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Old 1st February 2023, 01:34 PM   #2161
dudalb
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I get nervous at the term realpolitik because it's too often an excuse for selling out your ally. Irony is it is often not very realistic since it just ends in your adversary feeling emboldlen.
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Old 1st February 2023, 02:09 PM   #2162
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Realpolitik just means unprincipled opportunism, heavily seasoned with smirking sadism and a delighted contempt for anybody you don't have to fear.

Or don't at the moment think you have to fear. It's not a very grownup philosophy.
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Old 1st February 2023, 02:22 PM   #2163
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
I get nervous at the term realpolitik because it's too often an excuse for selling out your ally. Irony is it is often not very realistic since it just ends in your adversary feeling emboldlen.
Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Realpolitik just means unprincipled opportunism, heavily seasoned with smirking sadism and a delighted contempt for anybody you don't have to fear.

Or don't at the moment think you have to fear. It's not a very grownup philosophy.
Agreed, but it is often popular.

As dudalb says, ironic that aiming to do the right thing is often less naive than outright cynicism.
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Old 1st February 2023, 02:25 PM   #2164
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Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Agreed, but it is often popular.

As dudalb says, ironic that aiming to do the right thing is often less naive than outright cynicism.
Do you have any specific examples of that in mind?

ETA:
Originally Posted by Jimbo07 View Post
There may wind up being some sort of realpolitik result where Ukraine permanently cedes Crimea... but you don't say that at the start of negotiations!
And how is that Realpolitik? Would it be "popular" in Ukraine, or "outright cynicism" on the part of the Ukrainian leadership?
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Old 1st February 2023, 02:38 PM   #2165
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
I get nervous at the term realpolitik because it's too often an excuse for selling out your ally. Irony is it is often not very realistic since it just ends in your adversary feeling emboldlen.
Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Realpolitik just means unprincipled opportunism, heavily seasoned with smirking sadism and a delighted contempt for anybody you don't have to fear.

Or don't at the moment think you have to fear. It's not a very grownup philosophy.
Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Agreed, but it is often popular.

As dudalb says, ironic that aiming to do the right thing is often less naive than outright cynicism.
Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
Do you have any specific examples of that in mind?

ETA:

And how is that Realpolitik? Would it be "popular" in Ukraine, or "outright cynicism" on the part of the Ukrainian leadership?
Cyncism aside, this is basically the definition I'm working with:

Quote:
a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.
"commercial realpolitik had won the day" - Dictionary
That is, it may come to pass (through negotiation, open warfare, sheer accident, etc.) that Ukraine cedes Crimea. Realpolitik does not mean that you give up the farm right away. That's defeatism.
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Old 1st February 2023, 03:17 PM   #2166
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Originally Posted by Jimbo07 View Post
Cyncism aside, this is basically the definition I'm working with:



That is, it may come to pass (through negotiation, open warfare, sheer accident, etc.) that Ukraine cedes Crimea. Realpolitik does not mean that you give up the farm right away. That's defeatism.
I am confused, as you did not answer my question at all: Are you saying that no matter through what process Ukraine ends up ceding Crimea, that would be Realpolitik, and thus likely be popular in Ukraine? Or would it in any case represent "unprincipled opportunism, heavily seasoned with smirking sadism and a delighted contempt for anybody you don't have to fear" (a quote you agreed with)?

Perhaps it would help if you could cite specific examples of politics described by historical consensus as "Realpolitik" that were "popular" as well as cynical and conform to dudalb's and sackett's judgement of the concept.
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Old 1st February 2023, 03:44 PM   #2167
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
I am confused, as you did not answer my question at all: Are you saying that no matter through what process Ukraine ends up ceding Crimea, that would be Realpolitik, and thus likely be popular in Ukraine? Or would it in any case represent "unprincipled opportunism, heavily seasoned with smirking sadism and a delighted contempt for anybody you don't have to fear" (a quote you agreed with)?

