Glimpses of an Endgame in Ukraine

It is one thing that Russia knows it is de facto fighting NATO in Ukraine. But it is an entirely different matter that the war may dramatically escalate to war with Poland, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar.

Polish infantry battalion reinforced with Ukrainian airborne platoon in joint exercises in Poland, 2008. (MOD Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)

By  M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

The problem with the war in Ukraine is that it has been all smoke and mirrors. The Russian objectives of “demilitarisation” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine wore a surreal look. The western narrative that the war is between Russia and Ukraine, where central issue is the Westphalian principle of national sovereignty, wore thin progressively leaving a void.

There is a realisation today that the war is actually between Russia and NATO and that Ukraine had ceased to be a sovereign country since 2014 when the C.I.A. and sister western agencies — Germany, the UK, France, Sweden, etc.— installed a puppet regime in Kiev. 

The fog of war is lifting and the battle lines are becoming visible. At an authoritative level, a candid discussion is beginning as regards the endgame. 

Certainly, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s videoconference with the permanent members of the Security Council in Moscow last Friday and his meeting with Belarus President Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg on Sunday become the defining moment. The two transcripts stand back-to-back and need to be read together. (here and here) 

There is no question that the two events were carefully choreographed by the Kremlin officials and intended to convey multiple messages. Russia exudes confidence that it has achieved dominance on the battle front — having thrashed the Ukrainian military and Kiev’s “counteroffensive” moving into the rear view mirror. But Moscow anticipates that the Biden administration may be having an even bigger war plan in mind.   

At the Security council meeting, Putin “de-classified” the intelligence reports reaching Moscow from various sources indicative of moves to insert into Western Ukraine a Polish expeditionary force. Putin called it “a well-organised, equipped regular military unit to be used for operations” in Western Ukraine “for the subsequent occupation of these territories.”

A Dangerous Game

Lukashenko-Putin meeting in the Kremlin, 2021. (Russian President/Wikimedia Commons)

Indeed, there is a long history of Polish revanchism. Putin, himself a keen student of history, talked at some length about it. He sounded stoical that if the Kiev authorities were to acquiesce with this Polish-American plan, “as traitors usually do, that’s their business. We will not interfere.” 

But, Putin added, “Belarus is part of the Union State, and launching an aggression against Belarus would mean launching an aggression against the Russian Federation. We will respond to that with all the resources available to us.” Putin warned that what is afoot “is an extremely dangerous game, and the authors of such plans should think about the consequences.”  

On Sunday, at the meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg, Lukashenko picked up the thread of discussion. He briefed Putin about new Polish deployments close to Belarus border — just 40 kms from Brest — and other preparations under way — the opening of a repair shop for Leopard tanks in Poland, activation of an airfield in Rzeszow on Ukrainian border (about 100 kms from Lvov) for use of Americans transferring weaponry, mercenaries, etc. 

Lukashenko said:

“This is unacceptable to us. The alienation of western Ukraine, the dismemberment of Ukraine and the transfer of its lands to Poland are unacceptable. Should people in Western Ukraine ask us then we will provide support to them. I ask you [Putin] to discuss and think about this issue. Naturally, I would like you to support us in this regard. If the need in such support arises, if Western Ukraine asks us for help, then we will provide assistance and support to people in western Ukraine. If this happens, we will support them in every possible way.” 

Lukashenko continued, “I am asking you to discuss this issue and think it through. Obviously, I would like you to support us in this regard. With this support, and if western Ukraine asks for this help, we will definitely provide assistance and support to the western population of Ukraine.” 

As could be expected, Putin didn’t respond — at least, not publicly. Lukashenko characterised the Polish intervention as tantamount to the dismemberment of Ukraine and its “piece meal” absorption into NATO. Lukashenko was upfront: “This is supported by the Americans.” Interestingly, he also sought the deployment of Wagner fighters to counter the threat to Belarus.

