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Why the Ukraine War is not actually a stalemate

A useful perspective for people who just read headlines.

12 comments to Why the Ukraine War is not actually a stalemate

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Thanks for posting this Perry, because I have been getting depressed about the Ukraine situation, but as always, the key is to get away from sources such as the BBC, etc, assuming they can be arsed to cover the war in any detail at all.

  • Kirk

    Let’s get something straight, here: Wars do not end or go into “stalemate mode” because of facts on the ground. They end or stalemate because of events taking place in the minds of the commanders or the soldiers fighting them.

    So long as Putin and his minions are convinced they can win, somehow, the war will go on. And, on. Doesn’t matter how many dead Russians there are on Ukrainian territory; so long as Putin is going to fight, they’re going to be there. And, until his people decide they’re done listening to him…? They’re going to keep right on following his orders, no matter how irrational or how many of them are dying to no purpose.

    Most people don’t understand this crap; they think wars are rational acts conducted by rational actors. They’re not, in all too many cases. In this situation, you have to think of Russia as the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: They’re convinced they can win, and won’t give up until Russia is a metaphoric head and torso, screaming imprecations at the world.

    It’s insane, but there you are. Until the Russian public gets tired of it all, and then does the same thing they did at the end of the Brusilov Offensive, this madness will continue, the dying will continue, and the whole of eastern Ukraine will continue to be a charnel house. Because, that’s what the madman wants.

    The amount of money that’s been wasted by Russia on this endeavor in no way even begins to be worth the supposed “gains”. End of the day, every one of those broken heating systems in all those apartment complexes across Russia went to pay for the munitions they’ve been flinging into Ukraine, and the corresponding damage to Russian standards of living will linger on for decades to come. You don’t just casually let a water-based heating system freeze solid, and expect to not have to replace every single component due to freeze damage. One of the fascinating things I observed in all those videos showing all the damage is that I don’t see any sort of provision for freezing, at all… Nobody ever planned on this happening, so zero design features to mitigate or lessen the damages of freezing. End state? Billions of dollars to make those apartment buildings habitable, again. Where’s the money coming from, when they’ve put it all into “strategic” missiles they’ve fired at Ukrainian targets?

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    You are right on that score, Kirk. Before WW1, an economist wrote a book explaining that a major war between European powers was impossible, because all the powers were entangled economically, and it would be irrational to go to war. But people aren’t always rational.

  • Kirk

    There’s a quote out there that goes “Defeat is an event that occurs only in the mind of the defeated…”, and there’s a lot of truth to that. The object of any war is to convince the enemy that they’re defeated; if you can do that by slapping them across the face? That’s all you have to do. If, on the other hand, you have to kill twenty or thirty percent of their population and destroy every building and bit of infrastructure in the country…? That may be the only way to get them to stop fighting.

    It’s all a mental thing, and that’s a point that a lot of people forget… Both inside and outside the military. If you examine a lot of the campaigns of the past, and the strategies behind them, what you’ll often find is sheer delusional thinking on the part of the involved idiots. It goes both ways; the Japanese thought that if they were to knock out the US fleet at Pearly Harbor, then that would cow the US into wanting peace. They didn’t think it through, and projected what they wanted to have happen onto their planning, as opposed to what would (predictably…) happen. I mean, OK, fine… A coup-de-main attack on Port Arthur opened up the Russo-Japanese War, but did it work, in terms of getting the Russians to stop fighting? Even casual analysis would tell you that, no, it did not: It merely motivated them to fight harder. So… Why the hell would you do the same thing with Pearl Harbor? Even if the Japanese diplomats had managed to get a declaration of war to the US state department in Washington DC, the speed with which the attack would have followed that would have likely produced the same reaction in the American public. Again, counter-productive to the actual war aims…

    The armies, the weapons, the territories…? They’re only important inasmuch as they influence the mind of the commanders, the decision-makers. If taking the outer rim of the Japanese island defensive chains in the Pacific had been enough to convince the Japanese leadership that they could not win, the war would have ended there. It didn’t, so the war went on until Japan was pretty much wrecked, at which point the leadership said “Oh… OK, we get the point: We lost.”

