The war in Ukraine – goals, movements and expectations

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By RICARDO CAVALCANTI-SCHIEL*

The Russian military operation is not a war of occupation. Its times, its rhythms and purposes are different from the North American undertaking in Iraq

With almost a month of military operations in Ukrainian territory, the open conflict shows a not inconsiderable contrast of rhythms and conformations between its beginning and the moment in which it is currently unfolding. After an initial fulminating advance by Russian troops, they now seem to be holding back, encircling cities without invading them and advancing through the territory in what seems to be a few kilometers a day, which feeds the illusions of a Ukrainian and Western public opinion, strongly bombarded by the well-known war propaganda, which assures that Russia is getting bogged down in the quagmire of local resistance.

Is this true at the operational scale of military action? What does Russia want in terms of territorial control in Ukraine? Moreover, beyond the military field, some disputes are beginning to take on other contours, and many bets seem open, except for the practically consecrated evidence that this conflict has become a key, strategic moment with extensive repercussions in current and future geopolitical relations.

The global impact of this war is already perceptible in economic terms, and will most likely produce considerable consequences not only in the architecture of the production networks of globalized capitalism, but also in the general trends of financial capital flows; which, in the long run, can seriously undermine US geopolitical hegemony, based on the empire of the dollar as a trade and reserve currency, even if, for the time being, the general design of financialized capitalism is still maintained, anchored, in practice, on a pyramid of a few tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives, something in the that neither Moscow nor Beijing seem to have any appetite for tinkering (at least as long as the Russian Central Bank maintains its resolute adherence to neoliberal parameters).

Meanwhile, in other dimensions, war is taking on clearer features.

A Blitzkrieg psychologically unleashed by the United States, either through economic sanctions, or through control of the narrative conveyed by the corporate press throughout the West (which is very evident even in the case of Brazil), or through initiatives for the institutional exclusion of Russia in the most unusual situations, seems to have produced limited effects around the world and failed, above all, in what it intended as one of its objectives: to erode the support and legitimacy of the current Russian government in its own country.

After the first week of impact – when the Russian media itself reported popular insecurity, bank runs, food purchases for storage and a lot of uncertainty – the psychological warfare seems to have started to have the opposite effect on the Russian population. Demonized by Europeans as a nation and as a people, the Russians triggered a not-so-deep social memory (in fact, almost epithelial) of having been the object of a not-too-distant war of extermination “coming from Europe” – which, by chance, they call it the Great Homeland War (the Nazi aggression) – and are assumed then, again, under the same context. In a week of conflict, Putin's approval rating rose from 60 to 71%, and popular support for the action of the Russian Armed Forces in other European countries now accounts for around 87% approval.

Russian popular cohesion around the war is today an unshakable fact, and Western propaganda and its assumptions that liberal truths, around the primacy of individual interest, have universal validity seem to have clashed head-on with the “Russian character” – or, put in an anthropologically correct way, with Russian cultural specifics –; something that US “public relations” strategists and PSYOPs seem largely unaware of. Here is the collateral result of the arrogant liberal hegemony: the blindness to difference (not the domesticated difference, almost merely nominal, which today accounts for the pompous rhetorical cliché of “diversity”, but the difference in worldviews).

What, on the other hand, this psychological warfare also achieved was to create an environment of hysterical Russophobia more than anything else in Europe. This is perhaps the great North American victory so far: to further imbecilize and subordinate Europe to the Anglo-American imperial ideological agenda. The result of this is also the economic weakening of the continent and its separation from connectivity on many levels with the Eurasian bloc. Paroxysmal contradictions of liberal multiculturalism… or perhaps, on the contrary, perfect expression of liberal multiculturalist exclusivism: “Nothing that is outside our prescriptive menu of authorized identity possibilities interests us. Here, fiercely, multicultural tolerance ends and the strict boundaries between barbarians and civilized people are reinstated”. Did such “tolerance” ever really exist?… The fragile mask of a multicultural Europe, open to complexity and socially refined seems to have gone for good.

Out of curiosity, in practice, it is even possible that the insulation losses for Europe could exceed the analogous intended losses for Russia. After all, despite somewhat bogus claims such as Francophonie (or the Commonwealth, if we were dealing with the non-continental part), the European Union has no allies (except maybe Japan, Singapore and South Korea, besides – for the non-continental part) – of the classically liberal English-speaking world that makes up the spy consortium of the Five Eyes). As for Russia, beyond the formal manifestations of international diplomacy regarding the war, the story is different, starting with China and the Asian cooperation organizations.

