The war in Ukraine is on the verge of taking a turn for the worse, but not for Ukrainians. Instead, Russia is now facing a critical situation. Ever since Ukrainian forces began to field the High Artillery Mobility Rocket System (HIMARS), Russia has been on the receiving end of precision strikes that have reduced their ability to wage war. Command and control nodes, logistics capabilities and weapons depots have all suffered mightily. After occupying Lysychansk in the Donbas region, the Russians called an operational pause. A few weeks later, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu publicly ordered Russian forces in Ukraine to attack in all directions. This made very little sense. The execution of that order has consisted of random artillery barrages that achieve very little.
The Russian military is exhausted. They are short on manpower and their overwhelming advantage in artillery is now doing them little good. Without a full-scale mobilization, it is doubtful that they will be able to make many more gains. They have gone from incremental gains to inching along. On the southern front they are on the defensive as Ukrainian forces begin a long-awaited counteroffensive in the Kherson Province. The Russian gains in the Donbas seem more distant by the day. The limited successes they were able to achieve look more like pyrrhic victories than strategic successes. They came at a cost that the Russians could not afford. The bill for their Donbas offensive has now come due.
On The Verge – A Critical Situation
This past week, the Russians moved ten battalion tactical groups (their main fighting unit) into southern Ukraine. Reports state that they are attempting an offensive towards the city of Kryvyi Rih, which also happens to be the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This is likely less of an offensive and more a diversionary attack to keep Ukrainian forces off balance in order to slow their forward momentum in Kherson province. The Russians cannot lose many more battalions which have been shredded by their offensives. The Ukrainians are beginning to make inroads in Kherson Province, with the city of that same name as their ultimate objective. Military analysts are questioning whether the Ukrainian Army can achieve a breakthrough. With their current weaponry, probably not, but that could change by the beginning of autumn.
A successful Ukrainian offensive in Kherson would be a game changer. It would draw in greater support from the west and prove the Ukrainians can take back a large swath of territory. For the Russians, it would be a reminder that their Donbas offensive did not little to deter the Ukrainian war effort. Russia would then have a decision to make, either pursue mass mobilization, retreat or face more defeats. None of these are very good options. The Russians will do everything they can to foil the Ukrainian offensive in Kherson province. One of their methods may be to attempt a ceasefire, followed by a negotiated peace. Vladimir Putin’s close friend and greatest western champion, Gerhard Schroder has reappeared on the international scene this week with such an idea. Schroder is not a neutral party. He is the most pro-Russian western dignitary still trying to defend Putin. Schroder has cultivated close ties with Putin for decades. Now he aims to use those ties for the purpose of achieving peace.
The Pro-Putin Lobbyist – Big Ideas & Few Ideals
Schroder met face to face with Putin not long ago. He then returned with a message that the Russians are interested in negotiating an end to the war. Schroder is trying to piggyback on the successful effort (at least for now) brokered by the United Nations and Turkey that has led to Ukrainian grain being shipped out through the Black Sea. The fact that Schroder was not involved in helping facilitate this agreement is telling. No one on the Ukrainian side trusts him and that includes their allies. That is not stopping Schroder from floating ideas that are right out of his pro-Putin playbook. In an interview, Schroder stated that a resolution to claims on the Donbas are possible if both sides will support setting up a Swiss Canton model for the region. He went on to say that instead of Ukraine joining NATO, they could have something called “armed neutrality.” He also dismissed the idea that Ukraine could ever conquer Crimea.
Schroder was not just supporting Putin with these ideas. He mentioned that such a settlement could lead to full gas flows being turned back on through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. If that was not enough, Schroder said that Nord Stream 2 – a project that has been declared dead by the current German government – could also be restarted. The upshot of Schroder’s idea is that the war would come to an end, Germany could then get back to relying on Russian gas to power its economy and Putin would walk away unscathed with the ability to control the Donbas through puppet regimes. Schroder justifies all this by stating that someone from the west till needs to be talking with Putin, so why not him. What Schroder fails to mention is that the German Social Democratic Party (that of the current German government) has been working on getting him thrown out of the party because of his close relationship with Putin. Schroder is seen as completely in the pocket of Putin with decades of evidence as proof.
The Apologist – A Trojan Horse
As chairman of the state-owned Russian energy company Rosneft, Schroder worked to tie Germany and Russia together through oil and gas. He continues that work today. Schroder is a mouthpiece for Putin, no matter what he says. The former German chancellor tries to brush aside claims that he represents Russian interests by repeatedly reminding people that he has denounced the war. Like Putin, Schroder’s actions mean everything, his words nothing. Schroder is a trojan horse inside of Germany. He works from within to ensure that Putin gets what he wants. In his latest remarks to the media, Schroder fell back into his role of being Putin’s chief apologist when he stated that the war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha were not ordered by Putin. Schroder wants to believe the best about Putin, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Schroder has not been sanctioned or stripped of any role in German public life. Perhaps the current German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, could explain why. Could it be that there are many in Germany, particularly among the political and business elite, who quietly agree with Schroder? These people should ask themselves how Germany became so reliant on Russian energy. Gerhard Schroder can provide the answers.