Own goal: Cameron Leckie says the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rapidly accelerating what had been a more drawn-out process.
By Cameron Leckie
Pearls and Irritations
Most of the debate and coverage of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war in Australia and the Western world is decidedly banal. It is characterized by the simplification of an extremely complex situation to generate a narrative that can be summarized as Putin and Russia are evil and Ukraine is good.
This gross simplification is not helpful in either understanding the causes of the war, the nature of the war, its broader implications and most importantly of all, how it can be ended with the least number of additional deaths and injuries and damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure.
The preponderance of human-interest reporting of the conflict in lieu of coverage of the war itself is illustrative. The heartbreaking examples of families torn asunder along with the brave exploits of Ukrainian soldiers or allegations of war crimes by Russia, whilst important, tends to trigger an emotional response rather than provide an accurate depiction of the course of events.
Partly this is because very few mainstream Western reporters, if any, appear to be located where the bulk of the fighting is, namely in the Donbass and around Mariupol. The resulting vacuum is filled by claims, many unverified and unverifiable, from the Ukrainian side, the aforementioned human-interest stories or the impact of missile strikes in and around the major cities. Truth has long been described as the first casualty of war. It would be unwise to think that this conflict is an exception. We should thus take a healthy dose of skepticism about the media reporting and analysis of the war — from all sides.
A narrative that seems to be gaining traction is that the Russian forces have culminated and Ukraine may actually be winning. This narrative could well be wishful thinking, influenced by the desire for Russia to lose, the overwhelming pro-Ukrainian bias of reporting and analysis and a misunderstanding of Russia’s aims and strategy.
‘Economy of Effort’ Operation
The Russian military is running an “economy of effort” operation. It has effectively fixed in place the garrisons defending Ukraine’s major cities leaving them incapable of supporting the troops in the Donbass.
Meanwhile Russia is progressively destroying the military infrastructure of the Ukraine (resupply, maintenance and command and control facilities and weapon systems such as air defense, artillery and armored vehicles) through a combination of air strikes, cruise missiles, rockets and traditional artillery across the breadth and depth of Ukraine.
Approximately 60,000 of Ukraine’s best trained and equipped troops are located in the Donbass. It would appear unlikely that this force is capable of anything other than localized tactical level manoeuvre at this point due to a combination of ever dwindling supplies of ammunition, fuel and rations, Russia’s dominance in the air and ground based combat power, and the effects of combat to date.
Despite the alleged incompetence of the handling of the initial stages of the war, the Pentagon assesses that the Russian forces still retain nearly 90 percent of the initial combat power assigned to the invasion.
With Russian forces on the verge of completing the capture of Mariupol, it will only be a matter of time before the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass are fully encircled and subsequently destroyed or forced to surrender. Whilst there may be many weeks, or even months of fighting ahead, the writing is on the wall that Russia, barring outside intervention (i.e. NATO — which has repeatedly ruled out direct military intervention), will achieve its military objectives.
The direct Russo-Ukraine conflict is however just one level of this conflict. Ukraine is actually an unfortunate pawn in the much bigger conflict. As long time Russia analyst Gilbert Doctorow notes this is a
“full-blown proxy war between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, and it is about ending or perpetuating American global hegemony.”
Whilst the war in Ukraine will end sooner or later, the implications at a global scale of this proxy war will be of much greater consequence for a much greater period of time.
The Western response to Russia’s invasion has been to substantially increase its military aid to Ukraine (which is unlikely to change the outcome of the war) and implement economic (and cultural) sanctions of an unprecedented scale and nature on Russia.
This approach is unlikely to work for multiple reasons, the primary one being as I stated in my last article that there “are no sanctions that the U.S. or Europe can implement that will not have a greater impact upon those countries than on Russia or create further divisions among the Western powers.”
Whilst the sanctions will have a disruptive and negative effect on the Russian economy, they will not be devastating for the simple fact that Russia is too important to the global economy. The initial shock of the sanctions did not cause a collapse of the Russian financial system, nor did it result in a bank run. The ruble has already regained some of its value versus the U.S. dollar and Russia has (for now) made bond repayments.