The bottom line is that Putin and Lukashenko held such a discussion publicly at all. Clearly, both spoke on the basis of intelligence  inputs. They anticipate an inflection point ahead.  

It is one thing that the Russian people are well aware that their country is de facto fighting the NATO in Ukraine. But it is an entirely different matter that the war may dramatically escalate to a war with Poland, a NATO army that the U.S. regards as its most important partner in continental Europe. 

By dwelling at some length on Polish revanchism, which has a controversial record in modern European history, Putin probably calculated that in Europe, including in Poland, there could be resistance to the machinations that might drag NATO into a continental war with Russia.

Equally, Poland must be dithering too. According to Politico, Poland’s military is about 150,000 strong, out of which 30,000 belong to a new territorial defence force who are “weekend soldiers who undergo 16 days of training followed up by refresher courses.” 

Again, Poland’s military might doesn’t translate into political influence in Europe because the centrist forces that dominate the EU distrust Warsaw, which is controlled by the nationalist Law and Justice Party whose disregard for democratic norms and the rule of law has damaged Poland’s reputation across the bloc.

Above all, Poland has reason to be worried about the reliability of Washington. Going forward, Polish leadership’s concern, paradoxically, will be that Donald Trump may not return as president in 2024. Despite the cooperation with the Pentagon over the Ukraine war, Poland’s current leadership remains distrustful of President Joe Biden — much like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban does. 

Warning to the West

Polish Armed Forces partner with U.S. to train Ukrainian soldiers, 2016. (U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr/Wikimedia Commons)

On balance, therefore, it stands to reason that the sabre-rattling by Lukashenko and Putin’s lesson on European history can be taken as more of a forewarning to the West with a view to modulate an endgame in Ukraine that is optimal for Russian interests. A dismemberment of Ukraine or an uncontrollable expansion of the war beyond its borders will not be in the Russian interests. 

But the Kremlin leadership will factor in the contingency that Washington’s follies stemming out of its desperate need to save face from a humiliating defeat in the proxy war, may leave no choice to the Russian forces but to cross the Dnieper and advance all the way to Poland’s border to prevent an occupation of Western Ukraine by the so-called Lublin Triangle, a regional alliance with virulent anti-Russian orientation comprising Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, formed in July 2020 and promoted by Washington. 

Putin’s back-to-back meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg throw light on the Russian thinking as to three key elements of the endgame in Ukraine. First, Russia has no intentions of territorial conquest of Western Ukraine but will insist on having a say on how the new boundaries of the country and the future regime will look and act like, which means that an anti-Russian state will not be allowed. 

Second, the Biden administration’s plan to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat in the war is a non-starter, as Russia will not hesitate to counter any continued attempt by the U.S. and NATO to use Ukrainian territory as a springboard to wage a renewed proxy war, which means that Ukraine’s “piece meal” absorption into NATO will remain a fantasy. 

Third, most important, the battle-hardened Russian army backed by a powerful defence industry and a robust economy will not hesitate to confront NATO member countries bordering Ukraine if they trespass on Russia’s core interests, which means that Russia’s core interests will not be held hostage to Article 5 of the NATO Charter. \

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. Views are personal.

 This article originally appeared on Indian Punchline.

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

29 comments for “Glimpses of an Endgame in Ukraine

  1. bryce
    July 28, 2023 at 15:43

    With Russian withdrawl from Kiev in 2022, Papa Luka mobilized military units precisely to counter possible Polish incursions into western UA..
    A year later, and now with the Wagner group in Belarus, his foresight regarding Poland is quite significant.. The Baltic 3+Poland have reason to fear Belarus flexing its muscles..

  2. Pwlik
    July 28, 2023 at 11:56

    There is no need for any countries to “have a say” in the borders of Ukraine. The United Nations has already spoken (twice) and voted on this. Ukraine’s sovereignty has been violated, and that needs to be corrected.

  3. M
    July 27, 2023 at 20:27

    Great and thoughtful analysis of the reality. Thank you for the good read.

