Inconvenient Questions for the “Special Operation”
Having briefly looked at the outcome of the “special military operation” by the yardstick of its declared goals, let’s expand our anti-interventionist analysis of it. Are there any other aspects of this fratricidal bloodletting of choice that are questionable, imprudent, or troubling? Let’s ask some questions to discover.
First question: what is the exit strategy? How does Russia bring the war to an end? Fighting has settled into positional warfare where soldiers continue to die but little ground changes hands. Has Moscow any other strategy for winning than fighting Ukraine — composed of “people close to us” per Putin — into utter economic and demographic exhaustion?
Wars can be ended by inflicting poverty and death on a large scale but especially if one is fighting own kin having a robust alternative would seem to be desirable and important.
Another question to ask is how should Russian citizens feel about the war being sprung on them as an utter surprise? Bush started the Iraq War after a cynical year-long propaganda campaign built on fearmongering and lies. But is the Kremlin presenting the demos with a fait accompli and going into Ukraine without a national debate, and after months of false assurances that war is impossible an improvement?
Or what of the Russians’ civil liberties? What of the harassment of antiwar Russians? If there is a case for the Russian war in Ukraine there is also a case against it. (You could ask Tolstoy or Poklonskaya.) Nobody is more aware of that than the Russian government which in January still publicly deemed war with Ukraine “unthinkable” and the suggestions that Moscow would embark on one as a “medical diagnosis”.
Yet now Russian citizens can be harassed for merely agreeing with the government’s own declared position from a couple of months ago. They can find themselves in trouble for merely deeming what is taking place a war which constitutes “spreading false information about the Special Military Operation.” So you have a government which lied that it would not start a war going after people who call its war a war as liars. There is no escaping that this is Orwellian. How should this make us feel? What would we say if the US reached for such methods?
What of the fact that instead of properly articulating the case for war (such a case did in fact exist) the government instead commissioned ludicrous FSB fabrications? What of the fact that even now Moscow can not articulate what this war is about, or for? The war is literally branded as “Z”. But “Z” is literally just a shape. It is one-hundred-percent content free. People are literally being invited to kill and to die for a certain shape.
The war’s official motto is “We do not leave ours behind.” (Who does??) But who is the “we” in this sentence, and who are the “ours” who are not being left behind? Not specified. Once again it’s content-free. It’s a motto for the sake of having a motto. It’s literally a war with Ukrainians who Putin says are one people with the Russians yet the government war advertising speaks of “ours” who will under no circumstances be “left behind”. (But maybe they should be if the alternative is cruise missile-ing them??)
What of the fact that albeit the war is said to be absolutely necessary, high-stakes, and just, nobody inside Russia is actually being asked to sacrifice anything for it? TV talking heads will speak of the importance of “supporting the Z” and invite people to do so, but this “support” demands nothing more than going about your daily business. At the most, it means wearing a Z ribbon or attending a pro-war event.
Supposedly this is a war that was imposed on Russia, one that was unavoidable and necessary and is 100% justified. It has been said by Putin that it is a war to save Donbass from genocide, by Lavrov that it is an existential war for Russia, and by a high-ranking general that Russia is now at war with virtually the entire world. Yet at the same time there is no mobilization, serving conscripts are undeployable, and even professional soldiers can tear up their contracts and refuse deployment with little legal repercussion. How come? Isn’t this a very strange situation?
Which one is it? Is this an imposed high-stakes war for lofty goals that would justify a national effort or is it not? The front situation is certainly screaming out for such an effort so why is the Kremlin acting as if its existential-lofty-imposed war is not worth it? Is it a war that is only worth killing for, but not dying for? Why, if Ukrainians are as Rus as the Russians themselves? Why is the war worth hitting Ukrainian-Russian conscripts in their barracks with cruise missiles as they sleep, but not worth sending Russian-Russian conscripts into battle?
This is a war that is beyond all reproach yet rather than appeal to Russian patriotism and civic duty, the Kremlin is trying to address its gapping manpower shortage with mercenaries. Rather than telling men it is an honor to serve the motherland in such a good war, the Kremlin is trying to buy them, offering them brief 3-month stints for massive payouts. Why? Why is the Kremlin itself so timid to ask the nation to bear sacrifices for such a lofty war? And if it is that unsure should then its war even be fought? It’s a fair question to ask.
Another question to ask is why are sacrifices for this war distributed so unevenly among members of the “Russkiy Mir”. A 20-year-old conscript hailing from Crimea who has 10-months of service and is properly trained and integrated into a capable Russian military unit will not be sent into Ukraine but will be left behind at base as the rest of his unit ships out. A 45-year-old bricklayer from Donetsk meanwhile will be mobilized, given zero training, thrown into a newly-created unit surrounded by people like himself whom he has never met in his life, and they will be sent to the front. How is this fair? (Or good warmaking??)
Or what of the fact that the Russian MoD refer to Ukrainian soldiers exclusively as “nationalists and militants”? (Except if they surrender at which point they become “servicemen.”) A typical RUMOD report will include language like “militants of the Ukrainian armed forces have equipped a stronghold” or “The attacks have resulted in the elimination of more than 170 nationalists.” Numerous Russians have relatives in Ukraine. Relatives who may not appreciate Moscow deciding to settle inter-Slavic squabbles by force or might just not have found a way out of conscription. Relatives that may end up charred to death in a thermobaric artillery strike. How are these Russians supposed to feel about their government insisting their dead or at-risk relatives are “nationalists” and “militants”? How should anyone who has sympathy for Russians and Ukrainians both, as any proper “pro-Russian” should? Why this Orwellianism? The troops on the other side are not “nationalists” and are not “militants.” They are just normal people usually from the underprivileged strata. Often Russian-speaking. Everybody knows this.
End of Part II.