John V. Walsh Media Criticism Military Ukraine

New York Times Repudiates Drive For ‘Decisive Military Victory’ in Ukraine

Ukraine must negotiate based on a “realistic assessment” and “limits” to U.S./NATO commitment, says NYT.
Volodymyr Zelensky speaks via video conference at the Davos Economic Forum on May 23.

By John V. Walsh / Popular Resistance

A week ago, we made note of a May 11 New York Times news article, documenting that all was not going well for the U.S. in Ukraine, and a companion opinion piece hinting that a shift in direction might be in order.

Now on May 19, “THE EDITORIAL BOARD,” the full Magisterium of the Times, has moved from hints to a clarion call for a change in direction in an editorial uninformatively titled, “The War Is Getting Complicated, and America Isn’t Ready.”  From atop the Opinion page the Editorial Board has declared that “total victory” over Russia is not possible and that Ukraine will have to negotiate a peace in a way that reflects a “realistic assessment” and the “limits” of U.S. commitment.  The Times serves as one the main shapers of public opinion for the Elite and so its pronouncements are not to be taken lightly.

Ukrainians will have to adjust to US “limits” and make sacrifices for newfound U.S. realism

The Times May editorial dictum contains the following key passages:

“ In March, this board argued that the message from the United States and its allies to Ukrainians and Russians alike must be: No matter how long it takes, Ukraine will be free. …”

“That goal cannot shift, but in the end, it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions (emphasis, jw).”

To ensure that there is no ambiguity, the editorial declares that:

A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal. … Russia remains too strong…”

To make certain that President Biden and the Ukrainians understand what they should do, the EDITORIAL BOARD goes on to say:

… Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limitsto the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain (emphasis, jw).”

As Volodymyr Zelensky reads those words, he must surely begin to sweat.  The voice of his masters is telling him that he and Ukraine will have to make some sacrifices for the US to save face.  As he contemplates his options, his thoughts must surely run back to February, 2014, and the U.S. backed Maidan coup that culminated in the hasty exit of President Yanukovych from his office, his country and almost from this earth.

Ukraine is a proxy war that is all too dangerous

In the eyes of the Times editorial writers, the war has become a U.S. proxy war against Russia using Ukrainians as cannon fodder – and it is careening out of control:

 “The current moment is a messy one in this conflict, which may explain President Biden and his cabinet’s reluctance to put down clear goal posts.”

“The United States and NATO are already deeply involved, militarily and economically. Unrealistic expectations could draw them ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war..”

“Recent bellicose statements from Washington — President Biden’s assertion that Mr. Putin ‘cannot remain in power,’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that Russia must be ‘weakened’ and the pledge by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that the United States would support Ukraine ‘until victory is won’ — may be rousing proclamations of support, but they do not bring negotiations any closer.”

While the Times dismisses these statements as “rousing proclamations,” it is all too clear that for the neocons in charge of U.S. foreign policy, the goal has always been a proxy war to bring down Russia. This has not become a proxy war; it has always been a proxy war. The neocons operate by the Wolfowitz Doctrine, enunciated in 1992, soon after the end of Cold War 1.0, by the necoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defense:

“We endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

“We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power.”

Clearly if Russia is “too strong” to be defeated in Ukraine, it is too strong to be brought down as a superpower.

The Times has shifted Its opinion from March to May. What Has Changed?

After 7 years of slaughter in the Donbas and 3 months of warfare in Southern Ukraine, has the Times editorial board suddenly had a rush of compassion for all the victims of the war and the destruction of Ukraine and changed its opinion?  Given the record of the Times over the decades, it would seem that other factors are at work.

First of all, Russia has handled the situation unexpectedly well compared to dire predictions from the West.

President Putin’s support exceeds 80%.

165 of 195 nations, including India and China with 35% of the world’s population, have refused to join sanctions against Russia, leaving the U.S., not Russia, relatively isolated in the world.

The ruble, which Biden said would be “rubble” has not only returned to its pre-February levels but is valued at a 2 year high, today at 59 rubles to the dollar compared to 150 in March.

Russia is expecting a bumper harvest and the world is eager for its wheat and fertilizer, oil and gas all of which provide substantial revenue.

The EU has largely succumbed to Russia’s demand to be paid for gas in rubles.  Treasury Secretary Yellin is warning the suicidal Europeans that an embargo of Russian oil will further damage the economies of the West.