Perhaps it would help if you could cite specific examples of politics described by historical consensus as "Realpolitik" that were "popular" as well as cynical and conform to dudalb's and sackett's judgement of the concept.
Well.

Now I'm confused.

Either I'm using the word wrong, or you're using the word wrong, or we're talking at cross purposes.

What does realpolitik have to do with being popular? What does it have to do with unprincipled opportunism, or sadism or anything like that?

I withdraw on the premise that I may be wrong.

There may wind up being some sort of realpolitik result where Ukraine permanently cedes Crimea... but you don't say that at the start of negotiations!

becomes

There may be some circumstance where the only realistically achievable outcome is where Ukraine permanently cedes Crimea... but you don't say that at the start of negotiations!
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Old 1st February 2023, 04:01 PM   #2168
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
Do you have any specific examples of that in mind?

ETA:

And how is that Realpolitik? Would it be "popular" in Ukraine, or "outright cynicism" on the part of the Ukrainian leadership?
Yes.

Desert Storm is the one that springs to mind first. Encouraging the Marsh Arabs to rebel then failing to support them, or indeed failing to topple Saddam Hussein then. (Yes I know that there were concerns then that if he was toppled, Iraq would fall into sectarian fighting but maybe there were reasons why it wasn't the case later </s>)

Signing away the Sudetenland was another.

Then there is the converse example - the British intervention in Sierra Leone

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit...eone_Civil_War
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Old 1st February 2023, 04:42 PM   #2169
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Let me interject that I don't conceive of Realpolitik having any particular connection with populism. Bismarck and Kissinger, two advocates (and smug practitioners) of Realschmutzpolitik, blew their noses on public opinion.
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Old 1st February 2023, 04:52 PM   #2170
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Munich 1938 is a classic example of reapolitik gone bad.
TOw famous quotes from that fiasco:
"We will have Peace in our time" Neville Chamberlain\
"This is the last terrorial demand I have in Europe. I want no Czechs"..Adolf Hitler.

And that birngs up a major problem: How the hell can we trust Putin? I think this New COld War will continue, regardless of what happens in Ukrine, until Putin is gone.
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Old 1st February 2023, 04:54 PM   #2171
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Ukraine predict a new Russian Offensive in February.
IMHO if the Ukrainians know abput, already a sign the Russians have messed up. You at least try to keep your buildup a secret.
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Old 1st February 2023, 07:40 PM   #2172
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This is a long-winded prediction of mine that will be wrong.

What is going to happen next?

First off, why what I predict will be wrong.

What this comes down to is three things. One, I was never anything more than a junior officer for a short bit of time in the national guard. That does not qualify me as an expert. Second thing is I just don’t have any better information than is available to anyone else. The most reliable data I have available is in the form of maps. That does not give me insight to what a Russian general is thinking. Third is a lack of reliable data about changing force sizes and logistics.

What I do have is good access to maps and the ability to see how it can be used. That also allows for observing places that could favor either side.

So what is likely?

There is an argument that the Russian offensive is already happening. Seems unlikely that they are not holding back on resources. I don’t believe they are putting forth a maximum effort at this time.

Russian attack should happen either very soon or late spring. Sooner than a Ukrainian attack. In part because the US is advising Ukraine to hold off for now, which makes sense since offensives are more expensive for Ukraine in terms of bodies than it is for Russian. The side defending usually takes lower casualties. Russia can still afford more dead soldiers than Ukraine.

Russian attack locations?

Attacks from the south should be a non-starter. The logistics are likely not there. And if you look at the ISW maps you will see that Russia is facing insurgencies in that area that will only make it worse. Melitopol in particular seems to have a widespread insurgent area with smaller ones happening at key transportation junctions. The distance plus insurgency would harm this effort.

Attacks from the areas in the east such as Donetsk and Luhansk. This is a “safe” offensive. They have already made gains here recently. The logistics are simpler. They will also face a well-prepared defense. The Russians may make early gains quickly only to stall out again just as quickly.

