"Debates with Moscow bureau chief Fred Weir: Round Three"
Gilbert Doctorow (February 11, 2023)

In the past few months I have put online the links to a couple of my encounters, or shall we call them ‘debates’ with Fred Weir, a Canadian journalist who has served numerous news agencies and newspapers but is probably best known for his long service as Moscow bureau chief of the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor.

Our encounters have been ‘virtual,’ in arranged discussions hosted by Iran’s Press TV. Today I present the link to our latest debate, in which our different perspectives on the war ongoing in Ukraine are sufficiently differentiated for the viewer to benefit from contrast as well as agreement about the misery and death it is bringing to both sides in the conflict.

You don’t work for mainstream print media and get to say what you think much of the time. In the present situation, Weir has complemented his censored work for his paymasters with more nuanced and informative statements on his social media accounts. What he says on Press TV is situated somewhere on a sliding scale between these two positions. The question is not about distortion of information but about information and personal judgments held back, about stories that he is not encouraged to cover for the mainstream news channels.

For my part, I dared in this discussion to step back a bit from the ‘dissident’ or ‘anti-war’ folks who have been reposting my essays and who have brought 10,000 or more readers to any one of my recent articles. What I say in this video is that the side of the angels also often lives in its own bell jar. They largely do not speak Russian, cannot monitor what the Russians are saying among themselves in their domestic oriented media and so may be cheerleading the Russian war effort without being aware of the Russians’ own circumspection about their chances of success and of success in what time frame.

Let me be specific. The Scott Ritters and Douglas Macgregors of this world are speaking as if the war is just about over and the Ukrainian capitulation may be expected in a couple of weeks. Of course, anything is possible: the new and accelerating Russian offensive may bring the Ukrainian army to its knees. However, at the same time, in Russian news agency postings, I read that the boss of the swashbuckling Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin has just been quoted as saying that it may take two years more of fighting for Russian forces to completely conquer the Donbas. Where does the truth lie?

In closing, I use this opportunity to bring to the attention of readers several key points from a private correspondence I have been conducting with a Lt Colonel in the U.S. army who is busy working in a think tank following the action on the ground very closely day to day. The question was whether time is on the side of the Russians or on the side of the Ukrainians.

We both came to the same conclusion: that the end result of the Special Military Operation is likely to be the strengthening of the Russian armed forces and not the weakening that Pentagon boss Austin has declared to be the principal American objective of refusing peace talks and drawing out the war by dispatching ever more lethal equipment to the Ukrainian side.

My argument for strengthening is based on the way the Russian army is now projected to grow from 600,000 men at arms to 1.5 million, and possibly to as many as 3 million. This expansion of the armed forces requires the active support of the Russian population, whose boys and men will be subject to what may become universal conscription. The escalation of the threat to their nation posed by the American led forces in Ukraine has brought to the Kremlin the full patriotic support that it needs for the changeover in the structure and scale of the army as well as the changeover in the economy to a war footing.

The Lt. Colonel’s matching conclusion is based on the way he has seen the operational capabilities of the Russian armed forces grow immensely from the incompetent, bungling performance of the opening weeks and months of this war to the very impressive performance he has witnessed since the changes in command back in September of last year.


©Gilbert Doctorow, 2023