STUNNING: Vladmir Putin Collapse Shocks World – This Is The End…

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(WE) – PREDICTION: PUTIN FACES ‘IRREVERSIBLE’ DEFEAT: Russia’s retreat from a key logistics hub in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in the face of advancing Ukrainian forces is not only another embarrassing defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin but may also mark a fundamental shift in momentum in favor of Ukraine, say former U.S. commanders.

“No amount of shambolic mobilization, which is the only way to describe it, no amount of annexation, no amount of even veiled nuclear threats can actually get [Putin] out of this particular situation,” said retired Army Gen. David Petraeus on ABC on Sunday. “He is losing, and the battlefield reality he faces is, I think, irreversible.”

“The reality facing Russia now is that Ukraine, a country a third the size of Russia, has a bigger, much more effective army on the ground, and other assets as well,” said Petraeus. “He’s already lost a really critical element in that, a critical city that would have been a very key supply hub had they been able to go farther. And that’s just going to continue. He’s going to continue to lose on the battlefield. And at some point, there’s going to have to be recognition of that.”

The liberation rail hub of Lyman (pron: lee-MON) came as Russian forces melted away without a fight, taking up what the Russian Defense Ministry called “more advantageous positions.”

“This is a tremendous victory for the Ukrainians. And it’s a victory that I think that they could turn into a cascading series of defeats of Russian forces,” said retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on CBS. “What we might be at here is really at the precipice of really the collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine, a moral collapse.”

“They must really be at a breaking point, if you look at just the numbers of casualties, the vast area that they’re trying to defend,” said McMaster, former President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser. “I think it’s very important also to understand that these forces that are in full retreat now out of Lyman were really the first round of mobilization. … Those forces were hastily trained, thrown into that front, and these are the forces that are collapsing right now.”

IN MOSCOW ‘THE MOOD IS GRIM’: The loss of a strategic city of Lyman on the day and in the same area that Putin claimed his illegal annexation declaration Friday prompted a backlash of finger-pointing and recrimination on Russian media.

“Tonight on Russian state TV: The mood is grim, look at their faces,” said Julia Davis of Russian Media Monitor, who tweeted a clip of Dmitry Sablin, deputy chairman of the Defense Committee. “[He] admits that Russia desperately needs ‘to stop and regroup,’” said Davis, “and is experiencing all sorts of shortages, compared to Ukraine that has it all — and then some.”

“Sablin admits that second-rate weapons from the West are better than Russia’s best weapons,” tweeted former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in response to the clip. “He also admits that Russia needs 30 years to win…I wonder if Putin is watching?”

“Kremlin-sponsored media and Russian milbloggers — a prominent Telegram community composed of Russian war correspondents, former proxy officials, and nationalists — are grieving the loss of Lyman while simultaneously criticizing the bureaucratic failures of the partial mobilization,” according to the latest analysis from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

“Some guests on heavily-edited Kremlin television programs that aired on October 1 even criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four Ukrainian oblasts before securing their administrative borders or even the frontline, expressing doubts about Russia’s ability ever to occupy the entirety of these territories,” the ISW said.

“Kremlin propagandists no longer conceal their disappointment in the conduct of the partial mobilization, frequently discussing the illegal mobilization of some men and noting issues such as alcoholism among newly mobilized forces. Some speaking on live television have expressed the concern that mobilization will not generate the force necessary to regain the initiative on the battlefield, given the poor quality of Russian reserves.”

UKRAINIAN FORCES CONTINUE TO ADVANCE: Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to break through Russian defenses, not just in the east but also approaching the important southern city of Kherson.

Numerous postings on social media show Ukrainian troops displaying flags in various villages in the Kherson region. And Russian pages warn of an impending disaster and say overmatched Russian troops are pleading for airstrikes to blunt the Ukrainian offensive.

“A Russian-installed official in the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, admitted in a video statement on Monday morning that the Ukrainian forces ‘have broken through a little deeper,’” reported the Associated Press.

“If Kherson falls and Putin loses 15,000 of his best troops it will be a political disaster destabilizing the state,” tweeted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former U.S. commander. “He cannot find a way out.”

McCaffery and others continue to warn that, with his back to the wall and losing on every front, Putin becomes more desperate and dangerous and more likely to consider his threat to use a low-yield nuclear weapon. “The Russians think limited nuclear war possible to protect the survival of the state,” tweeted McCaffrey. “Obviously not the situation facing Russia. Putin’s personal survival at stake.”

Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Stacey Dec. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

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HAPPENING TODAY: Opening arguments begin today in federal court in Washington in what observers are calling the highest-profile and most serious trial related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Federal prosecutors will lay out their case against Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes and four additional members of the extremist group who are charged with seditious conspiracy for their alleged weekslong plot to stop the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

It’s been 30 years since anyone has been convicted on a charge of seditious conspiracy, which carries up to a 20-year prison sentence.

“Court records show the Oath Keepers repeatedly warning of the prospect of violence — or ‘a bloody, bloody civil war,’ as Rhodes said in one call — if Biden were to become president,” according to the Associated Press. “The Oath Keepers organized trainings — including one in ‘unconventional warfare’ — and stashed weapons at a Virginia hotel so they could get them into the capital quickly if necessary”

AUSTIN ON PUTIN’S NUCLEAR THREAT: In an interview aired on CNN yesterday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that a large swath of eastern Ukraine now belongs to Russia and is therefore protected by Moscow’s nuclear umbrella is “an illegal claim” and “an irresponsible statement.”

“This nuclear saber-rattling is not the kind of thing that we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capability,” Austin told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “This referendum is a sham, it’s fiction, and we will never respect their illegal annexation of Ukraine territory — and nor will most of the international community.”

Asked if he has conveyed privately to his Russian counterpart how the U.S. would respond to the use of a low-yield “battlefield” nuke, Austin said there has been communication at the highest levels but that he has not talked to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu lately.

“But I have talked to him in the past, and I have addressed this very issue and warned to not go down this path and conduct this type of irresponsible behavior,” Austin said. “I think he heard my message. But, you know, to be clear, the guy who makes that decision — I mean, it’s one man. There are no checks on Mr. Putin.”

Austin said that while he wouldn’t rule out a nuclear strike ordered in desperation, “I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.”

STOLTENBERG: ‘NATO’S NOT PARTY TO THIS CONFLICT’: In an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rejected what he called Putin’s “dangerous, reckless” nuclear rhetoric, along with his characterization that Russia is really fighting NATO and the West, not Ukraine.

“He has tried again and again to tell a story that NATO is party to the conflict and that NATO caused this conflict. That’s absolutely wrong. First of all, this is a war that President Putin has started. It’s a war by his choice,” Stoltenberg told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “NATO’s not party to this conflict. What we do is that we provide support to Ukraine, an independent sovereign nation in Europe that has the right to defend itself against the war of aggression. And this is a right actually enshrined in the U.N. Charter. And therefore, we will continue to provide support to Ukraine to defend themselves.”

DOOR STILL OPEN TO UKRAINE’S NATO MEMBERSHIP: After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Friday plea for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, Stoltenberg indicated that while the door is technically open, the requirement that all 30 nations approve any new member and the fact that Ukraine is at war mean for now the emphasis needs to be on keeping military assistance flowing.

“The top priority now among the allies and partners is to support Ukraine. They need more support. They need continued support, and that’s the message I conveyed to President Zelensky when I spoke to him a few days ago,” Stoltenberg said. “And that’s the message from NATO leaders.”

NATO FINLAND/SWEDEN WATCH: Hungary and Turkey (or Türkiye as Turkey now wants to be called) are the last two countries standing between Finland and Sweden and NATO membership. Viktor Orban’s Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey are the two NATO nations with the closest relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and both have the potential to be the spoiler, given that accession to NATO requires approval from all 30 current NATO members.

Slovakia became the 28th NATO member to ratify the articles of accession for Finland and Sweden last week.

STOPGAP CR STOPS SHORT OF DOD NEEDS: On Friday, just hours before the midnight deadline, the House passed and President Joe Biden signed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 16.

The action avoided a shutdown but means the Pentagon will once again have to wait for at least two months before it can tap into big budget increases for the new fiscal year.

“In any year, a stopgap funding bill is harmful. This year, it could be particularly damaging given the serious economic pressures from inflation and the security situation in Ukraine and many other places,” said former Army Secretary Eric Fanning, who is now president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.

“This continuing resolution asks our warfighters, as well as the small and large businesses comprising our defense industrial base, to bear the brunt of inflation, while Congress puts off one of its primary responsibilities again,” Fanning said. “Now, Congress and the administration must negotiate and pass full-year appropriations bills as quickly as possible.”

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