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By John Helmer, Moscow

In observing cat-and-mouse games, the rule of thumb is — if observers of the war in the Ukraine have a thumb — to recognise the difference between the cat and the mouse.

On the Ukrainian battlefield, it is now the Russian cat who is waiting for the US, NATO and Ukrainian mouse to break out of his hole and make his run. When he does, the mouse is going to get the surprise of his life. That last noun is the wrong one.

These are the real strategic secrets which have been revealed in the battle plans which spilled into the internet last month, and which the Pentagon arranged for the New York Times to discover and then publish for the attention  of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev on April 6.  

Not to mention the Russian General Staff if they didn’t already know and could be persuaded to misinterpret.    Read more on that part of the operation here.

Source: https://johnhelmer.net/
 Readable access to the leaked papers is provided in the website references and illustrations;  the New York Times has refused to do so.  The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal are also concealing the leaked papers while reporting what their reporters claim they mean.  To avoid the Wall Street Journal paywall, read its coverage here  and here.  

The newspaper has now produced a sequel from its Pentagon reporter. In the follow-up leak, published  on April 9, the intention is to rub in the meaning of the first leak with direct attribution to Pentagon officials, some of them named. They contradict the newspaper’s initial attempt to make the leaked documents appear to be “an effort of disinformation by Moscow”.  But now in the new disclosure, the newspaper reveals its Pentagon sources lack the first requirement of the  rule of thumb in warfighting — active Pentagon officials, including General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired NATO commander and US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, are missing thumbs to make rules with.

The first of the newly leaked secrets is that they disclose the full extent of Ukrainian capacities to start an offensive against the Crimea and the Donbass by the readiness deadline indicated in the papers to be April 30.   Incapacities (repeat incapacities) are what the Pentagon now reports on April 9.   This secret is what upset the Blinken-Zelensky faction so much, they announced the Pentagon papers were “a large volume of fictitious information…to try to influence Ukraine’s counter-offensive plans, to introduce doubts, to compromise plans, to frighten [us].”  

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/
 In the April 9 publication of the Wall Street Journal, this excerpt from one of the leaked papers is quoted: “According to one of the documents, a likely consequence of the looming air-defence crisis is that Ukraine will lose its ability to mass ground forces near the front lines, and to conduct a counteroffensive…Ukraine will have completely depleted its stock of BUK missiles by April 13, and of S-300 missiles by May 3, at current consumption rates. By then, according to a map in another purported Pentagon presentation, also from Feb. 28, most of Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure outside the Kyiv region and two other areas in southwestern Ukraine will no longer have air-defense cover. The number of unprotected critical sites will soar from six to more than 40, it said... While the U.S., Norway, Canada and Germany have provided Ukraine with two NASAMS and one Iris-T air-defence batteries in recent months, these systems, too, were on track to run out of ammunition by May, according to the document. Ukraine’s S-300 batteries were expending roughly 200 missiles a month, while Buk batteries fired about 69 missiles a month, the document said. NASAMS and Iris-T expended a combined 64 missiles a month.”  The Murdoch-owned, New York-based newspaper reports no Pentagon source for its coverage.

This is now exactly what the military faction in Washington is saying on authorisation from  Defense Secretary General Lloyd Austin; the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs, Army General Mark Milley;  and the candidate to succeed him in October of this year, US Air Force Chief of Staff, General Charles Brown.   

 “Without a huge influx of munitions, Ukraine’s entire air defence network, weakened by repeated barrages from Russian drones and missiles, could fracture, according to U.S. officials and newly leaked Pentagon documents, potentially allowing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to unleash his lethal fighter jets in ways that could change the course of the war….”

Left to right: Defense Secretary Army General Lloyd Austin; US Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown; retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, Army General Mark Milley.

“Now Pentagon officials are worried that Moscow’s barrage of attacks from afar is draining Ukraine’s stores of the missiles it uses to defend itself. And a Pentagon assessment from late February contained in the trove of leaked documents that were discovered circulating online last week paints an even grimmer picture….Stocks of missiles for Soviet-era S-300 and BUK air defense systems, which make up 89 percent of Ukraine’s protection against most fighter aircraft and some bombers, were projected to be fully depleted by May 3 and mid-April, according to one of the leaked documents. The document, which was issued on Feb. 28, based the assessment on consumption rates at the time. It is not clear if those rates have changed. The same document assessed that Ukrainian air defences designed to protect troops on the front line, where much of Russia’s air power is concentrated, will ‘be completely reduced’ by May 23, resulting in strains on the air defense network deeper into Ukrainian territory….”

