The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Reorienting About How Well Russia Is Doing In Ukraine

It’s consensus in the West now that Russia’s military sucks.

Does it?

As Scott Ritter pointed out and as I find it shocking that almost no one else pointed out, Russia invaded with a lot less men than Ukraine has. Regular forces, plus reserves, plus border guards, plus miscellaneous other groups, Ukraine had about 600K. With allies from the Republics, Russia had about 190K.

Russia has air superiority, but not air supremacy over Ukraine, but the bottom line is that they invaded with about a 1/3 ground force disadvantage.

When you look at it that way, the narrative that NATO trained troops are so much better than Russian ones starts looking questionable. Say what you will about the Russians, they have pushed the Ukrainians back and I very much doubt the Western casualty figures are accurate. Perhaps Russian troops are actually superior to NATO ones. It’s certainly at least as viable as a narrative.

There are two important things to note here:

First, the number of troops supports the Russia claim that they never have intended to conquer and occupy the entire country, because even if they thought Ukrainian morale was weak, in no way is a 1/3 outnumbered ground force sufficient to do so.

Second, Ukrainian forces in the east are not getting significant resupply. All roads aren’t held by the Russians, but because of Russian air superiority they are closed to significant supply convoys. As I understand it, Ukrainian forces in the East are down to about 9 days of supply.

If Russia keeps them out of resupply, and keeps them unable to move (fleeing down those roads means Russia’s air force gets a turkey-shoot) then when they run out of supply, they’ll collapse and be captured or killed en-masse.

I don’t know if this the correct picture of the war, I’m not a military analyst and it’s not an area of significant interest to me.

But let’s say this assessment is correct. The entire narrative we’ve been fed about the war will turn out to be false, and will be proven false in a way which cannot be denied.

We’ll know soon enough. It’s hard to be sure. Ukraine is effectively refusing to negotiate, so they think they still stand a chance and they may know something we don’t.

I’ll place one market in the ground, though: if a claim is made that Russia used chemical weapons I will not believe it without incontrovertible evidence. They have no reason to do so. If they want to increase their military force, they can do so easily enough with conventional weapons. Despite rhetoric they haven’t been using strategies like level bombing; they’ve only used a few of their most dangerous missiles and so on. They can ramp up force with causing the sort of backlash chemical weapons will cause. So if there’s a claim, I will suspect it is false flag.

Cui Bono

Finally, as I have stated many times before, the analysis has nothing to do with any preferences of mine about who should win. I want the war over and civilians safe, and I was a critic of Putin back when liberals thought he was their man in Moscow.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 27, 2022


Putin’s Goals, A Map, For Discussion


  1. Veronica

    I think it’s a test, and Ukraine is the pawn sacrifice.

    NATO commanders want to see if/how Russian tactics have been updated since Chechnya and 2014 Donbass, how the conscript/volunteer mix holds up today after all the hazing fiascoes, to what extent they’re focused on capturing territory over infrastructure over citizens, how their weapons systems actually work during battle and not just during tests (i.e., the first hypersonic missile tests years ago, which some experts reasonably thought were Russia’sStar Wars…well, they may be overrated in terms of independent control, but they’re real and may easily destroy NATO’s DUMBS), etc.

  2. Blueberry Hill

    We’ll know soon enough.

    Will we? I’m not so sure we will at this rate. This isn’t fog. It’s triple pea soup.

  3. Dan Lynch

    The problem with siege warfare is the Ukies are not allowing civilians to leave the cities, so the civilians are also under siege, and also suffering from a lack of supplies. The stories of the civilians who recently escaped Mariupol are of old people dying due to lack of medicines, families trapped in basements without food or even water, and not being allowed to build a fire to boil water (Azov would shoot civilians if they stepped outside to build a fire). The Ukies occupy the top floors of civilian buildings so Russians can’t shell the buildings and must instead engage in close quarters firefights, street by street, building by building, room by room, which must mean a lot of casualties for the Russians.

