SCOTT RITTER: Phase Three in Ukraine

No amount of western military aid has been able to prevent Russia from achieving its military objective of liberating the entire territories of both Lugansk and Donetsk as Phase Three begins.

Donbass (2015–2022).svg by Goran tek-en and RGloucester (Wikimedia Commons)

By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

Russia’s “Special Military Operation”, which began on Feb. 24, is entering its fourth month. Despite stiffer than expected Ukrainian resistance (bolstered by billions of dollars of western military assistance and accurate, real-time battlefield intelligence by the U.S. and other NATO members) Russia is winning the war on the ground, and in a big way.

After more than ninety days of incessant Ukrainian propaganda, echoed mindlessly by a complicit western mainstream media that extolls the battlefield successes of the Ukrainian armed forces and the alleged incompetence of the Russian military, the Russians are on the cusp of achieving the stated goal of its operation, namely the liberation of the newly independent Donbass Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, which Russia recognized two days before its invasion.

The Russian victory in Donbass comes after weeks of intensive combat that saw the Russian military shift gears away from what has become known as Phase One. That was the month-long opening act which, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his Feb. 24 address, was tasked with taking “actions throughout the territory of Ukraine with the implementation of measures for its demilitarization and denazification.”

Putin said the purpose was to restore “the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] and the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic] within the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which is enshrined in the constitutions of the republics.”

On March 25, the head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, declared that “the main objectives of the first phase of the operation have been achieved. The combat capabilities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces have been significantly reduced, which allows us, once again, to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.”

According to Rudskoy, Phase One’s objectives were to cause:

“Such damage to military infrastructure, equipment, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the results of which allow not only to shackle their forces and do not give them the opportunity to strengthen their grouping in the Donbass, but also will not allow them to do so until the Russian army completely liberates the territories of the DPR and LPR. All 24 formations of the Land Forces that existed before the start of the operation suffered significant losses. Ukraine has no organized reserves left.”

Russia has completed Phase One despite the efforts of the U.S., NATO, and the E.U. to supply Ukraine with a significant amount of lethal military assistance, primarily in the form of light anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. “We consider it a vast mistake,” Rudskoy concluded, “for Western countries to supply weapons to Kiev. This delays the conflict, increases the number of victims and will not be able to influence the outcome of the operation.”

‘Extremely Bad’

The history of the conflict so far has proven Rudskoy correct — no amount of western military aid has been able to prevent Russia from achieving its military objective of liberating the entire territories of both Lugansk and Donetsk.

As Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba admitted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “I don’t want anyone to get the feeling that the war is more or less OK. The situation in Donbass is extremely bad.”

Gone are the bold pronouncements made on the eve of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations, when Russia’s many detractors proclaimed that Rudskoy’s Phase Two offensive in the Donbas had stalled, and that Russia would, in short order, be compelled to transition from the attack to a defensive posture, signally the beginning of a retreat that the Ukrainians claimed would culminate not only in the recapture of all territory lost so far, but Crimea as well.

Such fanciful thinking has given way to the kind of hard reality that ignores propaganda and favors the dirty task of destroying the enemy through firepower and maneuver. Complicating this task, however, was that during the eight years of incessant conflict in the Donbass, which precipitated Russian’s invasion, the Ukrainian military had prepared a defensive belt that was, General Rudskoy noted in his March 25 briefing, “deeply echeloned and well-fortified in engineering terms, consisting of a system of monolithic, long-term concrete structures.”

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According to Rudskoy, offensive operations against this defensive belt were, by necessity, “preceded by a heavy fire attack on the enemy’s strongholds and their reserves.”

The Russian advantage in artillery was a key factor in the victorious outcome of its Phase Two operations, pulverizing the Ukrainian defenses and opening the way for the infantry and armor to finish off the survivors.

According to the daily briefings provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Ukrainians are losing the equivalent of a battalion’s worth of manpower every two days, not to mention scores of tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery pieces, and trucks.

Indeed, several observers of this conflict, myself included, projected that based upon predictive analysis drawn from the basic military math regarding actual and projected casualty levels, there was a real expectation that Russia, upon completion of Phase Two, would have been able to claim, with justification, that it had accomplished most, if not all the political and military objectives set out at the start of the operation.

Logic dictated that the Ukrainian government, stripped of a viable military, would have no choice but a modern-day version of the surrender of France in June 1940, following decisive battlefield victories by the German army.

While Russia continues to position itself for a decisive military victory in eastern Ukraine, it may likely confine itself to the liberation of the Donbass, seizures of the land bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian Federation mainland (via Donbass), and the expansion of the Kherson bridgehead to secure fresh water resources to Crimea which had been cut off by the Ukrainian government since 2014.

The State of Russia’s Objectives

In his classic treatise, On War, Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz penned what has become one of the ultimate truisms of conflicts involving nations, namely that “war is a continuation of politics by other means.” This holds as true today as when it was published in 1832.

Putin articulated two principle political objectives for the military operation: to keep Ukraine out of NATO and to create the conditions for NATO to agree to Russia’s demands set forth in a pair of draft treaties presented to the U.S. and NATO on Dec. 17, 2021. Those treaty proposals set out a new European security framework by demanding the withdrawal of NATO military power back to the borders that existed in 1997. Both NATO and the U.S. rejected Russia’s demands.

When it comes to military objectives, in addition to the liberation of Donbass, Putin declared in his Feb. 24 speech, announcing the invasion, that Russia “will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.”

While the defeat of the Azov Regiment and other neo-Nazi formations during the Battle of Mariupol represented a decisive step toward the accomplishment of that goal, several thousand neo-Nazi fighters, organized into a variety of military and paramilitary formations, continue to fight on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine and carry out security operations in Ukrainian rear areas.

Denazification, however, has an important political component that, at the moment, is not being addressed by Russia’s military operation, namely the continued existence of Ukraine’s far-right and neo-Nazi political parties at a time when all other political activity has been shut down under martial law.

If anything, the “Nazification” of Ukrainian political life has expanded exponentially since Russia’s invasion, with Ukraine more under the influence of the ideology of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist whose followers killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and Russians while fighting alongside Nazi Germany in World War Two.

Whereas Russia may have earlier been able to conceive a political settlement that saw the Ukrainian government right-wing political parties and their militarized progeny, the fact is today the Ukrainian government has increasingly aligned itself with the neo-Nazi movement to strengthen its rule in the face of growing domestic political opposition to war with Russia.

True denazification, in my view, would require Russia to remove the Zelensky government from power and replace it with a new political leadership that will aggressively sustain the Russian objective of an eradication neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine. So far there is no indication that that is a Russian objective.


Likewise, demilitarization has become much more difficult since the invasion of Feb. 24. While military aid provided to Ukraine by the U.S. and NATO before that date could be measured in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars, since Phase Two operations began this aid has grown to the point where total military aid provided to Ukraine by the U.S. alone approximates $53 billion.

Not only has this aid had a measurable impact on the battlefield in terms of Russian military personnel killed and equipment destroyed, but it has also enabled Ukraine to reconstitute combat power, which had been previously destroyed by Russian forces.

While this massive support will not be able to reverse the tide of inevitability concerning the scope and scale of the Russian military victory in the Donbass, it does mean that once Russia has fulfilled its stated objective of liberating the breakaway republics, demilitarization will still not have taken place. Moreover, given the fact that demilitarization is premised on Ukraine being stripped of all NATO influence, including equipment, organization, and training, one can make a case that Russia’s invasion has succeeded in making Ukraine a closer partner of NATO than before it began.

The Legal Questions

If Russia were the United States, operating under the notion of a “rules based international order,” the issue of outstripping the legal justification for a conflict would not represent a problem — one only needs look at how a succession of U.S. presidential administrations abused the Congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by wrongfully using it to justify operations that fell outside its legal authorities.

A party can get away with such inconsistencies if they are responsible, like the United States, for making and implementing the rules of the game (i.e., the so-called “rules-based international order.”) However, Vladimir Putin, when meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the opening of the Winter Olympic games, committed himself on a policy course which sees Russia, together with China, rejecting the rules based international order that defines the vision of a unipolar world dominated by the U.S., and instead replace it with a multi-polar “law based international order” grounded in the United Nations Charter.

Putin was very careful in trying to link Russia’s military operation to the legal authorities that existed under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter governing self-defense. The specific construct involved — which cited what amounts to a claim of preemptive, collective self-defense — hinges on Russian claims that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine were completing the preparation of a military operation to take control of the territory of the people’s republics.”

It is the imminent threat posed by this alleged Ukrainian military operation that gives legitimacy to Russia’s claim. Indeed, both Phase One and Phase Two of Russia’s operation were specifically tailored to the military requirements necessary to eliminate the threat posed to Lugansk and Donetsk by the buildup of Ukrainian military power in eastern Ukraine.

