Internet War Punditry: Rapidly Advancing Towards Total Irrelevancy.

Source: Edward Slavsquat

The Ukrainian military has launched a counter-offensive in the Kharkov region.

There are many hot takes about this.

We are not going to provide you with a Military Analysis. Instead, we will offer a brief overview of how we arrived at the current state of affairs—and ask the simplest of questions: Can we please stop with the malarkey and have an honest dialogue about what has occurred over the past six months? Please? It’s time.

The Kiev “feint”

Remember when thousands of Russian troops semi-surrounded Kiev and Zelensky was supposed to flee for his life (maybe he did, temporarily, to Poland. History’s Mysteries)? Oh, we remember.

“Going for the jugular” and “doing it the hard rock way” suddenly became a sneaky “feint”? Okay, sure.

Go back to mid-March—all the usual suspects were still predicting an imminent assault on Kiev. There’s a simple explanation for this: Russia was still signaling it had ambitious plans for Kiev and neighboring regions.

But by late March the narrative had changed in a very radical way.

On March 25, Russia’s ministry of defense claimed that operations in Kiev, Kharkov, Chernigov, Sumy, and Nikolaev were designed to “tie down [Ukrainian] forces” and prevent them from “strengthening their grouping in the Donbass.”

March 13, 2022 (source:

A few days later, the Kremlin described the Russian withdrawal from these areas as a gesture of goodwill aimed at encouraging peace talks.

Seemingly overnight, Russia’s short-lived excursions into Kiev and the surrounding regions were rebranded as a “feint” that would allow for the swift liberation of Donetsk and Lugansk. (Current status: incomplete.)

A new narrative was born: with Phase I (“the feint”) a resounding success, the Russian military could now focus its attention on the Donbass. We were told, day after day, that Ukrainian forces in the east were going to be boiled alive, Ramen noodle-style, in a giant cauldron. Once the Ukrainians were encircled, Kiev would be forced to either surrender or crawl to the negotiating table.

It was all over, according to the liveliest intellects of our time. Gonzalo Lira proclaimed that Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin met with Zelensky in late April to inform Kiev that the United States would not be sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“It was a kiss-off. It was the signal to the Zelensky regime that US/NATO will not supply heavy weapons or planes, and will not get into this war. It’s over,” Lira tweeted on April 27.

Scott Ritter had a slightly different take: Russia would destroy any NATO weaponry sent to Ukraine before it could reach the front lines.

The evolution of the Donbass “cauldron” (artistic license)

It wasn’t until mid-May that Ritter conceded “Russia has shown itself unable or unwilling to [intercept weapons shipments]—as a result—the Ukrainians are having a meaningful impact on the battlefield.”

Mariupol was officially cleared of Azov fighters at the end of May (some of whom were later released as part of a prisoner exchange), but the long-anticipated encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Donbass never materialized. Reinforcements and NATO-supplied weapons continued to flow across the Dnieper.

No biggie.

In a tweet commemorating the first three months of fighting, Lira mused that the AFU wouldn’t be able to hold out for another 90 days. The Ukrainian military, according to Lira, was now a spent force entirely reliant on reservists.

But after taking Mariupol, Russia’s advances slowed to a snail’s pace. Gains in East Ukraine came to a screeching halt after the AFU was expelled from Lugansk in early July.

“The special operation is going according to plan”

Suddenly, a new narrative was born: the longer the war went on, the better it was for Russia. Time was on Russia’s side—even as Ukraine was “rebuilding significant capability” (source: Scott Ritter).

But this wasn’t always the prevailing wisdom. For educational purposes, let’s briefly review what Very Serious Pundits were saying in the first weeks of the conflict.

On March 9, the Saker published an article under the headline: “The opinion of a professional about the special operation in Ukraine (MUST READ!)”. The analysis, written by a “military professional” named Alexander Dubrovsky, repeatedly stressed that speed was of critical importance to achieve Russia’s goals in Ukraine.

“The special operation does not stop, there will be no more delays. Every day of delay categorically harms us, unplanned diplomatic, political, economic and military problems appear. Only speed and onslaught, until in the West they begin to assess the situation with a cool head,” Dubrovsky wrote.

The article continued: “The final turning point will come after the cleansing of Kharkov, blocking or taking Odessa.”

