If you only knew what I know…
In Russia I can get both sides of the story and the West is losing the plausibility war.
As an American who lived 85 years in the U.S., American motives, policies, and actions are an easily readable open book. With the conflict going badly for Ukraine, the U.S. has upped the terror ante by supplying long range missiles to a desperate Ukraine. That has me calculating - how far to Moscow? If that happens to any large Russian city, the consequences will be enormous. But it is a risk the U.S. is willing for the Ukrainian people to take in a last ditch effort to take down the Russian government.
All news and analysis coming from Russia is blocked in the West. They claim disinformation. In reality, it is the true information they fear.
Last week, I saw a lengthy interview with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov on the evolution of the situation in Ukraine. Totally plausible. It wasn’t even news in the west.
The following two articles from RT-International also address military and agricultural issues in an insightful way. Since you’ll never see them, I’m sharing.
What sort of losses can Ukraine tolerate before it’s forced to seek a peace deal with Russia?
We have to admit that Ukraine as an adversary turned out to be much stronger than it seemed for many on the eve of the offensive. That said, the reason given by the Russian side for starting the operation (the threat of a Ukrainian invasion of the Donbass) lost its relevance in the first days, if not hours: with massive strikes, the Ukrainian Army was neutralized and deprived of the ability to conduct offensive actions.
Yes, within a couple of weeks it was possible to occupy the territories of several regions without serious fighting. However, there was no collapse of the Ukrainian state, troop control was maintained, mobilization was carried out, and supplies were secured. Seeing that Ukraine was holding on and could fight, the West finally decided to deliver extensive military supplies.
Kiev has managed to build quite effective military propaganda. The party line is: “We were attacked, the entire West supports us, together we stood our ground and forced the enemy to retreat, together we will fight until victory.”So far, the ideological pumping is working, but over time, the weak points of the chosen narrative will begin to appear – facts will become apparent or, simply put, the excess of lies will be exposed.
The Mariupol garrison, which had been surrounded for two-and-a-half months, is an illustrative example in this regard. Kiev insisted all along that it would be saved by military means and then transported to a neutral country.
However, it ended with a regular “evacuation” to Russian captivity, and the Ukrainian soldiers and fighters of the national battalions (in this case, the Azov neo-Nazis) saw clearly how they were being used as cannon fodder in the information war. Coincidence or not, but soon after the fall of Mariupol, the front in the Donbass also faltered, and under the threat of encirclement, Kiev’s soldiers now more often prefer to retreat and surrender cities without a fight.
Tectonic shifts have taken place in the Russian-occupied Kherson and Zaporozhye regions: the creation of fully fledged civil-military administrations, the switch to ruble payments, the connection of Russian television and the internet, and the switch to SIM cards of Russian operators. Russian car number plates are being issued, symbols of Ukrainian statehood are being dismantled, and the procedure for issuing Russian passports has been adopted. All indications are that Russia is serious about the territory and intends to stay there for a long time – unlike the districts of Kharkov Region under our control, where nothing of the kind has been observed so far.
The battle for Donbass, which will determine the future of the military operation, is in full swing. It is following a slow, smoldering pattern that does not involve a rapid and spectacular defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A term of the First World War is increasingly recalled: War of attrition.
The conflict remains localized and peripheral for everyone except Ukraine. Russia is fighting with a peacetime army, essentially an expeditionary corps at maximum capacity, while the West, although supplying Kiev’s forces on an unprecedented scale, is not yet supplying the latest and most expensive weapons and is not intervening with its own troops.
In any military conflict, two issues are of fundamental importance. First, what are the politically acceptable losses – how much are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve military goals? Second, what are the physically acceptable losses – how much energy and resources can you squander while still being able to fight and achieve your goals?
In the context of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, let’s try to answer those questions:
How many people is Ukraine prepared to lose?
Politically, it appears, the answer is quite a lot. At this point, the total number of troops killed, injured or captured is estimated at tens of thousands, and the country’s public opinion accepts these figures for now. Yes, the losses are high, but they are successfully holding back “the orcs,” as Russian troops are dubbed in Kiev’s propaganda. However, these are the best, most experienced and most motivated fighters, and – at least in the coming months – it will be hard to replace them. In addition, the defensive tactics of the Armed Forces of Ukraine work well in the fortified positions that have been created in the Donbass in recent years. How untrained recruits will perform outside of such positions and against an army experienced in assault operations, only the future will show.
How many weapons is Ukraine prepared to lose?
On the face of it, given Kiev seems to have a ‘cheat code’ for an endless supply of ammunition and guns from the West, this issue is irrelevant. But the backbone of an army, especially a defending army, is not hipster drones or single, obsolete armored vehicles, but artillery: guns, howitzers, MLRS, and mortars. With the current scale of combat operations, thousands or tens of thousands, and millions of pieces of ammunition for them are needed.
Yes, the USSR accumulated weapons for a couple of world wars, and the lion’s share of these weapons was kept in Ukraine and now serves Kiev’s needs. Yes, military aid is brought in from around the world, but the flow is less than the losses at the front. As the Soviet stockpile is exhausted, the West will face the task of fully supplying Ukraine with military supplies on a scale not seen in decades; it will have to supply a battle-hardened but severely depleted army with a significant percentage of untrained recruits, which means even more casualties and the need for even greater supplies.
How long will Ukraine survive economically?
They say Ukraine’s GDP will fall twofold this year, by about $100 billion. Keeping the economy afloat in the face of mobilization, loss of territory, stagnant businesses, and currency devaluation will require considerable investment from the West. Even a full confiscation of Russian foreign currency reserves would only partly compensate for this, as there is still the issue of military supplies, which requires up to another $1 billion daily.
