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The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own and do not express the position of anyone else or any other organisation


Two years ago, myself and Andy, PNDs cyber-geek, pored over maps and photos of the Russia – Ukraine border, where Russian forces were visibly massing in what looked like an imminent invasion.


Andy was confident there would actually BE an invasion, and expected with many others that Russia would walk in. I was both less confident there actually would be an invasion, but also less confident that if there was one, that Russia would find it a walkover.


Andy was right that there'd be an invasion. And I guess I was right that it turned out not to be the walkover that many analysts predicted.


It is sobering to remind ourselves that the majority of analysts with a few exceptions, expected superior Russian numbers and fire power to take over Ukraine within 2-3 days, a week max. 


It didn’t turn out quite that way. Instead a vast column of Russian tanks became immobilised on what would have been its way to Kiev, and Ukrainian forces picked them off and ultimately destroyed them.


Russian troops who did enter Ukrainian towns expected to be greeted with flowers or the traditional bread and salt. Instead they were greeted by passive resistance from the civilian populace, and fierce resistance from armed forces.


A matter of months later, Russia was forced to retreat from over 50% of the land it had grabbed in February and march 2022. That the counteroffensive was no more successful than that is seen by many as a Ukrainian 'failure'. At the time, forcing Russia to move back from ANYTHING was seen more as a miracle. Ukraine was expected to fall, It didn’t fall and instead fought back. That Ukraine managed to fight back to the extent that it did and managed to recapture ANY of the lands seized by Russia is frankly beyond belief. It Is a tribute to the skill and courage, and to the superior morale, of the Ukrainian armed forces. 


From the very beginning, Ukraine has been both outnumbered and outgunned. 


However for a while there Ukraine DID have sufficient ammunition to have prevented what has recently happened in Avdiivka, where once more, Ukrainian forces have been made to retreat, as they had to in Mariupol. That Ukraine didn’t have ammunition is itself a direct result of US Congressional shenanigans, and the relative slowness of Europe in replacing the US aid. Europe – including Germany – is now if anything, more focussed on providing military aid to Ukraine than the US is – arguably, more so than the US ever was. 


Russia has so far lost over 400,000 soldiers. Ukraine doesn’t let us know what its losses are, but the numbers I have seen are around 70,000.


This is a significant difference. Ukraine has at times claimed a 'kill ratio' of as much as 10 Russians to 1 Ukrainian killed. In reality its probably closer to 5 to 1, and clearly varies. For untrained Russian forces attacking Ukrainian positions it may well be 10-1 or more.


These grisly calculations reveal however, just what a 'meat grinder', just what a horror this war has become. 


Not so long ago I read an article that claimed that in order to 'win', Ukraine had to 'achieve' a 'kill ratio' of closer to 20 to 1 – and claimed this was possible. Its been suggested that to achieve victor Ukraine must kill 50,000 Russians EVERY MONTH.



In reciting all this horror, one does of course, revisit the killing fields of WW-1, with bodycounts in the millions. 


And the war itself becomes an exercise in grisly demographics: At what point does Russia, with a total population of around 150million, start to simply bleed too much?


Each one of those grim statistics – the 400,000 thus far killed on the Russian side, the 70,000 thus far from Ukraine, the proposed 50,000 Russian to be killed each month - had girlfriends, wives, mothers, maybe families. They had plans for life. 


Some may have been criminals, people we'd really prefer not to meet. Others were/are, simply, people, largely though not entirely, youngish men. On the Ukrainian side, there are also an astonishing number of young women. I heard a story early on in the war that Ukraine’s foremost ballet dancer had immediately signed up with the Ukrainian army and later become a top sniper. I wonder if she is still alive. Ukraine regularly posts on Twitter various photos of attractive young women and men in military uniform. I no longer look these days because I know that all of them have been killed in action. The photos are obituaries. 


The meat-grinder grinds remorselessly on. A 'kill ratio' of 2-1? 4-1? 20-1?? however it pans out, its heartbreak for many more than those killed, who get to look down at the battlefield from whatever other dimension they are now in, after having made peace with those they have themselves killed. Maybe.


The Ukraine war is no longer front and centre for public attention, either in the US, or even in Europe, having been displaced by Israel's atrocities in Gaza.


Awful though Israel actions are and continue to be, Ukraine/Russia must continue to claim our attention because:


--The bodycount is significantly bigger

(though that could be said of a number of ghastly conflicts in Africa (Sudan, Eastern Congo, Ethiopia)

--There is a very real risk that Ukraine can escalate to a civilisation – destroying WW-III.


This last is arguably the most important single aspect of the Ukraine conflict. An escalation to WW-III – that is, to a conflict involving the worlds largest strategic nuclear arsenals, that of Russia, the US, and then the lesser arsenals of NATO/Europe – would destroy the foundations of hi-tech, interconnected 'civilisation' (so called) literally in its first nanoseconds, via the destruction of global interconnectedness by EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse).


(I note that the sun is reported to have ejected three massive 'solar mass ejections' in the last 24 hours. This can have the same effect as EMP. If you are reading this it has probably not done so).


The use of even a single nuclear weapon in space would make lower earth orbit unfit for use by the satellites on which much of civilisations business – our communications and our financial transactions – take place, as would a bullseye from a truly massive solar flare. Unless, somehow, we dodge the electromagnetic 'bullet'. 


During the entire period of the cold war, during the missile crisis of 1962, and later crises in the '80s, not once did either 'side' explicitly threaten to incinerate the other side. It was assumed that of course, everyone knew. They merely referred darkly to 'incalculable consequences'. 


