Last week retired General David Petraeus was interviewed by three reporters from the Telegraph and asserted that Russian forces could “crumble” in the face of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. My initial reaction was that this was just David’s crazy musing, but I have since learned that there are a number of senior active duty U.S. military personnel banking on the same impossible dream. The general spin is that Russian morale is falling through the floorboards and the Ukrainians are making very slow gains (one small town at a time) and the front will eventually collapse. It’s just a matter of time. I can understand a retired guy like Petraeus indulging such nonsense, but it is alarming that there are senior U.S. military leaders spouting the same nonsense.
It is not just the Generals praying for signs that Russia is crumbling. Business Insider contributes its two cents about the alleged economic problems buffeting Russia — There are 5 things the West could do to put even more pressure on Russia’s struggling economy, think tank says. The neo-cons at the Atlantic Council are behaving like drowning passengers on the Titanic, frantically grasping for life jackets:
Western nations need to do more to further weaken Russia’s economy, according to researchers from the Atlantic Council.
Experts say that Russia’s economy is struggling more than officials have suggested, and the Kremlin has avoided publishing key statistics while under-the-radar data show a far grimmer future for Russia than Putin has let on.
I guess the scribes at the Atlantic Council are too busy conjuring fantasies to read the New York Times latest — Russia Overcomes Sanctions to Expand Missile Production, Officials Say – NY Times
Moscow’s missile production now exceeds prewar levels, officials say, leaving Ukraine especially vulnerable this coming winter. . . .
Before the war, one senior Western defense official said, Russia could make 100 tanks a year; now they are producing 200.
Western officials also believe Russia is on track to manufacture two million artillery shells a year — double the amount Western intelligence services had initially estimated Russia could manufacture before the war.
As a result of the push, Russia is now producing more ammunition than the United States and Europe. Overall, Kusti Salm, a senior Estonian defense ministry official, estimated that Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West.
Russia’s production costs are also far lower than the West’s, in part because Moscow is sacrificing safety and quality in its effort to build weapons more cheaply, Mr. Salm said. For instance, it costs a Western country $5,000 to $6,000 to make a 155-millimeter artillery round, whereas it costs Russia about $600 to produce a comparable 152-millimeter artillery shell, he said.
Ukraine, by contrast, no longer has enough forces to sustain a breakthrough and is totally dependent on Western aid. One of the advantages of doing analysis without relying on classified information is that regular media and social media posts provide a pretty reliable indicator of the status of the battle. For example, there are several video clips of Ukrainian troops complaining about lack of weapons and terrible leadership. I have yet to see anything comparable from the Russian side.
Social media is a two-edged sword. It is a dandy platform for information warfare and spreading false information. We saw that in abundance in the first month of the Special Military Operation when Ukrainian sources posted the video of an intrepid Ukrainian pilot downing several Russian combat aircraft. Only one little problem — the video was lifted from a video game. The exploits of the Ghost of Kiev were phantasmagorical. I am sure many of you remember the constant predictions during 2022 that Russia was running out of missiles and ammunition. I guess the New York Times latest piece has driven a stake through the heart of that tired meme.
But social media is so ubiquitous that it can still overwhelm the efforts of any government to squelch bad information. The cemeteries of Ukraine appear frequently with grieving relatives standing amid a field of hundreds of flags flapping over newly dug graves. We are not seeing any posts like that from the Russian side.
Another data point is the coverage of the main stream media. I make it a habit to check in on Sky News to see what the Brits are saying. Six months ago you could count on at least one segment in an hour broadcast at noon London time extolling the success of Ukrainian troops and dishing dire news about Russia’s flagging efforts on the battle field. That is no longer the case. Sky News barely mentions the war in Ukraine these days. If Ukraine was steam rolling to victory you can be sure that the British correspondents would be ebullient about the Ukrainian counter offensive. In this case, the proverb — silence is golden — does not apply. The silence about a purported Ukraine victory (or a Russian army in chaos) is telling. There is no good news to report if you’ve bet your house on Ukraine winning.
I recommend you watch the Petraeus interview in order to gain appreciation for the mind set of the pro-Ukraine lot and their detachment from reality.
Ray McGovern and I did our weekly round up with Judge Napolitano today and touched on these issues.