    Another story coming out of Mariupol is the commander of the regular Ukrainian army in Mariupol wanted to surrender, since resistance was futile and would harm civilians.
    Well, the Azov commander did not want to surrender, so the Azov commander shot the Ukrainian army commander! You’re dealing with fanatics who are not behaving rationally. The fanatics may well be a small minority, but they’re the ones with the guns and they have no scruples about using brutality to force people to do things, so in fact this small minority of fanatics is the real power in Ukraine (along with the fanatics in Washington who are funding and arming the fanatics in Ukraine).

    There’s no good way to do urban warfare. It sucks for everyone involved.

    Another odd thing about this war is that Jewish oligarchs have allied with Ukrainian Nazis. As the saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. As near as I can make sense of it, the Jewish oligarchs and the Nazis are united in their hatred of Russia. Also there is the money angle — Ukraine has been very profitable for the Jewish oligarchs and naturally they want to defend their monetary interests. When Russia took over Crimea it nationalized some of the properties of the Jewish oligarchs because they were criminals, and it seems likely that likewise the property of Jewish oligarchs in Donbass will end up being nationalized, at least the ones who supported the Nazis.

    Also, I am told that back in the days of the Czar, Russian Orthodox Christians carried out pograms against Ukrainian Jews, so to this day many Ukrainian Jews hold a grudge against Russian Orthodox Christians. The tribal and ethnic feuds in Eastern Europe are complicated and go way back before you and I were even born, so it is hard for us Westerners to make sense of it.

    As for Russia’s military abilities, Russia has more and better weapons than NATO. If, as some Westerners would like, NATO tried to take on Russia, NATO would lose quickly and badly. It would not even be close, and Russia would not need to use nukes to do it. Russian hypersonics with conventional warheads are quite capable of sinking our ships and leveling our cities and our infrastructure, and Russian air defenses are capable of intercepting most NATO missiles and planes.

    The other thing about Russia is everyone in Russia had family members who were killed by Nazis in WWII, so unlike Americans, Russians view the Nazis in Ukraine as an existential threat.

  4. bruce wilder

    “The entire narrative we’ve been fed about the war will turn out to be false, and will be proven false in a way which cannot be denied.”

    I wonder about this.

    I thought the whole Russiagate accusation against Trump was a crock from the get-go, and plenty of evidence has emerged to undermine the credibility of key storytellers, but it is still being used in the Media as a preface to current events.

    That the Russian troops in Ukraine are significantly outnumbered by Ukraine’s (assuming Ukraine has fully mobilized its reserves and police) is a capital fact that is seldom accounted for in mainstream Media narratives of either Russian objectives or methods. Likewise, the Russian decision to preserve most infrastructure in working order is rarely acknowledged or accounted for.

    In the New York Times account, the Russian attack on Mariupol is a proxy for the conduct of the whole war everywhere and acknowledgement of the special circumstance is never made. The Russians are targetting civilians everywhere in this account. Since Ukraine is innocent, Ukrainian tactics are never discussed. The case of the theatre sheltering civilians is not even acknowledged to be disputed in the New York Times; it is cited retrospectively every day as an atrocity.

    That the Russians have been somewhat restrained in their tactics is presented as the speculative expectation that they will grow frustrated with the ineffectiveness of their approach and turn to more brutal tactics. The subconscious message of the brutality of Russian tactics is conveyed. Bringing up the possible Russian use of a chemical weapon serves a similar purpose, with the added bonus of distracting from the scandal of the Ukrainian network of U.S. bio-weapons labs.

    The only way I forsee the Western narrative of Russian arms in Ukraine collapsing is if the Russians “win” and Ukraine concedes, suing for peace more or less on Russian terms: de-militarized neutrality, cession of Crimea with a deal on water supply, secure status for the Donbass republics. Maybe the isolation in siege of a significant part of Ukraine’s regular army forces that result, but the West wants stalemate and quagmire and is willing to pay for it. I do not expect the NY Times to report those as American war aims. But, more important, I would be surprised if the Russians are able to pull off such a clean result.

