Authored by James Rickards via DailyReckoning.com,
In yesterday’s issue, I addressed the biggest and most complex topic on the geopolitical landscape today — China.
But today I’m discussing what is by far the most alarming topic on the geopolitical landscape today. That’s the war in Ukraine and the dangers of escalation.
I’ve written extensively about two facets of the war in Ukraine that you don’t hear from legacy media in the United States or U.K.
The first is that Russia is actually winning the war.
U.S. outlets such as The New York Times (a channel for the State Department) and The Washington Post (a channel for the CIA) report endlessly about how Russian plans have failed, about how incompetent they are about how the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have pushed back Russians in the Donbass, and how NATO weapons such as U.S. Abrams tanks, U.K. Challenger tanks and German Leopard tanks will turn the tide against Russia soon.
This is all nonsense. None of it is true.
First off, the Ukrainian advances that took place in late summer were against lightly defended positions that the Russians quickly conceded to conserve forces. The Russians were willing to give up the land so that they wouldn’t lose valuable men and materiel.
The Russians withdrew to more defensible positions and have been badly mauling Ukrainian attacking forces ever since. Ukraine has wasted incredibly large amounts of men and equipment in these futile and ill-advised attacks.
In all, credible reports indicate that AFU casualties are nearing 500,000 and are increasing at an unsustainable rate. On the other hand, reports of 100,000 Russian dead are almost certainly wild exaggerations put out by Ukraine. The BBC attempted to verify these numbers and could only find about 20,000 confirmed Russian dead based on extensive searches on funeral notices, public records, etc.
Send in the Tanks — Eventually!
What about the tanks NATO is supposedly sending? Well, the tanks have not been delivered yet and most won’t be for months or longer. Our own M1 Abrams tanks might not even arrive for a year or more.
We actually have to custom build these tanks so that they don’t have the special armor and other advanced systems that our own M1s have. The Pentagon doesn’t want them falling into Russian hands if they’re destroyed or captured. Besides, we’re only sending 31 tanks anyway.
When the NATO tanks do arrive, they’ll likely quickly be destroyed by Russian artillery, anti-tank weapons and precision missiles. They’re good tanks, but far from invincible. For decades, the Russians have been developing powerful weapons specifically designed to destroy these NATO tank models. The Russians aren’t particularly worried about them.
Aside from that, tanks rely on effective air cover for protection, which Ukraine lacks. They’ll be sitting ducks on the battlefield. It doesn’t really make sense to send tanks to Ukraine unless you send combat aircraft to give them cover (more on that below).
Russia’s Winning on the Battlefield
Meanwhile, Russian forces have nearly encircled the city of Bakhmut, which is a major transportation and logistics hub, with several key roads and rail lines passing through it. It’ll probably fall to the Russians within weeks.
Losing Bakhmut will be a major blow to Ukraine, despite claims in the western media that it really isn’t very important. Ukraine’s entire 800-mile defensive line would probably begin to crumble, and they don’t have heavily fortified positions to fall back on. Ukrainian troops, while brave and competent soldiers, are exhausted and running out of supplies as it is.
On top of that, it appears likely that Russia is preparing a devastating offensive with massive amounts of men, tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, helicopters, drones and fixed-wing aircraft.
This Russian army is not the same army that invaded Ukraine a year ago. It’s much better trained, led and equipped. It’s learned from the mistakes it made during its initial invasion last February. Ukraine shouldn’t expect them to repeat those mistakes.
Does all this mean I’m cheering on a Russian victory in Ukraine? No, I’m just observing the facts on the ground and consolidating them to perform an objective analysis.
That analysis leads me to believe that Russia will win the war militarily. Western military assistance may prolong the fighting but won’t affect the ultimate outcome. It’ll just delay the inevitable and get a lot more people needlessly killed.
The Much Greater Risk
The second facet of this war not reported in the media, or at least downplayed, is the growing risk of nuclear war.
This risk increases with every escalatory step by both sides. The U.S. is the leader in reckless escalation by supplying long-range artillery, Patriot anti-missile batteries, intelligence, surveillance, and now the tanks. Russia responds at each step.
There’s a number of steps before the two sides arrive at the nuclear level, but neither shows a willingness to step back.
By the way, Russia has every legal right to attack those NATO countries supplying arms to Ukraine. By supplying arms to a party to the conflict, they’ve given up their neutrality and have become, in effect, combatants. Russia hasn’t done this because it doesn’t want to bring NATO directly into the fight. But legally, it can.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Ukraine’s demands on the U.S., UK and the rest of NATO for advanced weapons to fight Russians know no limits. The West began by supplying Ukraine with cash, intelligence and anti-tank weapons such as the Javelin missile. Soon we were supplying long-range artillery, drones, and more cash.
As Russian advances continued, Zelensky demanded and got Patriot anti-missile batteries that can destroy incoming Russian missiles. The U.S. artillery was aimed at Russian Crimea. Several drones struck inside Russia at sensitive air bases with nuclear weapons nearby.
The next demand for more weapons involved advanced tanks that are in the process of being supplied by the U.S., UK, Germany, and Poland. In the latest move, that comes as no surprise, Ukraine is now demanding F-16 fighter jets from the U.S., one of the most advanced aircraft in the world.
But Russia has the most sophisticated air defense system in the world and is very capable of shooting down F-16s in large numbers.
Biden has denied Zelensky’s request so far, but he previously ruled out sending tanks before finally giving in. The same thing will probably happen with the planes. But they won’t turn the tide against Russia.
Once these advanced systems show they can’t help, what’s the Ukrainian’s next demand? Russia can escalate just as quickly and lethally as the U.S.
This entire scenario is a long slow march toward nuclear war or the complete disintegration of Ukraine.
Is Anyone Really Prepared for This?
The U.S. won’t end the weapons deliveries because Joe Biden is afraid of losing face and his closest advisors such as Victoria Nuland have an irrational hatred for Russia and are total warmongers.
Now, we can add a new danger, resulting from desperation. This is the fact that the U.S. itself may be the biggest loser in the war.
As Ukraine disappears under a massive Russian onslaught, the U.S. will grow increasingly desperate. Its credibility is on the line after committing so much money, materiel and moral weight to Ukraine’s defense.
The Biden administration has essentially turned the war in Ukraine into an existential crisis for the U.S. and NATO, when it never should have been. Ukraine has never been a vital U.S. interest. But the war is existential for Russia, and won’t give up.
Is the U.S. just going to throw up its hands and concede Russian victory? NATO may actually disintegrate in the face of such spectacular failure. So, we’ll probably double down.
Maybe a desperate Biden orders troops into western Ukraine as a buffer against a complete Russian takeover of the country. You can imagine what could go wrong. That situation may quickly devolve into a direct war between the U.S. and Russia rather than the proxy war that it is now.
The American people and investors in particular are not prepared for any of this. They should be. It’s becoming increasingly likely.
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