Russian forces are making slow but steady progress across southern and eastern Ukraine after winning in Mariupol, the biggest battle of the war so far, and a demoralizing defeat for Ukraine.

In the US inflation, which was already high before the Ukraine crisis, has been driven even higher and reached over 8% with the Fed now scrambling to control it by raising interest rates.  Partly as a result of this, the stock market has come close to bear territory.  As the war progresses, many have joined Ben Bernanke, former Fed Chair, in predicting a period of high unemployment, high inflation and low growth – the dread stagflation.

Domestically, there are signs of deterioration in support of the war.  Most strikingly, 57 House Republicans and 11 Senate Republicans voted against the latest package of weaponry to Ukraine, bundled with considerable pork and hidden bonanzas for the war profiteers.  (Strikingly no Democrat, not a single one, not even the most “progressive” voted against pouring fuel on the fire of war raging in Ukraine.  But that is another story.)

And while U.S. public opinion remains in favor of U.S. involvement in Ukraine there are signs of slippage.  For example, Pew reports that those feeling the U.S. is not doing enough declined from March to May.  As more stagflation takes hold with gas and food prices growing and voices like those of Tucker Carlson and Rand Paul pointing out the connection between the inflation and the war, discontent is certain to grow.

Finally, as the war becomes less popular and it takes its toll, an electoral disaster looms ahead in 2022 and 2024 for Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, for which the Times serves as a mouthpiece.

The NYT editorial signals alarm over the insane goal of the neoconservatives.

There is a note of panic in this appeal to find a negotiated solution now.  The U.S. and Russia are the world’s major nuclear powers with thousands of nuclear missiles on Launch On Warning, aka Hair Trigger Alert.  At moments of high tension, the possibilities of Accidental Nuclear Armageddon are all too real.

President Biden’s ability to stay in command of events is in question. Many people of his age can handle a situation like this, but many cannot and he seems to be in the latter category.

Alarm is warranted and panic is understandable.

The neocons are now in control of the foreign policy of the Biden administration, the Democratic Party and most of the Republican Party. But will the neocons in charge give up and move in a reasonable and peaceful direction as the Times editorial demands?  This is a fantasy of the first order.  As one commenter observed, the hawks like Nuland, Blinken and Sullivan have no reverse gear; they always double down. They do not serve the interests of humanity nor do they serve the interests of the American people.  They are in reality traitors to the U.S.  They must be exposed, discredited and pushed aside.  Our survival depends on it.

John V. Walsh

John V. Walsh, until recently a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for the San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and others.

19 comments

  1. We got plenty of basement boys (and girls) jumping with Hitlerian Joy:

    https://libya360.wordpress.com/2022/05/25/ukraine-nato-recruiting-violent-extremists-to-fight-russia/

    With the Western media apparatus bombarding audiences with a narrative that a liberal Ukraine is struggling against an authoritarian Russia to preserve its democracy, Far-Right ultra-nationalist forces, including neo-Nazi battalions, have been normalized and lionized to the point that thousands of foreigners have flooded into a warzone to fight.

    Many of these foreigners do not have proper military training and experience. As they cannot fight properly, the commanders of Ukraine’s military complain about them as they are not useful to the war effort. For this reason, they are deployed to the heaviest fighting points, including Donbass, and as a result they have a short survival rate as highly professional Russian troops are actively engaging them.

    As of April 16, according to data from the Donetsk People’s Republic, there were about 6,800 foreign fighters from 63 countries. Of this, more than 1,000 foreign fighters were killed and more than 900 fled from Ukraine. Of the foreign fighters, there were 1,800 from Poland, about 500 each from the US, Canada and Romania each, 300 each from Britain and Georgia, 127 from France and 50 from Germany.

    1. Russia obtained 16,000+ applications from mercenaries all over the world, after preliminary vetting they rejected them all and then asked LDPR if they wanted them. They refused too, simply because they are useless and not familiar with culture and language would kill civilians and Russian and LDPR soldiers in friendly fire. Mercenaries are just used as propaganda claiming worldwide support for Ukrainian struggle. Interestingly many applied to fight with both sides.

      Ukrainians reportedly withdrew mercenaries from frontlines unless their were cohesive units who trained and fought with each other as units in hot wars in the past acquiring combat experience.