A problem, however, emerges when Russia completes its task of destroying, dismantling, or dispersing the Ukrainian military in the Donbass region. While one could have previously argued that an imminent threat would continue to exist so long as the Ukrainian forces possessed sufficient combat power to retake Donbass region, such an argument cannot be made today.

At some point soon, Russia will announce that it has defeated the Ukrainian military forces arrayed in the east and, in doing so, end the notion of the imminent threat that gave Russia the legal justification to undertake its operation.

That came about because of the major battlefield successes of the Russian military. But it will leave Russia with a number of unfulfilled political objectives, including denazification, demilitarization, permanent Ukrainian neutrality, and NATO concurrence with a new European security framework along the lines drawn up by Russia in its December 2021 treaty proposals. If Russia were to call a halt to its military operation at this juncture, it would be ceding political victory to Ukraine, which “wins” by not losing.

Phase Three

The challenge facing Russia going forward, therefore, is how to define the scale and the scope of Phase Three so that it retains the kind of legal authority it asserted for the first two phases, while assembling sufficient combat power to accomplish its tasks. Among these would appear to me to include overthrowing the Zelensky government and replacing it with one willing and able to outlaw the ideology of Stepan Bandera. It might also entail launching a military operation into central and western Ukraine to completely destroy the reconstituted elements of the Ukrainian military along with the surviving neo-Nazi affiliated forces.

As things currently stand, Russia’s actions are being implemented upon the limited legal authorities granted to Putin by the Russian Duma, or parliament. One of the most constraining aspects of these authorities is that it limits Russia’s force structure to what can be assembled under peacetime conditions. Most observers believe Russia is reaching the limit of what can be asked of these forces.

Any large-scale expansion of Russian military operations in Ukraine,which seeks to push beyond the territory conquered by Russia during Phase One and Phase Two, will require additional resources which Russia may struggle to assemble under the constraints imposed by a peacetime posture. This task would become virtually impossible if the Ukrainian conflict were to spread to Poland, Transnistria, Finland and Sweden.

Only Russia’s leaders can decide what is best for Russia, or what is deemed to be viable militarily. But the combination of an expired legal mandate, unfulfilled political objectives, and the possibility of a massive expansion of the scope and the scale of combat operations, which could possibly include one or more NATO members, points to an absolute need for Russia to articulate the mission of Phase Three and why it needs one.

Failure to do so opens the door to the possibility that Russia puts itself in a position where it is unable to successfully conclude a conflict that it opted to initiate at the end of February.

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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92 comments for “SCOTT RITTER: Phase Three in Ukraine

  1. Kalen
    June 2, 2022 at 05:15

    Scott is correct in his military analysis but he is not looking at big picture. There is no need to beat around the bush. What we have is a confrontation among globalists. They all want globalism but on their own terms.

    What we are witnessing or rather not witnessing in media is multidimensional chess game on different levels or fronts.

    There is military front of this total war including psychological and cyber warfare.
    But there is more; political front (control of opposition and population especially real anti war and anti militarism movements , diplomacy etc., ), economic front (war economics, world trade, value of currencies, commodities confidence of investors, general economic performance, inflation, unemployment etc., ), social front (attrition demographics, impact on social institutions, culture of war) a well as propaganda front (peddling success, popular support and readiness to sacrifice, moral and legal framework of war etc., ) .

    The results of battles on all those fronts influence each other. There is in fact nothing new about it.

    The true victor must prevail on all those fronts and in fact all of them are fought on domestic front against own peoples as much as abroad.

    Needless to say that right now US and EU are on losing side. Even in realm of previously dominated by west propaganda war the defeats are being tacitly acknowledged (in media and polls) mainly due to painful defeats on political and economic fronts where campaign of Russia isolation utterly failed .

    Western escalation on military front is a direct response to their defeats on other fronts most of all on economic front as Russia withstood a barrage of almost 10,000 sanctions with little to moderate economic loss. In contrast boomerang effects became dangerous for the west.

    As far as third military phase is concerned that would depend of development on other fronts as motive of self preservation of the elites and their political legitimacy threatened by unfavorable war outcome, and in the end simple personal animosity and desire of personal revenge as in any war starts to dominate, and paralyses political and economic moves that bring more and more resistance and push back from population.

    As far as Russia is concerned at this point they can just wait for western self destruction and de-cohesion moves required to preserve their political power as Russians wisely fought this war with minimum personnel on a shoestring budget as light as possible in militarily, politically, socially and economically sustainable way using contractors and volunteers and less than 5% of they military might. In fact they did do any even partial mobilization, did not scaled down their operations in Syria or moved troops and equipment from Far East. Formidable fleet of strategic bombers was used once on Azovstal, and soon after Nazis there surrendered.

    As far as Zelensky is concerned Russia wants him there so is the west for diametrically different reasons. It is Zelensky who, under grip and threat of Ukrainian Nazis and NATO refuses to negotiate realities of Donbas and Crimea, provided Putin with excuse to continue special operations under legality of Article 51 of UN charter about collective self defense and under precedents of international law established by NATO and US of Liberation of Kuwait and Kosovo both unrecognized as a independent states provinces by Iraq and Serbia respectivelyThe legal foundation of right to existence as Independent states of Kuwait and Kosovo is sanctioned by UN charter right to self determination including via means of armed struggle.

    Zelensky following Washington script unwittingly acts like Russian agent l doing dirty work for them namely Denazification and demilitarization as long as he is in Kiev with full head of western propaganda presiding as a de fact dictator over destruction of his own economy and society while refusing to negotiate and by that to end legal legitimacy of Russian intervention. Zelensky is not a allowed by his NATO and Nazi handlers to do that only because it would involve recognition of Crimea, Donbas status quo as well as Russian de facto control over south via various means including economic control, demilitarized zones and RF military bases like it was in Kuwait and Kosovo.

    Russian will calmly wait until last Ukrainian starts to hate west and Zelensky for his corruption, incompetence, betrayal of Ukrainian nation by.. losing war he provoked. Only then long lasting friendly to Russia government may emerge.

    June 1, 2022 at 07:21

    As an American I believe that the world can have no just peace until Washington DC has been, for lack of a better term, denazified too. It is no surprise that the CIA has been training Azov to kill Russians in Ukraine, just as it created the Taliban kill Russians in Afghanistan and aided ISIS to kill Russians in Syria. Generally, if there is a movement of violent haters or a corrupt antidemocratic regime anywhere on earth, there will be plenty of American dollars to subsidize it.

    American neofascist extremists are reportedly flocking to fight Russian liberators in Ukraine as mercenary volunteers, gaining valuable experience in actual combat against a modern army, rather than just, say, running over civilian antiracist protestors with their pickup trucks. God help us all when the survivors return here. And doesn’t that just tie in so neatly to Washington’s proclamation that the most dangerous enemies of our wonderful freedom today are our own disaffected fellow citizens. The horrific images of the devastation of eight years of civil war in Donbass may be a preview of what the monsters on both sides of this gruesome charade hope to create in our country in their mad quest for power.

    • June 1, 2022 at 17:36

      Belle analyse ? Ah bon ?
      Je cite …
      « En fait, la “nazification” de la vie politique ukrainienne s’est développée de manière exponentielle depuis l’invasion russe, … ».

      Constatez que le mot nazification est entre guillemets. Ce qui sous-entend que cela n’existe pas quand bien même cela existerait vraiment c’est de la faute à Poutine.
      En effet, cette phrase fait porter la responsabilité de la nazification de l’Ukraine sur Poutine alors que le nazisme date depuis la guerre de 39-45 et que depuis 2014, l’acharnement sur les russes de l’Est de l’Ukraine sont des faits connus et prouvés.
      C’est le coeur de la manipulation de ce texte lequel à pour fonction de tordre les vérités, de réécrire l’histoire en faveur des agresseurs que sont les pays adhérant à l’OTAN.
      Poutine serait donc LE méchant à 100% et l’OTAN LE gentil à 100% qui n’est pas responsable et moins encore les ukroNazis qui sont les victimes à 100%. Cet abominable texte est manipulatoire et rien d’autre.