    • Lorna Hillman
      July 29, 2023 at 13:16

      Hear, hear. I second this sentiment. Very good and very informative.

  4. Robert
    July 27, 2023 at 12:16

    17 months into a war in which Zelensky and his team keep spilling massive amounts of Ukrainian men’s blood and guts for supposed American and NATO “benefit” and Zelensky and team continue the fight long after rational people would have figured out that they were duped, that they made a big mistake, and they should go to the negotiating table to hold onto what Ukraine has left.

    So what’s keeping Zelensky in the fight? Is he stupid? No, he’s not. One probability is that Zelensky and team know they are riding the proverbial tiger and dismount means death. Death could come at the hands of a people’s uprising or from the crazies who make up what remains of the Boys of Azov and Right Sector.

    When will it end? Lindsey Graham just might get his wish. It ends when the last Ukrainian soldier is dead.

  5. Superfan
    July 27, 2023 at 10:37

    Something missing from all this

    As you sow, you shall reap.

    Think North America is safe from all the violence you have visited on other countries (illegally)…?

  6. michael888
    July 27, 2023 at 10:36

    Churchill warned of the Pygmy wars that popped up, again, when WWI and WWII ended. So many ethnic groups and displaced aristocrats and wealthy families of Eastern Europe (including a surprising number of Jewish oligarchs, whose scions have obtained important positions in “new” countries, particularly the US) want Eastern Europe re-assembled with their prominence restored. The CIA used to train such people for a few years then parachute them into their motherlands to enact their changes. It was a good foreign policy; few were ever heard from again. Unlike the Zionist wars under Bush and Obama, where double-passport Israeli Americans played a huge role in US foreign policy decisions, religion plays a minor role in the descendants of Eastern Europe’s hatred and revenge-seeking against the ghosts of the Russia/ Soviet Union past. Yes, the US State Department is full of children of Eastern European prominent Jewish families (many with double and triple passports), and yes, Boris Johnson who stopped the peace process in April 2022 is from a Jewish Lithuanian family and instigator Anne Applebaum is from a Jewish Belarusian family, but Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian roots include NAZI collaborators, and Marie Yovanovitch, recently fingered by Andrii Telizhenko in his Aaron Mate interview as a key controller of US/Ukraine corruption, had Ukrainian parents and her mother grew up in NAZI Germany. So to be a member of the American Eastern European Neocon Foreign Policy-Making club, you need only to have a deep seated inherited hatred of Russia. The US is now fighting this century’s Pygmy War on behalf of these people, with no benefit to most Americans. The stakes are much higher than the pygmy wars of the past.

    I commend Joe Lauria (and Bhadrakumar’s article is excellent and insightful, rare today) for at least starting the US dominance/control of Puppet State Ukraine in 2014 with the Maidan Coup in response to Yanukovych’s deal with Russia a few months earlier, and not with the “unprovoked” Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 after 8 years of the Ukrainian civil war in the Donbas. Ukraine’s “independence and sovereignty” has been brittle and tenuous, if even existent, since the Soviet Union fell. Russia itself was Clinton’s Puppet state under drunken Yeltsin, and could not “protect” Ukraine (nor Serbia and the collapsing Yugoslavia from the US and NATO). I mark the total loss of Ukraine’s “independence and sovereignty” when the CIA installed puppet Yushchenko (an American-trained banker married to an American CIA agent/ State Dept official) with the Orange Revolution of 2005. The embrace of Fascism and UkroNAZIsm started with the installation of VP Joe Biden as Viceroy in 2009 (Yushchenko named Stepan Bandera “Hero of Ukraine” in 2010 just before leaving office to (once again) democratically elected, to be once again deposed, BAD PUPPET Yanukovych. )

  7. Paul Citro
    July 27, 2023 at 07:39

    We are on the edge of the abyss. Few people seem to know how close we are.

    • Valerie
      July 27, 2023 at 17:02

      I know how close we are Paul. We are all dwellers on the threshold.