Attack out of the eastern part of Belorussia. Last time they tried this they could not even take Chernihiv. If they only advance here they might actually take it this time. After that, they will be spent.

Attack against Kyiv from just west of the river. I think this is the best single access attack route they have. It would put pressure on other fronts and has the cleanest advance route other than the risks advancing through Chernobyl again.

Attack from the northwest and cut off supplies from Poland. High risk and high reward. Can cut off a lot of supplies. Creates a two front war situation. Very long logistics chain. Any counter attack from the Ukrainians will have a short logistics chain but would be forced to run in reverse of the usual direction to keep the Polish border open. If the attack fails, the troops in the attack are not going home. They will get cut off and pinned against the Polish border.

Any advance on more than two axis is going to get clobbered logistically again no matter where they start.

In terms of a flexible attack, there best option is a two-axis attack. One from Donetsk to the west that is ground units only. This is intended to be a diversion or, if the Ukrainians are not ready, an opportunistic advance. The main advance should come from the north on the west side of the Dinpro river using airborne, air assault, and ground units. This pair of advances seems like the best option for an attack. Odds on it being right? 1 in 5. Second best is the same attack from Donetsk and the high-risk attack to cut off supplies from Poland.

Ukraine attacks?

They go second. Makes no sense to hit first. Attack will be ground based since that is the only option. Also, since they don’t have the numbers, using higher tech weapons on a narrow road-based advance means they can stand off and pound Russian units before a breakthrough. Location wise there is only one route that makes sense. South to Tokmak and on to Melitopol. River crossings in the west is high risk with little reward. Attacking directly to the east allow Russia to get the most out of their logistics.

The Russians, however, seem to have been re-enforcing the areas north of Crimea making this a bit harder than it would have been in November. However, the ground is mostly Steppe with farm fields and little elevation change. Tanks and anti-tank missiles from the west can easily out range whatever the Russians use here. That terrain advantage continues down into Crimea.

With insurgencies in place in the same area, the insurgents can help pave the way and provide intelligence for the attack. Early success will cut off Russian troops further west.
Any secondary advance will be against whatever territory the Russians gained on their attack.

Odds of being right? 2 in 5. On the surface I think the odds of this being the way they go is higher than that but calling it 1 in 2 is too optimistic. I would not be willing to bet any money on this.

There is one huge downside to a successful Ukrainian attack. If you take Crimea back and the Russian government continues to fight on, Russia will have a shorter front to defend on somewhat easier terrain than where most of the action has been happening in the last six months. Further offensive action will be harder to pull off if Russia has any time at all to recover.
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Old 1st February 2023, 10:56 PM   #2173
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Originally Posted by Doubt View Post
This is a long-winded prediction of mine that will be wrong.
Maybe, maybe not. I think that it's worth adding a pointed consideration, though. Ukraine seems to slowly be making headway in the Kreminna/Svatove northeastern front, even under current bad conditions, and Russia's apparently been trying to divert forces there. The mud is largely preventing the usage of armor, though, which makes offensives much more difficult. We'll probably see more action when the ground eventually does firm up. For Ukraine, taking Svatove/Kreminna/eventually Starobilsk, does seem to be a very real priority. There is definite strategic value in cutting off the logistics routes there, especially the railways, as well as further overburdening the remaining Russian logistics and reducing their capability.

With that said, a spring offensive towards Tokmak/Melitopol has been predicted for a fair while and there has been noise about a build-up near Zaporizhzhia (from Russian sources, so worth taking with caution). In both cases, it's quite obvious and fairly straightforward.