  3. Jos Andre
    May 31, 2022 at 20:40

    Scott gives a viewpoint with information that is not seen anywhere. He connects with the original Russian demands of December 17; he correctly points out the legal basis which to anyone who follows Putin’s meticulous juridical path will appreciate; and he projects from the current status. The only weakness is in his ability to assess all the moving parts in the current status’; how Ukrainian government reaction may reach implosion; how Russian advances even in their current form of 1-1 may still impact greatly beyond Donbass. So Scott gives moving parts as in a possible Polish move, yet doesn’t envisage the visceral Russian reaction. He alludes to full mobilization yet seems to forget that Russia is able to double forces without ‘mobilisation’ and, for instance, launch an attack out of Belarus across the Polish border towards Lvov – something that may be accomplished by as little as 50,000 troops. There are so many options available to Russia to change the situation in Kiev without effectively attacking the regime yet – they can make them stew in their own lies. In short, there are just too many moving parts to predict this outcome except that it will have Russia stamped all over it.

  4. delia ruhe
    May 31, 2022 at 20:02

    Thanks, Scott. Your previous essay was all I needed to continue sourcing beyond the tsunami of propaganda, and this present email is reassuring. Thanks for all your good work.

  5. CNfan
    May 31, 2022 at 19:37

    In the broad view, this conflict is existential for both Russia and the Banking Mafia (aka Deep State) that controls the West, including Zelensky, Biden, Boris Johnson, and the monopoly mainstream press. It’s existential for Russia because it is a typical Banking Mafia attempt to plunder a country’s resources by a regime change operation.

    It has become existential for the Banking Mafia because of some unexpected developments. (1) Russia responded to the regime-change operation effectively, both militarily and economically. (2) The general public is becoming aware that their mainstream media is essentially completely untrustworthy on matters of war and peace. (3) The public is seeing that their political leaders are sacrificing their economic well-being to benefit war profiteers.

    With the advent of the internet, the Banking Mafia’s control of the narrative is slipping away, and they are increasingly in danger of being found out. That would bring the end of their stealth empire. Hence their frantic internet censorship campaign.

  6. robert e williamson jr
    May 31, 2022 at 14:14

    Thanks Scott for the update and analysis.


  7. torture this
    May 31, 2022 at 12:26

    Scott’s my main man for war info but I gotta take issue with his repeating the $40/50+ billion figures for Ukraine weapons.
    per hxxps:// and other sources I’ve read,
    “The package includes almost $15 billion for defense operations and maintenance, which includes $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $8.7 billion to replenish stocks of U.S. equipment sent to Ukraine.”
    And, apparently the $6 billion includes training. So, the package doesn’t even match the last waste of money on weapons that were supposedly sent to the Ukrazis. This leaves me wondering why he does it.

  8. stopproxywar now
    May 31, 2022 at 07:32

    Keep up the great work Scott. People around the world have to start using their critical thinking skills. USA provoked a proxy war with Russia in many ways, but a key one was NATO expansion. Imagine communist Mexico with Chinese missiles – no way USA allows that. Almost always, human and financial capital and resources wins wars. USA and it’s partners can out strip Russia in all those categories. Russia has nukes which may change the equation, but so far has not threatened to use them unless Russia is threatened. Will Russia have the nerve and risk using low level tactical nukes ? How would USA and it’s partners respond ? We are living in dangerous times with dangerous Globalists and war mongers deciding USA policy.

  9. Tom
    May 31, 2022 at 03:57

    Ukraine has asked for EU membership.
    To get that they would have to comply with EU standards of democratic behaviour, press freedom, and denazification. They also need a peaceagreement with Russia, since the EU does not take new members with teritorial conflicts. Without these things they will not be allowed into the club. Without membership they will not get the money from the EU to rebuild. It seems Russia is in a good negotiating position.

    • Desert Dave
      May 31, 2022 at 16:13

      You raise a very important point Tom, if true. Does EU really have a standard of denazification? If so, then this could be a win-win. Ukraine gets the EU membership it craves, and the nazis have to be gone.

      • Tom
        June 1, 2022 at 03:52

        Naziism is illegal in europe, and there is zero tolerance. To become a member of the EU a country has to fulfill EU standards. In the EU showing nazi symbols is a criminal offence. Providing nazi propaganda is a criminal offence. Being member of a nazi organisation is a criminal offence. And so on.

        It is like being a communist in the US.

        • Whyawannaknow
          June 1, 2022 at 12:13

          It is not illegal to be a communist in the USA- Just quite uncommon and rather pointless, nobody much is buying.

          One can display communist symbols and (try to) distribute communist propaganda without legal repercussions. Freedom of speech, 1st amendment & etc.

          Of course, if you try to perform a public demonstration or rally, even though your freedom of speech and assembly would allow this, boneheaded fascists may take it upon themselves to try to harm you and the police may not be effective (or interested) in protecting you.

          Also, if those controlling the electronic media decide to hide your communist movement from public view by using their algorithms to bury any news about it, very few will even know it happened- Censorship for the information age, if Google doesn’t want you to be known of, no laws or physical jackboots are needed to suppress a movement.

      • Tom
        June 1, 2022 at 06:20

        In most european countries are banned from public service, especially police and military service. They are also not allowed to own any firearms.

  10. CNfan
    May 31, 2022 at 03:11

    In a broad view, this conflict is existential for both Russia and the Banking Mafia (aka Deep State) that controls the West, including Zelensky, Biden, Boris Johnson, and the monopoly mainstream press. It’s existential for Russia because it is a typical Banking Mafia attempt to plunder a country’s resources by a regime change operation.

    It has become existential for the Banking Mafia because of some unexpected developments. (1) Russia responded to the regime-change operation effectively, both militarily and economically. (2) The general public is becoming aware that their mainstream media is essentially completely untrustworthy on matters of war and peace. (3) The public is seeing that their political leaders are sacrificing their economic well-being to benefit war profiteers.

    With the advent of the internet, the Banking Mafia’s control of the narrative is slipping away, and they are increasingly in danger of being found out. That would bring the end of their stealth empire. (Hence their frantic internet censorship campaign.)

    A lot of information on this is now available on the internet. For example, the article on banking at War Profiteer Story.

    [Note: To use the above link please remove all asterisks, in addition to replacing XX with tt.]

  11. Moi
    May 31, 2022 at 03:05

    At some point soon, Russia will announce that it has defeated the Ukrainian military forces arrayed in the east and, in doing so, end the notion of the imminent threat that gave Russia the legal justification to undertake its operation.

    Except that Nato supplying weapons like the Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine changes the “status quo.”

    Russia might feel that its naval forces are threatened to the point where it might have to take the entire Black Sea coast to keep the missiles out of range of its fleet.

    • Highlander
      June 1, 2022 at 03:41

      With respect, Russia to stop further naval incursions by America or its poodle, England, Ukraine must be land locked. Removing threats of direct intervention by NATO forces in the Black Sea, is of strategic importance.
      Anyway, the American agreement between Poland and what’s left of Ukraine will give access to Polish ports.

    • eddie escobar
      June 1, 2022 at 04:42

      Except for Odessa, the Black Sea coast is already taken, and why would Russia not take it as well? The implications are huge, should rump Ukraine become a landlocked backwater..

  12. JACk
    May 31, 2022 at 01:36

    Russia has achieved operational success in the Donbas and Southern Ukraine. There is a measure of strategic success as well.

    However, with Ukraine’s ethno-fascist Banderaist being more entrenched now, not less, Russia has failed to achieve a major strategic objective – denazification. Additionally, Ukraine is arguably more allied with NATO now not less, which ensures remilitarization. This means two other strategic objectives remain unreached.

    War is a contest between irreconcilable wills. It should be no surprise that Ukraine’s Western backed regime hardened its position. It is also true NATO would love to see a protracted war between Russia and Ukraine. US leaders were talking about this in 2020. Apart from Western strategic objectives this benefits the MIC.

    However, Russia’s strategic goals were sound. The US has a history of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty for 70 years to undermine Russia and Ukraine. The existence of the ethno-fascist Banderaists and two coups (2004 and 2014) is the result. The US has been using Ukraine to undermine Russia for over half a century. US officials like Brzezinski admitted as much in 1997. More recently Victoria Nuland said as much.

    Russia has a legal right and strategic need to pursue its original objectives. If it doesn’t it will be faced with this conflict again. The US led West will rearm Ukraine and use it to pull Russia into a protracted conflict that will bleed it of resources for many more years than if it finished the process of achieving its objectives now.

  13. Rudy Haugeneder
    May 30, 2022 at 23:26

    His final paragraphs suggest this what I call regional war, could easily spread out of control and include Nato countries, thereby vastly expanding the war into a large war that could ultimately include tactical nuclear weapons, not only in Ukraine, but elsewhere. And that spells the likelihood of large scale terminal war, involving the entire West and possibly the rest of the world. The next few weeks will determine just how bad it gets unless some kind of peace accord is arranged.

  14. Paul
    May 30, 2022 at 23:05

    Excellent article! Thank you!

