Wednesday, November 15th in Z-Day for the War in Ukraine. CIA Chief William Burns will arrive in Kiev for urgent, secret meetings with Zelensky. It is worth asking, how come Burns is on an urgent mission to Ukraine?
The answer to the question is that Ukraine is imploding. The crumbling of the Zelensky regime is unsurprising: Ukraine has been sustaining far too many casualties to survive for much longer. Either Ukraine must find a way to make a deal with Russia, or face an internal rebellion.
Zelensky is setting the stage to have Ukrainian General Valerii Zaluzhny arrested and purged. He will prepare the ground by firing three generals tied to Zaluzhny. (Zaluzhny’s top aid has already been murdered.)
They are Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Sergei Naev; – Commander of the Operational-Strategic Group of Troops “Tavria” Alexander Tarnavsky; and Commander of the Medical Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Tatyana Ostashchenko.
Russia’s Bleed Down Strategy
Ukraine has gone through three armies, and most of the current army is made up of older men, some women, and boys with no training. They become bodies to fill the fox holes and revetments trying to hold up the Russians. Russia itself is in no particular hurry. The Russian strategy is to bleed-down Ukraine’s armed forces and create a political crisis in Kiev. The Russian effort is ahead of schedule, which has surprised Moscow as much as Washington.
In Kiev an internal war has broken up between Zelensky and his thugocracy and the Ukrainian army leadership. As General Valerii Zaluzhny made clear in his writings in the London-based Economist, Ukraine’s war needs a pause or cease fire. That would allow time for the army to be rebuilt and stocked with new weapons that are not yet in either the American or European inventory. Zelensky, however, opposes any pause in the fighting and wants his army to hold onto key territories such as Avdiivka and to retake important cities including Bakhmut.
There is no incentive for the Russians to agree to a cease fire or, indeed, for them to accede to any interim solution that would result in NATO staying in Ukraine. The bottom line issue for Moscow is NATO, which Russia sees as a threat if NATO builds air, land and naval bases on Ukrainian territory.
One of the key mistakes of Zelensky and the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, was to attack Russian territory, blow up critical infrastructure, destroy airfields with nuclear bombers, and send kamikaze drones to hit the Kremlin. Not only has this been costly to Russia in terms of physical losses, but it has brought home to Russian leaders just how dangerous Ukraine is to Russian national security. These attacks have made it almost impossible to reach a modus vivendi between Ukraine and Russia unless, as the Russian’s demand, NATO is out and Ukraine is demilitarized.
It is quite true that such attacks were justified, in a sense, by Russian attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure. Indeed, there will be more and heavier attacks ahead. The Ukrainians are reporting that Russia has amassed 1,000 or more rockets to fire at Ukraine’s infrastructure. Depending on what happens in the days ahead in Kiev, Russia is likely to use infrastructure attacks to squeeze Ukraine even more. But, it is also true that sometimes bombings have the reverse effect: the public rallies to the government. The British learned this after the Nazis bombed London and other British cities. The Germans learned this after Dresden. Even the Japanese stayed in the fight after the massive firebombing of Tokyo, until the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki told them that the game was over.
While Burns will try to persuade Zelensky to behave, there are already enough moving parts in the mess between the army and Zelensky such that Zelensky will have trouble backing off. If he decides to remain quiet (especially while Congress is taking up giving billions of dollars more to Ukraine), he will not necessarily find his opponents quiet. Along with running a blatantly dictatorial operation from Kiev, Zelensky’s success is built on a base of graft and theft. He finances his support by allowing officials to steal as much as they can. That way they stay loyal. Luckily for him, the US (and its allies) have refused to stop the disappearance of billions of dollars of US and European aid. But the US Congress is increasingly under pressure for accountability for money and weapons sent to Ukraine. It will be hard to move money to Ukraine without provisions that put in place independent audits. Meanwhile, Zelensky’s political opponents are well aware of the corruption in Kiev and are saying so. It is anyone’s guess whether that information gets to Congress, but it may.
Burns won’t be suggesting Zelensky talk to the Russians or even change his tune on demanding that Russian forces leave Ukraine. Burns can’t go against Washington’s policy, which is to drag out the Ukraine war until Biden is reelected. Furthermore, Washington wants NATO in Ukraine. While Washington knows it can’t get Ukraine into NATO until Ukraine wins the war, after Biden is reelected the US can begin putting in actual NATO fighting forces, starting with air power. Thus Washington is willing to risk NATO’s long term stability and viability in the name of trying to put NATO bases in Ukraine in an area Russia sees of utmost sensitivity.
NATO expansion is running its full course, changing NATO into an offensive, not a defensive, alliance. It was never intended thus.
Washington’s policy is a fantasy. A NATO war with Russia, if that is where we are headed, will destroy Europe. NATO is not prepared for such a war now, or in the next five years. Moreover it isn’t clear that Washington’s policy has any support among NATO member countries.
The Russians probably don’t want a war in Europe since a conflict on that scale could easily involve tactical nuclear weapons. Given the timetable Washington has in mind, Russia will be under pressure to wrap up the Ukraine war within one year, That could lead Russia to focus their attacks on Kiev, or alternatively other important Ukrainian cities, with Odesa and Kharkiv heading the list of targets.
It is doubtful Burns gets it, or even wants to understand the consequences of Washington’s policy.