Something that would be unexpected, though, after all that signalling up north and the obvious value of breaking them to the south... would be a sudden real offensive on the eastern front. How solid are the defenses there now, presuming the front was actually breached, I wonder?
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Old 1st February 2023, 11:31 PM   #2174
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A real compromise would be a Hong Kong deal on Crimea, with Russia having to return it to Ukraine in maybe 50 years.
That way, there is breathing room for everybody and a chance to normalize.
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Old 1st February 2023, 11:48 PM   #2175
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
A real compromise would be a Hong Kong deal on Crimea, with Russia having to return it to Ukraine in maybe 50 years.
That way, there is breathing room for everybody and a chance to normalize.
Unfortunately, I strongly doubt that Russia will be counted as trustworthy enough to ever abide by such an agreement - especially one so far distant.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 02:16 AM   #2176
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Originally Posted by Jimbo07 View Post
Well.

Now I'm confused.
...
I mixed up you and jimbob, sorry about that.
I'll drop that line of debate as it devolves into a derail, just want to say that people should make sure they know what it means when tey use big words like "Realpolitik".

Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Yes.

Desert Storm is the one that springs to mind first. Encouraging the Marsh Arabs to rebel then failing to support them, or indeed failing to topple Saddam Hussein then. (Yes I know that there were concerns then that if he was toppled, Iraq would fall into sectarian fighting but maybe there were reasons why it wasn't the case later </s>)

Signing away the Sudetenland was another.
...
I find that starting Desert Storm is often described as "Realpolitik" on the part of the USA (i.e. classical power politics), not ending it.

I am surprised that you would mention the Munich Agreement as an example of Realpolitik.

Seems to me you privately define "Realpolitik" as "defeatist appeasement". That is NOT in fact what it means.

Thanks anyway for answering. Feel free to respond, but I will stop here,
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Old 2nd February 2023, 05:24 AM   #2177
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
I disagree.

On Crimea, the thing is that Crimea is of far higher strategic importance than much of the Donbas AND it is the easier take for reasons of Russian logistics: In a war progress that sees Ukraine advancing, shutting down the Kerch bridge for good and jeopardizing any ship trying to cross from Russia proper to Crimea is a distinct possibility, and then, when Ukraine takes fire control over that Southern corridor across Donetsk, Zhaporishshyi and Cherson oblasts, Russia will struggle heavily to supply any defensive, let alone offensive, operations in Crimea. Situation is very different in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts which have long borders and a number of rail and road connections to Russia which Ukraine won't be able to shut off, ever, or at least not nearly as neatly as they will be able to shut off transportation to Crimea.
The strategic importance is safe and sustainable access to the Black Sea, both for civilian cargo (food exports!) and navy purposes. There is just no way that anyone could allow the Russians control over the Ukrainian coast. Ukraine will want to have a significant navy, submarines, and they need Sebastopol for that.
Plus the benefits of a huge chunk of Exclusive Economic Zone in the Black Sea - think gas fields! Ukraine is, and will remain for a while, quite gas-hungry, but will want for obvious reasons to fade out Russian supplies. What better way than to have own supplies?

So that is why I think Ukraine will, if they can at all, fight to get back Crimea.
Despite the obvious problems: Such as the fact that Crimea is of huge prestige to Putin and the Russian leadership; their credibility with the Russian population hinges on it. Such as Crimea having a more Russian, and since 2014 Russified, population than the other occupied territories, meaning Ukraine will not likely be as welcome as liberators to Sebastopol as they will be to Mariupol, Donetsk or Berdyiansk.

As for NATO membership: Won't happen for a very substantial length of time - same goes for equivalent security guarantees. Not until the situation has stabilized (and Russia become so weak) to a point where Russia effectively begs for peace and disarmament. The reason is that any war between Russia and NATO is immediately an existential threat to Russia - they'll just get clobbered any which way. Which means that their only recourse is to - nukes. We don't want that. Ever.
I can see security guarantees a bit more comprehensive than what Ukrain gets already (like more integrated intelligence, a full pipeline of modern offensive systems), but not the Article 5 treatment (i.e. German, British, Turkish etc soldiers fighting directly against Russians)

A more realistic approach is for Russia to keep some of Luhansk, a bit of Donetsk, return Crimea and all the rest, and call it a victory.

