Only those of a certain age may know the historic significance of the words “hey, hey, LBJ how many kids did you kill today”. It was the chant of huge numbers of American anti-Vietnam war protesters when marching during the Presidency of Lyndon B Johnson.
Let me be clear. I am not anti-war. I have lived and worked through the Falklands and other conflicts from Sierra Leone to the Middle East via Islamabad and south Asia, and spent time in conflict zones modestly seeking to bring peace and prosperity in difficult times. However, this Ukrainian conflict has arguably run its course. It is now, for Ukrainian troops, just a ‘Killing Field(s)’.
I call it the Killing Fields after the name associated with Pol Pot and Cambodia. The average reader will at least have an image in their mind of skeletons piled high in the rice paddy fields of that era. At a point where credibly there are c 500,000 “killed in action” alone in Ukraine it is worth bearing in mind that UK lost 345,000 troops in the whole of WWII, the US c470,000 and the conflict is not even at two years old.
I am much moved by the fate of the Ukrainian 93rd Mechanised Brigade in the last c.14 days. They have suffered hundreds of casualties, lost any combat capability, made no gains on the ground, their soldiers have publicly called for their officers to be arrested for sending them into a senseless suicide attack, 70% of the Brigade were untrained & inexperienced and the infantry was unsupported by anything in terms of armour or air cover. How do I know this? I viewed, as anyone can, the Official video channel of the 93rd Mechanised Brigade of Ukraine in their Telegram app.
For balance, it must be said in relation to my remarks about Ukrainian soldiers publicly demanding the arrest of their officers for sending soldiers senselessly into a a suicide mission, that people of various ethnic groups live on the territory of the state of Ukraine. In order to denote citizenship, the term Ukrainian is used. Many Ukrainian army soldiers are ethnic Russians and categorically do not want to fight with Russia!
Russian sources report that the Russian army is doing everything possible so that Ukrainians can surrender. It is widely accepted some 10,000 soldiers surrendered during the ‘summer offensive’ of UAF; taking the generally accepted total to some 30,000. There is a special communications channel through which Ukrainians can contact Russians, which western intelligence has, probably, leaked to help try to shut it down. The wounded are immediately sent to hospital.
In the last 48hrs in the Robotyne area Ukrainian forces were again seeking to break out, without much success; but the Russians maintain that they clearly heard many Polish voices during the operation. Frankly, I believe them. Ukraine is in such a mess that it is having to conscript people as young as 16 years old and upwards and now many more women are being conscripted too. These people are not allowed to leave the country. This is a NATO-Russia conflict. We should not be surprised. Anyone arguing otherwise either has no clue about what is going on, or is simply lying. Sadly there is a great deal of the latter about.
Ukrainians cannot leave the country, there is no democracy, most political opposition has been banned with political party leaders being arrested and charged with treason. There is no means of popular decent and all media communications outlets are under firm government control.
The West has a responsibility now to help bring this conflict to at least a ceasefire and stop the “Killing Fields”. We are hindered by an ageing US President, who together with his son, have been possibly the most corrupt ‘first family’ in US history and Ukraine plays a significant part of family finances. Jake Sullivan, Victoria Nuland and Antony Blinken to name but three more, all have issues, slightly different from the Biden’s, for which they could go to prison. They all have a vested interest in the Biden Administration continuing as long as possible to protect them.
Meanwhile, there is a crack of light in the United Kingdom. I have stated in the past that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will have come into 10 Downing Street and during his immediate security briefing will have been told things he did not already know, even though he had been Chancellor. To be specific, he will have learned what previous Prime Minister’s had been authorising unknown to Parliament and beyond their being held to account by MP’s; indeed beyond the knowledge of most MP’s. It is all covered by the “….we do not comment on security matters” line. So to hear that Rishi Sunak turned down a request from Ben Wallace for a further £2.3billion for Ukraine before he left office, is actually a relief. UK would have had to ‘borrow’ the money and we are already spending more than £100billion a year on the interest payments alone on our national debt. It would have been arguably good money after bad, but most of all Sunak knows that whatever his predecessors got the UK into, absolutely no way would it have ended the ‘battle against Russia and expel the invaders’. This line of argument becomes more fantasy island as every day passes.
Meanwhile the “Killing Fields” continue. Russian tactics have long been to stand fast and to deal with Ukrainian troops being sent to attack. Even the Russians never expected so very many troops being sent to the so-called ‘meat-grinder’ in a fruitless, senseless slaughter.
My fear now is not so much what the map of Europe will look like in the future, hopefully there will still be something called the state of Ukraine, but that getting to that point and stopping the “Killing Fields” is initially tied up with the US Presidential election and senior US figures protecting themselves from personal legal consequences of things they have done in the background to the run-up to this conflict. Keeping the conflict going is in their interests. I am very aware that when it comes to it, most of the charges against Trump – which he says are politically motivated – are unlikely to stand the test of time. When Trump took classified documents to his Florida home on leaving office he could de facto as President, declassify them. By contrast when Biden did it as Vice President he committed a felony as the Vice President does not have the power to de-classify classified material; and that is just one of the matters.
I mentioned a lack of fear on my part around the future map of Europe. A key point in my thinking, having known Russia and Russians for 40 years – I am not an ‘expert’ but I am much better versed than the average person to put it mildly – is that the crucial issue is the neutrality of Ukraine, not being a member of NATO, and whether Russian concerns are met in not having troops and missiles too close to the 1991 Russian border. The idea that Russia, which is definitely not the Soviet Union, wishes to invade The Baltics or Poland is simple nonsense. That the West has no more 155mm shells stockpiled to send to Ukraine, is but one measure of the likelihood of Russian troops rolling over the plains of western Europe. It’s nonsense.
The US largely is NATO. If the US stops aid to Ukraine, and her tax-payers are paying the government and troops wages, social security payments and more, most of the rest of Europe will stop too, and force Ukraine under whomever is in charge at that point, to negotiate. This week the US added in a single day $300billion dollars to its national debt which is now in the region of £333trillion. It is understandable that questions are being asked. I have a feeling that when it ends, regarding Ukraine, it could be as fast as Afghanistan; we shall see.
Meanwhile, tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on this petty pace from day to day. How many more of what are left of Ukraine’s dwindling combat capability need to die before the Killing Fields can fall silent?