It never hurts to remember the map recently presented by the spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on what is the international community for westerners (Perhaps the term “Atlanticists” is better suited):

It is also worth remembering that the United States is nobody's ally. The United States, from its own perspective, will always be the boss. And as far as you are concerned, the boomerang effect of this other war of Russia's moral marginalization could also be that of corroding, in the global arena, the reliability of the United States itself which, despite still being the chosen people and the luminous city in the over the hill, prove particularly strikingly, with their presumption of unlimited entitlement, to be a particularly sensitive potential threat to the wholesaler of the Global South.

In the Ukrainian combat field, on the other hand, external constraints gain another dimension. In the first place, it costs nothing to dispel terminological arguments. “Special military operation”? “Combined Arms Police Operation”? They seem to be euphemisms for a domestic Russian audience. There are many types of war: conquest, annihilation, intervention, colonial liberation, revolutionary, hybrid… (Let's leave out, now, the phenomenon of the so-called – by anthropologists – “primitive war”). But, from the Eurasian historical context, the action of a military or paramilitary force, regular or irregular, operated through violence (which simply means: beyond institutional limits) and against the institutional framework of a nation (however perverse as it may be – that value judgment is beside the point) is, irrevocably, war.

In practice, without war, the Russian objectives of demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine would not be fulfilled (without which Russia finds itself – and rightly – existentially threatened). Given the contingencies, the contrary would be unrealistic. Only unrealists believe that the UN, in its current state of indigence, could eventually serve as a mediation space to “avoid this war”. A fool who doesn't know that NATO, until it's useful, is shitting and walking (yes! a blunt expression is needed) for the UN. This NATO attitude (and that of the United States in particular) expresses something quite simple, which must be irremediably recognized by any minimally lucid agent (which includes our late Chancellor Celso Amorim). It is called agonistic hegemony. And, yes, what this produces is a world of wars.

After the Napoleonic and Nazi experience, war for the Russians is a terrible thing, and Russian military doctrine is a doctrine of maximum impact action, with quick and deep penetrations, as happened in the first three days of the fighting in Ukraine – when , in practice, the first objective was achieved, that of demilitarizing the country. Anything other than that could only be something like a “combined arms police operation”. In this way, how admitted General Vladimir Chirkin, former commander of the Russian army between 2012 and 2013, “this is now an unknown war for us veterans”. Russia began to learn it in Syria.

But there is no point in demilitarizing Ukraine if it is not denazified, because “nazified”, it will remilitarize. That was the objective of the 2014 coup d'état, sponsored by the United States: not only to replace a pro-Moscow government, supported by the majority of the population, with a pro-Western government, but also, and mainly, to establish in the country a network of type stay behind, as had been done in Western Europe during the second half of the last century. In Ukraine, however, this project went even further than in Italy or Greece: controlling the very structure and political objectives of an ultra-corrupt state. That is, for this project, endemic corruption in Ukraine was not only an ingrained social habit, but also a functional element for the neo-Nazi machine (as it has always been, and continues to be – the Bolsonaristan project does not allow us to lie).

Just for quick clarification, the networks stay behind, or “rearguard action”, constituted a paramilitary operation implemented by the United States, through NATO, in several Western European countries, shortly after the end of World War II, through the sponsorship and training of fascist cells and Nazi remnants , to prevent any political advance by European communist movements. Their methods of action included sabotage, targeted assassinations, indiscriminate massacres, false flag operations and destabilization actions. Its most ostensible action was the terrorist attack known as Bologna Massacre, in the Italian “red city”, in 1980. In Italy, after the surprising revelation of the Christian Democrat Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in 1990, this network became known as Operation Gladio.

In Greece, it was implemented as early as 1947, through special military commands, the LOK (Λόχοι Ορεινών Καταδρομών or Lochoi Oreinōn Katadromōn: Squadrons of Hunters of the Mountains) that aimed to exterminate groups supporters of communist tendency that, after the fight against Nazism, started to have political protagonism in certain Greek territories. The LOK constituted the military base that produced the dictatorship of the colonels (1967-1974), portrayed in the film Z, by director Costa Gavras. By the way, the “Z” of Russian tanks in the current operation in Ukraine does not fail to evoke a curious irony.

In Ukraine, the paramilitary cells that would give rise to the neo-Nazi groups Right Sector and Azov Battalion (which, at that time were still called Una-Unso – Українська Національна Асамблея- Українська Народна Самооборона): Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Self-Defense Forces) began to be trained by NATO in Slovenia as early as 2006. In Ukraine, as is well known, these groups, originating from the western region of the country, especially Lviv, flourished under the inspiration of a old and broad local nazi movement (which even enrolled 80.000 fighters in Hitler's SS, to exterminate Jews, Russians and Belarusians), commanded by the ideologue Stepan Bandera.

