How the War Changed Overnight

By declaring referenda in four Ukrainian regions and vowing to defend new Russian territory with all means necessary, Vladimir Putin has created a whole new war.

Putin speaking at the Kremlin on Wednesday. (Screenshot/

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

From Russia’s perspective, the war in Ukraine until now has been a “special military operation” intended to defend the self-declared independent republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. 

For eight years Moscow had rebuffed entreaties from Donbass to recognize those republics. Now Russia is prepared to absorb them as part of the Russian Federation itself, along with the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions.

On Wednesday in Moscow President Vladimir Putin announced that referenda to decide whether to join Russia would be held in those four places from this Friday until next Wednesday. After that, the Russian Duma must decide whether to accept the results and formally annex those territories into Russia. 

All that is expected to happen, and once it does the game on the battlefield will change dramatically.  From Russia’s point of view, it will no longer be assisting the militia of independent republics with Russian regular units against attacks by Ukraine.  It will now be defending Russian territory, against attacks by Ukraine. [The Russian Ministry of Defense said it was mobilizing 300,000 reservists and other soldiers with combat experience.]

Putin did not threaten offensive nuclear war as his remarks in the West are being spun, but warned Russia would defend its own territory with nuclear weapons if necessary. It isn’t known what level of Ukrainian attack against what Russia would now consider its own territory would be needed to bring about such a response.

But the nuclear warning will surely have Pentagon planners for Ukrainian troops thinking twice about whether to launch major offensives to recapture Ukrainian territory from Russia. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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48 comments for “How the War Changed Overnight

  1. Ulysse Gremillon
    September 23, 2022 at 02:39

    It’s a shame to see comments on Consortium from people who seem to have given up on any possibility of negotiation or of overcoming the brainwashing – admittedly formidable, but ultimately flawed in its ignoring common sense – that the Western media have been carrying on since the day WWII ended.

  2. John Nicholas Manning
    September 22, 2022 at 15:15

    Russia’s plans to absorb the Donbass and Kherson regions into the Russian Federation and then defend them at any price, look to me to be a very “Russian” negotiating ploy. When the Ukrainian army “liberated” Izyum western media showed us the destroyed city of Izyum and said that was Russia’s doing. Another case of Russia attacking its own army (it is no wonder they are losing). This despite Izyum being under attack from the Ukrainian army for months and being shelled by NATO howitzers and HIMARS. It seems in western minds that those NATO shells never land. That process of destruction (a process seen in NATO actions in Syria and Iraq) is now being applied to Luhansk. So it is no surprise that Russia would try to increase the risk for NATO.

    Sadly Britain the USA will be willing to keep “prodding the bear” just to see what happens. It is time for more civilised minds to take control of this matter. However it appears to me those civilised minds have been locked out of the room.

  3. Drew Hunkins
    September 22, 2022 at 12:38

    Eva Bartlett (search her Twitter feed) is reporting live on the scene from a very recent Ukie terror bombing that killed five civilians in Donetsk. The bombing happened this morning, 9/22/22. The footage is grisly and horrific.

    If this Ukie terror continues (likely using NATO weaponry and rockets) after the Donbass becomes a part of the Russian Federation, nuclear war could be the result.

    Search out the Bartlett footage!

    • Korey Dykstra
      September 22, 2022 at 21:14

      Eva Bartlet is the epitome of what news reporters should be striving for. She has reported on the war in Syria, has presented her evidence to the UN on the role of the “White Helmets” as being complicit in the false chemical attack reports by the US and the presentation of the rescue of children minutes after these so called chemical attacks. Amazing how these white helmets would show up minutes afterwards.
      Now apparently she is on a kill list in Ukraine reporting the “wrong” news. She is heroic and I wish her well

  4. irina
    September 22, 2022 at 12:19

    I still want to know why the official NATO insignia is NATO / OTAN.
    What is the meaning of the reversed lettering ? It’s definitely by design.
    Maybe indicating that NATO is also the opposite of what it presents
    itself as ? (Remembering that the Controllers are allowed to do as they
    please, as long as they give us some sort of obscure ‘warning’ first).

    And if any readers here haven’t seen the new NATO headquarters in
    Belgium, please google some pics of it. Such a weird and ugly building.
    Looks like giant claws getting ready to close. Also no doubt by design.

