Former US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter explains why a Russian victory is inevitable, and what it costs the West to refuse to accept this
**A very different point of view…….
BY DIMITRI LASCARIS/ TheReal News.com/ NOVEMBER 15, 2022
Reports of Ukrainian triumph and imminent Russian defeat have flooded the West since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February. Yet how much merit is there to this narrative? Former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector William Scott Ritter Jr. speaks with Dimitri Lascaris in a special interview for The Real News. Despite taking some ground in September’s counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military has taken heavy losses and is totally dependent on external support. Moreover, Ritter argues that Ukraine’s objectives in this war are unachievable, whereas Russia’s can be met through a negotiated settlement. While the war rages on and attempts to sanction Russia continue to backfire, more damage is being done to the people of Europe and Ukraine than to Russia. Ultimately, what must come out of this conflict is an admission from Europe that NATO is an anachronism and a new security paradigm is needed to promote international peace and cooperation. This interview was recorded Nov. 4, 2022.
William Scott Ritter Jr. is an author and pundit and a former United States Marine Corps intelligence officer and United Nations weapons inspector.
Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist and activist from Montreal, Quebec. In 2020, Dimitri ran for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada.
Dimitri Lascaris: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Montreal, Canada, for The Real News Network. Today I’m joined by Scott Ritter. Scott is a former US Marine and Core Intelligence Officer whose service over a 20-plus year career includes tours of duty in the former Soviet Union, implementing arms control agreement, serving on the staff of US General Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War, and later as a Chief Weapons Inspector with the UN in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He’s also the author of several books, including his latest work Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika. Welcome to The Real News, Scott.
Scott Ritter: Thanks for having me.
Dimitri Lascaris: So Scott, the focus of our discussion today, which I’m sure won’t be any surprise to you because it’s been such a hot topic for all of us recently, is the Ukraine war. And as many of our viewers will know, you’ve commented and written extensively on the Ukraine war, expressing views which I think it’s fair to say have departed considerably from those which dominate Western mainstream discourse about this war. And one of the dominant themes, as you well know, in Western mainstream discourse about this war, is that Ukraine is winning and that the performance of Russia’s military has ranged from disappointing to disastrous. And that claim reached a fever pitch during the Ukrainian Army’s recent offensive in the Kharkiv region, which resulted in the Ukrainian military seizing control of a large chunk of territory that Russia had controlled for months.
But even after the loss of that territory by Russia, Russia still had control of numerous cities that it did not control before the invasion, including Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Mariupol, and Kherson. After the counter-offensive, Russia also retained something very important: a land bridge to Crimea. And finally, two things have happened since the Kharkiv counter-offensive. One, the frontline appears to have stabilized, and secondly, the Russian military has begun to systematically degrade the power grid in Ukraine. So with that as background, background with which I’m sure you’re completely familiar, what do you make, given current circumstances on the battlefield, about the claim that Ukraine is winning this war and Russia is losing it?
Scott Ritter: Well, let’s just start with basic strategic objectives. Let’s look at the Russian strategic objectives first. First and foremost, Russia is seeking to get Europe and the United States to buy into the notion of a negotiated new European security framework. It’s something that Russia put on the table prior to invading Ukraine. If people remember back to Dec. 17, I believe, of last year, Russia submitted two draft treaties, one to NATO, one to the United States, which articulated Russia’s stance on what its vision of a new European security framework could look like. They invited the West to read it and have a serious discussion about it, and they were ignored.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine, and Russia has two objectives. One is the demilitarization of Ukraine, the other is the deNazification of Ukraine. Demilitarization means the elimination of all NATO influence on the Ukrainian military, and deNazification means just that, getting rid of everything that Russia considers to be related to the ultra nationalistic ideology of Stepan Bandera and the white supremacist manifestations of that.
Now, these are words that I’m not using. I mean, people are going, well, Ritter, yeah, you’re very good at Kremlin talking points. I’d advise people to go back and actually read the amendments put by the United States House of Representatives on Department of Defense Appropriations legislation from 2015 up until just this year. They continuously forbid funds, US taxpayer funds, being used to train the Azov battalion, which is listed by the US Congress as a white supremacist neo-Nazi organization. So anybody who wants to pretend that there isn’t a Nazi problem in Ukraine, simply I refer you to Congress and its own legislation.
The Russians believe that this is a big problem and they want it eradicated. Now, why did I bring this up? Because Russia hasn’t shifted gears at all. Russia’s still saying, we want a European security framework out of this and we are adhering to our original objectives. Russia hasn’t altered course at all. Ukraine, on the other hand, is saying that victory can only be achieved when Russia is evicted from all territory, including Crimea.