It now seems to be almost a weekly event that Medvedev or Lavrov or Soloviev or Margharita Simonyan threatens to vaporise London, DC, or New York or maybe Paris. With, for an added frisson, that the 'righteous' (who are by definition Russian) will be raptured to heaven, while the 'unrighteous' (those of us from the decadent west) will go elsewhere or merely perish. It is a frightening reversal of what used to be said by Senator Strom Thurmond, Ronald Reagan and others in the early '80s.


I would strongly suggest to those who make such threats – whether they are from the US or from Russia – that those who threaten to vaporise the fellow humans may themselves be bound for the less desirable post- mortem destination.


On a more this-worldly level, I would put it strongly to Russian decision makers that escalation to nuclear war will benefit no one, and that threats to end the chess-game by setting the board on fire will not bring about the desired victory.


A Russian conventional defeat will not be set right by escalation to the apocalypse. Doing so may even be relatively easy, either for Russia or for the US (its easier for the US as ONLY one single decision-maker – the President – is involved. Russia requires TWO decision-makers to concur in a nuclear launch, as far as I know).


And a decision to 'nuke DC' or London as suggested the other day by Soloviev on Russian State TV, rather than return to Russia’s 1991 borders, in response to military reverses inflicted by Ukraine(note I am saying 'Ukraine' not 'NATO'), WILL, absolutely, escalate to the apocalypse – to a planet-wide, civilisation- destroying, potentially species-destroying, spasm of city-destruction that will

--Kill most urban humans (2-3 billion of us at least) within 90 minutes

--Cause a global cloud of high altitude smoke that will blot out/dim sunlight for roughly the next 20-30 years, causing starvation not only in the European and US 'heartlands' (already devastated anyway) but also in the entire majority world. This is likely to result in the death by starvation of most humans and the extinction of most land-based species.


If, as Russians do, you think there is a 'spiritual' dimension to all of this, then the consequences of such decisions for those who make them – including Metropolitan Kiril – must also count. Statements like 'without Russia there doesn’t need to be a world' will not cut it and will land the decision maker or abettor in a place other than that they anticipate being in. If the 'SVR Blog' reveals anything at all, it is the sheer toxicity and cynicism of the Putin entourage. Not a foundation for claims of 'spiritual superiority' over a decadent West. 


And back at a worldly level the best that can come from such a scenario is a kind of universal 'reset'. The worst is extinction for humans as a species, and the concomitant extinction of most other species. The cockroaches also will not prosper – they like it warm and damp, and its going to be dry and very very cold.


To all who are anywhere near buttons or briefcases with aerials sticking out of them carried by KGB or CIA officers, and who have the access codes to said briefcases, please' just don’t. Don't even think about it. There really are no upsides 'spiritual' or worldly, to blowing up or threatening to blow up, the world or even select bits of it.


Lets assume, though it may NOT be a safe assumption, that these are no more than threats and bluster – though even nuclear threats and bluster without a real intention to carry through, may lead to an inadvertent apocalypse - that we do NOT have a global nuclear exchange. What are the (non-nuclear) options? How might the war develop?


The answer once more is 'meat-grinder'. The 'proxy war' narrative is supremely unhelpful in a situation on which Ukraine sees its situation as one of existential threat in which it will indeed, fight to the last Ukrainian – and at current 'kill ratios' to the last Russian too. If no decisions are made to do otherwise, then approximately 5 million Ukrainians will kill 25 million Russians (assuming 5-1).


One analysis says that in order to win, Ukraine must kill 50,000 Russians per month.



At some point something will give.


The other possibility is that, somewhere along the line, Russia will understand that the rate at which it is bleeding – literally bleeding – is unsustainable, and that Ukraine is not going to collapse, and not going to go away. It is in my view unlikely that, even absent western military aid, Ukraine will suddenly collapse. 


Currently both sides objectives do not lend themselves to negotiation. Ukraine wants ALL its lands back.


Russia want Ukraine to simply disappear. 


Neither is likely to happen in the short or medium term. 


Realistically, unjust as Ukraine may view it, absent a Russian military collapse (which could possibly spark an apocalypse), its unlikely to retrieve Crimea and Donbass.


Even if Russia were to collapse militarily, could Ukraine march on Moscow? Unlikely.


According to one recent commentator:


If Western support can hold steady, Putin may still find that the war appears to be as unwinnable on its third anniversary as it appears now at its second.”



While according to another:

"Russia is playing the long game, and Ukraine is fighting for its continued existence," Mary Kate Schneider, director of global studies at Loyola University Maryland, told USA TODAY. "This a war of attrition that will not end anytime soon."




"No one is questioning the resolve of the Ukrainian people," Faintuch said. "But given the dim prospects of Ukraine achieving its political goals, the resolve of Ukraine’s Western benefactors is starting to erode."


That leaves only the option that both have said is unacceptable for them - negotiations. Maybe a frozen war. 


Yet These too seem a distant prospect:



If negotiations do take place (and for all I know, they might be taking place out of sight of us all and out of earshot) – if they were to take place I would urge that initial negotiations be of an exploratory nature, and take place secretly. 


I would urge that there be NO preconditions for such negotiations (especially that Ukraine not be part of NATO – which just is never going to fly), and no set framework for them. All must be left as open and precondition-less as possible.


A negotiated settlement may not be to everyones liking. It wont be to the liking of Ukraine and it certainly wont be to the liking of Russia which wants Ukraine to disappear. 


But both a possible Ukrainian defeat, AND a continuation of the war as a ghastly WW-I verging into WW-III 'stalemate', with an ongoing bodycount at whatever 'kill ratio' and an option to escalate to global apocalypse anytime things do not go well for Russia, are worse, far worse, alternatives than a negotiated settlement of whatever kind.


An immediate cessation of hostilities – a (permanent) ceasefire – would be a good start.


The second anniversary is as good a time as any other time for that. Indeed, for a ceasefire, there is no such thing as a bad time. 


John Hallam

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