I see a lot of things going on in the background. I list them here.
Sullivan says a communication link has been opened with Moscow. To talk about what? If you take the official Washington line there is nothing to talk about – Moscow must give up. Is Washington preparing for a different conversation?
After the accusations that Russia is considering nuclear weapons Blinken made it clear that no preparatory signs had been seen. Somewhat of a toning down of rhetoric.
Weariness is visible – three recent American polls show a desire for diplomacy, “less concern” and that Ukraine doesn’t make the list. I’m reminded of a comment by Gonzalo Lira that Russia should just make the war boring to Americans.
The economic effects of the boomeranging sanctions are inexorably tightening in Europe. We’re now hearing about possible bank collapses and reading cheerful pieces on how to keep mold out of cold damp houses. With Nordstream out of contention. no improvement is visible. Time is on Russia’s side. At some point the European population will have had enough. Protests are growing. The overwhelming rejection in the German parliament of increased support for Ukraine points this way.
America is better off but is also feeling the boomerang. Inflation is rising and what will happen to gasoline prices (a huge concern) when they stop draining the Strategic Oil Reserve? And if China dumps a lot of US currency the situation will get worse.
WESTERN ARMS RUNNING OUT
The West is running out of arms to send Ukraine. A CNBC report speaks of America being out of 155mm guns and ammunition (manufacturers are being sought); it has already sent ten years’ production of Javelins! The latest HIMARS “sent” haven’t been built yet.
The West does not have the industrial capacity to sustain modern war. Everything that has been sent to Ukraine so far has been from existing stocks. Western militaries must either start cannibalizing their standing armies or stop. Then what? Western weapons made the September offensive possible.
The West’s “mojo” isn’t working. Scholtz received little support from his Gulf visit and neither did Biden from Saudi Arabia. China, India and Brazil abstained on the American UNSC motion to censure Russia’s absorption of the four regions. “90% of the world” isn’t following the lead of the so-called “international community”. Many countries see the world changing and have picked their side or are waiting to see how it plays out (Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feeling out the SCO, for example).
There are many videos of trains carrying heavy equipment west. I’ve seen tanks, Mstas, BM-21s, Iskanders and lots of BMPs. Nothing suggests that Russia is running out of anything. This suggests preparations for a large-scale Russian Army armored offensive along traditional deep penetration doctrine.
The status of the new four regions opens the possibility of more forceful actions by the Russian Armed Forces as such because they are “defending the Motherland”.
There is a good deal of plausible speculation that the 300 thousand man call up may free up soldiers in the rear. If so, the effect of the extra troops may be felt sooner than many expect.
As far as razputitsa (распутица), winter and other things beloved of TV commentators, it’s not the USSR in 1941. There are a lot of paved roads and Russians are well-equipped and experienced for fighting in winter. Therefore there is no guarantee that things will be quiet for four or five months.
“We call on the Kiev regime to immediately cease fire and all hostilities; to end the war it unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table.” said Putin a couple of days ago. Was this his last offer before a much more powerful attack?
PREMONITIONS OF WHAT?
In short, the Western plan is not working. The sanctions cost the West more, it’s running out of weapons to send and there are signs of softening. If Moscow’s plan was to move slowly and wait them out, then it’s working.
One should not rule out the possibility of a negotiated settlement and it may be that NATO realizes in time that it has painted itself into a corner from which that is the only exit. But it’s hard to see, given all the hyperbole, how the West’s present rulers could admit to such an enormous failure. Electoral replacement, while happening, is too slow. And why would Moscow ever trust anything the West says? A unilateral surrender by Kiev is possible but the only way I could see it is if Zelensky were overthrown. Therefore I rate a negotiated ending as not impossible at the moment but of very low probability. But time is on Russia’s side and October’s improbability may be March’s desperate desire.
More likely to me is, to use a World War II analogy, that now that Kiev’s Operation Citadel in the Kursk Salient is petering out, it’s time for a really powerful mechanized offensive accompanied by strikes deep in the rear with no holding back. One must remember that Putin said they hadn’t really started – I think we’re about to see what he meant. And sooner, I would guess, rather than later. I can’t imagine that anyone in Moscow wants this thing still going on next February.