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Ukraine 14 - Back to the Mud


Maithanet
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5 minutes ago, DMC said:

That's not remotely what I was talking about and it's absurd to suggest I was.

I was just using you two as a stepping off point, I didn't mean to repudiate you specifically. I only quoted the posts because they both mentioned the off-ramp concept, I didn't intend at all to reference them beyond the accepted term that I find so feckless. I could have denoted that I suppose. The comment was supposed to be in a much broader scope than individual comments. Apologies for singling you out like that, it wasn't what I intended. 

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9 minutes ago, Babblebauble said:

I didn't intend at all to reference them beyond the accepted term that I find so feckless

I don't think the term off-ramp is feckless, it's just another way of saying "reaching an agreement" or "bringing Russia to the table" -- with the added connotation that Russia will be in a disadvantageous negotiating position.  If you think that in and of itself is "feckless," then that's your own thing.

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1 minute ago, DMC said:

I don't think the term off-ramp is feckless, it's just another way of saying "reaching an agreement" or "bringing Russia to the table" -- with the added connotation that Russia will be in a disadvantageous negotiating position.  If you think that in and of itself is "feckless," then that's your own thing.

Again, I'm not trying to come after you here so much as this baked-in concept that Russia gets to get war prizes for being incompetent. 

And that's totally what people mean when they say off-ramp. The accepted assumption that Putin has to be given something that isn't his so he will stop trying to take something that isn't his. There used to be a word for this: APPEASEMENT 

I don't like it when common terms spring up to replace existing language. 'Off-ramp' and 'face saving' sound a lot less egregious than appeasement, and are therefore easier to posit as a necessary precursor to peace. I suspect because of the -entirely superficial- implication that Putin is a loser. If he walks away with territory and political concessions that leave Russia better off than it was the day before there's a word for that: Winner. 

If Ukraine can accept that they beat him but he still gets to win, that's their business. But I don't like the assumption that they have to. Especially not when they're doing so well. 

Half the comments I read in these threads make me feel like I'm watching parents in the stands opine that the Mighty Ducks have done a great job standing up to the Hawks but they shouldn't come out of the locker room after halftime because what if the Hawks run up the score or start firing indiscriminately into the crowd? And that's no way to react to people who have done nothing wrong fighting to preserve their lives and freedoms. 

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6 minutes ago, Babblebauble said:

And that's totally what people mean when they say off-ramp. The accepted assumption that Putin has to be given something that isn't his so he will stop trying to take something that isn't his. There used to be a word for this: APPEASEMENT 

Only if you have a terribly myopic and binary view between absolute surrender/regime change and "appeasement."  By this definition not going into Baghdad in 1991 was "appeasement."  You're the one abusing the language.

10 minutes ago, Babblebauble said:

But I don't like the assumption that they have to. Especially not when they're doing so well. 

Nobody is assuming they have to.  Perhaps you should stop making assumptions about other people's assumptions.

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America didn't give parts of Kuwait to Iraq and declare victory. We murdered the entire (almost, lest you freak the fuck out that I'm not being factual) Iraqi army from the sky as it retreated from the formerly occupied areas. I ain't been saying Putin has to be deposed for a Ukrainian victory, merely that surrendering territory and accepting diplomatic neutering is, let me check my notes... Surrendering. And dressing the bad man's victory in language that makes it sound hollow is, itself, the hollowest of victories. I can't believe I have to explain this to a guy as smart as you.

And are you really, really, gonna pretend that the majority of Ukrainian victory conditions discussed on this board haven't included the giving away of occupied territories (occupied for a long time, but still) and clipped diplomatic wings? C'mon man.

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1 minute ago, Babblebauble said:

And are you really, really, gonna pretend that the majority of Ukrainian victory conditions discussed on this board haven't included the giving away of occupied territories (occupied for a long time, but still) and clipped diplomatic wings?

Nearly everyone expects Putin to hold onto the Crimea.  Is that appeasement?  I suppose it is.  The Crimea is legally Ukraine's.  But do you really expect Ukraine to try to reconquer the Crimea?  Are you advocating that?

Nobody should want a long drawn out war as each side strives for absolute victory.  That is why an off-ramp is important.  That we reach a point where it is in Putin's interest to stop fighting rather than fighting some eternal war.  It doesn't mean that Ukraine has to give away tracts of territory but it does mean some flexibility is required.  (You are simply wishful thinking if you think that Russian forces are going to completely collapse in all of the Donbas and the Crimea.  Right now, it is still inching forward even).

