In my report on “Day Sixteen” of the Ukraine-Russia war a couple of days ago, I provided a brief summary of the opening segment of the 9 March edition of the Russian political talk show “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.” I directed special attention to the words of Mosfilm Director Karen Shakhnazarov, who set the tone for an unusually grave discussion of war prospects and political stability within Russia.
However, I saved for separate discussion and did not mention one key point made by Shakhnazarov that was picked up by other panelists and became a general topic for discussion: that the Americans are doing everything in their power for this to be a long war and Russia must avoid at all costs following their playbook.
For the Americans, the longer the war drags on, the easier it is to impose ever more punishing sanctions to which European and other allies will also adhere given the negative impact on public opinion about Russia from the scenes of destruction in Ukraine that are shown daily on television. The prolongation of war is supported by the never ending messages of support to the valiant Ukrainian fighters coming in from the United States and the Collective West, from the $13 billion in aid just approved by Congress, from the weaponry and munitions that NATO Member States are now sending in to Ukraine. No one in the West is telling Zelensky to save his country, to save his people by just giving up and submitting to Russia’s demands, though there are reports that Israeli Prime Minister Bennett did just that a day or so ago in a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader.
Of course, a separate issue is whether Zelensky could raise the white flag and live to see another day. Russian social media which reported the story of Bennett’s call also posted comments to the effect that Zelensky counts for nothing, that the army and radical nationalists will not follow any orders he may give.
Perhaps for these reasons, the Russian military command through its spokesman Major General Igor Konoshenkov today declared that any convoys carrying foreign weaponry into Ukraine will be considered to be “legitimate targets” and will be destroyed. When the military materiel is exhausted, the Ukrainian forces will have no choice but to surrender.
Meanwhile there are questions about how the Russians will impose demilitarization and denazification in case of victory. Yes, they will have destroyed the military assets of Ukraine by their bombing campaign. However, if the Russians simply get up and leave Ukraine upon signing a peace agreement on recognition of the independence of the Donbas republics and on recognition that Crimea is now Russian, it is entirely foreseeable that the West would rearm Ukraine very quickly, possibly within one year by simple drawdown of the surplus tanks and other gear now in storage in EU countries.
As former Soviet-Russian diplomat, political scientist and activist Nikolay Platoshkin argues, denazification means more than arrest of Nazi radicals in the army, which is by itself beyond the capabilities of the 150,000 Russian troops now at work on Ukrainian territory (in Russian). It means bringing into play Ukrainian Russian-speaking civil society, which has been cowed into submission by eight years of terror inflicted by radical bully boys across the country, so that identification and court proceedings against neo-Nazis and nationalist gangsters proceed without Russian participation. The whole educational system in Ukraine must be reformed to replace the hate literature that currently fills the classrooms and libraries in the guise of textbooks is purged. All of this requires a more comprehensive and effective outreach to the Ukrainian public than the Russian leadership has demonstrated in its conduct of the war till now.
As I mentioned in my last essay, a long, drawn out war may destabilize the Russian government as war protesters rise in numbers and effectiveness. It would also put in jeopardy the support Russia receives from its close friends abroad, China and India. Already now Chinese international broadcaster CGTN is broadcasting news on the Ukraine conflict that is almost undistinguishable from CNN or the BBC in its one-sidedness in favor of the Ukrainian “victims” of Russian aggression. The notion that the Russian-Chinese relationship is “greater than an alliance” will come into question if the war goes on more than one month.
© Gilbert Doctorow, 2022