  15. Erelis
    May 30, 2022 at 22:00

    While the West seems that it is willing to give near unlimited weapons to the Ukrainians (to the detriment of their own civilian populations in the EU/USA), does Ukraine have the ability to field nearly unlimited bodies to build up a new reconstituted military which would go fight in the Eastern Ukraine to recapture the break away republics including Crimea? It seems that many Ukrainians in the West of the country have voted with their feet leaving for Poland and other parts of Europe. ‘Why fight Russians and ethnic Russians in the East if the Russians do not invade Western Ukraine?

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 31, 2022 at 13:37

      The eastern Ukraine breakaway republics want to break away from Ukraine. Crimea voted to remain a part of Russia years ago.

  16. Anon
    May 30, 2022 at 21:43

    This commenter’s education in geo-pol has benefitted greatly thru CN Ukraine coverage… particularly Mr Ritter’s knowlege… (tnx 2 his experience.)
    Said ed. continues as2 conflict Motive: Crimean Fresh Water restoration!
    Thus… Mon morn QB-ing necessitates:
    Isn’t it time 4 forward thinking individuals 2 acknowlege Potable H2O… (NOT Petro-prods) as cause4 new prime eco-paradigm… (& economize accordingly)?
    In addition… this commenter would be negligent if failing2 spleculate re: Prog Media coolaid gulping in reportage.
    A few mos. ago followed 4 outlets daily… 2 have lost street cred… IMO at least!
    &… BTW tnx CN 4 your thirst (4 TRUTH)!

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 31, 2022 at 13:38

      I find your comment nearly impossible to read.

      • Llitchfield
        May 31, 2022 at 23:05


        It is as easy to type standard English as it is to type in code.

  17. stephen kelley
    May 30, 2022 at 21:31

    in spite of all this analysis let us not lose sight of one very basic and simple fact: all this turmoil has come about because of american imperialism . so simple but also so true!

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 31, 2022 at 13:38

      Yes, indeed. Never lose sight of that.

      • Litchfield
        May 31, 2022 at 23:07

        And Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to join to NATO falls under the same rubric:
        provocation of Russia, prompted by malignant neocon puppeteers in DC who will not pay for the consequences when Russia “reminds” Finland of its obligations under the 1992 agreement.

  18. David Wooten
    May 30, 2022 at 21:24

    “As things currently stand, Russia’s actions are being implemented upon the limited legal authorities granted to Putin by the Russian Duma…”

    Victory in the Donbass will not be complete unless and until Kiev makes a peace deal with Russia, recognizing the independence of the new republics. Russia could offer a peace deal that would be beneficial to Ukraine including extension of the pipeline transits, if not enlargement, investment from India and China, cheap fertilizer and emergency aid. He could also suggest a vote be put to whatever is left of Ukraine on such a deal. If Kiev refuses, whether or not NATO okays it, then it would seem that Putin already has the Duma’s authority to begin Phase 3 or just continue Phase 2 into western Ukraine.

  19. Mike Hall
    May 30, 2022 at 17:54

    Looks like Scott has acknowledged that his earlier questioning of Russia’s military capability in face of western ‘aid’ were well overstated? Good.

    Scott notes above that Kiev has no trained or experienced (or even fully equipped with basics?) reserves left to send anywhere. Russia is choosing the pace of its inevitable victory, to suit itself, & minimise casualties to citizens it knows desire to remain under their protection. (If there’s one thing Kiev itself has made clear, in its brutality to Donbass’ majority Russian speakers, it’s that they know who hates them now, without any doubt.)

    With such high public approval in Russia, Putin will get whatever resources he needs to bring matters to a successful & satisfactory conclusion. So Scott’s talk of Duma approval being an issue is way off the mark.

    However it turns out, the border of a land locked rump district of ‘Ukraine’ will be much more manageable than at present. And the Nazis remaining will be EU’s problem, not Russia’s.

    I’d be sure Russia knows it can deliver a vastly improved & more stable situation, all round, on its Black Sea facing border. With China & other BRICS allies, Russia needs nothing from the West. All the sanctions boomerang, mostly to Europe, as EU’s elites finally sell out their own citizens as ‘collateral’ economic damage to US Colonialism.

    My wish now is that Russia chooses to give the ultimate ‘finger’ to the West’s Neocon/Neoliberal elites – that is, rebuild the Donbass, Novorussia (& even Russia itself) in the spirit of the ‘Threat of a Good Example’ – in raising the welfare & well being of all their citizens.

    As issuer of its own currency, & with huge real real resources, allied to similar & complimentary China & others, there is nothing whatever bar corruption & mainstream (western) economics incompetence to hold them back.

    The western elites *really* hate see *ordinary* citizens thriving – anywhere. This is their primary global mission – just pure psychopathic greed of the ‘few’. A demonstration of it would really p* them off, & even encourage their supine citizens to reverse their own oppression?

    We must strategically manage anyway, now, on an urgent, ‘war production’ basis everything we do, if we are to avoid the impending 6th Mass Extinction event we’re creating.

    What an opportunity – yes, for what the West considers ‘authoritarian’ leaders – to really ‘transform’ in a good way?

    • Litchfield
      May 31, 2022 at 23:10

      Putin has already announced a 10% increase in pensions and 10% increase in something else—can’t recall what, but some other social support of citizens.

  20. Michael Chebo
    May 30, 2022 at 17:35

    Thank you

  21. ricardo2000
    May 30, 2022 at 17:19

    Phase 3: DeNazify Ukraine

    Killing Nazis is a strong emotional issue for Russians. Every family has members who were murdered during WWII. They remember CIA support for Bandera post-war partisans. Russians have heard all US-NAYOYO promises, watched the treaties signed and quickly ignored. They know of the racist genocides committed and planned. They have undoubtedly concluded Western commitments are worthless. So they can’t leave any part of Ukraine as a base for further provocations.

    US – NAYOYO did everything in its power to start this war with the intent of fatally weakening Russia. Washington has announced they will fight for 10 years to ‘win’ this war (We had to destroy Ben Tre to save it). Every President and Congress has implemented this foreign policy since Carter and Brzezinski. Systematic actions included breaking every statement, assurance, promise and treaty made with Russia. It involves directly threatening legitimate Russian leadership and government. It involved training and arming Banderite Nazis to kill Russians. The White West supported Bandera Nazi genocidal goals against even their own government, leaders, and ‘democratic system’.

    Galicia is Bandera heartland where they have bred and instructed murdering bigots since the Tsars. Victory will come when the village Nazis are directly attacked and destroyed. Cutting Western supply lines and providing bloody proof of Russian resolve should finally cause the AFU to collapse.

    Winston Churchill (1944): ”I have left the obvious, essential fact to this point, namely, that it is the Russian Armies who have done the main work in tearing the guts out of the German army.”

    It won’t be the vacuous opinions of irrelevant Westerners that define this war. It will be blunt demands and brutal facts on the ground that define Ukraine’s public defeat. This war will end with NAYOYO humiliated, and Russian tanks shaking the ground at western borders.

    • Paul Davis
      May 31, 2022 at 01:44

      > Killing Nazis is a strong emotional issue for Russians. Every family has members who were murdered during WWII.

      You think that Ukranians feel any less strongly about this?

      • Enzo
        May 31, 2022 at 12:45

        Considering that the national hero of Ukraine is a WWII Nazi collaborator and no one is upset enough to overthrow the government then I guess I don’t need to elaborate more.

      • Carolyn L Zaremba
        May 31, 2022 at 13:41

        The Ukrainians HELPED the Germans slaughter everyone.

        • Tobysgirl
          June 1, 2022 at 15:56

          I will not paint all Ukrainians with the same brush; I am sure there are many who did not support Nazism either during WWII or now. I say this because I do not want all Americans to be painted with the same brush. Yes, most Americans are phenomenally stupid — the idiot who runs our local library trotted out all the usual cliches about Putin, so fucking boring! — but we’re not all stupid! See, e.g., many commenters here.

  22. DennisC
    May 30, 2022 at 17:04

    Mr. Ritter should allow that Phase 3, especially in his suggested version of “overthrowing the Zelensky government”, could be carried out by Ukraine instead of by Russia. After a painful Phase 2 defeat, perhaps enhanced with a Phase 2.5 around Odessa, the Ukrainian state could implode. New Ukraine will understand the beauty of neutrality. It will have natural resistance to the influences of the external powers on both sides that willed its ruin. Can that sick bird quickly enough develop a work ethic and heal?