      September 22, 2022 at 14:40

      They are the French initials for NATO: Organisation du Traité de l’Atlantique Nord.

  5. September 22, 2022 at 10:47

    The principle and fundamental right to self-determination of all peoples is firmly established in international law. Yet the UN Charter forbids the use of force against the territorial integrity of any state.

    This is like the old saw, What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

    In the NATO-Russia game of “chicken” it doesn’t look like either side is prepared to swerve.

    I hope there is intelligent life in some parallel Universe somewhere. With whales and elephants. Evolving the dominant planetary species from apes seems to have been a bad idea.

  6. KPR
    September 22, 2022 at 09:16

    The US warmongers want Putin to do something that will bring the US into a direct conflict. The warmongers spin Putin’s words as threats to the US, and then the MSM amplifies it.

    • Nika
      September 22, 2022 at 13:09

      Absolutely right.

  7. Robert
    September 22, 2022 at 08:25

    This NATO (via Ukraine) vs. Russia war has to be one of the dumbest and most unnecessary wars in history. Russia had been patient for 8 long years waiting for an American President, any one of 3 American Presidents, to stop the madness of supplying weapons to the unstable, unpopular, corrupt, inefficient, and totalitarian governments in Ukraine. But the United States went 0 for 3 and the madness not only continued but it itensified. How we talked Europe, especially Germany and France, into joining the madness will forever be a mystery to me.

    • Jeano
      September 22, 2022 at 15:28

      $$$$. That’s how. ?

      • Common Sense
        September 23, 2022 at 11:01

        Very likely, the n s a also knows a lot about several politicians. If they don’ conform (accept bribes and whatever “bonus”) they will be forced/ blackmailed.

  8. Alex Nosal
    September 22, 2022 at 01:40

    Now it is going to get really interesting. Once the referendums are held, these Russian Ukrainians will overwhelming vote to join Russia and the West will immediately declare this democratic exercise as being foul and illegitimate. Democracy is never respected in the U.S. if it goes against corporate interests and an independent Ukraine is definitely against the MIC, Big Oil and Big Agra interests. This same cabal of powerful companies have ruled the roost for decades with no signs of letting up either. Russia may take it s time declaring that these four regions are now a part of Russia as Russia still has to eject a few more entrenched Ukrainian army battalions from Donbass first, but at some point the newly acquired territories will permanently break away thanks to U.S. corporate interference in conjunction with a tiny faction of Ukrainian nazis. When Putin gets around to declaring the new territories as part of Russia he will ask the Kiev regime if they would like to discuss peace. naturally Zelensky’s “handlers” will tell him to continue the fight to the last Ukrainian in which case the Russian Army will have no choice but to roll over the remaining part of the country. The difference in the conflict this time around though, is that Russia will start emulating the U.S. in the ‘non Russian speaking parts’ of the Ukraine and begin carpet bombing the western half of the country into the Stone Age before Russian tanks roll right up the the Polish border. Some may feel that that would be the end of the story, however the U.S. cabal can’t help itself, they have to keep the conflict going and will then offer up Polish citizens in their quest to “weaken Russia”. The only way to avoid what seems to be an inevitable catastrophe for human life, is if the American populace can rein in these corporate sociopaths in D.C., but when only two Party’s exist and both Party’s are hell bent on serving corporate interests, the carnage will undoubtedly continue.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    September 21, 2022 at 23:31

    Interesting. The fools in DC and Brussels and London clearly still think that they are masters of the universe. Clearly, they are not. Masters of the universe don’t shiver in 50º homes and have numerous businesses close for lack of energy. What’s even funnier is that it makes no difference if Russia “wins” or not. The days of low cost Russian energy are over. That will destroy Europe’s economy such as it was and the fools are worried about people being cold!. Wait until they’re cold because they don’t have a job, never mind they can’t afford it.

  10. Paine
    September 21, 2022 at 22:40

    It’s my understanding that Eastern Ukrainians has had complete autonomy for seven years, and it’s people have not been voting in Ukrainian national elections since the violent overthrow of the Ukrainian nationally- elected President in 2014.