The correct way is for Russia to return to pre-2014 borders.

I generally agree with your analysis; I was specifically responding to Gnome's post about what would happen if Russia unilaterally withdrew from all of Ukraine except Crimea.

As for security guarantees, I meant that Russia would have to acquiesce in those guarantees for me to recommend that Ukraine accept the loss of Crimea. In other words, Russia gets Crimea only if it agrees to an enforcement mechanism whereby it can never be allowed to attack Ukraine again.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 06:48 AM   #2178
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Originally Posted by Doubt View Post
This is a long-winded prediction of mine that will be wrong.
I don't think the Russians can mount any large scale offensives.
The artillery and satellite intelligence are going to counter that quickly.

I think what we might see is a Ukrainian attack south toward Mariupol or Melitopol , with the newly acquired armor, pushing to the coast.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 08:54 AM   #2179
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Originally Posted by Drewbot View Post
I don't think the Russians can mount any large scale offensives.
The artillery and satellite intelligence are going to counter that quickly.
One of the things you can see looking at the Deepstate.live map is that they have been identifying more and more Russian units since the big mobilization started. They are massing. Intelligence about units and where they were existed before the war started, so the offensive won't be a surprise. But it likely will still happen. Logistics will be the issue. I would love to see how many tires Russian has imported in the last few months and what the truck production numbers from Kamaz look like. But I don't have those numbers.

Quote:
I think what we might see is a Ukrainian attack south toward Mariupol or Melitopol , with the newly acquired armor, pushing to the coast.
Tokmak is one of the key points on the way south. It also leads to open ground before Crimea. The ISW map shows an insurgency around Melitopol which will help that sort of advance. Once Tokmak falls there could be an opening heading straight for Melitopol.

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories...de641cf64bd375
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Old 2nd February 2023, 09:01 AM   #2180
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Originally Posted by Aridas View Post

Something that would be unexpected, though, after all that signalling up north and the obvious value of breaking them to the south... would be a sudden real offensive on the eastern front. How solid are the defenses there now, presuming the front was actually breached, I wonder?
Two problems with going east. One is the terrain is more favorable to the Russians than going south. Although not by a lot. Still a bit on the flat side but there are more water crossings and some elevation changes around the water crossings. I have not seen much about bridging equipment being sent to Ukraine, which they will be needing for that.

Second issue is it makes Russian logistics easier at the point of the attack.

Two advantages as well. It puts the south under even more logistics strain for the Russians. Also saves them from the problem of Russia consolidating their front if they lose the south first. But it also increases the length of the front line for Ukraine and they still don't have troops to spare for that.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 09:07 AM   #2181
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They have to go east sooner or later. There are occupied territories there that they want back.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 09:32 AM   #2182
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Originally Posted by Drewbot View Post
I don't think the Russians can mount any large scale offensives.
The artillery and satellite intelligence are going to counter that quickly.

I think what we might see is a Ukrainian attack south toward Mariupol or Melitopol , with the newly acquired armor, pushing to the coast.
I don't think so. Binkov says the front line is too short, too densely packed, and the West isn't actually supplying enough tanks soon enough. They'll be useful as mobile gun emplacements, but not enough for a large mechanized combined arms strike which alters the course of the war.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 09:41 AM   #2183
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Originally Posted by Jimbo07 View Post
I don't think so. Binkov says the front line is too short, too densely packed, and the West isn't actually supplying enough tanks soon enough. They'll be useful as mobile gun emplacements, but not enough for a large mechanized combined arms strike which alters the course of the war.
I still watch Binkov but lost a bit of respect for him. He once tried to explain how US mechanized infantry worked in the cold war and got it 100% wrong. Never made a correction. All the info he needed was publicly available on Wikipedia.

