The Ukrainian counter-offensive against in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions appears to have stalled, with heavy casualties. As I pointed out at the start truth is the first casualty of war. The Ukrainians have been less than honest and the Russians have played their cards close to their chests. However on the whole Russian statements have been borne out by the facts, even if they were a bit slow to acknowledge that the Moskva had indeed been sunk by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, albeit with NATO assistance.
Western reports of heavy Russian casualties are probably cut and pasted from Ukrainian defence ministry statements. Put another way, they’re junk. Very few Western journalists are actually embedded with the Ukrainian forces. Most of what you see and read in the MSM is coming from Kiev, not the front line.
Whilst published estimates of Russian casualties are way over the top it’s clear that Russian forces, sadly, have suffered severe casualties. Whilst the Ukrainians would have collapsed without massive NATO military assistance, Russian tactics at times have been hard to fathom, frankly. The Moskva, for example, apparently had critical radar systems offline.
Russia has clearly decided on a war of attrition, holding back most of her air power until Ukrainian stocks of SAMS have run down. Since NATO’s own stocks are running low the strategy makes some kind of sense, although it’s coming at a cost.
As all ya’ll know, I’m well-disposed towards Russia and am not a Cold War Warrior. I recognise that modern Russia is a democracy – it’s difficult to imagine President Putin lighting up the Kremlin in red lights, surrounding himself with the military and making a speech as scary as Joe Biden’s in Philadelphia. However I’m not a Kremlin mouthpiece.
It was a clear mistake not to declare war and commit all of Russia’s resources from the beginning. Declaring war, on the basis of a just casus bellum, not only has effect in the international plane, but in the domestic plane as well. If a country is clearly at war, with just cause and identified war aims, its population is more likely to rally around its leadership and armed forces.
In fairness the West made the same mistake in the Korean War. Not satisfied with failing to defeat North Korea and China in that war we went on to mess up the Suez and Vietnam Wars. We also decided to make a mess of the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Russians are continuing to play their cards close to their chests over Ukraine’s illegal bioweapons program and Kiev’s plan to attack the Donbas Republics. The result is that ‘illegal Russian aggression’ is the only narrative Western publics are hearing.
How willing consumers in the UK and the EU will be to pay for the war through massively increased energy costs is an open question. The closure of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is piling additional pressure upon Germany, for example.
The yawning gulf between Russia and the West is growing, and getting more dangerous. No Western politician is even making an attempt at understanding the Russian viewpoint. Russia sees the conflict as essentially internal and regards the Ukraine as part of Russia, as indeed she was. The idea of splitting Ukraine off from Russia came from German intelligence after World War I. Their man Lenin was the first to pursue it.
President Putin is highly intelligent – he’s much brighter than any Western leader, for example. Unlike any leader in the West he also has access to good intelligence advice. In Britain for example all intelligence product is politicised by the Cabinet Office. Any intelligence favorable to Russia is simply suppressed. President Putin will know, for example, that Lenin was a German asset. Western leaders still labor under the delusional belief that he was a communist.
Moscow does not regard Ukraine as a legitimate, sovereign state. They are well aware in Moscow that the Maidan revolution was sponsored by Germany, whereas Western leaders still think that it was some sort of authentic expression of Ukrainian nationalism.
The war will grind on until at least the spring, in my view. I still think that Russia will win, but the cost will be high. The Ukrainian military collapse could accelerate quite quickly however as the flow of Western weapons dries up. Once the Russian Air Force is able to control the skies it will be all over.
The West ought to be talking to Moscow, but neither Britain nor America has a suitable backchannel available. In the Cuban Missile Crisis President Kennedy has General Vernon Walters, who was very smart, and Harold Macmillan had that charming man Sir Frank Roberts, who had been British Ambassador to the USSR. Both later became friends of mine. At the moment matters are being allowed to drift.
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931 – 2022)
Poor old Mikhail Gorbachev sadly passed on Tuesday. He had been struggling with poor health for several years. Somewhat hypocritically the MSM have accused President Putin of being disrespectful by not attending the funeral on Saturday, although the only Western leader who put in an appearance was Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
President Putin did in fact show his respects and the last leader of the Soviet Union was accorded the privilege of lying in state. I still think however, with every respect, that he should have been given a state funeral.
I also think that Western leaders should have attended, as a mark of respect. Mikhail Gorbachev was a substantial figure. It wasn’t entirely his doing, but the fact remains that the Cold War ended without bloodshed and he played a major part in that.
He was a warm human being, who got on well with my old friend Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan. We never met, but we had several mutual friends. He didn’t set out to bring down the Soviet Union, indeed he was trying to save it. It couldn’t be saved however, as communism didn’t work, which is why the Germans invented and promoted it. (Karl Marx was never a Marxist – he wasn’t that stupid.)
