Ray McGovern: Media Miss Major Moves on Russia-Ukraine

Corporate media are ignoring the stark implications of Russia’s stated intention to take control of more Ukrainian territory than just Donetsk and Luhansk. I discussed this on The Critical Hour yesterday and supplement those thoughts in the paragraphs below.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Moscow’s broadened aims, explaining, “Now the geography is different. It’s far from being only the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, it’s also Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts and a number of other territories.” (I had just written on this.)

In his interview, Lavrov pointed specifically to HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, made by Lockheed-Martin) as the kind of “weapon that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territories of those republics who have declared their independence (Donetsk and Luhansk).” The HIMARS being provided to Ukraine have a range of 50 miles, putting them also at easy reach of Crimea – which Kyiv (and the U.S.) insist is legally still part of Ukraine. It all depends on “geography.”

I’ll See You and Raise You

Just a few hours after the Lavrov interview was reported came the announcement by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the US will give Ukraine four more HIMARS, bringing the total to 16. Austin bragged that HIMARS have already “made a difference on the battlefield.”

But which battlefield? Lavrov and Russian President Putin can have no illusions that the wider, strategic “battlefield” includes Russia. Indeed, this is the same benighted Lloyd Austin who let that cat out of the bag three months ago:

“One of the US’s goals in Ukraine is to see a weakened Russia. … The US is ready to move heaven and earth to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.”

( See: Austin’s assertion that US wants to ‘weaken’ Russia underlines Biden strategy shift.)

Will Blinken and Biden Wake Up?

It seems a sure thing that Biden’s advisers anticipate being engaged in a proxy war in Ukraine at least until this November when the US mid-term elections take place. Until then the Democrats surely will not want to appear to be slackers in confronting Russia on this critical issue (which, truth be told, they themselves did so much to create).

The reality, of course, is that US policy makers go blithely along, enriching the MICIMATT (and enhancing campaign coffers) by giving advanced weaponry to Ukraine – and replacing them as needed. It’s very good for the multifaceted profiteering business. What is really troublesome is that there appears to be little understanding of the high stakes involved; little appreciation of what it means that Russia considers US/NATO behavior in Ukraine an existential threat – one that Russia is determined to remove, and can.

As fall approaches and more HIMARS arrive, their 50-mile range and (as Lavrov tried to explain) the dictates of “geography” may lead to a much deeper Russian offensive well beyond the Donbass. Military prospects for Washington’s proxies in Ukraine are already poor and are likely to grow worse as the mid-terms grow near. Understandably, Putin will be worried that the US will move: “I’ll see you and raise you.”

Domestic Politics

President Putin is no stranger to the reality that US presidents are beset by domestic political pressures. In June 2021, he acknowledged this specifically in a keynote speech to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum:

“I am sure that it [US policy towards Russia] is primarily impacted by domestic political processes. Russia-US relations have to a certain extent become hostage to the internal political processes that are taking place in the United States.”

In my view, this gives the Kremlin considerable incentive to defeat what’s left of the Ukrainian army and move west, taking control of Odessa and moving toward Moldova, in due course. Again, Putin would fully expect the Biden administration to raise the ante at that point. So, by October things could get quite dangerous quite quickly.

Media Consumers in for Shock?

Given the Walter-Mitty-type reporting on how well Kyiv’s forces are doing, and the overall absence of balanced reporting and commentary in Establishment media, future Russian army advances beyond the Donbass are likely to come as a shock. Factor in the 6-year-long indoctrination/brainwashing on Russia’s “interference” in elections and its other alleged Russia-gate misdeeds (now disproven, but with the truth still hidden). Salt with a dollop of Russophobia and continual one-side-of-the-story reporting, and US media consumers would probably be malleable enough to support giving Ukraine even longer-range weapons systems and/or aircraft.

Surprise, surprise: This week the New York Times failed to put 1 and 1 together, so to speak: (1) Lavrov on “geography” and HIMARS prompting Russia to go deeper into Ukraine; and (1) and Austin’s pledge of four more HIMARS to make “a difference on the battlefield.”

Instead, NYT readers today get front-page, above-the-fold, he-said-she-said drivel from Andrew E. Kramer in Kyiv; his piece is titled To Rally Allies, Ukraine points to Fresh Gains.

Kramer writes:

“Through it all, the Ukrainians’ message to the world did not change. We can win. Our strategy is working, if slowly. Just keep the weapons coming.”

Among the successes the Ukrainians have told Kramer about is a strike on a Russian ammunition depot with, you guessed it, HIMARS. And, scraping the very bottom of the barrel, Kramer reports that the head of Britain’s MI6 (the UK counterpart to the CIA) believes Russian forces “are about to run out of steam … giving Ukrainians opportunities to strike back.” To remind (because Kramer forgot to), MI6 has a well deserved reputation for “fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy,” as official British documents show it did before the US/UK attack on Iraq in March 2003.