A new directive had been issued by the Russian MOD, Dubrovsky revealed: the gloves were coming off and “hypothetical harm to civilians” would no longer take precedent over military objectives:

I want to reassure you, for the twelfth day our guys are operating in a different operational and tactical reality, losses will rapidly decrease. If earlier there was a strict order not to cause even hypothetical harm to civilians, civilian objects… today it has been modified. In one sentence: “not to the detriment of the personnel of the units.” As a military man, I am completely satisfied: now the humanitarian sensitivities are over – real work will go on.

This was the “must-read” that received a glowing preface from Andrei, the Saker’s chief curator.

Fast-forward five months. On August 10, the Saker penned a commentary explaining why he was no longer posting maps of the military situation in Ukraine.

“Unlike the first month or two of the SMO, there are very few changes worth showing on a map,” Andrei wrote, adding that the barely moving battle lines showed Russia was taking special care to avoid civilian casualties.

Okay, great—but what happened to the speedy “cleansing” (yikes) of Kharkov and Odessa? And how is it that “every day of delay” was bad news for Russia in March, but suddenly a non-issue in August?

On August 24, Shoigu explained the lack of progress in East Ukraine.

“[E]verything is done to avoid casualties among civilians. Of course, this slows down the pace of the offensive, but we are doing it consciously. The special operation is going according to plan,” Russia’s defense minister said.

Less than three weeks later, Russian forces abandoned their positions in Kharkov region, endangering the lives of countless civilians who were promised that “Russia is here forever.”

Ukraine’s counter-offensive: “Meaningless”

Which brings us to the precarious present.

Marko Marjanović has an excellent write-up of the incredible events that have transpired over the past week:

In just 4 days the Russians lost a vast area—everything beyond the Oskil river gone. Just like that.

Positions that took months for Russia to capture and expand were gone in an instant. (The whole of March to take the city itself, followed by battles to expand the bridgehead over Seversky Donets to its south.)

Particularly around Izyum, the Russian military had fought bloody close-quarter battles to take and expand positions beyond the Oskil and Seversky Donetsk and was now giving it all back in a rout.

Russia’s MOD explained that the retreating troops were being “regrouped” in order to “boost efforts in the Donetsk region” (does that sound familiar?).

Meanwhile, Lira was tweetin’ up a schizoid-storm:

Ritter also weighed in. But before we dive into his most recent comments, let’s review what he was saying back in May:

Ukraine is rebuilding significant capability … Unless Russia is willing to jump across the Dnieper River and head into western Ukraine where it can eliminate the strategic depth that the Ukrainians are being gifted by the Russians, then demilitarization of Ukraine is not going to take place …

The fact that these advanced howitzers [provided by NATO] are operating on the front lines right now, shows there’s something wrong with the Russian methodology. And, unless they alter that methodology, I think we’re in for a very long summer.

Ritter basically predicted the Ukrainian counter-offensive. After sounding the alarm months ago, he is now urging Russia to change its “methodology” in Ukraine, right?

No. Everything is under control, Ritter declared on September 10. The Ukrainian military has launched a “significant but meaningless counter-attack” that, worst-case scenario, will simply delay Russia’s imminent victory by a few months:

It’s not the end of the world. It just means Russia went from winning every day, literally every day it was: Russia winning. Russia wins again, Russia wins again. It was starting to get boring … Russia’s winning, winning big time. […]

What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen from this? NATO is going to send Ukraine more weapons? Wow, I think that’s already happening.

In May, Ukraine was “rebuilding significant capability” and had successfully deployed NATO-supplied heavy weapons, indicating there was “something wrong” with the “Russian methodology.”

In September, these same NATO weapons were used to launch a counter-offensive that over a period of four days pushed Russian troops to the other side of the Oskil river.

Ritter’s hot take: Meaningless.

“I’ve never seen such a pathetic performance by people who claim to be seasoned military analysts,” Ritter said of internet pundits who are now expressing concern about the same flawed “Russian methodology” that Ritter called out in May.

Sure; okay.

Is it meaningless that Ukrainians in Kharkov who supported Russia are now fleeing for their lives? Is it “pathetic” to point out that Russia’s withdrawal means that scores of civilians—probably many of whom were completely neutral and just wanted to quietly live their lives—are going to get their doors kicked down by the SBU? Is this how Russia “wins”?