    • Tim N
      May 30, 2022 at 19:38

      Yes. I believe it would be a grave mistake to overthrow Zelensky. Already huge swathes of ignorant Americans believe Zelensky and his handlers ( the US State Department, that is) are the brave little democrats, battling an ogre. It would be a massive propaganda win for the US. I think the Russians will let things take care of themselves. Zelensky is becoming persona non grata in Ukraine. We’ll see, but I would be shocked to see the Russians move on Zelensky. He’s basically Mayor of Kiev at this point, and sooner or later he will become a problem. Remember what Kissinger said about America’s official Friends and Enemies. . . .

      • Alex Nosal
        May 31, 2022 at 00:27

        I think you’re right that the Russians should not remove Zelensky… at least at this stage of the conflict. I believe that his own Neo-nazi cabal will remove Zelensky for the Russians eventually as they will all “Blame the Jew” for failing to deliver the ethnic cleansing of the eastern Ukraine. The biggest problem for Russia is that the U.S. will continue to sponsor endless foreign mercenaries to wage a proxy war against Russia wherever and whenever Russia stops. Only if Russia conquers the entire country, do I believe that the U.S. might possibly back off, but powerful forces who control the American government cannot stop fuelling the military industrial complex. It is just too damn profitable. Wall Street always trumps reason and with such a successful corporate media campaign of misinformation, too many Americans will continue to support the endless supply of weapons and mercenaries to the Ukraine in the immediate future.

      • Curious
        May 31, 2022 at 01:40

        Another interesting aspect re Zelensky is what S Ritter opined a few weeks ago. The Russians may need Zel to validate any surrender, if there is to be one. If a surrender (here’s hoping) were to happen it can’t be signed by some unknown official down the food chain. If Zelensky were to sign such a document it would create legitimacy around the world since they already think he’s a Deity incarnate to our propagandists and even they would have a hard time invalidating such a surrender. Again, if it ever were to happen.
        We here on CN know Zelensky is more a clothless Emperor who locks up descent and has no ‘democracy’ goals, but due to the corp media this is not known to many. So, he needs to survive to tell the world ‘it’s over folks’.
        But I suppose if the US can support a Shah, they would have no qualms about supporting this tool of their making. He needs to survive and be shut down and humiliated around the world, especially to those waving the blue&yellow without even knowing where Ukraine is on a map.

        • Litchfield
          May 31, 2022 at 23:17

          Yes, since Zelensky is internationally acknowledged as the legitimate head of state of Ukraine, the Russians have to keep him alive to sign any kind of agreement to end hostitilities. It would be very shortsighted to remove him and emplace someone else. That is, after all, what the USA does. Very bad look.

          The Ukes elected Ze and now they, and everyone else, have to live with him. He is the only one who can save his country by negotiating a reasonable end to hostilities that will be recognized as legal and valid. As Scott Ritter himself pointed out. If he won’t do it, a day will come when he will flee the country, and then Russia, as occupying power, can organize new elections in which all political parties participate.

  23. Black Cloud
    May 30, 2022 at 15:35

    The war of the west against Russia is long term and full spectrum, encompassing politics, regime change, proxy armies, economics, black ops, etc.

    For Russia this is an existential crisis and is considered as the Second Great Patriotic War. The idea that Russia will be hamstrung by ‘internal legalities’ from whatever action is necessary to prevail is absurd.

    Victimized by clearly illegal actions – such as those described above as well as biological weapons labs, active participation of foreign states in the conflict – Russia will do whatever is necessary regardless of laws that others ignore.

    In the meantime they are taking the legal and moral high road, something that is inconceivable to the US.

    • Paul Davis
      May 31, 2022 at 01:46

      > In the meantime they are taking the legal and moral high road,

      By invading a sovereign neighbor? Please, spare me the BS. What is it that you believe “the west”, Ukraine, NATO (take your pick, or all 3) would have been doing had Russia not invaded Ukraine?

      • Carolyn L Zaremba
        May 31, 2022 at 13:43

        Invading Russia.

        • Litchfield
          May 31, 2022 at 23:18


      • Highlander
        June 1, 2022 at 03:51

        It’s good to have an opposing opinion, that’s democracy. But it’s also excellent to hear both sides of a story, before you become judge jury and executioner.
        Something about a balanced point of view makes any judgement a moral imperative. Impossible in today’s barren wilderness of facts from western media and press.

    • Mike
      May 31, 2022 at 05:16

      Yes, I completely agree. Full spectrum war against Russia will be clearly seen by Russia as an existential threat. Lavrov has said this already. I don’t believe Russia is expecting any quick wins, nor probably ever was. Every foot of Ukraine will need to be under some form of Russian / Russian-sponsored control, and I suspect they are quite prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve that.

      It should also be remembered that the NATO countries are about to undergo an economic collapse, while also assisting the Russian ruble to become a much stronger currency, and filling the Russian coffers with forex.

      Russia also has powerful allies (China, India, Iran) who have yet to reveal (overtly at least) their hands, although the development of an alternative commodity-based reserve currency has been announced, which in itself, poses an existential threat to the US.

      So it could be considered Russia is waging a war on three fronts; one on the ground in the Ukraine, one on the economies of its enemy NATO, and one via its powerful allies.

      It should however also be remembered that these three fronts – as mentioned – pose an existential threat to the US.

  24. Robert Severance
    May 30, 2022 at 15:14

    I am having fun comparing the justifications for, and the emotions aroused by, an earlier one – the United States Civil War in the 1850s and 1860s. Especially the two views of reality that exclude each other! Next, perhaps, I will play with the Cavaliers and Roundheads in the 1640s.

  25. C M Concepcion
    May 30, 2022 at 14:37

    I think the real concern would be if the US/NATO continues to drag this war out even beyond what Russia is capable of pursuing. It seems that the objective is to get Russia to go through its entire military force and spend itself out of near-existence, which would make it ripe for the US/NATO to try and overthrow the government and possibly assassinate Putin. If that’s the ultimate objective, then this will end very badly. I realise this is just a conjecture, but I don’t know how else this could end apart from a negotiated settlement, in which NATO not only withdraw all its forces but also closes all of its bases near the Russian border. Otherwise, Putin will continue to rightly see this encroachment as a threat to Russian sovereignty.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 31, 2022 at 13:44

      I hate NATO. It should have been dismantled in 1991. It is useful for nothing but war and provocation against Russia. The Soviet Union should never have been handed over by the Stalinist Gorbachev. Never.

      • Bobok
        May 31, 2022 at 22:00

        The fact that NATO exists enables the US government to wage war without Congress having to take the time and trouble to authorize the aggression. It’s also a win-win for the members of Congress since aggression is good for the profits of their real clients, the capitalists who finance their elections.

  26. Peter Loeb
    May 30, 2022 at 14:35


    Many thanks to Scott Ritter for his analysis. The best is always expected from him. Many of the other
    commenters are also to be thanked for their insights.

    I have come to think of the conflict in Ukraine as a continuation of the imperial conquest mentality
    of the Crusades as well as of North America. The conqueror always defines himself as “superior” to
    those being conquered. Examples are the invaders of America and “the salvages”, Blacks (who were
    property). The conquered were always seen as UNCIVILIZED. Conquerors assume their
    inalienable rights and their inalienable superiority (See Francis Jennings, eg “The Invasion of America”).

    Many policies can be traced to these attitudes over the centuries.

    • Lenya
      May 30, 2022 at 21:25

      Agreed, and this is exactly why the Russian military has gone to great measure to protect civilian lives in Eastern Ukraine by only flattening Ukrainian cities such as Kharkov, Mariupol and Melitopol where the ethnic Russian population is not more than 75%.

  27. TJ
    May 30, 2022 at 14:25

    “True denazification, in my view, would require Russia to remove the Zelensky government from power and replace it with a new political leadership that will aggressively sustain the Russian objective of an eradication neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine. So far there is no indication that that is a Russian objective.”

    And if there is no electricity or fuel or running water will there be anyone left in the rest of Ukraine? What happens when the Nazis turn up in Berlin and start a Kristallnacht 2.0?

    “Not only has this aid had a measurable impact on the battlefield in terms of Russian military personnel killed and equipment destroyed, but it has also enabled Ukraine to reconstitute combat power, which had been previously destroyed by Russian forces.”

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Please show me, and the rest of the world the evidence for your claims. If none is forthcoming you have to be dismissed as you are not a credible source.

    “At some point soon, Russia will announce that it has defeated the Ukrainian military forces arrayed in the east and, in doing so, end the notion of the imminent threat that gave Russia the legal justification to undertake its operation.”

    Another bold claim without evidence, it seems likely that the conflict will be frozen, just like that in Georgia, which means Ukraine can never legally enter NATO. I would expect that Russia will continue to hit anything which could be a threat in Ukraine and NATO will get bored and support for Ukraine to collapse and with it funding. Do you think the Ukrainian economy can run of child porn and child prostitution alone?

