[Editor’s note: Gail and George thank all of you for your well-wishes. Rest assured that they will be back up and running in short order.]
By George Michalopulos
I must say that things have been hopping recently both here and abroad. The Greek-American community, acting in tandem with the Biden maladministration, continues to beclown itself with the appointment of one Demetre Daskalakis, as “Monkeypox czar.” I’ll spare you the pictures of this “professional” that are going viral on the internet (as you’ve probably seen them for yourself; if you haven’t, just imagine one of the Village People at a Temple of Satan church social.)
Overseas, things aren’t any better: Patriarch Bartholomew is caught on the horns of a dilemma: one horn being the threatening noises that Turkey is making towards Greece, the other being the fact that he is a vassal of the Turkish state. Not merely a vassal but a clergyman always willing to bless the Turkish armed forces whenever they get the itch to invade someone. If Turkey makes good on its threat, would he break precedent? Right now, he must be worrying about what crow tastes like. After all, he criticized Patriarch Kirill for supporting his nation’s incursion into the Ukraine. Will he not at least speak out against Turkey’s belligerence? Against, you know, an Orthodox nation?
Consistency has never been a strong suit for the Phanariotes, so, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting to find out.
What’s a self-respecting Greek hierarch to do? If you’re the Archbishop of Athens, the answer is easy enough: raise holy hell and tell all able-bodied Greek men that they should –make that need–report to the nearest recruiting station, grab an AR-15, and man the ramparts. Pronto. As for the Greek civilians, they need to praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
But, if you’re a Greek hierarch who is a Turkish citizen and lives under the delusion that you are the Archbishop of the capital of an extinct empire, then you’ve got a problem. If you don’t give your blessing to the Turks, you might be exiled; if you do, then the Greeks the world over will scream bloody murder and you will have lost whatever moral authority you have left. Which has never been all that much.
Here’s a modest proposal: now would be the time for the Church of Greece to become really autocephalous. Take over the Northern dioceses and declare the Archbishop of Athens to be the Patriarch of Athens. Why not? Greece, like Bulgaria, Serbia and other Orthodox lands, is already Orthodox. No reason for this “Metropolitan of [insert capital city here]” stuff. If the Bulgarians can have a patriarchate, then why can’t the Greeks? And the same goes for the Cypriots.
To be sure, the Turks are at a disadvantage as they have no air force at present and their navy hasn’t done well since Lepanto. On the other hand, the Greek air force and navy are top-notch. Unfortunately, for the Greeks, no matter how motivated their armed forces are, their leaders are stooges at best or traitors at worst. Let’s just put it this way: this wouldn’t be the first time that the Greek elites have stabbed their countrymen in the back, it’s a hallowed Greek tradition.
Anyway, there’s never a dull moment in Orthoworld.
Today though, I want to talk about the recent Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Donetsk. Personally, I think it was well-executed. From what I can see, it’s possible that they caught the Russians flat-footed and as far as the Western media is concerned, it was nothing less than a disaster for the Russians. Even people who I respect for their sober analyses (like Jacob Dreizin, Moon of Alabama, and the Duran boys), have been crying in their beer.
Truth be told, after months of Russian successes, I myself was taken aback. If this was only a NATO-orchestrated psyop and nothing more, it was definitely a morale-booster for the Ukrainians.
But then, within a few hours, I started having doubts. Somethings just didn’t “add up,” at least to my mind.
For example: the Ukrainians have been telegraphing for several weeks now that they were going to undertake some counteroffensives, specifically in the Kherson region. There was even talk of a million man army. I can’t imagine that the Russians were unaware of these threats. And yet, for some reason, they were caught unawares, not in Kherson, but in the central Donetsk area, along the Izium front.
Anyway, as far as Kherson is concerned, days passed, then weeks. No counteroffensive. Then finally, they did attack. All things being equal, this was quite a massive assault but the Russians held their ground and beat them back. Even though most analysts thought that the Ukrainians were bluffing, clearly, the Russians did not. And they were more than prepared.
The carnage was horrendous, for Ukrainians however, not the Russians. The Russians are now poised to take Nikolayev to the north, thereby choking off Odessa. All things being equal, Kherson was not even a draw for the Ukrainians but a significant strategic defeat.
According to many sources, General Zelezhny, the supreme commander of the Ukrainian military, was vociferously opposed to the Kherson offensive. President Zelensky (or his NATO handlers) on the other hand, demanded that the Ukrainians attack. In any event, the attack failed miserably.