    Likewise, when you’re dealing with someone whose warmaking idiocy is on the level of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail…? Yeah; good luck with that. The stupid sumbitch might actually “win” through some combination of you getting tired of killing him, or wearing you out. See, for historical example, Paraguay…

    Ain’t none of this rational or sane.

  • Paul Marks

    Russia has certainly not brought its full force to bear – so far (things may have changed while I type these words) Russia has used none of the thousands of nuclear weapons that it has – unlike the United States in 1945. Ukraine has no nuclear weapons to use – perhaps very unwisely, Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons in return for paper promises.

    But even if we ignore nuclear weapons, Russia has certainly not used its conventional strengths well. Mr Putin is a useless incompetent – he could have crushed pro Western forces in Ukraine in 2014 (when the pro Russian government was overthrown), but he just took (or retook) Crimea (not even properly securing the land route to it) – allowing seven years (2014 to 2021) for the Ukrainian armed forces to be built up and trained – whilst he allowed Russian forces to stay with military training and tactical doctrines that were last updated in the 1940s.

    Mr Putin’s invasion plan of 2021 (and it was very much his personal invasion plan) showed him to have no grasp of military matters – dropping lightly armed airborne troops in towards Kiev (where they would be outnumbered by forces with much heavier equipment), whilst the armoured Russian units (very vulnerable to anti tank weapons) crawled up narrow roads – perhaps Mr Putin has never seen the film “A Bridge Too Far”.

    When a Russian commander shows independent thinking, Mr Putin (perhaps because he so useless himself) feels threatened, either has the man moved, or just murdered (as with the mercenary commander who died when his aircraft was “accidentally” shot down near Moscow).

    Russia may still win the war, I do not know, but it will be in-spite-of Mr Putin – not because of him.

    Russia needs new leadership.

  • Snorri Godhi


    If you examine a lot of the campaigns of the past, and the strategies behind them, what you’ll often find is sheer delusional thinking on the part of the involved idiots. It goes both ways; the Japanese thought that if they were to knock out the US fleet at Pearly Harbor, then that would cow the US into wanting peace. They didn’t think it through, and projected what they wanted to have happen onto their planning, as opposed to what would (predictably…) happen.

    This is pretty close to what i mean when i say that the fundamental divide in politics is not between “”the left”” and “”the right””, but between the Machiavellians and the insane.
    (Another way of expressing that is: there are people who understand that other people respond to incentives, and people who don’t.)

    But you can do much worse than Putin.
    For instance, terrorism, if understood as a strategy of random violence against a stronger power, which cannot be beaten by conventional warfare, is almost certain to lead to collective punishment. And yet people still advocate terrorism — even at the Ivy League!
    Which makes me think that the people most impervious to the logic of incentives, in the whole of human history, are the Woke.

  • Paul Marks

    Will Western governments continue to fund Ukraine? Most likely YES. Whether the voters support this policy I do not know – but voters do not make policy anyway (and neither do the people they elect).

    Also Western governments spend money like drunken sailors – if they were not spending on Ukraine, they would just send more money as aid to Yemen or some other place where the population hate Westerners (news flash for Mr Putin – they may say they are your friends now, but you are still a Russian infidel to them, no different from an Englishman or any other infidel – they would like to pop your eyeballs between their teeth), or we would just blow the money on “Net Zero” or another “pandemic lockdown”.

    The “money” is created from nothing (nothing at all) – so Western governments and Corporations (the Cantillon Effect Davos crowd) do not care how much “money” they spend or what they spend it on.

    Anyone who has looked at the Truth in Accounting website knows the fiscal position is as hopeless as the cultural (societal) position.

    If Ukraine ever becomes an independent country at peace I hope they do NOT copy our economic or cultural model.

    And our model is the RUSSIAN model as well.

