Ukraine War Day #387: Ukrainian Military Oblomovism?

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece by reporter Vera Basilaya. Which is a response to this article in the American magazine Politico. The gist is that the Americans, as embodied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, are getting really impatient with Ukrainian procrastination on the battlefield: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin projected a sense of urgency on Wednesday after a virtual meeting of the multinational Ukraine Defense Contact Group, saying that “Ukraine doesn’t have any time to waste. If I were the Ukrainians I be, like, “Lloyd, stop bugging me, I’m fighting as fast as I can. Oh wait, I have an idea! Why don’t you grab a gun and drag your fat ass out here into the mud of Bakhmut…”

“No, Mr. Zelenskyy, I expect you to die!”

Austin and the other Westie officials have made it clear that they don’t really give a fig about Bakhmut, the main thing they need from Ukraine is to take back Crimea. After all, that shiny new American naval base in Sebastopol is not going to build itself! First a lot of Ukrainians have to die.

Politico goes on to say that everything the Americans are supplying now — tanks and armored vehicles, pontoon bridge throwers, etc. — is with the expectation of a major spring counteroffensive. Most likely in May, after the mud hardens and everything else is in place. The Ukrainians need to recapture something big and important. The two main options, in the American playbook, are “push south through Kherson into Crimea, or move east from its northern position and then south, cutting off the Russian land bridge,” according to Politico. But time is running out.

Unlike Austin, I don’t wear a bunch of shiny boy-scout patches on my chest, and I know nothing about military strategy. But my gut tells me that the Ukrainian High Command are right about Bakhmut: If they can’t hold Bakhmut, then none of those other pipe dreams are going to be possible anyhow.

Grammar Nazi

But moving along to the Russian response… By the way this sentence is an example of bad writing in Russian:

“При этом наступление через Херсон в США считают нереалистичным…” I know what Vera means in her poorly constructed sentence. The literal translation: “Moreover, the offensive via Kherson, in the U.S. they consider this unrealistic.” A more idiomatic translation: “In the U.S. [certain unnamed people] believe that the counteroffensive through Kherson is not a realistic option.”

I know I am quibbling here, but certain formulations in Russian journalism always irritate me. There are these vague references to “in Scotland it is thought that Bulgarian wrestlers are too fat…”, like naming a country but being vague about exactly which people you are talking about. I prefer the clear-eyed Hemingway-esque approach: “This one guy in Scotland who nobody ever heard of, stated that Bulgarian wrestlers are too fat.” The very headline to Vera’s story starts with the words “In the USA…” (В США…) “In the USA they [an indeterminate they without an actual pronoun] have named the dates for the start of the massive counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” Who is this “they” of whom you speak? Too much virtual passive voice. Too much passive aggression. Name names, dammit!

Macron and Sunak: War gives us that little tingling in the loins…

But I digress…

One needs to recall that it isn’t just the Americans who are egging on the Ukrainians to perform their super-duper counteroffensive. Macron (in France) and Sunak (in England) are also urging the Ukrainians: “Just do it. Just do it.” Or, as a Russian journalist might put it: “In France and in England it is thought that the Ukrainians are procrastinating and not meeting up with expectations…”

Meanwhile, Russian military expert Alexander Perendzhiev, in an interview with Radio Sputnik, was somewhat bemused by all this public discussion: “I don’t think there was ever before, in the history of war, an occurrence where people simply announced in advance their planned offensive or counteroffensive, in such great detail, naming specific directions of attack.” Perendzhiev posits that all this talk might be part of a disinformation campaign on the part of Washington. He does believe, on the other hand, that Kiev truly is preparing a spring campaign. They have to show some result for all that money that was tossed at them.

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25 Responses to Ukraine War Day #387: Ukrainian Military Oblomovism?

  1. Liborio Guaso says:

    The West can keep up the war indefinitely while others put up the dead. Mercenaries are left over with the hunger that the world suffers. That worked for him in the Middle East and now they repeat it against Russia and they will try it with China.
    It is part of the remote work of modern times, sowing death from a distance.