  2. Russia is just as much of a rogue empire as the US. The Times needs to wake up to that instead of simply throwing out blame, mostly at the US.

    What needs to be addressed is the primary reason empires invade their neighbors, and that is because with the current monetary paradigm for the creation and distribution of money, namely Debt Only, private debt always builds up and destabilizes their economies so they have to invade and steal the assets of countries around them in the attempt to re-stabilize.

    The monetary paradigm hasn’t changed for the entire course of human civilization, and it is the deepest problem we face as converging crises make our times ever more chaotic.

    1. Russia is, in fact, protecting its border. (Russia and Ukraine share a border.) A number of attacks crossed that border, from Ukraine into Russia. The US has to go over 4,000 miles to “protect our border.”

    2. A Rouge state? Russia?

      Soviet intervention in Hungary, 1956 (a parliamentary coup d’etat) and Warsaw Pact intervention (except for East Germany and Romania) in Czechoslovakia in 1968 (split within ruling party and power struggle ) were on invitations from members of government or communist parties factions as a part of ongoing ideological split among communist parties when Yugoslavian then Hungarian and than Romanian and than Albanian communist parties leadership split from Soviets in aftermath of de-Stalinization of USSR. Soviets did not intervened in Poland in 1980-81 to dismantle 10 million members strong Solidarity Union instead Polish junta of Generals did that under thin veneer of legality they introduced Marshall Law amid economic crisis. All they left was stable governments and improved economies.

      Soviets in Afghanistan were invited by legitimate government. Left orderly in 1988 after defeating US supported al Qaeda terrorists leaving stable government and its pro women progressive policies that survived four years, lasted longer then Soviet Union itself.

      US in contrast committed supreme crime of aggression by attacking weak but cooperative with US government on eradication of opium production, unable to control its territory. Taliban actually considered Bin Laden as their enemy.

      US left Afghanistan defeated with tail between their legs and big $6 trillions Bill while their puppet regime fell within hours from Taliban taking over Kabul and two weeks before US military fled with Afghan intelligence assets and traitors, stealing $billions in cash , leaving many $billions more in armament to enemy. It was disgraceful spectacle of utterly defeated aggressors.

      Prestige and credibility of US was shattered and will never be recovered as they cowardly fled Afghanistan they devastated, to supposedly fight terrorists they implanted in peaceful Afghanistan themselves decades ago.

      In Syria Russia was invited. US invaded country illegally, stealing resources, occupies territories militarily supports enemies of Syrian state in violation of international law.

      The same is in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now in Somalia and in the recent past like intervention in Grenada or Panama bombing shanty towns to name few.

      If US was a decent country they would dismantle themselves and end their evil global reign. Instead they want to go in nuclear Holocaust taking with them all the useless western intellectuals who pretended to care about anything else but their pocket book.

  3. Hmm, when the NYT throws in the towel, you know we are “in trouble”

    But it appears folks like Scott Ritter have been right pretty much all along …

  4. The puerile comic, attired in his latest iteration of military drag, zooming his vapid string of cliches to Hollyweird, Cannes and now Davos, needs to be wheeled back into his cage or set sail for a manse in Florida – paid for with his offshored filthy lucre & war booty; before he sets off WW3 with his Archduke or better yet, Archdupe act. Certainly Sean Penn can land Zelenskyy a film or teevee or podcast deal in Tinseltown befitting his obvious talents or lack thereof.

    My congressional representative, a liberal and two Senators, both moderate Democrats are raging against guns, reflecting the latest round of capital murder in the USA. They’ve been in the Congress for decades and accomplished naught in terms of reducing gun violence in America. But, all three, with no sense of irony or awareness of hypocrisy, happily send off tens of billions of lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

    Hopefully the NYTs, can reel in Blinken and Austin and the Raytheon WestExec crowd.

  5. Prof, do justify this statement: “First of all, Russia has handled the situation unexpectedly well compared to dire predictions from the West.” What dire predictions do you refer to here, and how are they being contradicted? Even though I feel the US is far from innocent in causing this war, a statement like this, in a setting where daily we see evidence that Russia experienced one humiliating debacle after another throughout this war, makes me wonder where you’re coming from.