  8. July 26, 2023 at 23:30

    Bhadrakumar is always worth taking seriously . Putin has given enough hints that he would not be too worried if Poland obligingly swallows the Banderist scorpion in West Ukraine. The important thing for Putin and Lukashenko as respective heads of neighbouring allied states is how/how it is done : most importantly, will there be safety and provisions for free human movement by those who want to emigrate eastwards to Russian controlled
    parts of Ukraine? – there are surely some proRussian Ukrainians hiding their politics in Western Ukraine, and Russia and free Ukraine will need the people – and the need not to create Art 5 NATO guarantees for Russophobe fanatics in W Ukraine who might try to start a NATO war with Russia for spite. It’s all on the detail, Putin knows .

  9. Patrick Powers
    July 26, 2023 at 21:03

    Reading those transcripts, Putin said he was OK with Poland annexing western Ukraine! The President of Byelorus was dead against this, but I didn’t see P promising anything other than defense of Byelo.

  10. Sam Adam
    July 26, 2023 at 20:45

    In the name of Democracy, President Zelensky has cancelled the scheduled fall elections to the Rada (or legislature). Even one-party elections are too dangerous to hold.

    • Lorna Hillman
      July 29, 2023 at 13:21

      Not surprising considering Zelensky has outlawed 11 political parties in his country for opposing the war.

  11. Ricardo2000
    July 26, 2023 at 20:29

    “…Russia will not hesitate to counter any continued attempt by the U.S. and NATO to use Ukrainian territory as a springboard to wage a renewed proxy war, which means that Ukraine’s “piece meal” absorption into NATO will remain a fantasy.” I couldn’t agree more as any promise, statement, or treaty signed with the White West is ass wipe. US-NAYOYO goals are explicit calls for the genocidal destruction of Russia and Russians.

    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 [Nazi] army.”

    Biden’s War won’t freeze, inevitably or with God’s will. This war is about to get as cold as a grave. Russians have heard all the promises, watched treaties signed and quickly ignored with cynical lying contempt for peace and human rights. They know of racist genocides committed and planned because Washington’s announced plans demand the destruction of Russia’s leadership, economy, and territorial integrity. US promises, statements, and treaties are ass wipe whenever brief domestic political advantage demands selfish repudiation.

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

    Eduardo Galeano: “My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. It’s not a person. It’s a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten.”

    H. L. Mencken (1880 – 1956): “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville : “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”…and the born-again Yankee traitors in NAYOYO.”

    1993: The Barry R. Posen Plan For War On Russia Via Zombie State Ukraine — Mendelssohn Moses — The Postil Magazine


    Ukrainian destruction was contemplated months into Clinton’s first year. This absolutely sociopathic policy paper advocates a strategy of callused indifference to Ukraine’s fate. The author describes the whole concept, as “inherent irrationality” requiring Ukrainians to destroy their own country. Of course, Washington choose the CIA’s Bandera Nazis to implement this plan as they define the term, “inherent irrationality”. No wonder Clinton and the Demo subhumans pushed this project hard. I can only assume the Republicans held out for China as their slice of the geopolitical genocide pie. This proposal is currently implemented in Ukraine now, and in eastern Europe since 1993.

    GFW Hegel, The Philosophy of History, “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

    US-NAYOYO wanted this war, wanted these self-defeating sanctions. They embraced both like porn stars, with reason and art appearing as seldom as love. US politicians will demonize Global South leaders for transparently selfish, domestic political gain. Then attack Southern economies: by seizing hard won assets necessary for proper development and functioning of their economies; by excluding them from trade and financial networks; by punishing political, intellectual, business and arts leadership. It doesn’t matter how reasonable, loyal, or generous they have been in the past. Venezuela, Iran, and Mexico supported the Allies through WWII with cheap, highly profitable crude oil. They were rewarded with contempt, traitorous leadership, poverty, military coups and death squads.

