This series of articles is all about the war in Ukraine, with a close-up of the risks of nuclear war (note: this content was originally published in December 2022).
No story, including the elections, supply chain, a possible recession, and zero-COVID policies in China, is more important.
After the drama of the initial invasion, Russia’s withdrawal from the Kyiv area, Russia’s brutal attack on Mariupol, and Ukraine’s counteroffensives in Kherson in the south and Izyum in the east, the war has reached a relatively quiet stage.
This should not be mistaken for a prelude to peace. Ukraine is stretched thin, and Russia has been preparing for a massive winter attack to roll back Ukrainian advances. Whether any of this succeeds remains to be seen. Still, it’s definitely coming, and the situation will grow more violent and chaotic.
Proxy wars are decided well behind the frontlines
Behind these coming conflicts on the battlefield is an intensification of the financial and economic war being waged by the US/UK/EU against Russia.
The latest developments include a global price cap on Russian oil announced by Janet Yellen. The price cap will fail (they always do), but it’ll make oil deliveries more inefficient and expensive.
When this is combined with Gazprom’s decision on 22 November 2022 to end deliveries of Russian natural gas through Ukrainian pipelines (on top of the UK sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines), Russian gas deliveries to Western Europe have come to a near complete halt. This will push world oil and natural gas prices higher, despite some headwinds from the emerging global recession and higher interest rates.
Overshadowing everything is the threat of nuclear war, which has been exacerbated by Joe Biden’s loose talk about nuclear ‘Armageddon’ at a pre-election fundraiser. We are living through the most dangerous moment for world peace since the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. We’ll summarise this threat below.
Playing with fire in Ukraine
Ukraine is the spider in the spider web. It affects geoeconomics, energy shortages, the supply chain, and the desire of many countries to escape US dollar hegemony.
Russian success in Ukraine presages a new international monetary system through its allies in the BRICS+, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Union. Likewise, Russian failure in Ukraine points the way to a strengthened world economic order with the US firmly in charge. Either outcome is possible. Nothing is more important.
First, a note on sourcing. Winston Churchill famously said, ‘In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies’. That was true in the Second World War, and it’s no less true today. The US, UK, and EU will lie. So will Ukraine. So will Russia. That’s our starting place in any analysis. If I read something in The New York Times, I can be quite certain it’s a lie.
Lies can tell the truth
They reveal what the sources are really concerned about. If you weren’t concerned about something, why bother to lie about it? Based on the lie, you can know what matters.
From there, you can infer that the lie’s topic is important, and the opposite of the lie is probably true. You can update your inference with what’s called all-source fusion, basically using other intelligence sources, some of which might appear quite minor, to tweak the initial inference in one direction or another.
If enough evidence accumulates, you quickly reach a point where you can give a high probability to a certain state of affairs, even if it’s quite different from what the media tells you.
The war has lasted a long time already. Enough time to assemble trusted sources and make timely forecasts. What follows is the best available analysis:
The status of the war in Ukraine is best understood as a competition between the narrative and reality.
The narrative consists of what you hear from mainstream media, the White House, the Pentagon, and official sources in the UK, France, Germany, and both EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels. The reality consists of what’s actually going on based on the best available sources.
Let’s consider the narrative first
According to the White House, EU, and NATO, things are going relatively well for Ukraine. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have advanced in Eastern Ukraine along a line parallel to the Russian fortified lines between Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine has also reoccupied the regional capital of Kherson, which lies strategically on the Dnieper River, which is Kyiv’s main access to the Black Sea and international trade.
Based on these advances, the narrative says that Russia is in retreat, Russian troops are demoralised, Putin is in jeopardy of being replaced, and complete victory for Ukraine is just a matter of time.
The narrative is then used as a basis for increased financial aid from the US (more than US$60 billion and growing) and increased weapons shipments from NATO members. President Volodymyr Zelensky touts these accomplishments in his customary green T-shirt on video presentations to the UN, G20, and other international audiences.
Here’s the reality
The actual situation on the battlefield is almost completely at odds with the narrative. Ukraine did make advances in the east, but they were against lightly defended Russian positions on or near open terrain. The Russians organised an orderly retreat to fortified lines and let the Ukrainians have the open land, which will become a killing field for Russian artillery.
Russia regarded Kherson as a non-strategic salient. They withdrew to the east bank of the Dnieper River while allowing Ukrainian troops to reoccupy the centre of Kherson. Russia avoided a fight over a city of little strategic value while retaining a chokehold on river traffic from the east bank.
In the meantime, Russia has completed its 300,000-person mobilisation. More than 180,000 of those troops are now deployed behind Russian lines in combat formations. The remaining 120,000 troops will arrive soon. This brings total Russian strength up to about 30 divisions.
AFU strength has been greatly diminished due to high casualty rates. Many so-called Ukrainian troops are actually Polish forces in Ukrainian uniforms. Russian forces are well-rested and well-supplied. They’re being supplemented with Iranian drones, a major force multiplier.
Russia is now preparing to launch a massive counteroffensive
The major objectives are Kharkiv in the northeast, Odesa in the southwest, and Zaporizhzhia in the centre part of the country on the Dnieper River.
Completing these missions will give Russia control of the entire coast from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea. It’ll also give Russia control of the Dnieper River and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Russia will incorporate this territory into the Russian Federation and will likely move further into Moldova to reunite with a pro-Russian corridor called Transnistria, with its capital in Tiraspol. At that point, Russian strategic objectives will be complete.
Ukraine will be left as a rump state between Kyiv and Lviv. Almost all the industrial, technological, and natural resource capacity of former Ukraine is in the Donbas now under Russian control.
All the best,
Strategist, The Daily Reckoning Australia
This content was originally published by Jim Rickards’ Strategic Intelligence Australia, a financial advisory newsletter designed to help you protect your wealth and potentially profit from unseen world events. Learn more here.