NATO's Losing Proxy War in Ukraine

Since late February 2022 Russia’s war with Ukraine has dominated the global headlines, but what may have been the most important incident in that conflict has received only a sliver of coverage in the Western mainstream media.

One year ago tomorrow a series of massive underwater explosions destroyed most of the $30 billion Russian-German Nord Stream Pipelines, probably Europe’s most important civilian energy infrastructure. All observers soon agreed that the blasts had been deliberate, likely constituting the greatest case of industrial terrorism in world history and an obvious act of war against Germany, NATO’s leading European member. And then in lock-step, nearly all Western media outlets declared that the Russians had destroyed their own pipelines, an action further demonstrating the dangerous insanity of President Vladimir Putin, our diabolical Moscow adversary. Only a handful of voices on the dissident fringe suggested otherwise.

But five months later the issue was suddenly resurrected. Across his half-century career, Seymour Hersh had established himself as America’s most renowned investigative journalist, and he now published one of his greatest exposes, a meticulously detailed account of how a team of American military divers had destroyed the pipelines, acting under the orders of the Biden Administration.

Despite Hersh’s towering reputation, virtually all our mainstream journalists scrupulously avoided mentioning those revelations. But many millions around the world read his article or watched his interviews, and the UN Security Council soon held hearings on the issue, with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs and former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern strongly endorsing Hersh’s conclusions.

Given these developments, the previous claim that Putin had destroyed his own pipelines began looking a little threadbare, so Western intelligence services soon circulated a new cover story, claiming that the gigantic attacks had actually been mounted by a shadowy handful of pro-Ukrainian activists operating from a rented sailboat. Once again, nearly all our pundits eagerly nodded their heads.

We live in an age of grotesque falsehoods that might rival those portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984, and I think Putin had a point when he condemned America as “an empire of lies.”

Last winter was an unusually mild one, somewhat mitigating the full impact of Europe’s total loss of cheap Russian energy. But even so, a recent front-page story in the Wall Street Journal described the severe economic crisis facing Germany, Europe’s industrial engine. If Hersh’s account were confirmed, NATO would legally be at war with the U.S.

Although such a bizarre outcome is hardly likely, the future of the alliance does seem very doubtful. Lawrence Wilkerson has had a distinguished mainstream career, serving as the longtime chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and in a lengthy interview a couple of days ago he foresaw the loss of America’s German ally and the dissolution of NATO. If that 76 year alliance does disintegrate, future historians will surely point to the Nord Stream pipeline attacks as the crucial triggering event. Western media possesses an awesome power of illusion, but Reality usually has the final say.

Hersh had originally intended his current column to focus on the anniversary of the pipeline attacks, but important developments in the larger Ukraine war pushed that aside. As he reported, one of his trusted sources with access to current intelligence explained the disastrous state of the military situation:

“It’s all lies,” the official said, speaking of the Ukrainian claims of incremental progress in the offensive that has suffered staggering losses, while gaining ground in a few scattered areas that the Ukrainian military measures in meters per week.

The American intelligence official I spoke with spent the early years of his career working against Soviet aggression and spying has respect for Putin’s intellect but contempt for his decision to go to war with Ukraine and to initiate the death and destruction that war brings. But, as he told me, “The war is over. Russia has won. There is no Ukrainian offensive anymore, but the White House and the American media have to keep the lie going.

Hersh’s informant also described the way that Western intelligence had been manipulating our mainstream media and using it to deceive our own citizens:

“Yes,” the official said, “Putin did something stupid, no matter how provoked, by violating the UN charter and so did we”—meaning President Biden’s decision to wage a proxy war with Russia by funding Zelensky and his military. “And so now we have to paint him black, with the help of the media, in order to justify our mistake.” He was referring to a secret disinformation operation that was aimed at diminishing Putin, undertaken by the CIA in coordination with elements of British intelligence. The successful operation led major media outlets here and in London to report that the Russian president was suffering from varied illnesses that included blood disorders and a serious cancer. One oft-quoted story had Putin being treated by heavy doses of steroids. Not all were fooled. The Guardian skeptically reported in May of 2022 that the rumors “spanned the gamut: Vladimir Putin is suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s disease, say unconfirmed and unverified reports.” But many major news organizations took the bait. In June 2022, Newsweek splashed what it billed a major scoop, citing unnamed sources saying that Putin had undergone treatment two months earlier for advanced cancer: “Putin’s grip is strong but no longer absolute. The jockeying inside the Kremlin has never been more intense. . . . everyone sensing that the end is near.”