Far from Isolated
Russia is far from being isolated. Whilst a majority of countries voted against Russia at the United Nations General Assembly, of more importance is the countries that are not sanctioning Russia. Outside of the West virtually no country is sanctioning Russia, including the world’s two most populous, China and India with the world’s second and sixth largest economies.
Russia has many willing buyers for its energy, mineral and agricultural produce. Countries not on Russia’s “unfriendly country list” will receive preferential deals for exports as already evidenced by the rupee-ruble oil mechanism with India and a natural gas and grain deal with Pakistan.
The impact of Western businesses withdrawing from Russia, whilst causing short-to-medium term disruptions, will in the longer term be managed through an expansion of Russia’s import-substitution policies and sourcing goods from other countries.
There are already reports that the sale of Chinese mobile phones in Russia have more than doubled whilst the Chinese financial company UnionPay is replacing VISA and Mastercard. The effect of the sanctions policy may very well be the permanent gifting of a market of 140 million people to Chinese and Indian businesses.
Prior to the war commencing many countries, including the United States and in Europe, were facing an inflationary crisis, largely driven by the surging costs of energy. That situation is now much worse. Europe is already suffering energy shortages. Attempts to replace Russian energy will be time consuming and difficult. The Serbian president describes the situation as follows:
“We cannot just destroy ourselves. If we impose sanctions on Russia in the oil and gas domain, we will destroy ourselves. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot before rushing into a fight.”
The net effect of the sanctions policy for Europe in particular is likely to be structurally higher prices for raw materials (energy, base minerals, fertilizers, etc.) and precarious supply chains for the foreseeable future. Standards of living will drop and the nascent cost of living protests that are emerging across Europe will likely turn into major domestic political crises.
The sanctions, including the unprecedented freezing of a central banks assets, are also undermining trust in the Western financial system. The trend towards de-dollarization will rapidly accelerate from here on as countries seek to minimize the risk of trading with the U.S. dollar.
The influence of Western powers is dwindling around the world. The leaders of the UAE and Saudi Arabia have refused to accept calls from President Joe Biden — unthinkable even a few years ago. The recent cancellation of a U.K. delegation to India and both India and China’s unwillingness to “toe” the Western line towards Russia being other key indicators.
It seems clear that the Western powers have overestimated the impact that the sanctions would have on Russia, had not fully thought through the implications, were unprepared for the consequences and have no feasible way of reversing their actions. Meanwhile the majority of the world’s countries will continue to trade and maintain their relationship with Russia for the simple reason that it is in their interests to do so.
Kishore Mahbubani predicted that it will be an Asian 21st century. Prior to Feb. 24, the progress of the transition of the balance-of-power from West to East was progressing as a drawn-out process occurring over a decadal timeframe. However, the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rapidly accelerating this process – an own goal.
There is a good chance that 2022 will in hindsight be viewed as the decisive tipping point. Unfortunately, the penny has not yet dropped with Western governments and their compliant media of what their actions have triggered. Enlightened self-interest suggests that a major change in direction is required in the West, Australia included, to make the best of a bad situation.
Cameron Leckie served as an officer in the Australian Army for 24 years. An agricultural engineer, he is currently a PhD candidate.
This article is from Pearls and Irritations.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Seems to me it’s impossible to believe “America” (or perhaps the 5th Col running it) can be so foolish in bringing about it’s own downfall…& with this likely others too! Seems also, the crooks in West committing fraud & “crimes against humanity” have been so able to continue doing this for so long with impunity (& assistance from media) that they just keep doing it on a larger scale. So now it’s Russia ehh? .Such is the heightened level of corruption & obsequiousness in every organ of the system now…Quite right Cesar-“Now…there needs to be some accountability U.S. government officials and our corporate media who lied to us throughout this mess–at least since 2014. Never an honest word.” If only ANY in “our” Judiciary had even one oz of courage & decency to do some “Justice” it would be good to see many, many in all quarters of Gov & commerce in the dock! These criminals have constantly & fraudulently put us into stupid & wrongful wars with lies & more lies & deceptions…And they have most always been counter productive for West and terrible for all but the minuscule evil few. We urgently need to get unified in active opposition to all this madness…, if WEF gets the Global “Technocratic tyranny” they are currently implementing with all haste via “Dig Passports & Cashless” with this corrupt system we have we can all say goodbye to all semblance of freedom & justice …& will be irreversible.
