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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the advertising Hall of Fame, three of the all-time winning slogans are “Just do it”; “Where’s the beef?”; and  “Good to the last drop”.  

Three Ukrainian army soldiers and a military press officer from Kiev  have pressed all three on the Financial Times of London, and they just hit the money, so to speak.

“Rather than dart across Russian minefields aiming to punch through enemy lines with Nato armour,” the newspaper is reporting, “Ukrainian forces have moved their focus to pounding Russian defensive positions with heavy artillery fire. Artillery gunners operating multiple-launch rocket systems and howitzers, some loaded with US-supplied cluster munitions, aim to clear pathways for small teams of sappers and infantry units. These troops then attempt to advance methodically on foot, moving forward one narrow tree line at a time in a select few spots along the 1,000-kilometre front line…  The painstaking strategy has raised questions in western capitals about whether Ukraine will be able to maintain it for long, or produce the kind of military breakthrough that would bring Moscow to the negotiating table… But in the short term, the tactic has reduced Ukrainian losses. Casualties and the number of prized western battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles lost in battle are down compared with the first two weeks of the counteroffensive, while Ukraine has made small but steady gains.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday night praised ‘very good results’ on the frontline”, the newspaper added.  

This is the advertising to keep the US, the NATO allies, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just doing it — continuing the $41.3 billion in military beef and $115 billion in cash to the last drop.

The battlefield outcome in measurable Russian military terms cannot be a winning tagline because it is irrelevant to advertising success in public and political terms on the US and NATO side. “The so-called counteroffensive,” President Vladimir Putin told a reporter on Thursday, “this broad counteroffensive, started on June 4, 2023. This is an obvious fact, demonstrated, among other things, by the fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have engaged their so-called strategic reserves. As for the past few days, we can confirm that combat action has entered its intensive phase, to a significant extent. The clashes are primarily concentrated in what they call in the West the direction of the main attack – the Zaporozhye sector. Yesterday, there was serious military action within the area of responsibility of the 810th brigade of the Black Sea’s Naval Infantry and the 71st Regiment from the 42nd division of the Southern Military District’s 58th Army…The enemy has not succeeded in any of the sectors of combat activity. All attempts at the counteroffensive have been stopped. The enemy has been forced to retreat with substantial losses. Today, they tried to recover the damaged assets, as well as pick up the wounded and casualties after leaving them on the battlefield yesterday but were also dispersed. This is the current situation as of this moment.”  

The men and the materiel are being lost, but not the money. The latter is winning; the former is losing but doesn’t count.

There is also a process of the “Ukraine gaining admission to NATO piecemeal”, as the Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko described it to Putin on July 23.  “Tearing off this western piece of Ukraine: under the guise of NATO accession, to mislead the population. They want to chop off western Ukraine and join it to Poland. This is the payment for the active participation of the Poles in this operation, against the forces of the Russian Federation, of course. This is supported by the Americans. I told you this a long time ago, we witnessed this six months ago and discussed it preliminarily. Why am I telling you all this? It is unacceptable to us, Mr Putin. It is unacceptable to tear off western Ukrainian, dismember Ukraine and hand over these lands to Poland. And if, naturally, the western population of Ukraine needs this, we will be supporting them, of course.”

Between the battlefield realities reported in the daily military bulletins and the political success measured by public approval polls and military spending votes in parliament, catchy advertising is required to bridge the gap – or make the gap disappear altogether.

“It is very easy to lose tens of thousands of [Ukrainian] lives just trying to get through the minefields and then you have nothing left with which to break through once you are there,” James Heappey, the British minister of state for the armed forces, declared on July 26.    Rejecting other NATO general staff assessments of Ukrainian defeat on the battlefield, and also hostility towards the Zelensky regime in Kiev from the UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Heappey claimed: “I don’t think that’s particularly fair. The Ukrainians will use the equipment as they see best and it’s really hard to run a commentary when you’re sat thousands of miles from the front line.”

“We need to bring #science and #technology into the very core of capability development for the UK armed forces. @JSHeappey  explains how the work of our world-class scientists and staff is having an impact in Ukraine @DefenceHQJames Heappey.

Heappey is hoping to succeed Wallace who is retiring,   so he was advertising his ambition for the promotion, and his loyalty to the allied military-industrial complex and the official narrative of Ukrainian and NATO victory over the Russians. “Ukraine is meeting our expectations at the moment. They are broadly delivering the plan that they worked out with us, and the Americans and others, over the last winter. This is not a Hollywood movie. There was not going to be a moment when the tanks started to roll, and the music started to play, and a war montage played out and then – at the end of it – victory by September.”

In Moscow the London and Washington assessments have been analysed by Vzglyad, the principal public medium for military and security strategy. Reporter Daria Volkova  concluded that “Kiev has thrown its best reserves into battle”, and “by throwing the best reserves into battle, the enemy command hopes to achieve tactical successes by the autumn of this year, which can be presented in the West as a significant achievement requiring reinforcement with new supplies of weapons, including long-range ATACMS systems and F-16 aircraft. This may also contribute to more generous financing of Ukraine by Western countries.”  