The tanks won't be there soon enough for an offensive in the next few weeks. But they won't wait until the have M-1s from the US. They don't need to. They won't be free to move across open ground with the mud but that actually favors Ukraine. The tanks and artillery they will have can out shoot the Russians for distance. The only thing the Russians have here is air power, and that won't work so well at night unless they suddenly fix all their broken, obsolete equipment.

A methodical road based assault will work. It just won't be fast at first.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 10:34 AM   #2184
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Nice to see Putin and his speech writers still have a great sense of humour: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-64502504
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Old 2nd February 2023, 01:35 PM   #2185
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Originally Posted by Aridas View Post
Unfortunately, I strongly doubt that Russia will be counted as trustworthy enough to ever abide by such an agreement - especially one so far distant.
And that is a problem. I think Putin an his cronies have proven they simply cannot be trusted. One of the problems with some dipolomats is they are so anxious for a deal they ignore the issue of whether you can trust the other guy.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 01:38 PM   #2186
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Originally Posted by SpitfireIX View Post
I generally agree with your analysis; I was specifically responding to Gnome's post about what would happen if Russia unilaterally withdrew from all of Ukraine except Crimea.

As for security guarantees, I meant that Russia would have to acquiesce in those guarantees for me to recommend that Ukraine accept the loss of Crimea. In other words, Russia gets Crimea only if it agrees to an enforcement mechanism whereby it can never be allowed to attack Ukraine again.
Which IMHO Putin and his followers will never do, since they have made clear that they ultimate goal is bringing back the old Sovier Union/Russian Empire .
What is amazing is how in foreign policy and in agressiveness toward their nieghborsh, there was not much difference between the Soviets and the Czars.
Diffrence is for 50 years, the Soviet Union actually acheived what the Czars wanted..total control of Eastern Europe.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 03:00 PM   #2187
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
Which IMHO Putin and his followers will never do, since they have made clear that they ultimate goal is bringing back the old Sovier Union/Russian Empire .
What is amazing is how in foreign policy and in agressiveness toward their nieghborsh, there was not much difference between the Soviets and the Czars.
Diffrence is for 50 years, the Soviet Union actually acheived what the Czars wanted..total control of Eastern Europe.
Seems like accession to NATO would meet the requirement. The best part is that Russia doesn't even have to agree to it - we all know they'll abide by it. The other best part is that Ukraine can retake Crimea and still get it.
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Old 2nd February 2023, 10:24 PM   #2188
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
And that is a problem. I think Putin an his cronies have proven they simply cannot be trusted. One of the problems with some dipolomats is they are so anxious for a deal they ignore the issue of whether you can trust the other guy.
Who would want to be a close ally like Belorussa where Putin can decide unilaterally one day that he can run their economy and armed forces.
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Old 3rd February 2023, 01:09 PM   #2189
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
Who would want to be a close ally like Belorussa where Putin can decide unilaterally one day that he can run their economy and armed forces.
SOmeone like the dictator of Belarus, who sold his soul to Putin when he asked for Putin to send in troops to help him overturn a democratic election. That even in a system he controlled he lost shows how unpopular he was.
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Old 3rd February 2023, 01:13 PM   #2190
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Seems like accession to NATO would meet the requirement. The best part is that Russia doesn't even have to agree to it - we all know they'll abide by it. The other best part is that Ukraine can retake Crimea and still get it.
True, but I convinced that Putin and his followers really are obssesed with bringing back the Soviet Union. I think Putin has made clear he has never accepted the idea of Ukraine as a independent country,
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Old 3rd February 2023, 01:54 PM   #2191
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I don't think it's the Soviet Union, I think it's the Russian Empire, with him as emperor.
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Old 3rd February 2023, 02:46 PM   #2192
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
True, but I convinced that Putin and his followers really are obssesed with bringing back the Soviet Union. I think Putin has made clear he has never accepted the idea of Ukraine as a independent country,
If Ukraine joins NATO, it won't matter that Putin doesn't accept the idea that it's an independent country. He will do nothing because he can do nothing.
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Old 3rd February 2023, 03:14 PM   #2193
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Originally Posted by dudalb View Post
True, but I convinced that Putin and his followers really are obssesed with bringing back the Soviet Union. I think Putin has made clear he has never accepted the idea of Ukraine as a independent country,
Originally Posted by MarkCorrigan View Post
I don't think it's the Soviet Union, I think it's the Russian Empire, with him as emperor.
Absolutely. He's Tsar Vladimir in all but name, with all his oligarch buddies as the aristocracy.
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Old 3rd February 2023, 03:17 PM   #2194
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
If Ukraine joins NATO, it won't matter that Putin doesn't accept the idea that it's an independent country. He will do nothing because he can do nothing.
Indeed. I see no other option. Agreement with Russia is pointless.
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Old Yesterday, 01:15 AM   #2195
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Originally Posted by MarkCorrigan View Post
I don't think it's the Soviet Union, I think it's the Russian Empire, with him as emperor.
What Putain wants is to be emperor of a Russia with Comintern's borders.
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Old Today, 05:17 AM   #2196
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Originally Posted by Aridas View Post
Maybe, maybe not. I think that it's worth adding a pointed consideration, though. Ukraine seems to slowly be making headway in the Kreminna/Svatove northeastern front, even under current bad conditions, and Russia's apparently been trying to divert forces there. The mud is largely preventing the usage of armor, though, which makes offensives much more difficult. We'll probably see more action when the ground eventually does firm up. For Ukraine, taking Svatove/Kreminna/eventually Starobilsk, does seem to be a very real priority. There is definite strategic value in cutting off the logistics routes there, especially the railways, as well as further overburdening the remaining Russian logistics and reducing their capability.