What about Russia? As long as the Russian Army’s tactic of slow advance with reliance on artillery is paying off, we should not expect it to change. If the Russian Armed Forces completely stall, whether in defense of Slavyansk/Kramatorsk, or on the outskirts of Kharkov or Nikolaev, the issue of a broad military mobilization will have to be resolved, which is still politically unacceptable for the Kremlin.
For the adversary (Ukraine and the West), the question of what sort of losses are acceptable will ultimately come down to whether Ukrainian forces will be able to advance against the Russian Army and occupy the territory. If they can, the economic costs as well as the human losses will remain negligible, people will go to the front while weapons stream in from the West. If they cannot, if they continue to retreat, albeit slowly, it will raise the question of whether to make peace or raise the stakes.
As before, everything will be decided on the battlefield
Agriculture: U.S. buys Russian fertilizer, leaving the rest of the world to twist in the ill wind of sanctions.
Amid the waves of sanctions on Moscow, Washington made an exemption for Russian fertilizers. According to a document published by the US Treasury in March, transactions with fertilizers are authorized. In 2021, the US – the world’s third biggest importer of fertilizers – made a purchase worth $1.28bn from Russia.
This step, however, is not enough to spare Americans from soaring prices. Researchers from the University of Illinois and Ohio State University looked at the effect the Ukraine conflict and the following restrictions caused to fertilizer exports. They noted that the US has robust domestic production, so it would suffer less from fertilizer supply disruption. “However, US farmers are likely to face higher prices because of the global interconnectedness of the global fertilizer industry,” the research says.
Another country the study looks at is Brazil, which is heavily dependent on fertilizers for its agriculture, and imports around 85% of the substances it uses, with Russia being among the top suppliers. In February, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited Moscow and agreed on fertilizer shipments, which are still arriving in the country despite the sanctions-related difficulties. “We are not going to take sides,” Bolsonaro said, referring to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. “For us, the fertilizer issue is sacred.”
In March, then-agriculture minister of Brazil Tereza Cristina Dias said her country had secured the support of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay for a proposal to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to exclude fertilizers from sanctions on Russia. The rising prices and fears of shortages make farmers’ lives more difficult across Latin America. And it’s not only about food. In Ecuador, where flowers are one of the major export sectors, the national association of florists expressed concern over the lack of fertilizer.
The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, voiced concern over the effects of sanctions on the international level when he met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin in May. “The economic sanctions applied to Russia have negative repercussions for Argentina and the world, and that is why I insist that we have to find a quick way to find a solution to the armed conflict,” Fernandez said.
The idea that sanctions should not affect fertilizers was already voiced by the UN. The secretary general, Antonio Guterres, insisted that “Russian food and fertilizers must have unrestricted access to world markets without indirect impediments.” He also addressed the rising price of wheat, as exports from Ukraine, one of the major producers, are now disrupted by the conflict.
“There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets – despite the war,” he claimed.
Amid rising grain and fertilizer prices and trade disruptions, the word ‘hunger’ has started to appear in media headlines. “Hunger is serious,” Dr. Brian Baker says. “However, I think the current situation is more a problem with food distribution than with food production. Both are factors. As food stores decrease, production will become more important."
Dr. Dora Drexler also believes the danger is real, but mostly for countries with less developed economies e.g., in North Africa. “They buy most of the grain from Ukraine or from Russia, and of course their spending power is lower than in Europe. So, if there is a shortage of supplies, and prices are up, they are much more vulnerable” she notes.
African farmers have also felt the effects of the shortage, and it was reported that several countries reached out to Moscow for help. According to comments from the Russian Foreign Ministry to RIA Novosti, there are number of states asking for assistance in the delivery of food and fertilizers.
Is there any way to avoid hunger? As both Dr. Baker and Dr. Drexler work in the field of organic agriculture, they see a potential solution in the use of more organic sources of nutrients.
“I see building local capacity and shorter supply chains as a way to feed people during this global crisis,” Dr. Baker says. Dr. Drexler agrees that sustainable local food systems are of key importance, adding, “measures we take to make sure that our world remains livable for human beings should not be dependent on pandemics or on war or any conflict."
“For me, a solution would be to help those countries who cannot produce enough food for their own population right now, to develop local agriculture, to use more agroecological methods and to create production locally, to ensure that they cannot face hunger because of a conflict happening several thousand of kilometers away. To be more dependent on their own resources rather than of the trade between continents,” she says.
The president of the Association of Iranian Plant Protection Scientific Societies (AIPPSS), Dr. Mohammadreza Rezapanah, notes that the shortage of fertilizers was predicted long ago. It is partially explained by the trade disruptions, but according to Dr. Rezapanah, the world is devastating its natural resources. “Unlimited use of fertilizers is not possible anymore,” he says. As an example, Dr. Rezapanah talks about the looming shortage of phosphorus, and insists that farmers should take organic agriculture methods seriously.“Organic agriculture is not too difficult, but joining the organic trade is. Synchronizing with each other, making sufficient production for our countries – that’s what would help us to overcome the sanctions and the pressure. We have to respect the environment, we have to respect our farmers, we have to show the farmers the organic way.”
It may be that there is a long way to go, and any type of solution – whether it involves dealing with fertilizer trade difficulties now or shifting to organic agriculture in the future – requires a high level of cooperation, which seems difficult to achieve given the current polarization in the world. However, even if we lifted all the restrictions right now, would it be too late to improve the situation?
“Call me an optimist, but I believe it is never too late,” Dr. Baker insisted