stick to something you have an understanding of and leave Russia and China to the real experts who know about things there.

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