With that said, a spring offensive towards Tokmak/Melitopol has been predicted for a fair while and there has been noise about a build-up near Zaporizhzhia (from Russian sources, so worth taking with caution). In both cases, it's quite obvious and fairly straightforward.

Something that would be unexpected, though, after all that signalling up north and the obvious value of breaking them to the south... would be a sudden real offensive on the eastern front. How solid are the defenses there now, presuming the front was actually breached, I wonder?
A drive on Melitopol makes a lot of sense. Success would mean cutting the land bridge once the Ukrainians bring the strip along the coast under their fire control.

The Russian civilians and administrators have already demonstrated a great deal of skittishness when threatened. After attacks on a Crimean airfield over the summer, the bridge was chocked with Russians fleeing. Same for the ferries after the attack on the bridge.

Taking Melitopol would also take the pressure off Kherson. The Russians there would have to pull back or risk being cut off and fighting with their backs to the river.

Losing the land bridge to Crimea would be devastating to Russian civilian and military morale when combined with stalemate in Donbas.
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Old Today, 03:29 PM   #2197
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Here is an interview that PBS's "Frontline" conducted with Julia Ioffe back on September 28th of last year (but uploaded to YT only a few days ago), which was shortly after Ukraine had begun to reconquer some serious land, Putin had ordered a partial mobilization and the referenda in the occupied oblasts - just to get a perspective of what past events may have informed that interview.

Ioffe is an American publisher born in Moscow, to a Russian Jewish family in 1982, and in my opinion one of the most clear-eyed commentators on this war, or the greater picture surrounding it (little mention is made of specific and detailed military matters, this is more about the grander scheme of tings, politics and personalities). She is a pretty avid student of Putin's biography, rise to power and style of rule.

This interview is structured around the history of Putin's relationship to the successive American presidents, from GW Bush to Biden, and how those influeced the road to the current war.

I am not going to give a summary or spoiler key take-aways - I think this is just 68 minutes well spent for anyone who wants to hear a smart, informed assessment of how Putin ticks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEu0oRajJxE
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