  2. Michael Droy says:

    Your frustrations with Russian are very similar to my frustrations with Polish when I lived there for 20 years.
    For example 3 times larger when they mean 3 times as large (= twice larger). The only way to explain this to Poles (even Poles with Economics degrees) is to ask what once larger means.
    In English we are told that the passive form is to be avoided like the plague. In Polish it seems to be good style. But any version of “Some say/it is said” is as you point out, openly admitting to not having an identified source so a built in admission of inadequacy.
    I have in-laws in a Polish village, some of whom speak quite unintelligibly to me. I found out recently that my grown up and Polish educated daughters can’t understand them either.
    Videos of Russian speaking Ukrainians, freed from Mariupol and other places remind me of all this. They are asked questions like who fired at the house, and the words of the answers come across as entirely vague – even as they nod their heads with certainty. I suspect this “we all know what we mean but we daren’t actually use the words” has been common over E Europe for a couple of centuries.
    Newspeak – now available in the West for other purposes.


    • yalensis says:

      An English teacher similarly told me NEVER to use the passive voice in English. I asked her, “Then what’s it there for, if I can’t use it?” It’s like that old gag about a big red button with the words, “Never press me.”

      For me, in every language, every trick invented is a possible tool in the toolbox. To be used at the right time, on the right occasion. So, there are times, I think, when the passive voice should be used. But not if it is just to be vague or evasive, which is my beef against the Russian journalists.

      One of the times I use the passive voice, in my translations from Russian to English, is to try to recapture the flavor of the Russian word order. Because Russian is an inflected language, the word order has more freedom than in English, and Russians will take advantage of this feature to place the most semantically important word at the end of the sentence.

      For example, in Russian: “Stole the diamonds Beau“, where semantically you are waiting until the last second to reveal the thief: TADA!

      In English the normal word order would be “Beau stole the diamonds.” (Subject-Verb-Object). But if you wanted to recreate the flavor of the Russian sentence, I would translate using the passive voice:

      “The diamonds were stolen by …. BEAU!”


      • John Kane says:

        An English teacher similarly told me NEVER to use the passive voice in English.

        And never split an infinitive, etc., etc.

        To me, as a native English-speaker, these prescriptions appear total crap. Oops, the passive. Sorry!

        On the Politico article, if Ukraine is running out of time, shells and soldiers, just how are they going to carry out a “great attack”? Authors of pieces like that must spend hours recovering from the mental gymnastics needed to write that stuff.


        • You say “To me, as a native English-speaker, these prescriptions appear total crap. Oops, the passive. Sorry!” That is not the passive voice, that is the active voice.

          The passive always uses any tense of the verb ‘be’, plus the past participle, for example: active voice: George Lukas directed Star Wars. Passive voice: Star Wars was directed by George Lukas.


          • yalensis says:

            I think verbs like “appear to be”, “to be”, “to become”, that sort of thing, are called intransitive verbs? He appears to be young. She is a Scorpio. He became angry. They’re not the passive voice, but these verbs don’t take objects, so they are a little different from regular transitive verbs.

            German werden (to be or to become): Dein Gesicht wird rot. (“Your face is red” or maybe “your face is becoming red”.)


          • John Kane says:

            I see your point but I would argue that it is passive while the active would be something along the lines of “I see these prescriptions as total crap”.

            I think yalenis has it better than I do. The thing is that X ‘to me” feels passive to me but I am not a linguist.


            • yalensis says:

              I think in many languages there are so-called “impersonal” constructs. Something happened to you, and it’s a bit vague who or what actually did it.
              Russian is famous for this. (But please don’t draw any cultural conclusions from that, unless you are follower of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, LOL!)

              I think English does this sometimes, but mostly English likes to know exactly who did what to whom: “The wind knocked me over.” It’s all the wind’s fault. In Russian you might just say “me knocked over [something with a neuter gender in the verb past tense]”, or you could be more specific “me knocked over by wind”. I think this is called an “impersonal” construction. Other examples in Russian: “To me it hurts” while an Englishman would say, more directly: “I am in pain”, or “I have a headache”. It’s all about I, me, myself. In Russian, it’s about these strange impersonal forces just acting upon me, willy-nilly. (Again, please no cultural or historical conclusions from the long-ago inherited grammar of a language!)

              I think German does this too: An American would say: “I am cold,” but a German would say “Mir ist kalt” [to me IT is cold]. The German construction makes more sense, logically, because “I am cold” is semantically ambiguous: Am I just a cold person (always cold), or am I usually okay, but just now I happen to be feeling a chill?