I would say that Russia’s closer to achieving its objectives than Ukraine is to achieving its objectives, which tells me Russia has the momentum, Russia has the initiative, and Russia has realistic objectives that can be attained. Ukraine doesn’t. I mean, there’s just literally no one on this planet besides maybe… I don’t even think the Ukrainians believe it, that they’re going to recapture the Donbas, that they’re going to recapture Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, that they’re going to recapture Crimea. This is fantasy. So you have one side that their objectives are fantasy based, you have another side whose objectives are, while difficult to achieve, are very realistic. So I’ll go with the realistic side over the fantasy side as to who I think is going to prevail.
Then we take a look at capabilities. For certain, Ukraine had a good September. There’s no one that’s going to debate that issue whatsoever. But at what cost? And what I mean by that is in order to achieve this good September, Ukraine had to absorb billions, tens of billions of dollars worth of NATO equipment. It took months to do this. It took months to get people trained on this, to bring the equipment in, to match the equipment with the people, organize it, and bring it to the battlefield. And then in one month, Ukraine pretty much burned through everything. The casualties they’ve suffered have been horrific. They’ve lost the equipment, they’ve lost most of the manpower, and they’re down to a position now where they’re begging the West to help them reconstitute this capability.
Russia started September with pretty much the same force structure that it brought in when it invaded in February, and what had happened is Russia pretty much had insufficient resources to the task they had set forth for themself. They had many parts of the defensive line that were stretched thin, and the Ukrainians were able to exploit this. And the Russians wisely, I believe, traded territory for lives. Now the Russians aren’t in the business of just throwing away Russian lives, and so they weren’t going to hold on to a strong point and defend it to the last man. They were more than happy to withdraw, trade territory, save lives, consolidate their defensive positions, all the while inflicting what should have been prohibitive casualties on the Ukrainians, tens of thousands of losses.
Meanwhile, while Russia is consolidating their lines, they’re reinforcing. Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilization, 300,000 reservists have been called up, 87,000 of them are currently deployed into the special military operations zone, the rest are finalizing their organization into fresh combat units, which will give the Russians tremendous flexibility and operational capacity. So as Ukraine is shrinking its combat capability, Russia is increasing its combat capability.
And then we take a look at the strategic aspects of this conflict. I think the West made a mistake in misinterpreting Russia’s soft approach to the special military operation, going in with fewer numbers than many people thought was necessary, and going in softer, not doctrinally, not using overwhelming firepower, not rolling through, in effect, trying to reduce civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. While the reduction of civilian casualties continues to be an objective of Russia, the day and age of saying, we don’t want to harm civilian infrastructure, is over. Russia has taken the gloves off and has shown that it can close down Ukraine as a modern nation state anytime it wants to.
It’s degraded their electrical grid, their power grid. Ukraine has rolling blackouts, and the Russians are taking it easy. Russia could easily shut everything down, but they’re not, they’re making a point right now that they can do this damage. Meanwhile, Russia is dysfunctioning as it is, and then we take it out a step further because it’s not just Ukraine that’s suffering.
You see, the West thought they were going to A, deter Russian aggression and B, compel Russia to stop its aggression by imposing massive economic sanctions, I think that’s the word that was used, unprecedented economic sanctions. I mean, we were told there were masterful economists, experts in energy security that had solved the issue of how to shut down this gas station disguised as a nation. All we have to do is cut off their gas, their energy, and they’re going to shrivel up and go away.
Russia proves that the gas station actually knows more about global energy security than the West does. They flipped the script. Russia’s not the nation suffering, Europe is suffering, the entire continent is suffering. America’s suffering. What people are talking about, we have a couple weeks left of diesel fuel. I don’t think people comprehend what that means, when we run out of diesel fuel or we get such a shortage that the prices go through the roof. Because diesel powers the trucks that make the supply line work, that bring food to our stores at a reasonable price. And you start jacking up the price of the cost of transportation, it will be transferred to the consumer. And if you eliminate diesel potential to where transportation is frozen, nothing makes it to market.
Russia doesn’t have this problem. So they’ve won that battle, too. So across the board, from the big picture strategic aspect of the West supporting Ukraine to Ukraine’s ability to sustain the conflict, but what’s happening on the battlefield, it’s advantage Russia, advantage Russia, advantage Russia, advantage Russia. Russia’s winning this war. Call it controversial, but that’s my take.