As our blog-friend Rolo Slavskiy wrote:

The SBU is going to be sent in now to do what they do best – slit throats and then demand confessions. Yes, in that order. These people are monsters. We have no idea how many people have simply been disappeared in Ukraine. I complain about the FSB, but the SBU just do whatever they want with no restraint at all. Torture, mutilations and mass-killings are standard SBU operating procedure. The Ukrainians, ironically enough, are fighting like Bolsheviks – with no concern for any norms or conventions or anything resembling humanity.

This regrettable episode reminds us of an article published in April by—home to Ukraine’s “pro-Russia fifth column”—about why Russia-sympathetic Ukrainians were so demoralized. One of the reasons given:

[Pro-Russia Ukrainians] do not openly support Putin even in the territories controlled by the Russians. Because the officially declared goal of Russia is to achieve a number of demands from Kiev, after which the Russian army will leave all the territories occupied since February 24 (except Donbass).

Naturally, as soon as the Ukrainian authorities return there, all those who collaborated with the Russians will go to trial in the best case for themselves, and in the worst case they will simply be shot as traitors. In such conditions, there are very few who want to openly help the Russian army.

After the events of the past week, could anyone blame them? And how does Russia intend to win over hearts and minds when it can’t even guarantee the safety and security of Ukrainians who welcomed Russian troops as liberators?

What has actually been accomplished in six months?

There is much more to say. It will be said (later). For now, we’ll close with this sober assessment published in Russian-language media:

In six months, Ukraine has become much more militarized, much more angry and closer to NATO, and the degree of nationalism and Russophobic hysteria is much higher. At the same time, Donbass has turned into an arena of fierce hostilities and shelling, which has increased tenfold, with no clear prospect of their completion, becoming much less protected and safe than before February 24.

How does this end, friends?

  1. Estragon says

    Lira (AKA Coach Red Pill) is always good for a laugh. This is a guy who’s lived in Ukraine for years, but never managed to learn Russian or Ukrainian. (Supposedly, he can’t even read the Cyrillic alphabet.)

    A while back, he was saying that Russia would have the whole thing wrapped up by the end of summer. Summer’s over, Coach. He also thought Poland was going to re-absorb Galicia and then experience “its own Vietnam” fighting the Banderites. This shows a laughable misunderstanding of Polish sentiment and policy toward that region.

    1. JBirks says

      Don’t forget his dramatic “disappearance” a few months ago, foreshadowed by himself propping himself up as prospective martyr, then his remarkable reappearance on The Duran a week later!

      He claimed to have been abducted by the SBU yet he was not tortured, in fact he didn’t have a scratch on him.

      The man is a clown, a self-serving fraud. He may have been a good relationship coach but he’s no field reporter.

  2. voza0db says

    A few dozens of missiles WELL USED and Ukraine goes into 19th century over night… I guess this is the main failure of the russians!

    1. Agarwal says

      “America could have easily won in Afghanistan if it blah blah blah”. Well at the end of the day America lost and was driven out of the country.

      Same thing with Russia. “Russia could easily win in Ukraine if it blah blah blah”. Rather than alternate history fiction we should focus on what actually happens, not what could have happened.

      I am genuinely baffled by what Putin’s plans are now. He is sticking to no partial mobilization, Russian forces are on the defensive in Ukraine, what was the SMO about again? Is he looking for a way out? I don’t think he will get it, Ukraine is not in the mood (I think people underestimate Ukrainian agency), and the USA is not in the mood. If Germany gets a little cold this winter neither the USA or Ukraine will care very much.

  3. Jan Hahn says

    Please remember that it’s not just Ukraine that Russia is facing. The US started out with weapons shipments from everywhere, but no troops. After all: if they don’t take part in the war, they’re not participating, right? Even if everyone can clearly see that it’s the US fighting a proxy war with Russia, using Ukrainians as cannon fodder. Of course, the Ukrainian army was well equipped at the start of this, but under Russian fire it diminished pretty fast, even with all the weapons shipped from everywhere. Reports from the front all said that the Ukrainian army was under equipped and disorganized. So, Russia was winning, albeit slowly. Things had to change.

    So, the US took an ace from it’s sleeve and hired Blackwater (Academi, Constellis, or whatever they choose to call themselves – anyway, the CIA private army) to start a new offensive. Technically, they’re mercenaries, so the US is still not taking part in the war. But these guys are professionals, experienced and ruthless, so they hit the Russians by surprise in Kharkov. Now, Russia hits back, and there’s probably more to come in private military groups as long as the money flows. This is not a game of chess, it’s a war between Russia and NATO. No one knows how this war will develop. But it is going to be tough, especially for Ukraine and Europe.