What Really Matters

One must skim half-way through Kramer’s 38-paragraph article to find a sensible paragraph on what really matters. But he does hit paydirt with this one:

The question of whether the long-range weaponry now arriving in Ukraine can indeed roll back the Russian army has become a pivotal unknown in the war.

Agreed: the answer to that cannot be known now with certainty. But the risk of tit-for-tat escalation getting out of hand, as early as this fall, can be known. A pity that NY Times readers are not warned of that.

This originally appeared at RayMcGovern.com.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

47 thoughts on “Ray McGovern: Media Miss Major Moves on Russia-Ukraine”

    1. “look at Martyanov’s video today (Friday) where he explains what HIMARS are capable – and not capable – of”

      Would read…but not up to watching for a half hour for the answer to that question…Summarize?

      1. In a word, the HIMARS are not significant. Russia will eventually find them and destroy them. They’ve destroyed four so far of the original 8. In the meantime, they’ve brought in an S-400 and are shooting the HIMARS missiles down, rendering them even more ineffective. 12 missiles fired at a bridge – all 12 shot down.

        1. They’re certainly not a game-changer.

          As to whether they’re “significant,” that depends on how much resource reallocation they require to deal with and what effect that resource reallocation has on timetables and on other plans.

          I suspect that any delay they’re creating in Russian advances is actually outweighed on the back end. Instead of having to try to keep up with advances that HIMARS etc. may have delayed, Russian logistics operators can be getting in better shape to keep up with future advances.

          1. The only resource allocation so far appears to be the S-400 the Russian brought in to protect a bridge and rail track that was being targeted by a HIMARS battery. The only delays might be if the Russians need to reorganize their logistics to reduce the impact of any HIMARS strikes on supply depots, or bring in further AD to cover them. They might also need to commit more ISR to detect and destroy the HIMARS. They might also need to bring in more Tornado-S systems to take out the HIMARS with counter-battery fire.

            I view that as almost insignificant since Russia has plenty they can commit. So far there is zero evidence any Russian advance has been delayed. Currently they seem to be in “build up” phase anyway for a new major push once the Seversk-Bakhmut line has been broken. That will just leave the main Slavyansk-Kramatorsk line.

          2. “So far there is zero evidence any Russian advance has been delayed.”

            Unless you have a direct line to the Russian MOD, you don’t know any more than I do what the plans were — at either the tactical or strategic level — yesterday versus what the plans are now. War is a fluid thing, and assuming Russian command and control is less brittle than it was during the Soviet days, the Russians have the capacity to notice and respond to developments.

            You seem to regard “reorganizing their logistics” as a minor affair. This tells me you’ve never gone for days on short rations, or hoping the enemy doesn’t know that the magazine in your rifle and one in your belt pouch is the only ammo you have, because logistics couldn’t keep up with operational requirements. I have. It happens to every force in every war of any size.

          3. I’m guessing your supply line was maybe 10 times longer than the Russian one to Ukraine, which also doesn’t cross any oceans. Add in a bottomless fuel supply and I don’t expect the Russians are having much in the way of logistical problems. But it seems to me a good way of analyzing the HIMARS impact is to observe that Russia has maybe 10-100 times as many such launchers, so if they’re going to be decisive Russia will obviously win.

          4. Length is one aspect of supply lines, and there were probably aspects of my supply lines that were longer and shorter than aspects of the Russia to Ukraine supply lines (Russia is not a small country and not all of its stuff is conveniently stacked up two miles from the Ukrainian border). There are other aspects than length, though. Air and sea transport are more difficult to interdict than rail and road transport, for example.

            I’m glad to hear that to “obviously win” versus an infantry platoon, all I need to do is sit my lone ass on a pile of ten times as many rifles as they have, though. That’s some top shelf strategic insight right there.

          5. OK no, numbers alone don’t get it, which is why I prefaced the statement with “if they’re going to be decisive”. If HIMARS really was the game changing wunderwaffen claimed then the Russians having a hundred times more would change the game a hundred times more the other direction, or maybe the square root of a hundred but anyway however you slice it, in the overall scheme of things 16 HIMARS aren’t doing jack, and were never going to.

            And nobody ever has as much of everything as they want but I just can’t imagine the Russians are having much in the way of logistical difficulties. They’ve been prepping for this for at least 8 years and they’re on the border. And any interdiction is going to be limited to the range and scale of a few HIMARS, which is hardly worth tallying, unless of course you happen to be on the receiving end of one that gets through. In fact, maybe the thought of an incoming HIMARS keeps everybody hustling.

          6. I agree that the HIMARS are not going to be decisive.

            But you’re still not getting it.

            “If HIMARS really was the game changing wunderwaffen claimed then the Russians having a hundred times more would change the game a hundred times more the other direction”

            If the Soviets had had 100 times as many Stinger-type MANPADS as the Afghan resistance, would those Stinger-type MANPADS have been more decisive than the ones the Afghans had? No, because the Afghans were attacking Soviet aircraft and the Afghans had no aircraft to attack. Those missiles would have been dead weight for Soviet troops.