    Since then Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine have been embroiled in a civil war. Under the UN Charter it’s not unlawful for another country to support one side or the other.

    As such, President Biden should not be saying that Russia is interfering unlawfully as Ukraine is a sovereign nation. It’s not.

      September 22, 2022 at 00:43

      The Donbass provinces declared independence from Ukraine in 2014. Russia did not recognize this until February of this year. Autonomy would have been granted to them had the Minsk accords been implemented.

  11. Tommy Payne
    September 21, 2022 at 21:00

    By America’s past precedents, Russia now has the right to go further than that.

    During Vietnam, the American Patriots bombed Laos and Cambodia, both on the claim that there was a supply line and bases for the Vietcong over those borders. The supply line even had a name, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Thus, America claimed the right to bomb supply lines and bases that were over the border and in a country not officially involved in the conflict.

    If them’s the rules in this here rules based order, then Russia has the right to bomb the “Joe Biden Trail” as it stretches across Europe. Certainly across the border into say Poland and Romania.

    Oh, and, IIRC, America also claimed a right of ‘hot pursuit’ to go over the border and kill Vietcong. Going into another country and waging war and killing was ok, as long as you were after the people with whom you were at war. Hope NATO isn’t training Ukrainians near your home. But then again, those Russian missiles are accurate, so you probably don’t have to worry…. too much.

    To quote a former US Senator from his actor days (Thompson, R-TN), “This thing will get out of control. Mark my words. This thing will get out of control!” (‘Hunt for Red October’)

      September 21, 2022 at 22:51

      Russia bombing NATO countries Poland and Romania would certainly send things out of control. Russia certainly wants to avoid direct war with NATO as does NATO.

      • Eddy Schmid
        September 22, 2022 at 05:12

        All these developments were easily predicted to eventuate. Just as the suggestion of bombing the supply line, which I predict WILL MOST CERTAINLY happen in the very near future. The U.S. U.K. and the stupid Europeans have been begging for such a conflict ever since the ILLEGAL Coupe in Ukraine. That’s all well and good, provided the blood is spilled on foriegn soil. When it starts to be spilled on their homelands, watch and see how tough they are then. Whether Russia wishes to avoid such a conflict, I believe is imaterial, the West has been praying for such a conflict and has done everything in it’s power, to ensure it comes about. Their economies are broken, the debt cannot be repaid ever, there’s only one solution to them, as it’s been done many times in the past, full scale war and start afresh. That’s the Western way. However, whether the rest of the World will allow this to happen, remains tobe seen, after all, it’s their World too.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      September 22, 2022 at 09:53

      “Rules for thee, not for me”. That’s rules based order.

  12. Tommy Payne
    September 21, 2022 at 20:51

    Fascinating how America completely denies the basic human right of self-determination. The right of people to be able to declare that certain principles are self-evident, to borrow a famous American phrase. Not any more!

    Nope, now if Emperor Joe declares that these people are to be ruled from that castle by that Lord and Master, then by gawd, so it shall be! The Emperor has spoken, and all must kneel and obey. The Emperor’s himars and howitzers will rain retribution upon all who refuse to kneel.

    Emperor Joe, waging a war for ‘Democracy’, where he says that he does not care what the American people think, nor the liberated people of Ukraine. Crimea must be returned to Joe’s feudal knight how owns that land and those people, and any thought of a referendum in new regions is a crime against humanity.

    He sure hasn’t put the war up for a referendum on the ballot in America, you know, like a ‘democracy’ would do.

    • Gene Poole
      September 23, 2022 at 01:16

      “[…]where he says that he does not care what the American people think […]”

      Exactly what statement of Biden’s are you referring to?

  13. Drew Hunkins
    September 21, 2022 at 18:07

    The sociopathic neocon freaks must somehow be curtailed and confronted. Blinken, Sullivan, Nuland, Klain, and Sherman are putting the world on the brink of a major war that could easily escalate to World War III.

    There don’t appear to be any sane heads left in Washington to stop this total madness and insanity. The press, their bots, propagandists, and talking-heads are all smashing and smearing everyone and anyone who raises the objections I’ve been making routinely for the past 6 mos and past 8 yrs.

