It has been six months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Does anyone know what is going on in Ukraine? The amount of disinformation and misinformation makes media consumers with memories of the Syrian Civil War shrug. Per both American and Russian intelligence services, Ukraine would collapse fast. Once this did not happen, OSINT and Western media shifted to overdrive, pushing narratives of Ukrainian victories and looming Russian collapse. This was not just Russian military forces but the nation itself. We are six months in, and neither is happening. Beyond discussing the state of play, we can look at this conflict to view the broader concerns surrounding the American empire.
It is true that both the Russian and American intel services expected a Ukrainian collapse. This was the rationale for the Gladio or insurgency discussion prior to the invasion. Both sides overestimated Russian capabilities and underestimated initial Ukrainian resolve. Whatever success one points to today for Russia rolling up territorial gains, there is no denying that the initial plan failed. Kiev was defended. The initial deployment was pushed back, entirely pulled back, and the Russian focus shifted to the east and south. It is plausible that Russia’s initial push was to pin the Ukrainian army down and destroy it, which would be a tactical success, and this was to soften up resistance in the true target zone of engagement east of the Dnieper.
No one knows for sure except Russia’s strategic command. No one knows for sure where the off-ramp is for sanctions so is a cessation of hostilities enough? Does it require a return to pre-war borders? Europe faces a winter of discontent due to the sanctions meant to crush Russia. Those sanctions have boomeranged back onto the West while imposing costs on Russia, yet playing into Russia’s strengths as a commodities producer. Economist Michael Hudson steadily states that these sanctions will help Russia, will accelerate the split around the world and are meant to destroy the EU, making it subservient to the USA. It eliminates a competitor from the global hegemon game.
From a military perspective, the current state of the battlefield allows the American empire to not have to resort to funding Gladio style operations. The USA can ship out weapons, provide intel and keep Russia occupied. There is always the risk of unplanned or accidental escalation, but this really is set for fat checks to Raytheon while US weapons destroy Russian forces. Even before these shipments of weapons systems such as HIMARS, Ukraine’s use of American reconnaissance was doing heavy damage to Russian forces. Russia does grind territorial gains slowly, but rocket weapon shipments are changing the field of play. It’s a war of attrition, and the concern becomes how many men can Ukraine lose before a collapse of the regime itself. Even if it does, now the US can ship arms and fall back on the insurgency plan that the New York Times proposed last winter against a weaker Russian force. Russia is stuck grinding out small gains.
These matters do not touch on the revelations these last six months about the state of the American empire. The EU mostly marched along with American sanctions, but not all and not in every element. Powers in the Global South and Asia did not sign on for the sanctions regime. Hudson is right that America’s financial actions against Russia will push the rest of the world to seek other arrangements. America has been playing a long game of pulling India into its orbit to counter China, and that looks shaky now. America does not occupy the position it once did to play the economic war game as effective as it once was. America could embargo Japan into war by denying it true economic goods. America now denies Russia Netflix, Disney and other media goods. The high end tech embargo will shift Russia’s demands to China, so in another loss in the game, America pushes the two major powers into an embrace.
The empire is still strong at its core. The EU likely has no mechanism for causing a split. The same elites across Western nations in charge of bureaucracies face what consequences? The centre-left parties lose and are replaced by Green parties? America’s bipartisan war party throws billions around and shrugs off consumer pain as there is no way of removing the political actors funded by the same donor pool. Who cares about low javelin stocks when there is no one else to fight? The empire can keep its hold on the important levers and watch as their control of the extended map loosens or disappears. The fear of commodity spikes is real and facing all Western nations now. There is another future play that can alleviate this. If bidding of commodities continues and the bifurcated economic world makes things too expensive for the ideologically blinded West, they can always spark proxy wars in Africa for the raw materials that they need and need cheap. Colonialism can return under emergency conditions with woke garnish still in service to the machine.