    Mr Putin is no conservative – in terms of abortion Russia is New York (and most people live in housing blocks – much like those of Chicago, the crime filled slums in the sky that the Democrats built in Chicago), and the Ruble is not gold and it is not silver – like our “money” the Ruble is nothing, nothing at all (just like the Dollar or the Pound, the Ruble is a scam- which benefits the Connected at the expense of everyone else).

  • Kirk

    Russia has “needed new leadership” since the times of the Tsars… None of them really answered the mail, in terms of what Russia and Russians really needed.

    But, bizarrely enough, the leadership they got is mostly the leadership they wanted. The Russian psyche is not comfortable with anything other than the schizoid relationship they have with men like Stalin or any of the other “strong man on horse” that they consistently elevate to unquestionable god-like power and prestige. The continual note of the “Little Father” idea is amazing; Russians literally believe that all the abuse heaped upon them is because of the mid-level types, and that if only the Tsar, or Stalin, or Putin knew about it, he’d lovingly put an end to it and punish the abusers.

    This mentality is tragically imbedded in the Russian psyche, and they have a hell of a time breaking out of it. I’ve met Russians whose families were deported to Siberia under Stalin for make-believe charges, and they’re still saying that Stalin was a wonderful guy, that the whole thing was a mistake made by bad men working for him…

    Russia has a major co-dependency problem with its abusive leaders; it’s like a national Stockholm Syndrome writ across their history. Someone like Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great abuses the crap out of them all, and they just love it. They get even a half-ass reformer like Alexander II come in? He’s assassinated, and barely remembered. Stalin? Great guy; forget any of the other Communist leaders that didn’t herd millions into death camps, it’s all Stalin, all the time. Despite the fact that he blundered the Soviet Union into WWII at a horrendous disadvantage because of his as-yet unexplained support for Hitler and the Nazis… Which, if you bring that up with your average modern Russia, they’re rarely even aware of.

  • Paul Marks

    My apologies, I was dog tired yesterday – yet more defeats in the House of Commons and good people resigning in disgust.

    Mr Putin’s invasion was in 2022 – not 2021, he sat on his hands (allowing forces in Ukraine to be built up) for eight years – not seven years.


    Like so many people you have been taught to have a one sided view of Russian civilisation and of Russians as people.

    It is very difficult to convince Russians that there is no plot against Russia and that Westerners do not have a bigoted hatred of Russians, that our dispute is with Mr Putin, in the context of so much hatred directed at the whole history of Russia – the utterly one sided view if this civilisation, over centuries, that so many people have been taught.

    Mr Putin and his staff do not have to think up stuff for themselves – they just have to show Russians what Westerners say about them, not just about the conflict in Ukraine, but about all of Russian history and culture.

    The message is obvious “they hate you and want to destroy you” – basically Westerners do the job of Mr Putin for him.

    This totally undercut those of us who tried to convince Russians that the conflict was with the Putin regime – not with ordinary Russians.

    Tell people, endlessly, how much you hate them – hate their culture, hate their whole history (or rather the utterly distorted fun-house mirror version of Russian history that is taught), and they notice.

    The reaction of most Russians is simple – “I see, so your problem is NOT with Putin – you want to destroy all of us, you hate our entire history and culture and want us dead”.

    This is just the message that Mr Putin wants Russians to get.

    It is NOT true for many Westerners (we do NOT think like this) – but Mr Putin’s media gleefully quote the anti Russian hate, the distortions about Russian history and culture over the centuries, and (yes) the plots to destroy Russia.

    They repeat this stuff as if all Westerners were like this.

    Russians have been here before – many welcomed the Germans in 1941 as liberators from Marxist tyranny, but then it became clear that these Western forces wanted to slaughter Slavs and keep the survivors as slaves, and they noted that some Ukrainians (SOME Ukrainians) sided with the Germans even after this became obvious (and the Ukrainians are also Slavs – their fate would have been the same).