Unfortunately, I don't think Putin is interested in peace at this time.  But maybe at some stage.

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5 minutes ago, Babblebauble said:

I can't believe I have to explain this to a guy as smart as you.

You're not explaining shit, all you're doing is mischaracterizing merely using the damn term "off ramp" as "surrendering."  Moreover, if Ukraine wants to formalize the reality they aren't going to join NATO anytime soon, that's certainly not "surrendering."  If Ukraine wants to allow a UN-backed referendum in Crimea, that's not "surrendering" either.  And btw, your consistent moralizing and posing as if anyone that disagrees with your position is against the Ukrainian people is both laughably dumb and extremely counterproductive.

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And you're not even pretending to engage with my stated opinion in any of my comments. You're isolating single lines of broader points and trying to... I don't know, discredit me? I'm not very credible to begin with, so that's an odd choice. Just from the outside; it looks like you don't know how to explain that I'm wrong so you're attacking me.

You don't even respond to the things you quote. I defined appeasement -in the section YOU quoted- as "having to give the tyrant something that isn't his so that he will stop trying to take something that isn't his" and you countered with Saddam... And when I picked the wings off that lazy fly-by rebuttal in less time than it took me to enter the grocery store and find the cat litter you come back with a list of things Ukraine could do maybe to appease Putin so that he ends his illegal incursion into their territory. 

Yo, you're sitting there acting like appeasement is Chamberlain in '38. It ain't that, man. It's a word. A word that describes accurately any process of agreeing to the belligerent's demands for promises of ceasing their belligerence. 

Off-ramp, Face Saving, Exit Strategies... Those are all weak misspellings of the idea that you gotta give the bully something to go away. 

And that's all I was trying to bring into the discourse before you started acting like I'm screaming from a balcony in Munich. Words matter. Their context matters. Discourse is improved by accurate descriptions of the events or ideas in question and using soft language to describe completely unfair and (almost certainly likely) outcomes dilutes the very real unjustness in something like Ukraine having to renounce its territory and ability to join alliance groups that Russia doesn't like. I'm not here saying Ukraine should fight to the last man. I'm not saying that they shouldn't agree to terms such as have been discussed on this board if that's what they want to do to get the fighting to stop.

I'm saying that some people could choose their words more effectively when discussing these things because saying things like 'off-ramp' and 'face saving' lays the ground for observers in countries Ukraine is depending on for war aid to think that they're being unreasonable if THEY decide that Putin doesn't get what he wants or not as much as he wants. 

I'm sorry that it looked like I was sniping at you in my first post. That was absolutely not my intention and I apologized for it immediately. I wanted to share my concerns about how discourse can and will effect the way people view future occurrences, and treating things with matter-of-factness and passive language that are not in your control sets the stage for confusion and resentment towards people who absolutely don't deserve it.

I mean look at how you reacted to me asking a question about how we frame these things THEN APOLOGIZING immediately when I realized I'd accidentally suggested something of you that I did not intend. Common wisdom has an inertia that can make people very very reactive when things go differently than they'd expected, and all I set out to discuss is that the common wisdom of places very very far from Russian aggression probably doesn't match the feelings of people who are not in safe and secure locations.

Sorry I did that, I guess. 

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Babblebauble said:

I'm saying that some people could choose their words more effectively when discussing these things because saying things like 'off-ramp' and 'face saving' lays the ground for observers in countries Ukraine is depending on for war aid to think that they're being unreasonable if THEY decide that Putin doesn't get what he wants or not as much as he wants. 

Saying Ukraine/the west could provide an "off ramp," which is what I originally said, is not in any way suggesting Ukraine shouldn't get to decide.  This is a baseless interpretation on your part.  And if you can't get that "off ramp" is more accurate and preferable than "appeasement" due to how loaded and inextricably linked the latter term is then, well, what is it you said - "I can't believe I have to explain this to you."  Your insistence on such hyperbolic rhetoric to cast aspersions on anyone that disagrees with you is tiresome.

Edited by DMC
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19 hours ago, Werthead said:

Given how quickly Putin moved to silence Russian-Israeli tensions after a Syrian government jet was accidentally shot down by the Israelis, it's interesting that he's making no such move here.