Thanks CN for publishing this piece!
Re: Cameron Leckie’s comment:
“The impact of Western businesses withdrawing from Russia, whilst causing short-to-medium term disruptions, will in the longer term be [MANAGED THROUGH AN EXPANSION OF RUSSIA’S IMPORT-SUBSTITUTION POLICIES] and sourcing goods from other countries.”
In Vladimir Putin’s 3/17/22 speech, published on YouTube by Long Island University Poli-Sci prof Michael Rossi:
President Putin referred to one element of that “management” being Russian institutions helping to facilitate Russian entrepreneurs to pick up that slack and replace the businesses with local businesses producing those goods and services.
Who will rid me of this troublesome priest? A paraphrase of Henry the Second is alive today with pleas from our President and our Senator of South Carolina. Putin Putin always Putin that troublesome leader of Russia who stepped in to undo the Yeltsin rape of Russia. Putin the man who cried the world is not unipolar but multipolar and has been hated and reviled since.
Like the US in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan, it could be the last of Putin. Or it could be something else and the trapper steps in its own trap. The law of unintended consequences is always at work. Will Europe respond to US pressure by finally asserting some independence from us and we find the balance has shifted, that slavish responses to our urgings does not outweigh the benefits of dealing with Russia.
Ukraine of course, is paying a terrible price for responding to the cries from Europe and America to fight on. The two are more than willing to supply arms to kill more Russians while watching the Ukrainians die as well, their country decimated, with only an uneasy peace in their future.
Will Putin survive? Will it make things better if he goes? Will Russis have so short a memory as to forget Yeltsin, the rapacious oligarchs and our clueless advisors in the 1990’s.
RE: your comment “and the trapper steps in its own trap” and Cameron Leckie’s point:
“The direct Russo-Ukraine conflict is however just one level of this conflict. Ukraine is actually an unfortunate pawn in the much bigger conflict. As long time Russia analyst Gilbert Doctorow notes this is a
“full-blown proxy war between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, and IT IS ABOUT ENDING OR PERPETUATING AMERICAN GLOBAL HEGEMONY.”
The hysteria from the State Dept and the Oval Office has many Americans believing we are the victims who are threatened, but I’m thinking/hoping that a growing number of people here have become concerned with our reckless zero sum games played in Washington and would like to see wiser heads in the State Dept and the Oval Office who are willing to accept a multi-polar world; use our tax dollars to pay down debt and support the people here at home with policies that serve stability and sustainability instead of throwing $$$$$ into the ocean, serving the MICIMATT including short term financial interests of the oligarchs, threatening us and our planet.
We’re disheartened and horrified by that foolish ‘trapper’…..
No Putin will stay, for his approval rating is something that western leaders can only dream of, Ukraine brought this upon themselves for they had a chance to end this peacefully but simply ignored it because of their western handlers. We cry about the Ukraine people but yet no one ever cried about the half million children of Iraq that our sanctions and no-fly zone killed, nor the millions in Asia and Afghanistan not to mention those that died in Yugoslavia with its 77 days of bombing, as they say we will fight in Ukraine until the last Ukraine is dead but will not get involved ourselves because of all the body bags that would come home to rest.
Alea iacta est. Unlike Caesar, I suspect that “The West” will be the big loser here. “The West” is betting their currencies and their economies against Russia’s mineral wealth and the historical reality of colonial exploitation (“The West” is mostly a group of former colonial powers) and political exploitation in the form of invasions, coups, and other chicanery and the disapproval of most of the rest of the world that isn’t “The West”. Get your popcorn now before it disappears from the grocery shelves and you can’t afford it.
