Good news, guys! Russia is ready to talk peace! Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported (in its entirety):
Russia remains ready for discussions on the post-conflict resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and further coexistence with the West, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said.
"In case the necessary conditions are created, we remain ready for political discussions on a realistic basis - both on the post-conflict resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, and on the further coexistence with the West as a whole," he said at the 10th Xiangshan Security Forum.
Shoigu stressed that "it is important to ensure equal relations among all nuclear powers - permanent members of the UN Security Council, which bear a special responsibility for maintaining peace and global stability."
"In order to create a fair, multipolar world order, it is necessary to update the architecture of international security and make it more stable. To this end, it is necessary to unite the efforts of all interested countries," the minister noted.
As is always the case with Russia, this is all bull.
The key phrase in the statement above is “the necessary conditions.” Russia has repeatedly argued that those conditions include the acceptance of Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine—Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. Russia doesn’t control 100% of any of those four.
Of course Russia would love to freeze the contest, even getting territory it hasn’t won on the battlefield.
That makes all the blabber about a “multipolar” world particularly ridiculous. Russia has gotten itself into a quagmire in Ukraine that has decimated its military and crushed its economy. It is now depending on the pariah states of Iran and North Korea to supply it with the munitions it needs to maintain its war effort. China is pulling former Soviet republics in central Asia into its sphere of influence … at Russia’s expense. And Vladimir Putin’s big anti-Western coalition, the BRICS framework binding Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa into … something … has little economic, military, or political pull. It’s certainly no G7 or NATO. The five founding BRICS nations have a combined GDP that barely matches the U.S. by itself. Add in Western-aligned nations in Europe and Asia, and it’s not even close.
That makes Shoigu’s whining about “equal relations among all nuclear powers” particularly pathetic. Nuclear weapons don’t bestow equal say in anything, no matter how much Russian politicians and propagandists promise nuclear hellfire on their enemies. Russia has nothing of value to offer any potential allies. Refugees fleeing wars, persecution, and economic distress aren’t banging on China’s or Russia’s doors. They’re all trying to get to the West, the land of real opportunity, freedom, and tolerance. A just world can’t be built on what they’re selling because no one is buying it.
It’s been fascinating over the past two years watching conservatives and liberals switch places on this issue. We wanted to believe that stepping back from international involvement would create a safer world for all. Instead, it created a vacuum that Russia and China have been happy to fill. And rather than make everyone safer, it’s spread new levels of misery through Africa, Europe, and Central Asia. And if China has its way, there will be more war and misery in eastern Asia.
Western Europe was happy to indulge in its post-Cold War peace dividend, much of it subsidized by our own bloated defense budget, and now everyone is paying the price, with Ukraine paying in lives.
Yet it is now the right that celebrates repressive regimes like Russia, demanding further American disentanglement from international affairs so that the forces of repression can make even deeper inroads around the world. Don’t think that Sen. Tommy Tubberville’s hold on all military promotions isn’t part of that campaign—disrespecting our military and its leaders to push their own narrow, extremist agenda.
In fact, the right is finally realizing that the military is our greatest social experiment in equality and equal opportunity, and would rather gut it than allow for such a “woke” institution to remain active. Look what I wrote way back in 2006:
The military is perhaps the ideal society -- we worked hard but the Army took care of us in return. All our basic needs were met -- housing, food, and medical care. It was as close to a color-blind society as I have ever seen. We looked out for one another. The Army invested in us. I took heavily subsidized college courses and learned to speak German on the Army's dime. I served with people from every corner of the country [...]
The Army taught me the very values that make us progressives -- community, opportunity, and investment in people and the future. Returning to Bush Senior's America, I was increasingly disillusioned by the selfishness, lack of community, and sense of entitlement inherent in the Republican philosophy. The Christian Coalition scared the heck out of me. And I was offended by the lip service paid to national service when most Republicans couldn't be bothered to wear combat boots.
It’s no accident that the U.S. military was the first national institution to desegregate or the one that made college a possibility for people of lower socioeconomic strata. Remember, I went into the Army a conservative and came out a liberal. It’s the reason I’m so proud of my son serving, even if he might be currently dodging Iranian drones in the desert. Yet conservatives were blinded both by the guns those soldiers carry and by their utility for the neocon dream of world domination.
That facade all broke down first with Donald Trump’s rank disrespect of military heroes, like the late Sen. John McCain, and it continues to this day with Tuberville’s disrespect of those currently serving.
All the yellow ribbons and waving flags and love proclamations for the troops went “poof” the second those soldiers no longer served their purposes. Nothing makes this more clear than Republicans railing against China and Iran while pretending that Russia isn’t those countries’ biggest ally. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would absolutely involve Russia in some way. And Iran is trading drones with Russia in exchange for advanced weapons technology. They are all heads of the same hydra.
Russia and China certainly couldn’t be happier at the conservative movement’s sabotaging of America’s military, a point that Republican senators made last night as they put Tubberville in the chamber’s hot seat, forcing him to object to the promotion of one qualified military leader after another. The problem for those pro-national security Republicans is that their numbers are dwindling in a party increasingly dominated by Putin apologists and isolationists. Meanwhile, Democrats might be more unified than ever.
Putin’s game plan is currently clear—lock in as many gains as possible and hope that a second Trump presidency marks the end of not just Ukrainian support but also NATO itself. Without that hope, there would be little for Putin to hang on to. Peace negotiations could be possible. But that’s not the world we live in, and Putin cares little for the Russian (much less Ukrainian) lives that will be lost between now and the November 2024 presidential elections. Empowering Trump and the pro-Putin MAGA isolationists extends Ukraine’s war and misery.
Avdiivka has become a battle of salients. The town itself is a Ukrainian salient, which Russia is trying to surround. But that Russian advance north of Avdiivka is its own salient. And reports suggest that poor Russian flank security has given Ukraine a surprising opportunity.
This account deals heavily in hopium … that is occasionally right.
After digging, we’re not seeing any evidence beyond the 1-kilometer advance that Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner wrote about yesterday.
But even 1 kilometer is exciting enough since it necessarily demands a Russian response—either it shifts resources to protect its rear from Ukrainian encirclement, thus losing steam in their most promising advance in the Avdiivka direction (from the north, through the now-famous waste pit at the coke factory), or they get cut off and die. Clearly, they have a single option, and that will have a major impact on Russia’s continued operations in that direction.