Reacting to the Blinken-Zelensky plan for a Ukrainian offensive by April 30 to retake Crimea and the Donbass, “senior Pentagon officials say that such a move would be a major challenge for Ukraine, particularly if Russian fighter jets and bombers are given freer rein to attack Ukrainian troop positions and essential artillery targets on the ground. In a move to shore up Ukraine’s air defenses, the Biden administration announced last week that it would send additional air defence interceptors and munitions as part of a $2.6 billion aid package, part of which will be used to help Kyiv prepare for a planned spring offensive against Russian troops. Whether that will be enough depends, officials say, on a number of factors, including whether NATO allies make their own deliveries, and whether Mr. Putin continues to decline to risk his valued warplanes…”


Open at source for enlargement.
 For an analysis of the map by another US blogger, click to read.   Conclusion: “a few towns in Zaporizhzhia oblast such as Tokmak and Mykhailivka are surrounded by defences, enabling them to be held even if Ukraine achieves a breakthrough that goes deeper behind the line than these towns. These fortifications will not prevent an offensive but will mean that a sudden and swift retaking of territory, as seen in the Kharkiv offensive last year, is less likely.”

The Pentagon newspaper leak continues: “So as the United States and European countries rush tanks, fighting vehicles and ammunition to Ukraine, they have also stepped up efforts to reinforce the country’s air defences. They have provided not only missiles for Ukraine’s existing systems, like its Soviet-era S-300s, but also new and updated systems. Pentagon officials say a key part of their quest to help Ukraine now is to make sure that it can continue to keep Russian pilots out of the fight. A senior military official said the administration and the West must convince Mr. Putin, by upgrading Ukraine’s air defences, that if he decides to go for broke, he will lose a pillar of his military. Even without using his air force, Mr. Putin has launched so many missiles that Ukraine has depleted its air defences shooting them down. U.S. officials worry that Moscow might now decide the battlescape is safe enough to send its fighter jets and bombers to join the fight….”

And here ‘s the money shot, with special emphasis from USAF generals Brown and Breedlove (right): “But Ukraine will need more — far more — than the Patriot in the coming months, military officials say, and Pentagon procurement officials have been scouring allied stockpiles. Several American officials said that despite fears that the Russian Air Force could pounce, such a move could be risky for Mr. Putin. ‘Just because he brings it back in play doesn’t mean it’s going to have smashing success,’ General Breedlove said.”

Breedlove is an air force general who didn’t quite make it to USAF chief of staff; because of that he couldn’t reach upward as far as the Joint Chiefs. Instead, he was promoted out of Washington and out of the post of Vice Chief of the USAF into European and NATO commands, rising to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and that’s where he stopped. Breedlove ended his career as the superior to Germans, British, Poles, and Slovenes, but he remained subordinate to Americans.

The two ex-fighter pilots Breedlove and Brown are gunning for wars they can win, so long as they can minimise the risk of getting shot down. Breedlove’s official biography claims he flew 3,500 hours on F-16s, but never faced hostile fire in combat.   Brown’s official biography claims he has flown “more than 3,000 flying hours”, including 130 “combat hours”;  these appear to have occurred in Korea against an unidentified adversary or target which did not fire at him.   

Until now their promotions have depended on not losing wars they say they want to fight. Now on the Ukrainian battlefield they are in a war they say they want to fight, but it’s one they know they risk losing more decisively than any combat engagement either of them has ever faced in their careers.  Brown has much more to risk still than Breedlove.

All of this is on display in the qualifiers, conditionals, counterfactuals, and cautions of the new round of Pentagon leaks to the newspaper.

The Russian General Staff has understood this for longer than the Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.  Now, however, combined in the collective Stavka,   they understand the war they are fighting cannot be for their promotion and retirement to riches. Nor can it be as politically restrictive and operationally limited as the Special Military Operation was designed to be in February, a year ago. This is  officially acknowledged now to be the war which the Russian military has been fighting against the US and NATO since it defeated the Germans in 1945.  Also, this is the war which Russia cannot lose because it will mean destruction of the country far greater and for far longer than Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin accepted and directed for their own advancement.

The General Staff cannot risk not waiting, a Moscow source advises.  They are steadily expanding their fortification lines, as the map illustrates; these lines are being extended daily in the south along the Crimean coastline, and in the north, along the Russian and Belarusian frontiers. They are also waiting for the results of the electric war to expose to Russian missile attack the eastward  movement by train line or truck road of the promised US and NATO ground weapons. Already with the activation of the Kinzhal,  the General Staff have demonstrated that no American, European or Ukrainian operations officer is safe, no matter how deep his bunker and how far west of Kiev, by stand-off hypersonic missile attack against which the combined allied air defences are powerless.  

Leaving the electric lights on in Kiev and Lvov isn’t a failure of the electric war campaign as the Ukrainian utility DTEK  and   western media claim.  It is a demonstration, which the Pentagon has now conceded in its leaks,  of the exhaustion of Ukrainian and NATO air defences — and of the fresh Russian strike capacity still unused and waiting in reserve.  

Lights on allow the US and NATO staff chiefs to read the New York Times – and that’s the writing on the wall, one NATO veteran explained yesterday. “The calculus is that the only direction NATO /Kiev can go is forward. That’s the corner they’ve painted themselves into.   Don’t get me wrong — this next offensive will be a desperate and violent one, but the Russians are ready. [Chief of Staff General Valery] Gerasimov is ready. So for now he will wait.”

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