Ukraine War, October 31, 2022: Russia takes down electrical and water infrastructure, as U.S. and NATO remain passive in face of Putin’s nuclear threats

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, and you will see a list in chronological order.

To understand the broad context within which current developments in Ukraine should be considered, see

“Ukraine War, October 26, 2022: The context for analysis of current developments; The “dirty bomb” as a Russian propaganda distraction from current war crimes,” The Trenchant Observer, October 26, 2022.

Dispatches

1) Cristrian Segura y Luis de Vega (Enviados especiales en Kiev), “Rusia ataca Kiev con una oleada de misiles y deja al 80% de la población sin agua potable; El principal objetivo son las infraestructuras energéticas y una docena de regiones de Ucrania. En la capital, hasta 350.000 casas se quedan sin luz, según las autoridades,” El País, el 31 de octubre 2022 (04:54, actualizado a las 14:04 EDT);

2) Cristrian Segura and Luis de Vega (Special correspondents in Kiev)en Kiev), “Russia attacks Kiev with a wave of missiles and leaves 80% of the population without drinking water; The main objective is energy infrastructures and a dozen regions of Ukraine. In the capital, up to 350,000 houses run out of electricity, according to the authorities,” El País, October 31, 2022 (4:54 am EDT, updated at 2:04 PM EDT);

To access the English translation, click on the letters in the  right-hand portion of the address bar, and select “Translate to English” from the drop-down menu

3) Marc Santora and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, “Russian Missiles Deliver New Woe to Kyiv, Knocking Out Tap Water: Moscow kept up its campaign to destroy civilian infrastructure, in an apparent bid — so far unsuccessful — to break Ukrainian morale by making cities unlivable,” New York Times, October 31: 2022

4) “Ukraine War, October 28, 2022: Biden needs to speak to Putin in language he understands; Biden makes sure Ukraine fights with one hand tied behind its back;” The Trenchant Observer, October 28, 2022;

Analysis

President Joe Biden and NATO continue to react to Vladimir Putin’s escalatory nuclear threats, and his escalation of Russian missile and drone attacks against cities and civilian electrical, water, and communications infrastructure, with utter passivity.

Putin has clearly won Round One in the nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and NATO and Russia.

The defects in Biden’s and NATO’s strategy in the Ukraine war, evident from the very beginning as we have reported here, have now become blazingly clear.

THe NATO strategy of trying to avoid a Ukrainian defeat at the hands of the Russians–some key NATO members (e.g., U.S., Germany) refuse to openly avow the goal of victory and defeat of the Russian army–while avoiding actions Biden fears would provoke Putin by crossing one of his arbitrary “red lines”, and  avoiding any actions that could lead to direct military engagement between Russian and NATO forces, is fatally flawed.

The idea of NATO standing on the sidelines while a leading nuclear power like Russia attacks a much smaller country like Ukraine, which has no nuclear weapons, was always defective.

By furnishing weapons, intelligence and advice to the Ukrainians, NATO countries have enabled Ukraine to make impressive gains on the battlefield, taking back Kharkiv province, advancing in the Donbas provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, and recently making significant gains in Kherson province where they have cut off from their supply lines over 20,000 Russian troops on the West bank of the Dnipo (Dnieper) River.

But in response to Putin’s recent escalations–the “partial mobilization” in Russia announced on September 21, the annexation of four provinces partially occupied by Russian troops, and since October 10 the systematic destruction of electrical and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine–NATO has essentially not responded except to commit to providing more sophisticated air defense systems many of which will not be delivered for many months or even years.

NATO has essentially done nothing in response to these escalations by Putin that will stop the destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid and other critical infrastructure such as water supply and communications.

Russia is pulling out all the stops, with considerable success.

80% of the population of Kyiv is estimated to be without water today. Some 40-45 percent of residential heating is provided by water-based systems (e.g., radiators), as Russia attacks water infrastructure.

Today in Kviv officials are speaking of the potential need to evacuate civilians from the city to other areas of the country which have not been hit so hard.

Throughout all of this, President Biden and NATO countries sit idly by, comfortable in their “spectator” role, oblivious to the fact that with his nuclear threats and these acts of escalation Putin is winning the first round in the nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia.

If they are to halt this escalatory spiral, the U.S. and NATO must do more than sit idly by on the sidelines.

As we have argued, they should immediately take the following actions, while considering others:

1) Deliver the ATACMS long-range artillery rockers for the HIMARS artillery units to Ukraine, retaining control of their use against targets in Russia.

If Putin persists in destroying Ukrainian electrical and other infrastructure, relax the restrictions on the rockets’ use, requiring only that they be used in accordance with the international law of self-defense.

2) Authorize the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, subject, at least initially, to the same restrictions as in action 1) above.

3) Authorize and urge German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to deliver the modern tanks and armored personnel carriers that are ready for delivery, but which he has been withholding.

Biden’s and NATO’s current strategy will not prevent the destruction of Ukraine’s electrical and water infrastructure. The very likely consequence will be that millions of Ukrainians will be forced to leave the cities, with millions fleeing the country and forming waves of refugees to Europe, as Putin has planned.

In Putin’s mind, this will cause Ukraine and the West to capitulate and accept his territorial gains and annexation of four additional Ukrainian provinces.

This, however, cannot occur. Because of the structure of the U.N. Charter and international law, no ceasefire or settlement containing territorial concessions is possible without bringing down the entire structure.

An enormous humanitarian catastrophe is likely to occur, as the Russians follow their Syrian playbook under the leadership of the commanding general who carried it out.

At that point, the risk of nuclear war may become much greater than it is at present, or as it would be if Biden and NATO were to undertake the actions recommended above.

Passivity and inaction are not likely to constitute a winning strategy in the present nuclear confrontation with Russia and Putin.

The Trenchant Observer

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