    1. Ron, what have you been reading (or as Lavrov would say, smoking or drinking!?)
      Try sites such as the duran or the saker. Russia has been obviously ahead and NOT making the ridiculous “mistakes” the West would make so expect it to as welI. It is methodically removing military targets and nazis (YES!) but NOT civilians or even infrastructure (electricity, internet, water etc in cities is still working).
      What I find a mystery is that Ukraine is somehow treated as if it is a working, successful, free democracy. It is under the control of the USA and the Banderite right-wing military. Since 2014 and the Nuland takeover (!!!) there are so many youtube videos and BBC investigations to show the corruption, the debt, the refusal of even trying the only peace plan on the table (Minsk accords) and in 2016 the IMF refused to give another loan because of corruption. None of this is secret, but present Western MSM you seem to have followed do not mention any of this.

      1. @rosemerry
        What no one in the west talks about is that Russia has been avoiding civilian casualties and infrastructure damage to the extent possible, and how this is in stark contrast to the U.S., which just bombs the hell out of everyone and everything without regard to minimizing harm to either of those. Of course Russia could have easily won this war a lot faster, but they’re taking a lot longer because they have some sense of morality and decency that is quite obviously lacking in the U.S.

        To be clear, i don’t like any large countries, Russia included, but they’re the far lesser evil here.

  6. Sounds like you’re giving “President” Putin a pass…The Russian Empire is being made “great again,” by its current Dear Leader who was so traumatized by the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that he adopted the lifestyle of America’s most corrupt uber-capitalist billionaires. With the indispensable “support” of his former KGB acolytes and reformed socialist oligarchs. Such a great leader, we should give him a break! Trump in 2024!

  7. NYT for the first time expressed prevailing sentiments of Pentagon that in late March confirmed that militarily this war Is over; AFU lost all its strategic offensive capabilities and will never be able to expel Russians from Ukraine. In other words Russian military won.

    Now it is not a matter of painful territorial decisions Kiev Nazi regime must made as NYT demands but a matter of recognition of reality on the ground.

    Instead of early recognizing military reality and by that saving over 50,000 soldiers lives by stopping this war and negotiate equitable peace Kiev regime decided to abandon last attempts for rational military defense strategy of total withdraw from Donbas to better defendable positions and instead to fight propaganda war to the last Ukrainian life.

    As an entertainer Zelensky was perfect to command and lead decimated or nonexistent Ukrainian forces to nonexistent victories in this bloody “wag the dog” spectacle. He knew that western media feeds of crap.

    While Zelensky was entertaining western audience with his clown tricks his 700,000 army, many NATO trained and equipped soldiers were being slaughtered in tens of thousands, many thousands surrendered, tens of thousands deserted, another tens of thousands hungry defenseless abandoned by command openly mutinied, refused to be deployed for certain death under Russian artillery and aviation onslaught.

    This is just one example of desperation of Ukrainian soldiers. AFU fighters of the 115th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine refused to carry out inadequate orders and go to certain death and were arrested and now are in a pre-trial detention center:

    Quote from soldiers video clip directed to Zelensky

    “We, the active servicemen of the 13th Motorized Infantry Regiment (58th brigade of the 13th battalion), appeal to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [Zelensky] with a request not to use us as cannon fodder and take us to a safe zone for resupply with equipment, weapons and people, because at the moment we cannot fulfill the tasks assigned to us. Also, in the light of recent events, the personnel need physical, moral and psychological recovery in order to fulfill the tasks assigned to us to hundred-per-cent.

    We are appealing [directly] to you because our command does not hear us and ignores all our requests, setting subsequent tasks that we cannot perform.”

    Needles to say that morale on all fronts is collapsing as Russians and LDPR steadily gain few kilometers a day. Some western experts give AFU week some two weeks before complete self implosion on Donbas front.

    A French journalist spent few days near frontlines of Izyum area with conscripts of Kiev regime who privately told him, as casualties information is classified with prison term for revealing it, that their unit casualties are about 70% in last two months and that it was their first R&R since February 24, 2022.

    The French reporter was told that practically no major coordinated movement of AFU troops within 20-30 km deep from frontlines is possible. This very unit withdrew for R&R from its frontlines positions at night through the dense forest spread with at least 50-100 m separation between soldiers to avoid Russian artillery strikes while armed Russian drones were flying 24/7, hunting for AFU.