    Somehow we have to dramatically dial this down, even though the peace movement is moribund (peace activists haven’t been a force since Obama the Wall St hustler was elected). Russia has every right to protect its citizens and defend its border regions. Nothing but the proxy warfare against Russia by the Washington empire has brought us to this point.

    • Richard Simpson
      September 21, 2022 at 21:47

      Well said. Bullies like the neo-cons only understand power.

      • Drew Hunkins
        September 22, 2022 at 01:02


        The crucial task now for the few rational Americans left is to gently but firmly convince receptive folks that our leaders are taking us down a potentially dark and very dangerous path. Once a crucial dissent threshold is reached policy reversal could (could) result.

        Back c. 2012 one of the biggest reasons Obama reversed course on his planned bombing campaign against Damascus was bc the U.S. public became outraged once they heard of the planned war on Syria and voiced their anger with voluminous and consistent rage at their respective Congresspersons.

        • Gene Poole
          September 23, 2022 at 01:20

          ” the U.S. public became outraged once they heard of the planned war on Syria and voiced their anger”

          Yes, but since Obama a new factor has emerged: Trump Derangement Syndrome and its accompanying demonization of Russia. Many people of my generation who were anti-war now think they are in a holy war against Trump and the man who put him in power.

          • Drew Hunkins
            September 24, 2022 at 02:35

            Excellent, spot-on comment Gene Poole. Keep up the laser sharp analysis.

  14. forceOfHabit
    September 21, 2022 at 17:37

    This nuclear weapons posturing, from both sides, is going to get us all killed.

  15. chupacabra
    September 21, 2022 at 17:03

    I was afraid that it would go that way, but clearly certain forces were pushing for escalation.
    After the attack in Moscow on Daria Dugina, attacks on the rector of the Kherson University, assassinations of the administration officials in the newly liberated pro-Russian regions and the farce with the International Atomic Energy Agency that ignored Ukrainian nuclear blackmail it was clear that the breaks are gone.

    This is very sad that this completely preventable conflict is growing. Biden’s speech in the UN is surreal and shows that he either does not understand what is going on or hopes that we were not following the news for the last 30 years (on the dismantling of the international nuclear weapons control treaties, etc.). Is there a way to bring peace?

    • Richard Simpson
      September 21, 2022 at 21:50

      Well said, Biden is but an empty shell which the neo-cons use to foment the deaths of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.

      • Nathan Mulcahy
        September 22, 2022 at 09:57

        Biden is much more than just an empty shell. All you have to do is to look at his 40+ years of track record – a record of imperial wars, war crimes and making money from such decisions.

    • Marie-France Germain
      September 22, 2022 at 13:17

      When we ordinary citizens of the world decide to have peace and finally force our leaders to work towards a true lasting peace, we shall have it. But, it will be super hard work due to our systems of survival – the capitalist system keeps us working harder and harder to keep up with our needs, much less our wants. I read that regular American wages at this time are not enough to pay rents in many places in all 50 states! That is something that is difficult in some cities in other countries as well – especially those of the “global north” which is all of us in US/Natostan. It does make it really hard to raise a fabulous rabble of dissenters when we are all so preoccupied.

      Until then, we just have to be louder with some of our voices in our lonely outposts to drown out the sound of gold counting/hoarding elite.

  16. Nika
    September 21, 2022 at 16:25

    Don’t the inhabitants of these territories have the right to self-determination? This step was taken by the local authorities, realizing that it is impossible to continue living while being subjected to genocide by the Ukrainian Nazis. Many territories seceded from the Soviet Union – is this their right? Yugoslavia was dismembered into pieces and the last, Kosovo, they are trying to cut off, this is according to some international rules. Why can’t the inhabitants of the former territories of Russia decide their own fate? After all, the so-called Ukraine was also in the past on the territory of Russia, but also gained independence. By what criteria do some territories have the right to self-determination, while others do not? Or is it also determined by America?

  17. Robert Bruce
    September 21, 2022 at 16:07

    About time.

  18. Drew Hunkins
    September 21, 2022 at 15:38

    It’s now time for Shoigu to take out key decision making centers in Kiev.