Pissing off Israel (adding a fourth nuclear-armed power to the list of countries willing to support Ukraine) feels like a pointless move. Why not keep them on side and moving away (however slowly and slightly) from the US as he was achieving previously?

It's possible that Israel being anti-Russia further helps Russia frame this conflict as an exisential threat to their nationhood. It provides more fuel for the narrative that they are trying to sell to the Russian people. 

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I think the terminology is confused because the situation is difficult. The last few times a dictator has gone off on a military adventure and invaded another country, he's been so limited in overall power versus the superpowers that military defeat and regime change has been viable. In the case of Russia, that's a much harder condition to bring about because the US can't just invade and topple the leader. You have to hold your nose and engage in realpolitik, something the US has really gotten out of practice with (though to be fair, so has Russia).

That means that, with Putin's removal improbable in the near term (despite swirling rumours of a plot, which feel a lot like wishful thinking at the moment and of course there's no guarantee he wouldn't just be replaced by another hawk, or an even worse one), we have to deal with the reality of the situation. Russia could achieve a breakthrough in the Donbas (or even not) and declare a victory and ceasefire, which the Ukrainians would have to accept or refuse, possibly with the threat of Russian escalation. Ukraine survives as an independent state, retains its port at Odesa, but has lost a considerable amount of territory in the south-east and east, which could potentially serve as a launching pad for future Russian incursions in six months or six years or whenever, possibly with a reinforced, rebuilt and retrained army. Ukraine would have to carefully way the benefits of ending the fighting now and having time to rebuild its own forces against the dangers of a future, later war. You'd also have the issue of whether to lift sanctions or not or to show any sign of rewarding Russia for its adventurism. You also have to consider the current Russian antipathy or possible even hostility (if limited) to the conflict versus several years of brutal sanctions and propaganda transferring the anger for that from the Russian government to other countries. Plus the possibility that in the meantime Russia and China forge closer ties and the next Russian gambit comes with Chinese support. But, of course, the longer the war goes on, the greater the casualties.

It'd be easier if we could say that the Ukrainians are achieving major military breakthroughs, in which case encouraging that to continue would be easy. They've ringfenced Kyiv and repulsed the Russians from the western half of the country, and they have achieved recent, very promising advances around Kharkiv. However, the southern counter-offensive towards Kherson seems to have lost momentum and the Russians are grinding forward, if only metres at a time, in the Donbas, albeit at a heavy cost (the Ukrainian cost is also assumed to be heavy, just not as bad). If Ukraine is holding back for more equipment to arrive and then launch a counter-offensive, fair enough, but if this is the limit of Ukrainian capabilities at the moment, it might well be better to strike a deal before that becomes clear to the Russians.

The problem is allowing Russia the veneer of victory to embolden it to future actions. The risk is turning down opportunities to ending the fighting, perhaps leading to a future full Ukrainian defeat. On paper that doesn't look likely, but then on paper Russia should have won this before February was over. It's a very hard call.

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Posted (edited)

Mixed signals today, possibly deliberately to throw off Russian intelligence. One Ukrainian source has said that they are reinforcing the Kharkiv counterattack, and some evidence suggests that the Ukrainians have crossed the Donets and continued advancing eastwards, threatening to cut off the Izium supply line. ISW (Institute for the Study of War) has suggested they lack the punching power to get all the way to the highway to cut the line, but they also didn't believe the Kharkiv offensive could be as successful as it has been so far. If Russia has not left defences in depth behind their lines (Telegram messages saying officers have urged them to send everything forwards and not leave holding forces on their flanks, leaving their forward forces flapping in the breeze), they could leave 20,000 men cut off in the northern Donbas without an easy means of retreat.

Simultaneously, other Ukrainian generals were saying that they could not sustain a lengthy offensive for another six weeks and requested heavier weapons. There's some speculation that is a feint, since the stuff they've already received (and only barely started using) could sustain a counter-offensive by itself for at least a few weeks.

The situation in the north appears more fluid than around Kherson. Several villages noted as being retaken in the last few days and hours were supposedly in Ukrainian hands weeks ago, suggesting a tug of war between Russia and Ukraine over them. Neither side seems to have the upper hand yet, despite it being easier and faster to supply that front (Odesa-Mykolaiv-Kherson) than the Donbas. But the Donbas is also where the bulk of the Russian effort is being expended.