    1. Field Empty says

      You’re fetishizing. Little Russians are perfectly capable of carrying out an offensive without the Great White Masters in Blackwater.

      They were given 7 months to stand up thousands and thousands of new troops, of course their military power would rise if their population centers couldn’t be isolated quickly, as I had warned from the start.

      No Blackwater is needed to explain anything, if you were under the impression that Ukrainian military power was diminishing rather than rising then you were told wrong. It had always been a race against time.

  4. tobi999 says

    Everything writtten here and comments are totally bullshit! How many land and hills did the US conquer in Vietnam and still lose?

    What counts are dead soldiers and destroyed equipment, Russians are not willing to fight with a full army, they prefer to play that game, they have artillery ratio 100:1 watch the videos on rumble and bitchute.

    They are just nibbling land of under air defens and air support umbrella with artillery support, thats why all is so slowly. The same way they retreated when Ukraine sent in a full wave of sucidal idiots, this happend before but nobody cared. Then Russians bombed and shelled shit out of them for days or weeks and moved slowly back.

    Did Ukraine catch Russians in the wrong food there yes, they attacked in the south heavily and lost terrible thats why they move their heavy troops to the south, the north was weak and the front is fucking 1300km long!

    The area Ukraine conquered is what 2000km² that is tiny…

    how many men and equipment did they lose? More important and how many did they kill and destroy!

    You win a war just by killing and destroying the enemy!

    And how much controle did the Ukraine lose on other frontlines?

    If the Ukraine can hold that land until the end of the year then we should make minds about Russians.

    But I doubt that! Nobody here knows anything about the military, the real quantitiy of lost men and material!

    But one thing is for sure Ukraine is short on both! When you need to drag women to the front!

    Russia will win! It will be over when Ukraine has noone more left to fight and no more material! And West cannot feed and pay them for ever! Without industry and making money in the West! They sooner or later, will have to stop the support and take care on revolting people inside the West.

    Russias economy is doing much much better and BRICS and BRICS+ are developing fine, this war is not just fought in Ukraine, but also in the international world, markets, economies financial centres.

    And the West is losing everywhere influence and power!

    1. ATBOTL says

      False. What matters is taking and holding ground, not kill ratios. Ukraine will NEVER run out of men, weapons or money with NATO support. Russian can only win by taking control of all Russian land.

    2. SteveK9 says

      You might be right (that is certainly the consensus on most of the pro-Russian websites), but the people on this website might be right. Certainly a number of predictions have come true … including the invasion in the first place.

    3. SteveK9 says

      Your reference to Vietnam shows a complete lack of historical understanding. The US effort was all about killing as many men as possible. Territorial changes did not occur until right before the end of the war. The ‘kill ratio’ was enormously in favor of the US. We probably killed a million North Vietnamese soldiers. By the way, I remember the war very well, and avoided serving in it, just by luck.

  5. Michael Droy says

    Sorry this is bollocks.
    A cherry picked list of things people said in March put together in September.
    Even now it reads no worse than the discussion you wanted.

    Your conclusion is equally dumb.
    Ukraine just lost 5% of its army regaining 5% of the land Russia held.
    That way leads quickly to the last Ukrainian.

  6. Blackledge says

    Ritter was never in combat arms, he was a staff guy.

    Much worse though, is that he’s a two-time convicted pedophile and a felon. Why does RT use him? Why does Andrew Napolitano bring him on his program time and again? What does it say about the English language alternative media who chases his thoughts like birds?

    Why does anyone care what Lira says about anything? He’s a low IQ loser of no consequence and a middle aged, moral degenerate.

    1. Estragon says

      “Why does RT use him?” RT doesn’t really have much choice, if they want a semi-prominent Westerner who can parrot or at least support the Kremlin line. Why else would they use the disbarred and disgraced former lawyer Alex Mercouris as their “legal expert”?

  7. SteveK9 says

    Lira started by saying he was no military expert, but as people were eager to hear the message he was spreading, he got more and more into the artificial role of military expert and geopolitical strategist. He is not alone. I like the guy, but he clearly got carried away. It can happen to the best of us.

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