Phenomena such as networks stay behind assure us quite convincingly that fascism and Nazism are not necessarily political movements opposed to liberalism, but complementary to it. They are your “ugly” cousins, the guys who do the dirty work, and who eventually have to become hidden by the media mainstream.

So, it can be said, synthetically (although it seems reductionist), that everything that has been happening in the Ukrainian theater of operations after the third day of war is, in fact, a denazification operation. And, of course, it is a question of dealing not with a government or with an institutional representation (and Moscow seems, in fact, to have no greater hopes for this), but with a capillary network that, this one, inflated by its sponsors, the States United, they feed the obsession of a resistance at all costs, a resistance, if necessary, to the last Ukrainian citizen, as the Nazis always reasoned.

Just as Bolsonarist propaganda is primarily aimed at its own troops, the war propaganda of the Kiev regime also serves two purposes: trying to emotionally blackmail the West (in the vain hope of getting more weapons) and, above all, creating one pathos inner urge to resist killing their own people, no matter what lies are told to do so.

The war in Ukraine is different for the Russians because any denazification, despite the negative character of the “des-” prefix, can only be effectively carried out if it engenders another positivity (even more than a passivity or indifference); something that means something like a reprogramming of Ukrainian sociability, devastated by hatred against everything Russian, disseminated by systematic neo-Nazi propaganda, which is what constituted this new operation stay behind raised to a broad-spectrum scale (something that had not happened in “civilized” Western Europe). And here the big difficulties begin. It is not known whether Russia has a strategy for this, but the required tactics, based on the Syrian experience, are already beginning to give new contours to this now peculiar Russian way of waging war, in this case equally peculiar.

The Kiev regime's propaganda that the Russian operation is indiscriminately targeting the Ukrainian civilian population is perhaps the biggest blunder of that suicidal strategy. How can military action be aimed against civilian infrastructure if water and electricity supplies, telephone and internet, gas for heating and sanitation systems continue to function even in the besieged cities? Of course, as the neo-Nazi resistance deliberately deploys its artillery weaponry within civilian residential areas, the impact radius of even the best Russian artillery can produce damage all around.

This is the complex Syrian scenario. It is not Iraqi Fallujah, which the Americans ruthlessly bombed to dust, producing the delicate figure of 600 (or more) civilian deaths in their military adventure in Iraq. Six hundred thousand is (or was) three times the number of the third largest European army, namely the Ukrainian one. In other words, as in observation of the Italian general Fabio Mini, commander of the NATO force in Kosovo (KFOR) between 2002 and 2003, regarding the current Russian operation in Ukraine, "if they had done the tough operations, like we did in Iraq, they would have charred everything".

Russian forces, however, need to surround the big cities. To denazify, you cannot wipe out the civilian population. The art of this war requires other subtleties. Apparently, Moscow initially intended to separate the Ukrainian regular army, keep it as a future order control force and turn only to the neo-Nazi armed groups that make up the so-called "territorial defenses", but this intention ended up torpedoed by propaganda of Ukrainian war (apparently managed by the CIA and the neo-Nazis), which engulfed everything in the delirious movement of unconditional resistance.

At the current slow-cooking stage of Ukrainian forces, it seems that there are actually two wars in Ukraine. One is the one that takes place in the south (Black Sea coast) and in the east (Donbass); another, which takes place in the north (Kharkov-Kiev axis).

In the south and east, where not only Russian forces are fighting but also (and mainly, due to their knowledge of the terrain) the militias of the People's Republics of Donietsk and Lugansk, the cities, even the big ones (Kherson, Melitopol, Sievierodonietsk and, shortly , Mariupol and Mykolaiev), are surrounded, taken and cleared. Mariupol is the most dramatic case. Industrial capital of Donbass, it has a population made up overwhelmingly of ethnic Russians, in addition to a large colony of Greek descendants. The militias of the People's Republics of Donbass wanted to secure it for themselves in 2014, but failed. There, the headquarters of the Azov Battalion was installed, which, since then, has been subjecting the population to all kinds of abuse.