    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

  12. Robert Emmett
    July 26, 2023 at 19:37

    In the war of All against All, the human brain is in free-fall between heights of self-importance and depths of depravity. These mofos are trying to prove they can defy gravity.

    When bombs rain down, children cry underground while demented jugglers, in silk-tied suits & popularity pins, without a stitch of conscience or integrity, strain to keep their balls airborne as they rob the unborn.

    Whoever drops one first is designated loser. Then all bets are off. And it’s anybody’s guess who will be the closer.

    Take the weekend off. Take a spin in your cabin cruiser, out to the wild blue yonder & beyond while it still is a little blue. Drop a line, you’ve earned it, then ponder the moment.

    Curtain’s rising, you float above the scenery & meet the blank-eyed stares of faces drifting lifeless below. So high on a whiff of Old Hubris you can’t recognize they’re your kin.

    Cabal’s coming together as planned. Choir’s singing soft & low as light dims across vast stretches of un-peopled land. Blaze of colors lingers at end of day then fades into streaks of gray. Shooting stars like tears of delirium cross the face of the Milky Way.

    You’ve gone all-in. But you can’t win with a dead man’s hand.

  13. Lois Gagnon
    July 26, 2023 at 19:03

    The US/EU empire needs to crash if life on earth is to survive. US Americans will be the last to know it was their own country that has been the problem on the national stage since the end of WWll.

    • Lorna Hillman
      July 29, 2023 at 13:25

      Yes, very true and unfortunately Canada has been one of its biggest cheerleaders with the current Trudeau government. The destabilization of progressive governments in Latin America in the last several years is another example. Pappa Trudeau must be turning in his grave at how his son Justin is kissing Washington’s butt.

  14. James White
    July 26, 2023 at 18:52

    Joe Biden projecting as always: “The issue of whether or not this is going to keep Putin from continuing to fight, the answer is Putin’s already lost the war,” Biden continued. “Putin has a real problem. How does he move from here? What does he do?”

    “And so, the idea that there’s going to be what vehicle is used, he could end the war tomorrow. He could just say, ‘I’m out,’” Biden added. “But what agreement is ultimately reached depends on Putin and what he decides to do. But there is no possibility of him winning the war in Ukraine. He’s already lost that war.”

    What Biden meant to say:

    “The issue of whether or not this is going to keep Biden from continuing to fight, the answer is Biden’s already lost the war,” Biden continued. “Biden has a real problem. How does he move from here? What does he do?”

    “And so, the idea that there’s going to be what vehicle is used, he could end the war tomorrow. He could just say, ‘I’m out,’” Biden added. “But what agreement is ultimately reached depends on Biden and what he decides to do. But there is no possibility of him winning the war in Ukraine. He’s already lost that war.”

  15. July 26, 2023 at 17:45

    After that has happened in Ukraine all of NATO should not trust Biden as Ukraine was set up for failure and abandoned when the crunch came. The Biden team provoked this war with no consideration for outcomes or consequences.

  16. jamie
    July 26, 2023 at 16:59

    The risk that the war spreading into Poland is very high in my opinion; Ukraine might have all the interest to bring Poland into the fight at this point of the war is in which they are clearly losing and ineffective; either with US support or no support it no longer matter when hundred of thousands Ukrainian have died thanks to the west; they will go down taking every western nation with it.
    Wagner group is not in Belarus because of the mutiny, Wagner is there because they need to be there and ready to counter Polish and NATO forces; that’s all they wanted, kill some NATO soldiers.
    Ukraine-Poland axis might draw the whole Europe into the war, perhaps before spring 2024.
    Shoigu visiting North Korea recently does not look good, in a war with Europe about a million north Korean will help either China and Russia. Other countries will follow.
    It is a very dangerous moment for Europe and US, perhaps their downfall it is closer that we might believe.
    Still today, we are acting like the Germans during the Nazi times, believing we are invincible, superior to others especially now that CIA said we have even the aliens on our side, X-men/women, guardians of the galaxy, wonder woman, and of course captain America, thinking again that we were on the right side of history… the dark side of it… will we ever learn before the end of the rope? I doubt the narcissistic European culture will ever be so humble to learn

  17. July 26, 2023 at 16:42

    Very interesting and valuable geopolitical analysis and forecast. Thank you!