    “The challenge facing Russia going forward, therefore, is how to define the scale and the scope of Phase Three so that it retains the kind of legal authority it asserted for the first two phases, while assembling sufficient combat power to accomplish its tasks.”

    Statements about attacking Russian territory have already been made, that is a pretext to continue military operations indefinitely or at least until the USA and NATO collapse.

    • Bonami
      May 30, 2022 at 18:58

      Thank you, I was frothing at the mouth over the flawed assumptions you so capably dismantled.

    • Tim N
      May 30, 2022 at 19:43

      Agreed about the belief that the Russians have been suffering huge losses. Otherwise Ritter is just being careful. I also think he’s wrong that Russia is considering overthrowing Zelensky. That would be crazy, and the Russians, unlike the US, ain’t crazy.

    • norm
      May 31, 2022 at 02:51

      Brilliant analysis.

      I have followed Ritter throughout this campaign. He has a very strong track record of taking unpopular positions that proved to be correct while most everyone else was wrong. But in all those prior instances he was an insider with access to intelligence that few others had. Now he is an outsider who has to make extrapolations based on limited data. I am sensing that this is not his strong suit.

    • Tom
      May 31, 2022 at 03:33

      “And if there is no electricity or fuel or running water will there be anyone left in the rest of Ukraine? What happens when the Nazis turn up in Berlin and start a Kristallnacht 2.0?”

      Germans will conduct a candlemarch, or a techno parade to protest.

  28. Sergei
    May 30, 2022 at 14:08

    I wonder why Kherson and Melitipol are not pointed as Russian. The territory under Russian forces is much bigger at the moment (30.05.2022)

  29. Cynical Rex
    May 30, 2022 at 13:32

    As you’ve outlined, Scott, it would be like walking into quicksand, if Russia pursues the occupation of western Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia now have an opportunity to work out a peace agreement, assuming the US govt will support this. It would be a way to lift economic embargos on both sides affecting oil, natural gas and wheat. It’s probably best to have a peacekeeping solution between western Ukraine and Russian occupied territories, and to work something out at the level of the United Nations.

    The US has failed to destabilize Russia, and with the blowback from sanctions, the reverse is more likely. If Ukraine continues to attack Russian positions, they give Russia the excuse to advance past the Donbas, but Russia also exposes itself due to forcing a greater mobilization, longer supply lines and shortening NATO’s lines into Ukraine. Any conflict in western Ukraine risks direct contact with NATO and escalation to nuclear war.

    RE: Nazis in Ukraine

    As you’ve pointed out, this war has strengthened the Nazi’s hold on Ukrainian govt and its support from NATO. However, from the Nazi’s point of view, they don’t have good options. Rebuilding Ukrainian forces will just prolong the war and risk a revolt by regular Ukrainian units (who already feel betrayed – see:hxxps:// and the citizens of Ukraine, who only suffer from the fighting. If it’s possible, it’s in Russia’s interest to help such a revolt.

    The Russians have shown how effective they are in the Donbas, so the Nazis can’t expect to win a confrontation in western Ukraine. They will probably keep trying to get NATO directly involved, which gives reason for the US to stop supporting them. The Military-Industrial Complex would like to profit from low intensity warfare along the Donbas border indefinitely, but I can’t see the Russians wanting this for their own people, even if factions in the US govt and Ukrainian Nazis do.

  30. Em
    May 30, 2022 at 13:29

    If “war is a continuation of politics by other means”, isn’t it also correct to assume that this is why the US has been engaging in perpetual wars globally; to achieve its political ambitions of becoming the unilateral international hegemonic power; by any means necessary, the latest of which is the instigation of the proxy war now being fought by Ukraine on its behalf?

    An analogy of a biblical myth; of Sampson bringing down the temple on the money changers, yet killing himself in the process, will suffice here. ‘They’ will stop at absolutely nothing!

    “True denazification… would require Russia to remove the Zelensky government from power and replace it with a new political leadership that will aggressively sustain the Russian objective of an eradication of neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine.”

    This, surely, would be the ultimate deal breaker! NATO (the US) would not permit this eventuality, under any circumstances. To the contrary, this would be the exact opposite – a complete reversal of what it has been attempting to achieve, through its continuous eastward expansion and encroachment on the Russian border, since the dissolution of the Soviet state, in the early nineties.

    With bated breath, the global community hangs on, by an ever-fraying thread of a better world, waiting for the decisions of the greedy power mongers to unilaterally decide the fate of all of us.

  31. forceOfHabit
    May 30, 2022 at 13:15

    Scott Ritter’s analysis seems fine as far as it goes: the military situation on the ground in Ukraine. I think the elephant in the room that it overlooks is the financial war the West has unleashed (through sanctions) on Russia.

    Even if some agreement was reached between Russia and Ukraine tomorrow to put an end to the senseless killing and destruction, the US (in particular) and the West (in general) are extremely unlikely to stop their sanctions, give Russia back their $300 billion in stolen currency reserves, and other confiscated assets.

    The financial war will continue unabated and the fallout, both long and short term, from that war will likely dwarf the physical destruction in Ukraine.

    • Tim N
      May 30, 2022 at 19:48

      Yes, and it will destroy the US, not Russia. At the very least the Biden Administration is done, as is Dem control of the House and Senate. Stupid feckless Dems will be replaced by stupid, determined Republicans. And Biden will be impeached, which will continue the burlesque.

  32. Thomas
    May 30, 2022 at 13:10

    Article is a good one: accurately describes the serious problem of completing “Denazification”!

    I do not see this happening unless a complete overthrow and cleansing of the current ukraine government, removal of zelensky (and his immediate backer kolomoisky) and finally, the removal of the thugs in the soros controlled us state dept (yeah, that will really happen, sarc).

    Putin “seems” to be trying to complete the tasks responsibly (if responsibly can be applied to any war); he of course is faced with the massive propaganda campaign of the west and its “rules based order,” an obscene and cynical farce applied by the neo cons and zionists.

    The obsession in the us govt with defeating Russia and controlling China can only lead to war on a massive level.

  33. John Owen
    May 30, 2022 at 12:25

    The massive amount of US pledged military aid that was largely uncontested by our so called representatives, in addition to showing who actually owns our representatives, Raytheon etc, was also supposed to symbolically intimidate Putin and keep our western allies in line. As if an incredibly over proportionate commitment of funds could make up for the dismal realities on the ground. Those funds are not going to affect the dynamics of the on ground confrontations in the immediate or near term. By the time the weapons were to be deployed, the ground war may have already ended. But Raytheon will win either way, as will vast swaths of wealthy investors and corporations. In the end, the “game changing” US billions may bring us closer to the final straw of hypocrisy of US policy more than its intended message to Putin having scored. Putin is the only grown up in the room, as his message to France and Germany on May 28 conveyed. Russia’s terms for Ukraine were reasonable before the invasion, but now that the the invasion has drawn out the worst of the west, Russia’s terms will be more painful. Loss of face will either come swiftly for the west, or if the west chooses, it can dig an ever deeper hole.

  34. Cratylus
    May 30, 2022 at 12:14

    As usual an excellent piece by Ritter.
    But I feel he is pulling his punches a bit here. That is, what are the consequences if Russia, having taken control of the Donbas, does nothing more?

    More importantly, this conflict has to be seen in terms of the broader conflict between the West on the one hand and China + the Global South + Russia, on the other.
    Specifically, when the Taiwanese look at the wreckage in Ukraine and the willingness of the US to employ Ukrainians as cannon fodder, how will the Taiwanese and others look at the plans the US has for them in a proxy war that devastates East Asia? Over 80% of the Taiwanese prefer the status quo to a declaration of independence and war with the Mainland. I would expect the war in Ukraine has only increased that percentage and that the more destruction that occurs in Ukraine, the higher that percentage will go. Russia’s military operation may decrease the prospects of war in East Asia.

    Additionally, one has to consider Russia’s actions as a decisive turn from West to East, as stated here:
    “ The second pivotal event of 2014 was less noticed and in fact rarely mentioned in the Western mainstream media. In November of that year according to the IMF, China’s GDP surpassed that of the U.S. in purchasing power parity terms (PPP GDP). (This measure of GDP is calculated and published by the IMF, World Bank and even the CIA. Students of international relations like economics Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, Graham Allison and many others consider this metric the best measure of a nation’s comparative economic power.) One person who took note and who often mentions China’s standing in the PPP-GDP ranking is none other than Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
    “From one point of view, the Russian action in Ukraine represents a decisive turn away from the hostile West to the more dynamic East and the Global South. This follows decades of importuning the West for a peaceful relationship since the Cold War’s end. As Russia makes its Pivot to the East, it is doing its best to ensure that its Western border with Ukraine is secured.”