              Such constructions feel “passive” because it’s as if some external force is just acting on the person. But technically, no, it’s not the passive voice, if you want to get down into terminology.


      • Cortes says:


        Following the exposition, kicked off with the inevitable

        “You’re probably wondering why I brought you down here to this splendid Library, well…”

        The response to the irritated query “Who dunnit, Poirot? ” would be along the lines of

        “The only person who could have done it: stand up, Beau.”


        • yalensis says:

          Beau: It is true that the diamonds were stolen by me. But this was done for a very good cause. It came to my attention that Lady Brandon’s diamond necklace had been replaced with a cheap knock-off. The knock-off was made from cubic zirconium. Therefore, the necklace needed to be stolen. By me.


  3. michaeldroy says:

    Your frustrations with Russian are very similar to my frustration with Polish (….long comment)…. or equally my frustrations with the password request system on WordPress when i tried to comment on my secondary laptop…


    • yalensis says:

      Sorry about that! WordPress filed your first comment into the spam filter, and I had to fish it out. I don’t know why that happens sometimes, your comment is not very long and it doesn’t even have links.


  4. Samson says:

    He does believe, on the other hand, that Kiev truly is preparing a spring campaign. They have to show some result for all that money that was tossed at them.

    The real question (not only in your turn) is, where is the difference bewteen what one can call “disinformation” or what one may call (performed even by states) “propaganda”. In abstracion it may is what the early socialists called “class struggle” based on privat ownershipon on instruments of production in contradiction to “social production”.

    John Helmer recently descriped a nice piece of how this kind of “social production” still runs, what goals they force and who is involved (even ‘high ranged’ politicans):


    If that happend in Russia, it just means that in reality, i.e. in “economical terms” there is no contradiction between russian “oligarchs” and what in the west is named as “CEO’s”. Insofar I doubt, there would be any deciding differences in the methods they use.

    Generally speaking, it is always the same (no matter what politicians, economists or “scientists” say about it): Value as a social relation is produced and reproduced when labour power is expressed as a commodity, which enables the reproduction of the worker who exchanges his labour power for the value of the means of subsistence, but produces more EXCHANGEABLE value than is embodied in the means of subsistence, which enables the capitalist to appropriate surplus value, which is manifested through exchange with other, also appropriated values.

    The “law of value” – which states that commodities are exchanged in proportion to the socially necessary labour they contain for their reproduction. The law exists and is manifested in a relation of “equality” of things, which is at the same time a relation of domination among people organised as classes. In order for this law to dominate or become a mode of production, exchange between workers and owners must prevail – with workers being detached for independent production and the means of reproduction being owned by a ruling class.

    In this respect, every government is only an “executive organ” of the respective ruling class, which Helmer describes with a very practical example. When politicians change their “opinion”, it is somewhat reminiscent of the former German Chancellor Adenauer, from whom the sentence has been handed down, “What do I care about my gossip from yesterday”?


    • Liborio Guaso says:

      The idea that Kiev is ready for a spring offensive has its origins in Western propaganda, and that is part of the idea that is being sold to the world that Russia is losing the war.
      In reality they are waiting for a successful intervention by the Chinese Xi by manipulating the possibility that China will try to resolve the matter in order to avoid their own war. And that is just nonsense.


      • Samson says:

        The much thicker propaganda lie goes like this: Russia wins the war (which actually seems very realistic at the moment) and establishes a “new world order” together with China, India, Iran and a few other countries. To this end, these states or their governments invent a new money, make themselves independent of the dollar and then produce “in peaceful competition” all the stuff that people need to be happy.

        The question is, why didn’t they do this before and how are they going to do it after the war without changing anything in the methods, i.e. the states each create the conditions for companies to make “successful business”, i.e. profits. Incidentally, this is exactly why the USSR had to disappear and instead of the state-organised economy, production had to be left to private companies (again).

        If nothing changes, then even a newly invented money will serve the same purpose as the old one and the world will remain divided into a few who own everything and the vast majority, at best, living from hand to mouth.