    NATO’s satellites are locating Russian troop placements in the Donbass. Moscow isn’t fighting Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian Nazis per se, but rather it’s facing off against an entire West that’s intent on waging proxy war on Russia until the last Ukrainian, turning Ukrainian conscripts and civilians into cannon fodder.

    The Washington’s militarist empire’s corporate media are currently in hyperdrive as the imperialists are finally facing a formidable enemy that has no intention of capitulating and returning to the exploitation and deaths of despair of the 1990s.

    Never forget, these are the same exact sociopaths who browbeat and lied the world into the war on Iraq, then went on and lied some more in order to annihilated sovereign Libya.

    Russia MUST win this!

    Multipolarity is the future for mankind, humanity can no longer afford to have the Washington militarist empire rampaging across the globe unchecked.

    • Richard Simpson
      September 21, 2022 at 21:52

      Russia must indeed win this war against the neo-con psychopaths who are a mortal threat to all humanity.

      • Nathan Mulcahy
        September 22, 2022 at 10:01

        The same neocons that control both parties …. the same parties that most Americans vote for and support over and over?

        Why blame the neocons?

        • Gene Poole
          September 23, 2022 at 01:28

          I agree. These two commenters’ promotion of more war and more escalation “to fight the evil neocons” reminds me of the same hysteria that has made Trump (and Putin) into the ultimate evil. They seem to forget that the neocons have driven US “foreign policy” since way before Trump and were welcomed into the Biden administration from Day One.

        • Common Sense
          September 23, 2022 at 10:41

          Why blame the neocons?

          It looks a lot like its them organizing the brainwashing to get the voters voices.

  19. Mykhailo
    September 21, 2022 at 15:10

    Thanks, Joe, for using the word “war”, and thanks for calling these four regions “Ukrainian”.

    • GP
      September 21, 2022 at 20:22

      Correct you are – should be “currently Ukrainian”.

  20. vinnieoh
    September 21, 2022 at 14:59

    If this really was a threat to use nuclear weapons – albeit “defensively” – it is ultimately a bad ploy. Considering how the RF has conducted this campaign so far, it doesn’t seem to fit. Or, is the RF using Putin to speak in the hyperbolic, swaggering style that the US employs and seems only to understand?

    Absolutely correct though – this changes everything. Kherson and Zaporozhye regions also a slam-dunk?

    • Brisa
      September 21, 2022 at 18:36

      And Europe continues its quest for economic suicide. How long will their populations put up with their ruler’s madness?

  21. Vera Gottlieb
    September 21, 2022 at 14:44

    And of course…America won’t stop screaming and making up all kinds of accusations. Let us not forget all the territories the US ‘acquired’ illegally almost since the country’s inception – AGAINST the wishes of native populations.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      September 22, 2022 at 10:07

      Considering the power of western brainwashing and the lack of critical thinking ability of western citizens, I’d say that they will continue supporting the system for a very long time.

      I extrapolate my conclusion from observing how long American citizens have been supporting the two parties at home, the same two parties which have been driving this country to ruins over many decades already. And yet we continue to vote them in power, including the exact same politicians who are destroying our country.

      Do not underestimate the stubbornness of the brainwashed….

  22. September 21, 2022 at 14:22

    The US led, NATO – Ukranian activities, with ever increasing resources dedicated to causing Russia harm, were bound to elicit a reaction in the nature of the law of unintended consequences. US/NATO hubris may well continue the trend until a spark, like that during the fall of 1914, leads to the consequences that ought to have been foreseen. I am glad I now live in Latin America, which will hopefully be spared the ensuing cataclysm, or at least suffer less severe consequences.

    • Michael Perry
      September 22, 2022 at 03:45

      Dear Guillermo,
      I ‘am from NY, but I have lived AZ, for the last 20 years.

      We are all a very special breed.. And, you are a truly special breed, indeed..

      And all of this is because of a temporary very short dream called, oil..

      What I wouldn’t give to break bread, enjoy barbacoa, and frijoles with you..

      Dean Ford – “Reflections of My Life ” feat: Joe Tansin – Produced by Joe Tansin

      Muchos Gracias

  23. john v. walsh
    September 21, 2022 at 14:14

    Thanks, Joe.
    Great summary.
    So much b.s. in the mass media – it is refreshing to get a dose of truth.

Comments are closed.