Zelensky is having a photoshoot in Kherson today. Claiming it’s a great victory over Russia who had to run away in retreat and failure. The western media is trumpeting the Ukrainian take over of Kherson City in it’s usual way. There are the photos of people celebrating in the streets as Ukrainian soldiers arrive. There are the usual allegations, backed by nothing, of torture and war crimes as well. Listening to the propaganda in western media, once again, leads people to draw the wrong conclusions. Instead of seeing this as an opening for peace, some will see it as a reason for more war.
Russia CHOSE to leave west of the Dnieper River.
The biggest wrong conclusion is the belief that the Ukrainian military, because of it’s strength, courage and western weapons, drove the Russians out of Kherson. That the people of Kherson were all celebrating when the Ukrainian soldiers arrived. The reality is of course more complex.
The courage of the Ukrainian and Russian soldiers alike is worth acknowledging. But the two sides are far from equal in forces and capabilities. The Ukrainians had a numerical advantage over the Russian forces of about 3 to 1 for most of the past 9 months but Russians have always maintained the tactical advantage when it came to training and equipment. This has meant that, despite their numerical superiority and courage, Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and injured at a much higher ratio than Russians. In recent months, with the Ukrainian attacks, that has meant roughly an 8 to 1 Ukrainian to Russian kill ratio.
The western media would have you believe the losses have been equal. Some even claim that the Russians have been dying at a greater rate and that Russia is running out of equipment. The media claims this despite knowing that the size and sophistication of Russia’s armed forces is much greater. People of the west are led to believe the fairy tale that a poorly equipped and trained Ukrainian army can get the better of the Russians. So long as we all keep clicking our heals together, waving our Ukrainian flags and sending billions plus the junk from our military stockpiles, surely it will be so. While this no doubt slowed Russia down over the summer, Russia has only now decided to enter decisively into the fight. They now have the troops and weapons going to Ukraine to totally dominate what’s left of the worn down Ukrainian army.
Another wrong notion brought to our brains by western propaganda is who the people in the towns of Ukraine see as liberators and occupiers. The correct answer is that the people in the east and the south, where most of the fighting is, mostly see the Russians as liberators, not the Ukrainians. That’s not the case in the north and in the west.
Russians did get celebrated for coming in to many areas, including Kherson. Kherson was taken originally without much of a fight. They were allowed in by the population many of whom did celebrate. The fact that Kherson City was mostly empty with over 100k evacuated to the Russian side is the biggest indicator. These people weren’t forced to go. This is evident by the fact that some stayed and celebrated Zelensky’s arrival today. The majority left though, and the majority of Kherson voted to become part of Russia. The four states that ended up voting to become part of Russia all celebrated when Russia arrived.
Not only the Ukrainians in the south east supported Russia, many people in other areas also were celebrating Russia coming in. This can easily be seen by the fact that Russia is the biggest place for Ukrainian refugees. More went there than any other country in the EU, 2.7 million in total. In fact, Russia has offered a Russian passport to anyone who wants one in Ukraine. We know by examining voting and polling that for decades the country has had a 50/50 split between those that favored closer relations to Russia and those who favored closer relations to the EU. These are countries with close, familial ties. Imagine the US offering US passports to all Afghans or Iraqis during war with them and millions choosing to move there. If you can’t imagine that, then maybe you can’t properly imagine the Ukrainian conflict.
As with Kharkiv, Russia withdrew from Kherson, they weren’t defeated. Before pulling out they had won every major battle in Kherson and today still control 60% of the state. They withdrew for strategic reasons, despite their past success in winning, into a tactically better defensive position across the river. This was a better explained and less rushed pull out than in Kharkiv. Strategically, it was also very likely a bit of a move to freeze the conflict there, and to widen the door for negotiations so that the WEST can save face.
Russia has shown that it will retreat to preserve it’s soldiers lives because they see this as a war of attrition. That they can use their superior equipment, supplies and trained soldiers to hammer Ukrainian positions from afar and destroy their equipment and soldiers at a greater pace than the Ukrainians can rebuild their forces. There is also the economic and political implications that make Russia feel that time is on their side. They feel that the Ukrainian economy has sunk, kept afloat only by billions from the west. That the Ukrainian army is in disrepair with little equipment. The equipment coming from the west also has been declining. The EU is facing enormous economic challenges which is also bringing cracks to their supposed unity of support for Ukraine. Russia will therefore trade land for better positions and to preserve their strength.
Will Russia retake western Kherson?
The Russian retreat, though their decision and orderly, was a blow to Russian confidence and a gain for Ukraine. Since Russia has formally annexed Kherson and considers it a part of Russia now many think that Russia will return to take that area in the future. It’s been said that constitutionally not even Putin has the right to give away Russian territory. Speculators are wondering, will Russia eventually decide to retake that area of Kherson that they still claim as their own?
I speculate that Russia may leave Ukraine to occupy that area of Kherson west of the Dnieper River. They evacuated the citizens that were sympathetic to Russia to the east already. It is possible for Russia to keep their claim of that portion of Kherson but not take it. It’s not of major importance. They moved statues and an important grave east of the river in the last weeks. In some ways that even decoupled their history from the west of Kherson.
