AC: update on Ukraine. The big news - that everyone is talking about except for Russia - is a massive offensive. And maybe you want to start with an update on Bakhmut, Ugledar, Marinka, what's going on there.
AM: you've mentioned the key places, but also as Patrick Lancaster talked about, northern Donbass in the Kharkiv region. The Russians are advancing in all of these places.
Russians methodically clearing town of Marinka with about 10k people before the start of the war so a town rather than a small village. The Ukrainians were heavily entrenched there but the Russians are grinding them down and moving ever closer to the
point of being able to surround the major Ukrainian position near Donetsk in a place called Arvdivka, a town of about 30k before the war.
This morning there were reports the Russians were close to capturing Vodanya (sp?) but again this is all nebulous information. The Russians do seem to be advancing around Donetsk, coming closer to the point of breaking the siege there that the Ukrainians
have been waging for 8 years. (can't find any info to confirm spelling, did find this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administrative_divisions_of_Donetsk_Oblast). So we're seeing steady but incremental progress.
Bit further north, much bigger battle for Bakhmut, in fact Newsweek admits it's the biggest battle fought in the whole Ukrainian conflict which we've been saying for months. Russians apparently made
more advances there over the past couple of hours and making advances toward a place called Torejsk. Saw a harrowing admission from a commander of one of the Ukrainian units defending Bakhmut, the Svoboda Battalion, Petro Kuzyk (one of the more ideological units), that his soldiers are fighting from trenches full of corpses under extremely cold conditions and in knee deep water - he said the losses are collossal, they don't even count the bodies (screencap). He said Ukrainian units have broken under the weight of the Russian artillery fire.
Ukraine apparently trying to throw in more reinforcements to hold the line there, re-deploying forces from Zapparozhia that were previously allocated to a planned offensive toward the Black Sea and Sea of Azov; the crisis in Bakhmut has apparently killed that idea. But the UAF is being ground down, just as Surovikin said they would be.
Further north, Patrick Lancaster has said that in northern Donetsk and Kharkiv region the Russians have built enormous defenses and are going on the offensive, gradually regaining control of places they
lost in September. We're also getting reports that the Ukrainian forces there are running out of artillery ammo, and that they're having to redeploy artillery from the south in Zapparozhia to make up for the loss.
Re: Ursula von der Leyen's comment about 100k Ukrainian soldiers killed, Alex and I have both done programs. She's tried to walk it back ("an estimate") though she hasn't tried to retract it. I can't believe the number came off the top of her head, she is the president of the EU Commission and would have access to information the general public does not. And I've seen reports that estimate this represents about 1/3 of Ukraine's combat troops, the ones actually doing the fighting, which means they're down to about 190k fighting men.
AC: before we talk about this massive air strike - the EU and NATO are both based in Brussels, right? I would be shocked if the EU Commission wasn't getting the exact figures. Also remember that Ursula was a German defense minister at one point.
AM: I agree. I've been to Brussels, my brother used to work for the EU. These people know each other, they meet each other and go to the same bars and restaurants. They're all part of the same world.
AC: I've also been reading reports though they're impossible to confirm, that obviously the unedited video is all over Telegram, it's made its way into Ukraine as well and a large portion of the
population there has seen it. It's been very demoralizing for the troops and the people. The EU has refused to apologize, they just try to brush it off, but to pretend it hasn't had an effect... it has.
And now we're getting rumors of a big massive strike being prepared; we don't know, these are the reports we're getting, what do you think?
AM: I think it's probably true. I'm sure you've seen the reports, more than 300 missiles in a single strike - up to now the largest strike has been around 90 missiles so it will be huge if it's true.
The point is the Russians are doing this in full view. Satellite images show the big aircraft being assembled, the ground technicians with all their trollies of missiles running to the aircraft; it could be this is all theater to scare people but I can't help but think something big is being prepared. What we don't know is the timing.
Col. Douglas MacGregor has given us some numbers of the totality of Russian forces that are assembling and I'm sure he has reliable sources (repeat of info I have elsewhere (bolded)). That's not even counting the Belarussian army of 75k.
We don't know what they'll do but I think they'll grind down the UAF in Donbass, Kharkiv, Zapparozhia and push to the east bank of the
Dniepr. Then probably consolidate at that point, there's been suggestions by John Helmer and others they might be looking at a partition plan.
If MacGregor's numbers are right and the above is what they end up doing, with only 190k Ukrainian soldiers I can't really see what kind of Ukraine will survive.
AC: we're getting a lot of stories that all these European countries are training Ukrainian soldiers - 5k, 10k, 20k. Are we really talking about
Ukrainian soldiers or is this NATO soldiers who will move in under the cover of being Ukrainian?
AM: I think you may be right. But let's first ask why this is happening at all. A lot of reports out, especially in the tech media, that the reason they're turning to "training" Ukrainian soldiers is because they're running out of weapons and ammo to send to Ukraine - so "training" soldiers is the alternative.
There's been some weird things. Apparently the Pentagon has put its foot down and said no to Patriot missiles and F-16 fighters being sent. Artillery is practically exhausted, the US searching for old Soviet artillery in the Middle East, component parts for more NASMs (surface to air missiles). It all sounds pretty desperate, actually.
So they're talking about training. And again, basing this on people like Brian Berletic, the training period being provided is short and the numbers don't seem to be very large. So you're going to train
soldiers to a limited level and send them into battle with inadequate weapons. This sounds cruel.