    • May 30, 2022 at 18:41

      This is a political assessment and not a military one. It is quite apparent that nobody in the west has any idea of the military might of Russia or China . I hope you learn the hard way.

      Russia has no interest in blowing up zelinsky. He is a clown, a mouthpiece for western lies and propaganda. Keep him because he with his BS will make you look like fools, if you don’t realize that already.

      The western Ukraine will be blown to bits and that is for the west to fix. It is the west that will probably get rid of zelinsky. He will sing like a parrot. The Nazis are free to go to Europe, Canada and USA, and will be most welcome.

  35. May 30, 2022 at 11:44

    Excellent and objective analysis, as usual from Scott Ritter.

  36. Pravda
    May 30, 2022 at 11:41

    I find this coherent and well reasoned. Ritter was the most significant US analyst who explained the upcoming operation from day 1. I have two questions regarding his doubts though.

    “when Russia completes its task of destroying, dismantling, or disbursing the Ukrainian military in the Donbass region. While one could have previously argued that an imminent threat would continue to exist so long as the Ukrainian forces possessed sufficient combat power to retake Donbass region, such an argument cannot be made today.” Would not the massive US monetary military infusion plus the increasing complicity of Poland constitute a continuing imminent threat to the two republics?

    And “an absolute need for Russia to articulate the mission of Phase Three and why it needs one.” Consider the fixing operations in Kiev and Kharkov: who knew in advance what was planned? And the Western press still doesn’t get it. Those who knew were the Russian military and leaders, and it was entirely in accord with their legal mandate!

    • glider
      May 31, 2022 at 00:33

      Agreed, Scott seems to miss your point. The threat is only increased with $54 billion+ and lend-lease. Any break in fighting will allow Ukraine to train and master those weapons. No policy shift has occurred in the Kiev dictatorship. The rhetoric is stronger than ever. How can any think the threat will have passed?

    • Curious
      May 31, 2022 at 02:53

      Re imminent threat. I wouldn’t presume to answer for S Ritter, but he has explored elsewhere the careful legal argument of UN Art 51. If the US can use this aspect of preemption to bomb the heck out of Yugoslavia, Russia can do the same as they did see roughly 150,000 Ukrainian troops ready to romp through Donbass and continue their 8 year abuse of the ethnic population there. In fact, Russia has more validity than the US had in Yugoslavia.
      Since the US doesn’t give a rip about legal issues in this regard, especially if they want to randomly bomb a country into the Stone Age, it was surprising to hear both Putin and Lavrov talk about the legalities involved.
      For 8 years Putin didn’t go into Ukraine when he probably had ample case to do so. The Duma seemed to force the issue somewhat along the lines of ‘enough already!’
      But you raise an interesting point regarding imminent threat. Could Russia use Article 51 if the US and NATO are flooding Ukraine West with equipment and real-time logistics for Ukraine to use? Or if things get built up militarily so much in west Ukraine that it will be so pronounced a threat that Russia will not care about UN legalities anymore?
      It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that NATO is threat. I remember Putin years ago saying to have a war with NATO was a madmans’ dream. I wonder if he feels the same way today?

  37. Frank Lambert
    May 30, 2022 at 11:24

    Another masterpiece of honest and objective reporting by Scott Ritter, in his “series” on the conflict in Ukraine.

    The jaded Western “media” (?) reports one Ukrainian victory after another against the liberating Russian armed forces, killing over 13 Russian generals so far and on and on with nary a mention of Ukrainian army casualties.

    Does any thinking person now understand why Imperial America and the paid off heads of states and their news media outlets shut down all Russian news outlets? Here in the U.S., it’s a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is hardly followed anymore, every since the “flight-jacketed” costumed POTUS said, “It’s only a piece of paper” or words to that effect.

    Thank you Mr. Ritter, Mr. Lauria, and the Staff and writers on Consortium News for your journalistic integrity.

    A grateful reader and financial supporter of CN.

    • Stephen Sivonda
      May 30, 2022 at 18:41

      Frank…where you mention the US shutting down any news …..I was disturbed by the removal of RT-America. It also had a variety of programs ( Financial Etc )) that were also interesting I felt ,as you stated, that was a violation of our constitutional rights. But hey..we don’t have a true Democracy anymore. Do we?

      • Frank Lambert
        May 31, 2022 at 20:08

        Stephen, I’m glad I looked at the comments again. I agree with you on the news coverage, regular programs and fine documentaries RTAmerica produced. Everyone I know who had watched RT over the years, have lamented about the station taken off the air and the internet. You’re correct….we don’t have a true democracy anymore. Very sad, and dangerous.

  38. Ames Gilbert
    May 30, 2022 at 11:22

    Sticking to ‘international law’ as espoused by signatories to the UN charter, is not possible because practical terms, there is no mechanism of enforcement. Russia could ask the UN to come up with such a mechanism, and quickly, but that will never come about as the UN is presently set up. The Minsk II agreements were backed up by the UN and, if adhered to, would have avoided the whole mess, but there was no mechanism of enforcement on the signatories. Even if Russia provided a whole list of names to other organizations, such as Interpol, demanding extradition of criminals for trial, we know nothing would happen.

    Russia could institute a ‘police action’ in the rest of Ukraine, and go after the criminals directly, but that would be indistinguishable from a military invasion, since the police would have to be armed and protected.

    Although sanctions and blockades are theoretically illegal under international law, they have become de facto legal, ‘facts on the ground’, and Russia has plenty of leverage here. Cutting off energy and other exports critical to the group of ‘unfriendly countries’ would badly hurt Russia’s economy, there is no doubt. But that is the way to go to get the West’s complete attention. Coupled with clear timelines and conditions, there is also no doubt that the Russians can out–plan and out–think the West, to both reduce the harm to Russia and maximize the pain to adversaries. Particularly if alternative markets for the energy and critical supplies were fostered at the same time or in advance.

    I remember the Russians telling the French farmers, who were doing very well in the Russian markets at the time, that if food was made part of the rounds of sanctions against Russia in 2014, they would never get that market back again. And so it was, and is. If similar promises about energy, titanium, neon, fertilizer and so on were as clearly stated, that the West will never again have access to these products, then the consequences would be very, very clear—and unbearable to governments who were thinking of their citizens, their industries, and their economies.

    Down the road, we need a new kind or new phase of the UN, one with enforcement authority and ability. But then, who would guard the guardians?

  39. Carl Zaisser
    May 30, 2022 at 11:00

    I have appreciated Scott Ritter’s analyses of this situation since January. But I am not comfortable with a couple of things. I don’t like to hear talk about the legality of Russia’s moves vis-a-vis Article 51, because there was no ‘immediate’, imminent threat to Russia from Ukraine. There was, however, a very real longer term threat to Russia if Ukraine would join NATO. Therefore, I view the invasion, in the context of thirty years of NATO expansion advocated by the United States, as inevitable given the fact that the US rejected all Russian overtures to negotiate a mutually acceptable COMPROMISE regarding Russian security concerns. But this longer term threat seems not be covered in Article 51 of the UN charter as grounds for self-defense. And I consider Ritter’s argument about the Donbass being immediately threatened as justifying the invasion via Article 51 also not an argument that is going to hold up internationally under scrutiny…since technically the Donbass is part of Ukrainian territory despite the fact of having been relentlessly shelled by its own government for eight years. At the same time, I support Russia’s invasion and entry into the Donbass because of the zero sum game of the US, which amounts to ‘our way or the highway’. A Minsk 2 outcome would have been much more desirable, i.e. a Russian force maintaining a defensive presence in the Donbass and over time negotiations to bring the autonomy Donbass was seeking to frutition, within Ukrainian sovereignty. As far as the de-nazification plank goes, I’m glad Russia overcame the Azov fighters in Mariupol, but it seems impossible to change an ideology by force. If anything (Ritter uses this in a couple of places), the Russian assault on Ukraine may well have driven some closet right wing extremists in Ukraine OUT of the closet and onto the battlefield. The idea of overthrowing Zelensky’s government and replacing it with a Russian friendly one seems not only impossible at this point, but similar to overthrowing Yanukovych’s government in 2014 and replacing it with an EU-US compliant government. Can you really change people’s ideology by bombing them? Could the West change the anti-gay attitudes in Russia by bombing Moscow? To change people’s thinking, people need peace and normality, and change will come through cultural diffusion over the long term. I’m adamantly opposed to NATO expansion. And the last thing Russia needs to do now is get involved with a wider war which draw in a NATO member neighbor of Ukraine.