It may not exactly be the place he envisaged, but Mikhail Gorbachev’s place in history is secure. It’s easy to see why wily old Yuri Andropov, Chairman of the KGB from 1967 until 1982, sponsored him. There’s no point writing in and saying that Yuri Andropov made extensive use of political psychiatry – so does the Crown Prosecution Service!
Tory leadership contest
It’s clear at the time of writing (before the announcement of the results) that Liz Truss has won – the issue is by how much. My prediction is that she’s beaten Rishi Sunak by a landslide.
She will inherit a whole host of problems from Boris Johnson, who will be flying to Balmoral Castle to tender his resignation to the Queen on Tuesday morning. Since the Tory Party decided to hold its leadership election in the middle of Her Majesty’s annual break in Scotland it is only fitting that both the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers will have to fly to Her, not the other way round. Whether Liz Truss will be offering Boris a lift back to London is unclear.
I’m assuming that Boris and Liz will be flying in and out of Dyce (Aberdeen), the nearest airport to Balmoral. I’m not sure what RAF station they’ll be using down south. RAF Northolt’s runway (07/25) is a bit marginal for the RAF’s A330 Voyager, but they have a smaller Airbus they can use. Since Dyce’s runway is also a bit short maybe that’s just as well! I’m assuming that someone in Conservative Party HQ is applying their minds to the problem of getting Liz Truss to Balmoral.
Sadly it looks as though Simon Case will be staying on as Cabinet Secretary, at least for the time being. That in turns means that GO2 and the listening post run in London by a German electronics company (S) won’t be shut down. That in turn means that all MPs and senior judges’ telephones and email will continue to be tapped.
Whilst Liz Truss has many interesting ideas, including sensible policies on tax, it’s unlikely that she will be allowed to implement them. Informed leaks suggest that her Cabinet, sadly, like the outgoing Cabinet, will be short of intellectual firepower.
The Cabinet Office of course is deeply committed to taking Britain back into the clammy embrace of the EU, in two stages – single market first, then full membership. That in turn means that the Cabinet Office want to see Liz Truss replaced at the next election by Rejoiner Sir Keir Starmer. That’s why they brokered talks between Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP, with a view to a Lib/Lab coalition, supported by the SNP in a confidence and supply deal, in exchange for a second referendum on breaking up the UK.
Inevitably this will mean massive tension between the new PM and the Cabinet Secretary. The PM will be desperate to succeed. The Cabinet Secretary will be desperate to see her fail.
The leaks suggest that the Right is likely to miss out, big time, although there will be some token right wing appointments. My prediction is that right wing support will have started to drift away from the new government by Christmas. Liz Truss has some big decisions to make. Does she want to be a successful and game-changing leader like Margaret Thatcher, or a failure like Theresa May, no offense intended? (I couldn’t actually name a single success for Theresa May’s government.)
All the signs are that the new government will decide to stay with the absurd commitment to Net Zero, in other words will continue to propagate the global warming hoax. This in turn means deepening the energy crisis. The only way out of the mess is either to have some intelligent people in the Cabinet, which would mean bringing in peers, since there are no highly intelligent MPs, sadly, or to appoint an intelligent Chief Scientific Adviser.
I have actually been sounded out over who the new Chief Scientific Adviser might be, and recommended a sensible chap, but Liz Truss is likely to stick with the current idiot, no offense intended. The problem with having idiot advisors of course is that you end up with idiot policies.
This week’s movie review: The Revenant (2015, dir. Alexander Iñárritu)
I’ve been meaning to review this movie for some time, but there have been a lot of exciting new releases this summer! The Revenant is a serious Western, set in the 1820s. A blockbuster, starring Leonard DiCaprio, who won an Oscar, it grossed over half a billion dollars on release.
The movie fully deserves its critical acclaim, including three Oscars. DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, who leads a hunting party in the Dakotas. There’s a cracking plot and the winter scenery is wonderful, some of it shot in Argentina.
The scene where Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear is very well done. It’s also instructive for an Englishman. We have a soft spot for bears and tend to view them as cuddly. Cuddling a grizzly however is a bad idea.
A good friend owns a log cabin in the Rockies. She was most put out when in response to her complaint over the telephone that a bear had taken up residence on her porch all I could say was ‘how lovely’! Had I been staying I would probably have taken out a jar of honey! (There’s a story about that log cabin – the first time I stayed there the boys had to check it out and in so doing discovered a bunch of wild guys with guns the next mountain over that the Fibbies and state police didn’t know about!)
If you haven’t seen it, stream the video!
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.
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