    Mr Putin pretends that the situation is now the same – and anti Russian Westerners are HELPING him give this impression to the Russian people.

    Convince the Russian people that there really is a plot to break up Russia (again Mr Putin’s media gleefully republish this stuff) and you will lose this war.

    The way to win the war is not propaganda films from Western “Foundations” – the way to win the war in Ukraine is to convince the Russian people that MR PUTIN is their real enemy – that there is no plot against Russia.

  • Kirk

    Paul, what is escaping you in your Russophilism is that the Russians are the authors of their own problems. All of them.

    Why did Napoleon invade Russia? Why did Hitler invade Russia? Both occasions began because Russia’s leadership at the time chose to play with fire. Had Stalin chosen not to play games with Central Europe, hoping to restore the Russian Empire? Where would Hitler have gotten the resources and the sense of security to do what he did in the Low Countries and France? The outcome of WWII, in fact the very fact of it, stems largely from Stalin’s political efforts. That the blowback from that killed millions of Russians…? More testimony to the continual and utter incompetence of Russian leadership. Same-same with Putin; nobody would be talking about taking Russia apart were it not for Russian efforts at ruination of their neighbors. They’ve subverted politics and supported terrorism since the end of WWII, and we’d all be a hell of a lot better off without them in the world. Here in the US? The vast majority of the vices of our government came into being due to a necessity to counter the Russians. Where’d all those powers of the FBI and CIA come from, if not because they were given over due to Soviet/Russian subversion efforts?

    And, I ask you, for what purpose? Just like with North Vietnam, whose leaders killed millions in the name of socialism and communism, only to turn things right back over to capitalism with them in charge of the enterprises as soon as they were able to. Why’d all those young men have to die, in order to put the exact system they were supposedly fighting against in place? You look around Russia today, and it is blindingly obvious that the entire period of Communist domination accomplished nothing than trading one set of aristocratic freaks for another.

    I’ve got zero sympathies for Russia or Russians; they’re a bunch of uncultured thugs who prefer to be led by other thugs and thieves. The real expression of Russian “culture” isn’t the ballet or the self-indulgent depressive novel, but the prison and the knout. They love the abuse; they love to be the abuser even more. I find nothing positive in Russian culture, nothing ennobling, nothing more than looting and theft. In the end, they’ve destroyed themselves; nobody else has had to lift a finger. And, frankly? Nobody else really cares; the Russians are miserable people, and if they were satisfied to live alone with their misery, instead of inflicting it on their neighbors? Nobody would care. There is nothing in Russia worth having, because the place is infested with thieving Russians. Perhaps, once they manage to drink themselves to death or manage to irradiate themselves into oblivion, then something worthwhile might be done with all those resources. I suspect, however, that by that point the entire region will be a wilderness of wastelands.

  • Coil

    Thx, Kirk. Good points here on the Russians.

  • Colli

    Paul, what is escaping you in your Russophilism is that the Russians are the authors of their own problems. All of them.

    The problem with this is that it is not true. In fact, it is absurd. All Russians are responsible for their government? It very clearly isn’t all Russians, it’s some Russians. You might say that all the other Russians supported them, which is wrong. We know that some Russians oppose Putin (e.g. Alexei Navalny, etc.) or opposed Stalin (e.g. Solzhenitsyn, etc.). Should they be held responsible for the actions of other Russians who supported those men? It seems that, on the contrary, they should be praised for going against popular opinion and being correct. Especially under threat of such severe punishment. To blame them for their government would be unjust. Also, some Russians in the past were responsible for the Russian government now, but a lot of those people are dead. Is there some sort of hereditary guilt? That seems as absurd as blaming modern Americans for Southern slavery. Being born in the same geographical area as a person who did a bad thing a long time ago doesn’t make you morally responsible for their actions.

    Russian literature (although sometimes an acquired taste 🙂 ) has added to the richness of world culture. As has Russian music and ballet.

    It is entirely possible to condemn the Russian government and its supporters without condemning the entire Russian population throughout history, before and after the event.

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