    Only after few tens of kilometers in night marched in all military gear (all heavy armament they left near trenches) finally were allowed to board military trucks where they met the French reporter and move to their designated rest areas while on the way they heard explosion around them.

    The so called R&R location was half destroyed by air bombardment dilapidated building with windows blown off, cold water and available cooked food they did not have since beginning of war.

    Shell shocked soldiers on heavy opioid pain killers with minor to moderate wounds as French reporter described them only then were allowed to remove Military gear they wore for months continuously, saw the military nurse and were allowed to sleep on some sort of dirty mattresses with dirtier pillows but even that was not given as day and night explosions were heard closer and closer.

    On last day of three and half days of R&R soldiers were told that they would be relocated as their old defensive positions were overran by Russians and front moved 7 kilometers.

    Such reality of needles pain and suffering for lost cause of Kiev Nazi regime and long lost war cannot continue for long and Ukrainians start to wake up from Nazi torpor as they were brainwashed with lies of Ukrainian ethnic superiority and military strength backed by direct intervention of NATO friends to save their 700,000+ army from assault from 190,000 Russians and 50,000 LDPR militia.

    If Zelensky is to be hang for his crimes against Ukrainian people it will be Ukrainian soldiers who will do it. One thing may be true. His American bodyguards may be able to save him .. or not.

  8. The New York Times has remained in service to the Democrat right wing ever since the Clinton administration.

  9. As quoted, above, Wolfowitz’s statement is clear and precise:

    “We endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

    “We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global power.”

  10. John: One of your comments about Biden — many people his age can handle his pressures. I guess you haven’t reached that age, have you. Very few of his age can handle it, and in fact, very few people of any age could handle the pressures of the job of U.S. President. Yes, I think he is too old, but I think he is handling it well.

    This is not to say I agree with everything he is doing, but he certainly is far superior to the shithole who previously occupied the Oval Office.

    As for “Decisive Military Victory,” I don’t believe that is / was Ukraine’s goal in the first place. They simply wanted the invasion to end and maintain their sovereignty. I don’t have an answer, however, for a resolution. It seems that their only way out is to negotiate for neutrality, though it would probably result in a continuation of tensions between it and Russia, much like between North and South Korea, or the PRC and Taiwan.

    Seems the MIC’s goal is to enable Ukraine to become part of NATO. Would that be a good thing? Probably because Russia simply wants to subjugate Ukraine and the only way Ukraine can protect itself is to join NATO.

  11. I appreciated this article, it was comprehensive, restrained, nuanced and it gave me an overview taking into account domestic, foreign, political and economic forces that makes very good sense.

  12. Egads, common sense from a major news provider?
    Did Kissinger’s suggestion affect NYT war cheerleader
    thought process?
    Unlucky, Ukraine is neighbors of Russia and unfortunately China is a neighbor of India.
    If Americans get involved in all border conflicts, we will never get anything else done.
    But, that is what ‘s happening now, from world leading Covid deaths, to unstoppable school shootings, to inflation, to no baby formula, to Rampant crimes, to Stop the Steal, etc., we are certainly not as united as 50 years ago. And even un doing things such as abortion rights, voting rights, less effective police forces, and news outlets that are entertainment – not reporting or worse: jingoist, war loving.

    Quote from news reports :’ kids die, and Trump f—— dances’
    When we have presidential hopeful – Trump, dancing at NRA, after announcing names for Uvalde victims, then we have no right to be smug, righteous, lecturing, or soapbox oratory. The rest of the world wonders when USA will be realistic.

  13. There has been talk that the world will have problems without grain from Ukraine, but there will be no need for grain from Ukraine at all, for President Joe Biden, who sends forty billion dollars of weapons to Ukraine, cuts at the same time, pieces of the American dream cake out to the hungry.

    And Nancy Pelosi will go on tour to the war-weary Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches and boost morale with reciting Bono’s poems and it has very well deserved, got Erik Clapton to rename his song Holy Mother to Holy Nancy.

    So now, stop your disaster rhetoric and think constructively instead and then it might be an idea to send a Nordic contribution with Mette Frederiksen, Magdalene Anderson and Sanna Marin as a kind of woohoo girls who can serve some beers, maybe sponsored by Carlsberg , to Nancy Pelosi’s Bono-poem recitation and then each trench will be transformed into an alley of freedom.

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