Public events seemed to quickly confirm the accuracy of the grim Ukraine war prognosis reported by Hersh. Poland has always been intensely hostile to Russia, so from the beginning of the fighting, the Warsaw government had been the strongest and most enthusiastic backer of Ukraine’s military effort, by some accounts even secretly sending many thousands of its own troops into combat. But Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has now declared that his country would provide no additional military aid, underscoring his position with remarkably undiplomatic language:

Ukraine is behaving like a drowning person clinging to everything he can… but we have the right to defend ourselves against harm being done to us. A drowning person is extremely dangerous, he can pull you down to the depths… simply drown the rescuer. We must act to protect ourselves from the harm being done to us, because if the drowning person… drowns us, he will not get help. So we have to take care of our interests and we will do it effectively and decisively.

And Poland’s dramatic public break with Ukraine is hardly alone, coming after signs that various other European leaders are strongly reevaluating their involvement. As I’d highlighted earlier this month, a front-page story in the New York Times by its longtime European columnist described how numerous leading European figures have shifted their position, opening with these striking paragraphs:

PARIS — Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was once known as “Sarko the American” for his love of free markets, freewheeling debate and Elvis. Of late, however, he has appeared more like “Sarko the Russian,” even as President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruthlessness appears more evident than ever.

In interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”

“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” he told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.

His statements, to the newspaper as well as the TF1 television network, were unusual for a former president in that they are profoundly at odds with official French policy. They provoked outrage from the Ukrainian ambassador to France and condemnation from several French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron.

Meanwhile, our media outlets are finally beginning to reveal the true magnitude of the West’s military predicament. Just over a week ago, a major front-page story in the New York Times described the complete failure of our attempts to cripple Russian military production, which now dramatically exceeds the combined total of America and its NATO allies. Artillery has played a dominant role in the Ukraine war and Russia’s advantage in both quantity and cost is enormous:

Western officials also believe Russia is on track to manufacture two million artillery shells a year — double the amount Western intelligence services had initially estimated Russia could manufacture before the war.

As a result of the push, Russia is now producing more ammunition than the United States and Europe. Overall, Kusti Salm, a senior Estonian defense ministry official, estimated that Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West.

Russia’s production costs are also far lower than the West’s, in part because Moscow is sacrificing safety and quality in its effort to build weapons more cheaply, Mr. Salm said. For instance, it costs a Western country $5,000 to $6,000 to make a 155-millimeter artillery round, whereas it costs Russia about $600 to produce a comparable 152-millimeter artillery shell, he said.

When I first saw that claim by a senior NATO Defense official that “Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West,” I wondered whether some ridiculous misprint had slipped past the copy-editors of our national newspaper of record; but the figure seems absolutely correct. Just a couple of days ago, a Fox Business report quoted a top American procurement official:

“We’re going to be at 100,000 per month in 2025. We were at 14,000 per month 6 or 8 months ago, we are now at 28,000 a month today,” Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s weapons acquisition chief, said at a conference on Friday.

So Russia’s production is currently around 170,000 shells per month and ours is merely 15% of that, while we’re hoping to reach 60% within a couple of years, at which point Russian production will surely have also dramatically increased. For months now, honest military and intelligence analysts such as Douglas Macgregor, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, and Scott Ritter have emphasized that NATO is rapidly running out of both weapons and ammunition, and the Pentagon seems to have now confirmed that reality.

Although our hagiographic history books have generally ascribed our successful wars of the last century to the heroism of American troops, the true facts were otherwise. Our country’s military victories in World War II and afterward were almost entirely due to our enormous advantages in productive capability, which allowed us to swamp our foes with vast quantities of equipment. Henry Ford may have been strongly opposed to American involvement in World War II, but the world-beating efficiency of the factory system that he pioneered was probably more important to our victory than any of our famous generals or admirals.

Such advantages were obviously far greater in the other wars that followed, including Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, all conflicts that we failed to win despite possessing overwhelming superiority in materiel, and since the Second World War, we have never had to face anything like a peer-competitor. Our arrogant and complacent political leadership class has therefore allowed our defense industry to shift its focus from production to profiteering, and as a result Russia is vastly outproducing us at just a fraction of our cost. Meanwhile, as I emphasized earlier this year, Russia’s Chinese ally has a real productive economy three times the size of our own, and could easily swamp our output if that were to prove necessary.

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