        Liked by 1 person

        • yalensis says:

          That’s a very good question, why didn’t they do this before?
          Maybe there was just inertia, and people just kept waiting and hoping things would get better on their own. Creating a new world order, a new currency, etc., that’s a lot of work, and there are always going to be elites within each society who want to keep things as they are. Leading people like Xi and Putin had to consolidate their own power internally before they could embark on any of this.

          Sometimes the world can just keep spinning on for hundreds of years with no real change, and then things start changing very quickly.

          I think there is just a conjuncture of circumstances happening in the world, right now, it’s actually rather scary.


          • Samson says:

            Sometimes the world can just keep spinning on for hundreds of years with no real change, and then things start changing very quickly.

            I doubt that things really change if the circumstances remain the same. When empires come and go because “elites” determine the course of the world, then everything stays the same and societies are nothing but continuities of rule. Whether it is a czar or a president or the leader of a party does not matter.

            The Who was probably right, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”


        • jappieyo says:

          The work on an BRICS reserve currency is ongoing [1]. A SCO currency was proposed as well [2]. But information is sparse. As I understand, I could be something like the former ECU [3], which was working quite well.
          Work on Digital Renimbi is ongoing. And fears of the US$-World are high about this currency [4].
          As where (are?!?) the fears about the Euro. And this fear had serious consequences. In central Europe, after the switch to the Euro, more and more politicians in higher positions emerged being on some kind of US-American payroll.

          You might have noticed the news, almost daily, of new intergouvernmental agreements to switch payment form US$ to their respective local currencies. As well, especially China is selling his US$-bonds.

          So Dedollarisation is ongoing. But slowly.

          Why slowly? First, new payment systems have to earn credibility. This takes time. And maybe some adjustment over time. Second: international trade is an important factor in every developed country. Cut this on the spot, your country will no longer be a developed country.

          What the outcome will be? May be ask Russians or Chinese, if they would prefer to get their lifestyle from 30 years ago back or if they want to keep it like today.



  5. S Brennan says:

    The spoken/unspoken desires/demands of DC/London in this unholy war erupt from the satanic fantasies of sociopathic men & women, they are not plans of a rational people.

    The only “plan” that will work at this point is in the head of the Russian High Command and while not telling them how to accomplish the herculean task, they need to seize the Black Sea coast in entirety and secure far enough inland to create a long-enough time element to tactical rocket attack. Something like this:

    But with the SW to Hungarian administration [not NATO]. RU-Russia would then border Hungary to the west and give Hungary access to the Black Sea thru Odessa, the two NW-most provinces to Belarus. A portion of West of Ukrainia’s territory [Lviv/Ternopil mainly] be given to Polish domestic administration [not NATO]. You gotta feed the Hyena something for it’s lost blood. And the rest?

    That will be rump Ukraine [not NATO], a protectorate of hmmm…whitest people in Europe…ah..yes…Iceland but, with mandatory fortnightly torchlight parades and a biannual kristallnacht celebration and…to bring back that ever-popular goose-step, Argentina will be in charge of marching ceremonies !

    Okay, maybe the last sentence was a “little over the top” but, you get the idea, Ukrainia has to permanently divided to keep DC/London from rekindling this European holocaust and only Russia the power to end this on a long term basis; DC/London is dominated by criminals at this point in time and “there is no honor among thieves”, they, like prison inmates, can not be trusted with any metal objects.


  6. In the middle of this year the 18 month American presidential selection circus will begin. The Empire is not happy about the prospect of Trunp running again (or a Trump clone who’s against the Ukranazistan fiasco). The War Industry needs to show some kind of “victory” before then to justify pouring all the money into Ukranazistan. Ergo all this frantic prodding for an offensive.

    Simplicius76 points out that if Artëmovsk falls quickly the way is open for quick Russian gains including the close investment or siege of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk by late spring, since defences west of Artëmovsk are nowhere near as strong and it’s mostly open country. If Slavyansk and Kramatorsk – which the nazis have been predicting would “never fall” (and Jihadi Julian Röpcke said yesterday “Russia won’t take this year”) are threatened, it will be impossible to justify throwing troops into a southern offensive against what Sladkov said were the strongest fortifications he’d ever seen. The nazis know this. Their American owners simply don’t care.


    • yalensis says:

      I think that’s a pretty good analysis. The Americans are getting increasingly desperate. Like a gambler who has bet every penny on a single throw of the dice.


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