So perhaps that's not what you're actually doing. Perhaps you're really preparing to send NATO troops in and this is your cover. The danger with doing that is that it involves NATO countries directly in the war. You might be able to avoid escalation by pretending they're Ukrainian soldiers but eventually casualty numbers will start to trickle
through - we've started to see something like that happen in Poland - and as more people start to die, more people start to question and families talk to each other and it becomes a hot political issue in
AC: re the political and geopolitical: Macron made his first visit to the US as a foreign leader, visiting Biden and of course the #1 topic was Ukraine. Then you had the interesting exchange with Scholz. My take on the Biden-Macron visit is that the solution they came up with is, "let's just keep this thing going and we'll manage the chaos" - I call it the Hope Strategy.
AM: there are issues between the two, France is still angry about the nuclear submarine deal it had with Australia that the US undercut with thier own; Macron has still not gotten over this apparently. He's still angry about the industrial subsidies the US is giving that's drawing European industries to the US - despite Biden's words, he's not going to change this policy.
On Ukraine they came up with nothing. Biden said he's willing to talk to Putin but he gave no reason for Putin to want to talk to him. In fact the Russians just issued a statement that they're not interested
because Biden hasn't shifted his position at all. So whatever internal pressures there are in the US and EU for a diplomatic track will make no difference because there's no enthusiasm for it at all in the US government, it would require they accept realities, make oncessions, do deals which this administration is not capable of doing. What it looked like to me was theater.
Then you get Scholz, who is in a much weaker position, he's experiencing real problems in Germany. He made a speech a couple of days ago, said if everything can be returned to where it was
before the war, we go back to the status quo (ante?) then relations with Russia can be what they were before. And then he calls Putin.
You have to read the Russian readout. Putin eats him for breakfast. He said this is all your fault, you're pursuing a destructive policy in Ukraine. You talk about negotiations but are taking away any
incentives for Ukraine to negotiate by giving them money and weapons, encouraging the nationalistic forces to commit crimes there. You complain about our attacks on infrastructure but ignore Ukraine's attacks on OUR infrastructure like the Crimean bridge. He threw in that the attacks on Nord Stream 1 and 2 were acts of terrorism. He talked about the Istanbul grain deal, said we're
delivering on our part, letting Ukraine export its grain but you're not delivering on your part, you're still obstructing the export of OUR food and fertilizer.
If Scholz was looking for some movement from Putin, he didn't get it, but given all we've discussed in this program, why would Putin be giving concessions at this time? So you wonder what the point of Scholz's call actually was.
AC: if you step back and take a big picture view of everything to figure out who's coming out ahead in this conflict, take a look at who's initiating calls to whom; who's scrambling to find weapons and
ammo and air defense systems; take a look at the fact that the US and France are making decisions for Ukraine - there was no Ukrainian representative there, they were deciding when Ukraine could negotiate and when they can't. The West just can't accept the fact that they've lost.
AM: you're absolutely right about France and the US deciding for Ukraine. Naryshkin, head of Russian intelligence agency, the SVR, had a meeting with CIA Director William Burns in Ankara. The US claimed the meeting wasn't about Ukraine, it was about strategic stability and prisoner exchanges between Russia and the US but then Naryshkin said that Ukraine was the big topic of discussion - again without Ukraine present. Whatever Burns came to say, and again it was the Americans who asked for this meeting, as far as the Russians were concerned the Americans came to it empty-handed. Because as you said, they are not prepared to make the decisions they need to make in order to secure peace. They can't/won't accept that thier Ukraine project went hideously wrong, they're still in denial about it. Burns talks to the Russians, Scholz talks to the Russians,
Sullivan calls Petrushev - all looking for a chink exposing a weak point in their armor but the Russians have been implacable. What Putin said to Scholz came across as rude, actually.
AC: Well, Scholz calling Putin and has the nerve to say if you go back to the way things were then we will, as if Germany is doing Russia some favor. And meanwhile I've read reports today that Germany is sending more weapons.
AM: and the absurdity of it. Does Scholz really believe what he said, or that Putin would belive it? He's an idiot if he does because the Russians don't believe him or anything they hear from the West
anymore. Lavrov made a statement recently about this. The Russians have been lied to so often they've gone past the point of trusting the West on anything.
AC: the entire world saw what happened with Nord Stream 1 and 2 and everyone understands what happened. And the fact Germany didn't even make a statement about infrastructure that was critical to their gas and energy system shows how pathetic Scholz is. The world must be asking why they should make a deal with this guy who despite being the Chancellor of Germany has no power and no
backbone, there's nothing there. The least you could do is call out the people who did this thing. Angela Merkel, when she had her phones bugged by Obama, she may not have taken strong actions
but she at least gave the appearance of being upset and insulted. How can you negotiate with Scholz or trust him?
AM: absolutely. And on Nord Stream Putin said "this is a terrorist act, there needs to be a full transparent investigation and it's our pipelines so our Russian special agencies should be involved." As far as I can see from the readout, Scholz said nothing in response to this.
You're right, the entire world looks at this and concludes these are not serious people in the West anymore. And if MacGregor's numbers are correct, and we do see the massive missile strike and the situation in Bakhmut being what it is, what incentive does Putin have to sit down and talk to these unserious people who from his perspective have been lying to him for years, since long before 2014?