  18. evelync
    July 26, 2023 at 16:38

    Excellent article! Thanks to Consortium News, M.K. Bhadrakumar, and of course Joe Lauria. And thanks to the members of Robert Parry’s family for their dedication to keeping Robert Parry’s commitment alive to publish honest, reliable, credible, high quality news in service of maintaining a courageous voice that serves democracy. Bravo!

    I had listened on the You Tube channel “Russian News” to Vladimir Putin’s 7/22/23 address/conversation with Russian foreign affairs officials and to the Putin – Lukashenko discussion on 7/24/23 that M.K. Bhadrakumar links to in the fourth paragraph of this article providing the transcript for both public events.

    This article provides the analysis of the connection between these two meetings and shares why they were public and what they were intended to convey to their peoples, their soldiers, their allies and most of all, perhaps, their wayward, crazed and dazed adversaries along with their compromised vassals:

    “we know what you’re up to and you will not be allowed to get away with anything that further threatens the security of Russia and Belarus” and if I may add – regional peace, even world peace?

    • Valerie
      July 27, 2023 at 17:55

      For myself, there is no comparison between addresses made by Russian officials and their western counterparts. I have viewed many speeches/ interviews with Mr. Putin and his cabinet. Sometimes they are hours long. “World peace”. Another oxymoron. We are currently battling the climate breakdown. (“Global boiling” as the UN has now termed it) I don’t hold out much hope for us being successful in resolving our humanistic peccadilloes.

  19. JonnyJames
    July 26, 2023 at 15:47

    Great to read well-informed, honest articles about international politics and what I dramatically refer to as Operation Barbarossa 2.0.

    One small thing: “…Going forward, Polish leadership’s concern, paradoxically, will be that Donald Trump may not return as president in 2024…”

    When DT was pres, he spouted a lot of BS and hot air that didn’t match his actual policy actions. He continued to support the Ukrainian coup govt. imposed sanctions on Russia (illegal act of war), attacked Russian allies (more illegal acts of war) etc. The perception that DT was a friend of Russia and Putin is not based in fact. DT did not remove the rabid warmongers in the State Dept., appointed Fat Mike Pompeo and the pathetic chicken-hawk war criminal John Bolton etc.

    Once again, it makes very little difference who sits in the WH.

    The conclusion of Poland occupying western Ukraine would likely lead to a direct confrontation (invoke art. 5) between NATO and Russia. This could easily escalate into use of “tactical nukes” and then even more large scale nuclear weapons The US is playing a desperate, reckless game of nuclear “chicken”.

    • stephen kelley
      July 26, 2023 at 22:33

      exactly. the idea that trump is some sort of peace candidate is absurd. i for one will sit out this election. whatever became of the realization of political disengenuoism that seemed to take hold in the late sixties?!

  20. Tristan Patterson
    July 26, 2023 at 15:43

    American greed will push this all the way. God help us.

  21. rosemerry
    July 26, 2023 at 15:38

    An excellent and frightening article like the previous one by Mr Bhadrakumar. The panic of the West seems to be increasing. We all need to be aware, vigilant and careful.

  22. John R Moffett
    July 26, 2023 at 15:35

    It is a shame that people like Mr. Bhadrakumar are never allowed near centers of power in the west now. There used to be a time when dissenting voices were encouraged, at least in private, so that obvious blunders were not made so often in foreign policy. Now, western “leaders” only listen to a small gaggle of sycophants and war mongers engaged in intense group-think. The Biden administration is filled with ideologs and egomaniacs, and their foreign adventures are going to cause intense blowback that will last for years, or perhaps decades. It is not going to turn out well for anyone involved.

    • July 26, 2023 at 23:21

      A classic textbook case of projection . Thanks James White.

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