 

Edited by Werthead
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A lesser victory for the Ukrainian Kharkiv offensive is to get the main supply lines for the Izyum/Donbas offensive into range of medium artillery.  They have almost achieved that.  Once that is done, the supply columns bringing ammo, food and medicine for the ~20k Russian troops in the offensive will be under even more pressure. 

Also speaking of artillery range and why that matters, I mentioned last week that the Ukrainians had nearly pushed the Russians out of artillery range from Kharkiv.  It looks like that has happened, as the number of bombs going off in Ukraine went down from ~40 to ~5 (I can't find the tweet about this, but so those are approximate numbers).  Obviously Kharkiv will remain in range of missiles and long range artillery, but Russia has a lot fewer of those.

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Lukashenko calls for an end to war in an AP interview, and highlights the diplomacy he is engaging in to encourage Russia and Ukraine to negotiate.  That feels like a medium sized deal.  If even Lukashenko is voicing his opposition to the war, then Putin really is running out of friends. Lukashenko would certainly keep this to himself if Russia were in a strong position right now.  

 

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Posted (edited)

On top of that, Putin has been talking to the Israeli Prime Minister, apparently aimed at de-escalating the Israeli tensions of the last few days. Apparently he's said that if the Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol surrender, he will permit  the civilian population of the city to leave. He really wants Mariupol as a symbol of victory.

ETA: Apparently Putin apologised for Lavrov's remarks. That's remarkable.

Lukashenko has said that the war wasn't a mistake, but it's a mistake to have let it drag on this long and there should now be talks. He also says that Russia can't use nukes on Ukraine because of collateral damage to Belarus (and possibly Russia). Mind you, he also says the use of nuclear weapons might knock Earth out of orbit, which is the more traditional kind of hyperbole we expect from him. He also said that Belarus won't take part in the war, despite running major drills yesterday.

You can read that several ways, including Lukashenko trying to keep things calm with Poland (who might not fancy their chances against Russia but could bum-rush Belarus easily if they thought they could get away with it) and playing more of a "down the middle" role. His unwavering loyalty to Putin is a recent thing, before the Belarus protests he was certainly pro-Russia but he also criticised them a fair bit as well.

It might also be that Lukashenko is alarmed at the propaganda suggesting that Belarus should be formally annexed by Russia and Lukashenko busted down to a governor role.

Edited by Werthead
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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

On top of that, Putin has been talking to the Israeli Prime Minister, apparently aimed at de-escalating the Israeli tensions of the last few days. Apparently he's said that if the Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol surrender, he will permit  the civilian population of the city to leave. He really wants Mariupol as a symbol of victory.

ETA: Apparently Putin apologised for Lavrov's remarks. That's remarkable.

Israel has plenty of top notch military tech that they could share with the Ukraine if they so choose, and Russia knows this.  Intentionally insulting Israel with statements like "Israeli fighters side to side with Neo-Nazis" and "Jews are the biggest anti-semites" was an absolutely baffling choice.  I'm not surprised that Putin would want to walk that back - the surprising thing was that those statements were made in the first place.  I get that antisemitism is useful in Russia's propaganda war, but if you're gonna go down that route just have a bunch of nobodies making those statements for internal consumption, not Lavrov. 

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18 minutes ago, Maithanet said:

I get that antisemitism is useful in Russia's propaganda war, but if you're gonna go down that route just have a bunch of nobodies making those statements for internal consumption, not Lavrov. 

I believe that Lavrov and the majority of Russian elites genuinely believe those antisemitic conspiracy theories, and that his statement is something that simply slipped out in an unguarded moment.

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11 minutes ago, Gorn said:

I believe that Lavrov and the majority of Russian elites genuinely believe those antisemitic conspiracy theories, and that his statement is something that simply slipped out in an unguarded moment.

I think if it was the one statement, yup, but there were three, two in official pronouncements by the Foreign Ministry.

I have seen a theory that Lavrov wants to be fired, which makes about as much sense as anything else.

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2 hours ago, Werthead said:

Lukashenko trying to keep things calm with Poland (who might not fancy their chances against Russia but could bum-rush Belarus easily if they thought they could get away with it)

Poland would not rush Belarus, even if they can get away with it, what even is this. Lukoshenko is seen as an annoying problem, not the country or the people. You don't start going through the bodies of your neighbours just because you can get away with it.

And as regards Lukoshenko in general, nobody pays any attention to what he says or does anymore. They are very aware he is there, but nobody believes him, nobody wants him, nobody even sees him, they look past him as an extra celofane on the Russian sandwich.

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