On the other hand, by defending Kherson, the Russians weakened several of their positions along the frontlines: specifically a little further to the east, in Kupiansk and Balakleya, towns that were only lightly defended by the Rosvgardia (the National Guard). And so the Ukrainians pressed their advantage and made significant inroads into this area, retaking territory from the Russians. (The Rosvgardia had to be evacuated by the Russian army).
As of today, Ukrainian morale is sky-high. The problem however, is that this was not a stratetegic victory nor was it due to a combined arms operation, but a tactical one. Simply put, the Ukrainians (with no navy or air force) are not capable of combined arms actions at this point. Despite this victory, and because the Ukrainians have penetrated far into Russian territory, their supply lines are incredibly stretched, therefore it’s not likely that they will be able to hold this area should the Russians regroup and attack.
For a very good, albeit lengthy, analysis, please take the time to read this column by Adrei Raevsky of the Saker: https://thesaker.is/some-very-basic-stuff-about-russian-defenses-in-the-smo/ You won’t find a more in-depth understanding of Russian military defensive doctrine. For a thumbnail, when it comes to operating from a defensive posture, the Russians are big on maneuverability and not hesitating to cede ground, especially if that means saving their soldier’s lives. For the Russians, territory can be retaken, dead soldiers cannot be resurrected.
In this war, it is the Ukrainians who are treating their men as cannon fodder, wasting their lives on useless frontal assaults, not the Russians. More to the point –and this is something we Americans cannot seem to understand–real war is more like European football (i.e. soccer) than American football. In the steppes of the Ukraine, there is no line of scrimmage. Instead, there are gaps in the field, ones which can be filled up at a moment’s notice with players and then just as quickly forgotten again.
As for the successful Ukrainian assauult, the Russians are in the process of encroaching upon it in two pincer movements, one from the south and the other from the north. If successful, the Russians will have created another cauldron. If this proves to be the case, then the Ukrainians who broke through the Russian lines will be slowly starved to death (as has happened with every other Russian cauldron). As for resupply, that probably won’t happen given the fact that the terrain that has to be crossed is open steppes; this means that any supply vehicles will be exposed to Russian air assault and taken out in short order.
Even if the Russians regroup in this area and retake it (or cede this territory while taking other areas), the fact remains that the Ukrainians have proved it’s possible that they can retake other areas as well. Whether they do or not is another matter entirely. Still, as a psyop, this operation will pour cold water on those Ukrainian cities and towns in Kherson and Zaporoshiya that are considering referenda on whether to formally join the Russian Federation (as did the Crimeans in 2014). So from that standpoint, this assault was a win for the Ukrainians.
That said, it’s possible that this was a feint; that the Russians left the Balakleya front wide open, drawing the Ukrainians into a trap (much like the earlier Kiev “assault” back in March). This would make sense in that not only are the Ukrainians out of reach from resupply but they are dangerously exposed, close as they are to the Russian border.
So now, the ball is in the Russians’ court. I imagine that if this was a feint, one intended to draw the Ukrainians into a cauldron, then they will quickly isolate this force (as already stated). If however, the Russians were truly caught flat-footed, then no doubt some heads will roll.
In the final analysis, I don’t expect that this was a turning point in the Ukraine’s favor. For one thing, time is on Russia’s side. Unlike NATO armies (of which Ukraine is one for all practical purposes), the Russian’s have thrown away the calendar as far as military action is concerned. Second, short of firing nuclear missiles at Moscow, the collective West has exhausted all its economic power with our suicidal sanctions. What recourse do we have left? To hurl even angrier epithets at the Russians? Third, militarily, NATO has stripped itself of its military stocks in order to arm the Ukrainians.
And finally, for the Russians, this is an existential war. Even if Putin were removed from office, he would be replaced by somebody even harder core than he is. For good or ill, the Russians cannot see away out of this war without accomplishing their objectives.
The question therefore is how long can the West hold out? So far, every Western leader who signed up for this proxy war against Russia has either lost their job (e.g. Johnson or Draghi) or been stripped of their power (e.g. Macron). As for Biden, the “leader” of this debacle, he faces the loss of the Congress in November. Leaders such as Orban of Hungary on the other hand, are sitting pretty. As for the rest of the Global South, they continue to support Russia.
Finally, it should be noted that in the early part of this century, Russia fought two Chechen wars. The second one lasted nine months. And for those who appreciate irony, it should be pointed out that the Ramzan Khadyrov, the President of Checnhya, is a lieutenant general in the Russian army. And the Chechens are fighting bravely for the Russians.
We live in interesting times.