    • Vincent ANDERSON
      May 30, 2022 at 14:50

      Mr. Ritter did cover precisely that ‘preemptive self-defense’ argument in an earlier CN piece, quoted here at some length: hxxps://

      ‘Unfortunately for [Dubya’s ‘Iraq invasion justification’ attorney John] Bellinger [,who now objects to Putin’s citatation to same], a previous…administration, that of William Jefferson Clinton, had previously crafted a novel legal theory based upon the right to anticipatory collective self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

      ‘The Clinton administration argued that this right was properly exercised under “normative expectation that permits anticipatory collective self-defense actions by regional security or self-defense organizations where the organization is not entirely dominated by a single member.” NATO, ignoring the obvious reality that it was, in fact, dominated by the United States, claimed such a status.

      ‘While the credibility of the NATO claim of “anticipatory collective self-defense” collapsed when it transpired that its characterization of the Kosovo crisis as a humanitarian disaster infused with elements of genocide that created, not only a moral justification for intervention, but a moral necessity, turned out to be little more than a covert provocation carried out by the C.I.A. for the sole purpose of creating the conditions for NATO military intervention.

      ‘While one may be able to mount a legal challenge to Russia’s contention that its joint operation with Russia’s newly recognized independent nations of Lugansk and Donetsk constitutes a “regional security or self-defense organization” as regards “anticipatory collective self-defense actions” under Article 51, there can be no doubt as to the legitimacy of Russia’s contention that the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass had been subjected to a brutal eight-year-long bombardment that had killed thousands of people.

      ‘Moreover, Russia claims to have documentary proof that the Ukrainian Army was preparing for a massive military incursion into the Donbass which was pre-empted by the Russian-led “special military operation.” [OSCE figures show an increase of government shelling of the area in the days before Russia moved in.]

      ‘Finally, Russia has articulated claims about Ukraine’s intent regarding nuclear weapons, and in particular efforts to manufacture a so-called “dirty bomb”, which have yet to be proven or disproven. [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a reference to seeking a nuclear weapon in February at the Munich Security Conference.]

      The bottom line is that Russia has set forth a cognizable claim under the doctrine of anticipatory collective self defense, devised originally by the U.S. and NATO, as it applies to Article 51 which is predicated on fact, not fiction.’

      I might add that, while Mad Albright disingenuously applied the ‘theory’ to the yet- nonexistent Milosovic atrocities that did not occur until after her bombing of Belgrade, that topic is amply discussed elsewhere.

    • michael888
      May 30, 2022 at 16:14

      As I understand Putin’s use of article 51, it is a parallel analogous to what Clinton did with the breakaway nation of Kosovo from Serbia in the 1990s.
      Article 51 allows for “collective self defense” by Russia of breakaway nations of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine, just as Clinton’s evocation allowed collective self defense by US/NATO of Kosovo from Serbia. Of course Ukraine is no danger to Russia, nor is Serbia a danger to US/NATO. Serbia still claims Kosovo as part of their territory, just as Ukraine claims the Donbas.

      “…this longer term threat seems not be covered in Article 51 of the UN charter as grounds for self-defense.” Possibly true, but Kosovo has been occupied by NATO since 1999. I would not be surprised if the Russians continue “peace keeping” by keeping Western weapons out of Ukrainian hands for 23 years or more as well.

    • Deniz
      May 30, 2022 at 17:06

      Yes, but with the US orchestrating a coup in 2014, likely for the purpose of weaponizing Ukraine against Russia, financing and training Nazi through covert CIA operations or mercenary agencies, substantively, Ukraine was an imminent, if not existential threat to Russia. Because such information is classified for national security purposes, (although known by the public thanks to whistleblowers like Ritter) such inadmissible evidence does not mean that those illegal activities aren’t taking place creating the imminent threat to Russia, necessary for the legality of the invasion.

    • Tom
      May 31, 2022 at 03:50

      As I understand it, Ukraine was a threat to the Donbass Republics, which Russia acknowledged as independant, befor the military action. So they basically support the Donbass republics in their effort of selfdefence. Though I am not sure wether article 51 covers that.

      • Litchfield
        May 31, 2022 at 23:39

        Since most of the population of the Donbass republics are Russian speakers, aka Russians, it seems to me that R2P (thanks, Samantha Power!!) totally covers Russia’s SMO as regards those republics.

        Denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine seem to me to be separate military/political goals.

    • May 31, 2022 at 07:48

      Re: Carl Zaisser: “. I don’t like to hear talk about the legality of Russia’s moves vis-a-vis Article 51, because there was no ‘immediate’, imminent threat to Russia from Ukraine.”

      That isn’t the justification of Russia’s move on Ukraine, although the significance of related events wasn’t noted by the press. (We are used to that.) Just before the invasion, the Donetsk republics declared their full independence. They were promptly recognized as independent states by Russia. The republics then requested that Russia intervene militarily in the resistance to Ukraine’s attacks on the republics, which were ongoing since 2014. Russia promptly obliged.

      One may quibble whether “enough” foreign states had recognized the republics to count but international law imposes no such requirement. So Russia was legally justified in invading Ukraine under Article 51 because it was (and is) engaging in the collective defense of the republics.

      I don’t see this justification ending when Russia ejects Ukraine forces from the republics, at least so long as Zelensky or his successor(s) continuing to press for Ukraine’s reoccupation of the republics by violent means. One can’t say that war is ended in the republic’s favor so long as that situation exists.

  40. Newton Finn
    May 30, 2022 at 10:52

    Not sure that expanding the SMO into further conflict would be wise. Who knows how the carefully planned steps taken by Russia and the hysterical countermeasures taken by the West will play out? Perhaps Phase Three should more patience than push.

  41. BB
    May 30, 2022 at 10:45

    Many, including those who support Russia, often demand clear language and immediate action from its president, the need for which seems obvious to everyone. Every time I don’t understand or even resent why Putin doesn’t behave the way he should, after a while it turns out that he was right, it just wasn’t possible at that time. I, an ordinary layman, simply do not own the information that comes to Putin from a variety of sources. Of course, he, like any other person, can make mistakes, but this happens extremely rarely. And I hope that now he took a break during the special operation and is looking for the best solution possible at the moment.

    I have no doubt that very soon the Russian leaders will decide what is best for Russia, what is militarily viable, and will formulate the Phase Three mission and why it needs it.

  42. Ian Stevenson
    May 30, 2022 at 10:40

    So far-correct me if I wrong- Russia has not announced the annexation of Donetsk and Lugansk regions or any of the coastal area linking them with Crimea, which is annexed.
    From the evidence so far, it would seem to be likely. There are numerous reports of the rouble replacing the Ukrainian currency and schools being told to teach the Russian curriculum. If this is the case, we can expect there will be a referendum which confirm the annexation by the population.
    So far no nation has recognised the two Donetsk’s People Republic or the Lugansk P R. Support for Russian recognition has come from Belarus, Cuba, Venezuela , Syrian, the Central African Republic and Nicaragua but so far, not formal recognition.
    Claims to be protecting the Donbas population from military assault and de-nazifying may be accepted by the non-Western world. Actual annexation may be harder to sell.
    Taking the rest of Ukraine without going to a state of war is probably beyond Russia’s capability. Most of Ukraine doesn’t seem keen to be liberated , even if they desperately need peace.
    So as the article says, Russia may ‘win’ this phase but what comes next may be even harder.

    • michael888
      May 30, 2022 at 16:31

      If Russia wanted the Donbas they would have taken it in 2014, like Crimea. Using article 51 to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent sovereign nations to be protected by collective self defense, it is most likely that Russia will not annex the breakaway nations, but keep them as a buffer, possibly extending to Transnistra (most of the coast is Russian speaking). The Donbas and Coast can be Russian puppet states much as Ukraine is a US puppet state, but much easier to administer. While the South coastal region must be “liberated” in the same way as Mariupol and the Donbas, there is nothing to stop Russia from going American-style Shock and Awe on Western Ukraine, Galicia, Lvov and Kiev, taking out all roads, bridges, water and electrical power and slaughtering millions of civilians in the urban areas. As Scott Ritter has said, “That is what WE would do!”

  43. peter mcloughlin
    May 30, 2022 at 10:24

    Nuclear war can only be avoided if control over the scenarios that will result in that cataclysmic destruction can be maintained. History is being largely ignored. There is every prospect of the Ukraine conflict spreading.

    • BB
      May 31, 2022 at 10:48

      Nuclear war can only be avoided if the people in the so-called free world can stop the bellicose actions of their governments.

  44. Jeff Harrison
    May 30, 2022 at 10:24

    When’s the United States gonna run out of money? When’s the rest of the world going to realize that US dollars are printed on toilet paper?

  45. Dfnslblty
    May 30, 2022 at 09:24

    Excellent reportage and analysis.

    Keep writing.

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