The Dnieper river will likely be the dividing line perhaps in Zaporizhia as well, where the small area to the west will be left to Ukraine even though Russia constitutionally claims it. A defensible position, a neat boundary and if this could help bring peace eventually then Russia would probably agree to stop there. All of Luhansk and Donetsk will become forever Russian though as well as the rest of the other two states.
Russia currently still occupies portions of Kharkiv as well that could be a trading point for peace. Maybe that gets traded for Kherson or traded away as a face saver for the west. Russia taking less land while securing other agreements on security is clearly a possibility that they would be interested in. I would guess that Russia would end this today for such an agreement. Until they get such an agreement, taking more areas or overthrowing the Ukrainian government is a possibility. It doesn’t seem a desire of Putin, only a necessity if they can’t get security agreements. I expect them to keep taking more territory, until they get the negotiated settlement they want.
If peace happened today, Ukraine and the West can claim they thwarted Russian ambitions in their face saving narrative. That Russia wanted to take all of Ukraine, had occupied some 35%, but because of the heroism of the Ukrainians and the resources of the US, they pushed them back. An agreement reached that effectively acknowledged the four states as part of Russia, while maybe not fully doing so, is conceivable. It would have to come with Ukrainian neutrality, demilitarization and a path out of sanctions.
If Ukraine continues to fight and loses Odessa, the left over rump of a state will be worthless. It will keep it’s corrupt and dysfunctional government but with a permanently ruined economy. A country endlessly sucking resources from the west rather than a source of wealth for western plunderers. At such a point, it may become irresistible for other states, such as Romania and Poland, to cut off their own slices from Ukraine. What would NATO or the US do if EU states start a feeding frenzy on the carcass of Ukraine?
It seems pretty clear that Russia would rather not let it get to that point. They would rather finish taking the rest of the states that they claim and leave parts of Kherson and Zaporizhia west of the river in perpetuity to Ukraine. Russia can feel a success at that point and secure, while Ukraine and the west can claim to have thwarted their land grab. I’m sure a creative security agreement that limits the range of NATO weapons in Ukraine, if not a total lack of NATO, could also be allowable if it brought the fighting and arms build up to zero.
It’s to the benefit of the west to agree to peace before Russia fully uses it’s new forces. The west has secured from Zelensky agreements to totally sellout his country but they can’t reap that reward while there is fighting and they risk losing it all if he falls. Ukraine has been declared open for business with this war having put them in debt forever with the west. The greedy capitalists of the west will want to get their spoils sooner rather than later. Many in the EU will want to restore trade with Russia soon as well.
Therefore we may see that the western portion of Kherson stays part of Ukraine forever. That’s if the west is smart enough to see this Russian pullback as the gift it likely was intended to be. If the west isn’t smart enough, then Russia will soon take back that portion of Kherson and much more. The longer the war goes on the more Russia will end up taking.
Putin claimed in a Q&A that their taking of Odessa in the future is up for negotiation. Meaning that eventually they would take Odessa if no negotiation manifests but they would be willing to not do so if peace was possible. The west understands that Ukraine without Odessa is a loss on their investment. The US seems to have indicated that if they were to get involved directly, Odessa seems to be the point where they might enter. Russia would ultimately like to avoid direct war with NATO but NATO may be too stupid to know that such a war would be as dangerous for them as it would be for Russia.
Before the end of the year, Russia will make major advances in the other areas. Maybe all that they claim to the east will be achieved. I imagine that this will be their stopping point for a time, giving Ukraine the chance to make a deal while Russia builds it’s defenses on it’s new border. Maybe a cease fire comes that is welcomed by Ukraine. If the ceasefires hold for a long time then it may hold till peace is eventually agreed. If it doesn’t then Russia may choose to keep going.
One other piece of the puzzle. Russia has $300B in foreign reserves frozen by the EU and US. The west is trying to outright steal it. Conceivably this funding may be another tool towards peace. Rather than it being stolen, Russia could agree to some sort of Ukraine rebuild fund. Russia could pre-empt the theft the same way that they shook free their grain stalled at European ports by declaring that they were giving all of that grain to needy countries. In Russia’s opinion it would be better it go to rebuild Ukraine with them getting the credit, than into the pockets of the west alone. It looks better for the west’s financial institutions to not steal Russia’s money if they can avoid it. So there we can see another bargaining chip.
Russia’s commodity based export economy creates reserves it has sometimes a hard time spending because of sanctions and other reasons. To trade their billions for peace and an end of sanctions might seem reasonable. If Russia is seen to be the one to give their money to Ukraine as a rebuilding and reparations grant than normalization between the countries could come sooner. Ukraine used to be a major trade partner, it would make sense for them to want that again.
Is there a better deal out there?
The EU is looking at an overall major loss on their bet on Ukraine. The US is looking better, even though they have committed more, because of their take over of the European market for LNG after blowing up Nordstream. There are whacky neoconservatives that got the US and EU into this whole mess who are clearly looking for a clear victory over Russia. Then they aim at victory over China. This is madness.
The truth is that not only is it wrong for the US to assert itself in dominion over the world, the US isn’t strong enough to do so now anyways. The people who think this is a good idea are totally delusional. They are also unfortunately in charge! We need to stop these people and demand the US stop sending Ukraine weapons and money and demand peace negotiations instead. There is no better deal than the one that Russia is offering now.