“’Now the enemy is putting into operation the main operational and strategic units, which until recently were in reserve. These forces will immediately be transferred to the offensive. Everything is being done with the expectation that by the end of September, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to achieve the results that NATO countries demand from Ukraine,’ said military expert Boris Rozhin [author of the Colonel Cassad website]. ‘The enemy has been seriously trying to attack for the last two months. That is, he not only provoked the consumption of our shells and probed weaknesses in the defense. But this offensive failed, so now they will make new attempts,’ he said. ‘The Ukrainian army has partially revised its tactics. But they apparently decided to go forward in the same directions, increasing the force of the blow,” Rozhin believes. ‘Given the current realities of the front, deep enemy breakthroughs are unlikely.’”

Left, Boris Rozhin, author and director of Colonel Cassad;  centre,  Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense Magazine; right, Colonel Konstantin Sivkov, First Vice-President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems in Moscow.  Follow Korotchenko’s commentaries here.   

“At the same time, the enemy retained the main strike fist, which includes the bulk of the equipment supplied by the West, adds Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine. ‘Therefore, the latest actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [AFU] are connected with the desire, if not to break through, then to push through our defence  and develop enough of a gain on this sector of the front to enable the pulling up of reserves at that point,’ Korotchenko believes.”

“At the same time, military expert [Colonel, reserve] Konstantin Sivkov recalls that during the first stage of the AFU offensive, the enemy provoked the Russian Armed Forces to spend shells more actively, thereby trying to deprive the Russian military of the proper amount of ammunition. ‘But all this was carried out through colossal sacrifices and did not bring the AFU any tactical or strategic advantages,’ he said. ‘The units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have all the conditions for successful defense. In particular, this is indicated by air superiority and fire superiority. From a military point of view, the enemy does not have the resources to suppress it. The Ukrainian command, of course, expects that sooner or later they will be able to significantly break through our defences. But all these are fantasies,’ Sivkov believes.”  

In the last ten days of the accelerated Ukrainian offensive, the Russian Defense Ministry bulletins record the highest daily killed in action (KIA) figure was 886 on July 27;   the lowest 525 on July 21. The average daily casualty rate for the 10-day period has been 683. At this loss rate, by Christmas  the Ukrainians will have lost more than 107,000 men; for more detail, read this.   

Follow the daily bulletins (blocked in many countries) here.  

In the end, all good advertising campaigns are tried and tested by the money shot – either sales go up, go down, or remain unchanged. So how does approval of the Biden Administration’s war in the Ukraine sell with US voters?  

In the RealClearPolitics roundup of all polls asking the question, do you approve or disapprove  President Joseph Biden’s handling of the Ukraine war, several things are plain. Disapproval has always outnumbered approval; over time there are big differences between the polls on how large the negative margin is; Republican voters always disapprove more than Democrats; and by comparison with other policy issues, Biden’s negative margin is smaller for his conduct of the the war than for every other policy.  

Following the RealPolitics table of all polls reporting on the Ukraine war this year to date, the margin ranges from minus 15 to plus 8. Right now, the negative spread for Biden is minus 6.7 on averaging of all polls:

Source: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/

For a closer look over time, to see if the battlefield realities are changing American minds, the Quinnipiac University Poll is a rare indicator. Quinnipiac University, in Connecticut,   conducts national polls monitoring voter opinions about the Ukraine war every two weeks to a month since the special military operation began.   Random digit dialling of land line or mobile telephones is used with samples of one to two thousand, contacted in the early evenings when people are at home:  


Key: App=Approval, Dis=Disapproval, DK/NA=Don’t know, no answer. Source: https://poll.qu.edu/

The relative continuity and stability of these numbers, and the partisanship between the Republicans and Democrats, mean that Biden wins his war in the Ukraine so long as nothing catastrophic occurs on the eastern front either to the Ukrainian forces, or to the American mercenaries, special forces, and staff officers;  and there is no putsch removing Zelensky from power.  

The Russian polls demonstrate a different kind of stability. On the one hand, there is steady to rising support for the battlefield performance of the Russian Army,  and the political conduct of the war by President Putin and the government, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.   Media criticism and public debate in Moscow over whether to accelerate a Russian offensive, how far to go in the war aims against the Ukraine, and who is to blame, generals or politicians, for tactical mistakes, casualties, and mishaps – while unprecedented by contrast with the NATO media and publics – have had next to no impact on public voter confidence as the Russian presidential election approaches early next year.

With this confidence comes patience.  


Source: https://www.levada.ru/
For public reaction one month after the Wagner mutiny, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, click to read more.   

About three-quarters of Russian voters remain confident that the fighting will last from six months; almost half anticipate the war lasting another year; these  numbers have been slowly increasing in recent months.  

The dynamics of Belarusian public opinion are different. In that country President Lukashenko can only gain support if he can demonstrate that Belarus itself is under direct threat from Poland, Ukraine and the NATO alliance.   

For the politicians waging the war in the Ukraine, in Kiev first of all, but also in Washington, winning is not losing. In Moscow, winning is everything, but it is also waiting, and for the generals, chafing.

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