            The Russians and the Ukrainians have different force arrays, different vulnerabilities, and different objectives. There is no presumptive correlation between a numerical advantage in a particular weapon and that advantage being correspondingly decisive.

          7. “Presumptive correlation”? What are you, a f*cking lawyer? OK, sorry. That was uncalled for.

            Actually, I commented elsewhere earlier today my impression “the Russian SMO is something of a moment in history, comparable to the US Civil War being the first “modern” war, in that it’s arguably the first at least somewhat peer/peer precision guided munition war in history”. You’re right that Stingers wouldn’t have done the Soviets any good, and for that matter I’m not sure how much combat utility HIMARS would have had against mujaheddin, but the Russia/Ukraine war seems something of a watershed in being the first war where terminally guided munitions are being used on a large scale by at least somewhat peer combatants, in which context I think it’s plausible to assert that if one class of surface to surface munition was going to give a decisive advantage to one side then the other side having one to two orders of magnitude more of such a system would be even more decisive. It seemed a good way to illustrate the minimal impact 16 launchers would have. My main thought about HIMARS was that 16 of anything short of nuclear missiles wouldn’t do much of anything, and for that matter all the Russian MRLS launchers probably won’t decide anything on their own either.

          8. I think we agree that a handful of HIMARS are unlikely to be “decisive” other than possibly at the tactical level in particular discrete situations. They’re not going to change the course of the war in any big way. They’re not going to get Crimea or the Donbas “back” for Ukraine, nor would their absence make it any more likely that the Russian forces could ever e.g. “demilitarize and de-Nazify” all of Ukraine (although their presence might very marginally reduce Ukrainian casualties incurred in preventing that).

          9. Tactically anything can a happen on any given Sunday, which I think contributes to a fundamental misconception a lot of people have about war and who’s going to win. And yeah, Russia can take territory but it can’t take hearts and minds, and I’m not an expert but I think they’re going to do their best not to have to. I think they’ll take what they think they can consolidate and try to cauterize the rest. America has won in that regard.

        2. the narrative pursuant to RSH- these weapons systems are an existential threat to the Rus. and also look at how many of these weapons systems the russian army has effortlessly destroyed.

          Pres. Putin’s so-eloquently defended SMO is more like Operation Smash-n-Grab – & it is now expanded to Operation Gobble Gobble Gobble. there is always an excuse when you need one for a war of aggression. this war of aggression is just like all the ones america has launched – the aggressors claim they have justification.

  1. “…confronting Russia on this critical issue (which, truth be told, they themselves did so much to create).” Amen, brother. All that while both political parties assert “moral superiority.” RIP Justin Raimondo, who argued: “…you see, we aren’t all neoconservatives.” Possibly then it was an accurate statement. Unfortunately, “We’re all neoconservatives, now…”

    1. “Amen, brother. All that while both political parties assert “moral superiority”.

      Thank you. Whenever anyone tries to imply one party is more responsible over the other for our disgusting war making, I think it’s imperative to point out there is absolutely no difference between the two.

  2. The Russians have destroyed thousands of pieces of equipment by now, including some number of HIMARS. What is someone smoking to think that 16 of anything, or however many remain, will materially change the war? The HIMARS are nothing more than a deliberate provocation for Russia to take more territory. If this thing goes nuclear, whatever historians are left are going to look back and point to things like this.

      1. Wish in one hand, saturation bomb in the other, see which one blows off first.

        1. Reveal your actual military capabilities in one hand, send Lavrov out to do his best Baghdad Bob impersonation in the other, see which one your opponents believe.

          1. ? Baghdad Bob tried to talk around an ongoing military collapse, and the military capabilities of Russia far exceed those of Ukraine. The Russian response is indeed the intended one, and they may well end up with more quagmire than they wanted, but when and if they get to the Polish border it’s going to be a whole nuther game of Russian roulette. The neocon’s MO is taxpayer funded mayhem in Wherethef*ckistan. They’re in over their heads.

      2. Seems like they taking territory. I guess even antiwar people can’t stand the idea of non-Westerners being successful.

  3. July 20, 2022 “Yankee go home!” Russia, Iran and Turkey agree the US troops must leave Syria

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran held talks yesterday in Tehran at the 7th Astana summit for peace in Syria, stressing the need for respecting Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.



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  6. “Among the successes the Ukrainians have told Kramer about is a strike on a Russian ammunition depot with, you guessed it, HIMARS.”

    Yea, saw that too.

    Sometimes a NYT piece will add a that a Russian or Ukrainian report ‘could not be confirmed.’ Not this time – like the head scratching ‘only time will tell if the intervention reverses their flagging fortunes’ and ‘Russia’s about to collapse’ lines, Kramer not-so-covertly stacks the deck for a continued, solely military intervention.

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