It must be understood that for the Russians and the people of Donbass, the population of Mariupol is part of “their own”. It makes no sense to attack her. Even if there is a nest of large rats there, it makes no sense to “carbonize” it indiscriminately, as General Fabio Mini says. And this for a very simple reason, which the mainstream media is keen to hide: the civilian population, ethnically Russian, is being held hostage and used as a human shield by the militants of the Azov Battalion, who won't let them out, even if the corridors humanitarians are open. The city is being slowly conquered from the neo-Nazis with the hardest of times. Some inhabitants of the Greek colony who managed to escape took refuge in Greece and began to report the horrors, not the “Russian bombings”, as the propaganda of the Kiev regime and the Western media are so fond of, but the atrocities of the neo-Nazis.

After desperately asking Kiev for reinforcements and not receiving them, neo-Nazis from the Azov Battalion in Mariupol this week received an offer from the local commander of the Russian forces to lay down their arms, and would be assured of being able to leave the city along with the others. citizens. They refused. It's understandable that, after everything they've done, they're very suspicious.

And this drives them to stubborn resistance, because they are imbued with the suicidal mission of stopping the advance of Russian troops and Donbass militias as much as possible, in line with Washington's expectations (to try to prolong the war as long as possible, to of Russia), and of the Kiev regime itself (of trying to buy time for some impossible feat of NATO support). Mariupol's neo-Nazis stole what food and goods they could from the city's inhabitants, but they will soon run out of ammunition. The relentless Chechen force, which a whole brigade of Georgians beat to flight during Georgia's last war as soon as they learned of their presence, is already in town for the coup de grace.

Indeed, once Mariupol is fully taken over and cleared, a considerable amount of combat-hardened troops will be released to strangle the 22 Ukrainian brigades that were deployed in Donbass for the ethnic cleansing operation scheduled for this March. The Russians beat them to it, and now they are trapped in various cauldrons (or “pockets,” in more traditional military terminology), surrounded by Russian troops and militias from the People's Republics. Between these Ukrainian units there is no longer any communication, nor command coordination, nor logistical structure, nor air support or possibility of reinforcements. As the aforementioned General Vladimir Chirkin put it, “they are just crowds of armed men with orders to face death”. Strictly speaking, this is the situation for the entire Ukrainian army. If those brigades trapped in pockets of Donbass manage to get rid of the neo-Nazis, who are everywhere, many units will surrender.

The Russian priority is inevitably the Donbass. But the humanitarian operations to supply food and care for the civilian population reach, extensively and massively, all of the already controlled southern Ukraine, where the Russian ruble is already starting to circulate as currency. By all indications, the conquest of Odessa will remain for the gran finale. This war in the south and east suggests that, more than denazification, it is even possible that, after a century, the Novorossia created by Empress Catherine II in the mid-XNUMXth century, which will reduce what's left of Ukraine to geopolitical insignificance.

In the north, on the other hand, the biggest cities are surrounded, not immediately taken, but the supply lines are cut. They find themselves equally simmering under the paranoid patrol of neo-Nazi groups and under the terror of local gangs of criminals released from prison and recklessly armed on orders from President Volodymyr Zelensky to “join the resistance”. It is necessary for the population of these cities to taste the cruelty of the reality of the world they ended up in so that, who knows, the idea of ​​denazification will start to make sense, despite the propaganda of the Kiev regime.

Italian General Carlo Jean, a conservative Atlanticist who was a military adviser to President Francesco Cossiga in the early 1990s, considers that the Russian military operation in Ukraine is doomed to failure due to an insufficient projection of means. your argument: “Even today, according to recognized standards, for a military occupation that has a minimum of resistance, between 100 and 150 soldiers are needed for every 10 inhabitants; this means that in Ukraine, a country with 44 million inhabitants spread over a territory of 600 square kilometers, between 400 and 600 men would be needed”. The key issue is that this Russian military operation is not a war of occupation. Its times, its rhythms and its objectives are different, for example, from the North American undertaking in Iraq. Either it is a war of intervention or we are effectively facing a new type of war, and not just for the Russians. Anyway, for the Russians, yes, it can be a big challenge.

The great final liberation battle of Donbass will probably take place in Kramatorsk. After Donbass falls, Kharkov will fall. And after Kharkov it will be Kiev's turn. The Ukrainian West is an unknown quantity. Coveted partly by Hungary and partly by Poland, it could be left adrift like the politically festering pocket it has been since World War II. Then will come the war tribunals in the People's Republics of Donbass, to try captured neo-Nazis, and where, unlike Russia, there is a death penalty. Of course, it won't be like the Show of Nuremberg, but it can lay bare to the world what Ukraine has become, due to the most insidious hybrid war, sponsored by Washington, even before 2014.

*Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel Professor of Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).

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