© unknownUkrainian Soldiers
Well, we do seem to have got ourselves into a bit of a pickle in Ukraine. How we get out of it is not immediately obvious.

Like many wars, this one seems to have started due to catastrophic blunders by the ruling elites on both sides. To simplify a rather complex situation, I believe that there were two massive blunders.

The West's blunder: For several years Putin has warned NATO "not one inch further" - that he would not accept further NATO expansion eastwards and would not allow countries like Ukraine and Georgia, both with long borders with Russia, to join NATO. In 2008, Putin even attended a NATO summit during which he gave a speech warning NATO that Russia would not accept Ukraine's and Georgia's admission to NATO. To me that seems reasonable. After all, the U.S. would hardly accept Russia doing a deal with, say, Mexico which would allow Russia to establish bases close to the U.S.-Mexico border (although it's also understandable that Ukraine and Georgia wanted to join NATO, given Putin's sabre-rattling). And, of course, there was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the USA was not too pleased about Russian missiles being situated close to the American mainland. Probably due to stupidity, hubris or a belief that Putin was bluffing, NATO delivered a diplomatic note to the Kremlin reiterating NATO's view that countries like Ukraine and Georgia could join the Alliance if they wished. The result - Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Putin's blunder: Putin seems to have believed that it would only take a couple of weeks for the Russian army to get to Kiev, overthrow and murder the Zelensky Government and install a Russian-friendly regime. He got that one wrong and several hundred thousand Russians have been wounded or killed as a result. Moreover, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to join NATO - another consequence Putin seems to have failed to foresee.

The war seemed to have started well for Ukraine. The Ukrainian army surprised the Russians and the world by fighting off the initial Russian invasion. Then the success of the summer 2022 Ukrainian offensive appeared to suggest that Ukraine might even be able to push the Russians out of Eastern Ukraine, retake Crimea and, by humiliating Putin, maybe even cause a coup in Russia which could overthrow Putin and his mafia cronies.

But after the 2022 Ukraine summer offensive, the Russians built formidable defensive lines protected by miles of minefields, dragon's teeth and trench systems. So, when the 2023 Ukrainian combined operations offensive was launched, the Ukrainians were caught in a death trap and suffered huge losses of personnel and equipment while making little progress.

We are now in a third phase of the war - the war of attrition - in which Russia is gaining the upper hand. Russia can massively out-produce Ukraine (and the quivering West) in terms of munitions, tanks, planes, missiles, artillery systems, drones and numbers of soldiers. Moreover, Russia has also received military material from North Korea, Iran, Syria and probably China. Meanwhile, Ukraine is running out of ammunition and troops. Some sources have suggested that the average age of Ukrainian forces is a worrying 43. And Ukraine doesn't have time to mobilise, equip and train the numbers necessary to stem the Russian advance. In a war of attrition, the side with the greatest resources usually wins by grinding down its opponent. And that's what we're seeing now with small but continual Russian advances and Ukrainian retreats.

Our leaders keep warning us that Putin will roll his tanks into the Baltic States and maybe even Poland should the Russians be successful in beating the Ukrainians. France's President Macron is even telling us that we may have to send NATO troops to fight in Ukraine. Everyone seems to automatically assume that Putin's ambition is still to conquer all of Ukraine and incorporate it in the Russian Federation. This is despite the fact that he said that it was to keep Ukraine out of NATO and to safeguard the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine from Ukrainian nationalist militias.

By the end of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Putin's forces could have walked into the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Instead, they withdrew and merely stayed on to guard the Russian-speaking enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - the equivalent of the similar enclaves in Ukraine.

Putin has the habit of doing exactly what he says he's going to do. This is a concept which contemporary Western politicians find so alien to their natures, of course, that they're totally unable to grasp it (although their distrust of Putin is understandable).

Moreover, if we look at military budgets, you might wonder who is actually threatening whom. The USA's military budget is around $877 billion. The total NATO military budget in 2023 (including the USA) a cool $1.3 trillion. The Russian Federation military budget prior to the Ukraine invasion? Just $86 billion a year.

Our rulers have repeatedly told us that we must "do whatever it takes" to stop Putin and that the West will support Ukraine for "however long is necessary". But it seems to be becoming clear to everyone except our rulers that Ukraine is losing and can now never win if winning means expelling all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. The best Ukraine can now hope for is an untidy truce which involves a loss of the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine - at least 20% of Ukrainian territory. Though the longer this war goes on, the more territory Ukraine will lose.

So, what will our rulers choose - humiliation or annihilation?

Will our rulers accept total humiliation by pushing Ukraine to do a deal with Russia in which Ukraine will have to hand over at least 20% of its land area to the Russian Federation and agree that what little is left of Ukraine will be a neutral country and never join NATO? And how will our rulers explain this defeat to us, their electorates? Moreover, what will the West's defeat do to the global balance of power? It will, of course, embolden those in the anti-Western bloc - Russia, China, Iran and North Korea - who wish to do us harm. Moreover, it will convince many non-aligned countries that their future lies in alliances with the resurgent and increasingly powerful autocratic anti-Western bloc rather than with the declining, defeated, war-weary, supposedly democratic West.

Or will our rulers decide to try and save face and their own careers by 'upping the ante' - getting us more involved in helping Ukraine? Thanks to the incompetence of the head of the German air force, whose unsecured phone conference was recorded by Russian spies, we now know that British troops are apparently in Ukraine already, possibly helping with the loading and targeting of Storm Shadow missiles. It's a pity our politicians 'forgot' to tell us that British troops are actually operating in Ukraine. Moreover, the New York Times recently revealed that the CIA has between 12 and 14 bases in Ukraine where it trains Ukrainian soldiers. If our rulers do get Western troops directly involved in killing Russians, as France's President Macron has repeatedly proposed, we would risk the possibility of a nuclear war between Russia and the West.

I'm no military strategist. But it seems obvious to me that our rulers have blundered into a situation without any plan for how to extricate us in the event of things not turning out as they planned, thus forgetting the most basic rule of war - that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Or, as boxer Mike Tyson explained, "Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the face."

It will be interesting to see whether our rulers choose humiliation by accepting Ukraine's and, by extension, NATO's defeat, or instead go for escalation which could lead to nuclear annihilation.
About the Author:
David Craig is the author of There is No Climate Crisis, available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.