Wow, I kneel down before Cameron Leckie, thanks a lot for writing this article which gives us a general view of the whole world. I will share it with families and friends. I Tell people to be scientific, for example an anti-scientific thinking is thinking that Putin is evil because Robert Deniro or Arnold Shwarzenneger in talk show said that Putin is evil. Scientific thinking forces people to search for evidence-based article which prove that Putin is evil, if there are no such documents, then Putin is not evil. But scientific thinking requires more emotional, mental and physical effort than mainstream faith-based thinking
Chairman Mao Tse Tung (spelling?) is supposed to have stated: The East wind will overtake the West wind. And this ‘windy’ process has started.
Very good and apparently objective analysis, something utterly unavailable in the corporate media.
Glad to see this reprinted here. CN continues to offer the most thoughtful, comprehensive, anti-imperialist, propaganda-free coverage and commentary available on the Russian offensive in Ukraine. This consortium of principled journalist and pundits keeps possibility and hope alive. It is a very interesting moment. We watch as the U.S. military empire falters and fails. May the changes now in motion eventually usher in a better world for all.
Thank you Joe Lauria and CN!
And I would like to see your circle of “thoughtful. comprehensive, anti-imperialist, propaganda-free coverage” completed by the liberation of journalist/publisher Julian Assange! Our regime’s punishment and imprisonment of people who they consider a threat TO THEMSELVES because these heroes tell US the truth about THEIR war crimes is connected, IMO, to their reckless regime change policies that don’t serve our best interests – serving instead the short term financial interests of the MICIMATT, too-big-to-fail banks, shameless war profiteers.
If they’ve now bitten off more than they can chew, and continue to double down on their risky confrontation of the emergence of other powers like china and India, maybe at last we can get a government that is strong enough, secure enough to believe in their own people and our ability to compete in a world economy without killing people and stealing their resources.
An interesting and common sense explanation of the current situation in Ukraine and it’s effects world wide. Thank you
Thanks Cameron. Australia will now brand you a heretic and banish you. Only unquestioning servitude to the global hegemon and songs of praise to Zelenskiy are acceptable Down Under. Good luck mate.
Wait until U.S. companies like MacDonald’s who have rashly left Russia find they are not welcome back when the dust settles. It appears the U.S. Biden has hastened the hegemonic downfall of the U.S. I’m concerned that, as the U.S. loses power, it will act more desperately with its military to hold power. We’ll have to wait and see.
Now…there needs to be some accountability U.S. government officials and our corporate media who lied to us throughout this mess–at least since 2014. Never an honest word. In particular, I have in mind the NY Times who embarrassingly reported in such a one-sided way and who censored (posted but then removed) my comments that took much different position on Russia and the Ukraine. You might say I want revenge, but what I really want is the truth.
It will be interesting to see how long will German, French, Italian, etc. businesses and citizens sacrifice their welfare and long term prospects on the altar of American foreign policy. Have local communities any power and say left? We shall see …
I’m surprised EU countries have followed the U.S. this far. Maybe they were given no choice by the U.S. Expect the Nordstream 2 pipeline to be in service by next winter.
The EU – among so many 0ther nations, are suffering from what I call ‘Americanism’ which is blinding them more and more. Affects the brains too…
European populations have proved themselves significantly more ignorant than the American. They are 100% behind this evil nonsense, even though all the pain will be theirs. It does not get more stupid than that.
I’m not, the EU is of great value to it’s citizens but it seems to breed a particular sort of politician, colourless and extremely timid… also career minded and not especially brave. Such people rarely “stand up’ to anyone, let alone the most powerful and warlike country in the world… even if one day we may wake up and see that Mao was right, it is just a paper tiger.
Have local communities any power and say left? We shall see …
The ordinary punter has no say in these matters.