    For Ukraine, a Russian “win” would seem preferable to prolonging the conflict indefinitely, but can Ukraine government concede? The Russians cannot remain indefinitely beyond Kherson and the Donbass, can they? Ukraine’s government just needs to hold itself together long enough, without the West’s narrative of their innocent virtues fraying and without economic and military collapse.

  5. Willy

    I’ll predict that Russia will never cede Ukraine to anyone, that it has to be part of Russia, even against Ukraine’s own will.

    Unless somebody beats me to it. Alright, not much of a prediction. Just a requote from Putin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov, himself quoting Vasily Zenkovsky, which has been making the rounds lately.

    I wonder about the strategy of seriously pissing off an entire population. As we all know, seriously pissed off populations tend to only fall in line if the conquerors give them better lives after all the fuss and bother. Not sure how that’ll work here. Pretty sure, based on results so far, that even that won’t go well.

  6. Ché Pasa

    It’s the strangest thing. You can’t be neutral about this conflict. You must take sides. You have to be a Zelensky worshiper or a Putin lackey. No room for critical thinking.

    I fail to see any good actors in this shitty play. Ukraine and Russia, the US and Nato have all behaved abominably and the end of this debacle will not be pretty.

  7. ptb

    Ukraine has actually begun to make bigger organized attacks, and in cases when they meet head-on resistance, the results are quite bloody. Latest Russian MoD briefing reports shooting down One Su-27 (air-to-air fighter), four Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft (ground attack / close air support type) and a bunch of drones, in the large contested pocket near the city of Chernihiv — NE of Kiev. Detailed reporting from the North has been close to nonexistent. The pattern of Russian forces seems to be to shut down the news flow completely when “intense stuff is happening”.

    Other reporting suggests Russia has decided to fully enclose and neutralize Chernihiv (second-tier city), abandon attempts to cut off Sumy and Nikolaev (second-tier cities), and leave alone Kiev (capital) and Kharkov (first-tier city) but camp out sizeable forces just out of artillery range. Otherwise, pick off a handful of oil depots with cruise missiles every night and slowly inch up the encirclement of the big concentration of Ukraine army in the East, which is arguably the main ground objective of the whole war. Mariupol (key second-tier city) and its large and “highly motivated” (read: hate the ethnic-Russian locals) Ukrainian garrison is just about done, after a horrific urban battle. This old center of richest oligarch Akhmetov’s real estate and industrial empire looks wrecked.

    A continually intensifying stream videos is coming out demonstrating atrocious treatment of civilians and POW’s by the Ukrainian side. Likely end doubts about the motivational level of Russian forces, and reduce the portion of the Russian population sympathetic to Ukraine’s fighters. At the same time, recent NATO exercises and big US force deployment to neighboring countries creates an opportunity to bump up under-the-table support.

  8. ptb

    Ok apologies, the paragraph was from what turns out to be a bastardized youtube version of the Russian MoD briefing. Can’t trust youtube anymore, going to primary sources. Note that Russian MoD website is blocked for me in the US. Some of their reproduced press statements can be found via official state media (eg Zvezda) which is still not blocked. The aircraft reported from that announcement were 4x Su-24 (high speed deep-strike aircraft) not Su-25, and still one Su-27.

    An additional 2x Su-24 and 1x Su-25 of Ukraine were reported shot down by Russian MoD a few hours later, as well as a helicopter. Makes this a most intense day of activity for Ukraine’s aviation. Something is happening, and it probably isn’t good for anybody’s health.

  9. different clue

    About possible chemical attacks by somebody or other . . .

    Pat Lang at his Turcopolier Blog raises the suspicion that the Great British forces and agents may be preparing a false flag chemical attack in Ukraine in order to get it dis-attributed to Russia. The post is titled . . . ” “British intelligence operative’s involvement in Ukraine crisis signals false flag attacks ahead” Grayzone ”

    Here is the link.

  10. Astrid

    I get Russian MOD and MFA English announcements via the Telegram app, along with Intel Slava. The other sources seems to be mostly in Russian. I get RT and Sputnik news directly through their apps. Kremlin site access seems to be hit and miss.

  11. Lex

    Let’s start with all defense ministries lie, our role is to attempt to determine how much and about what. For the most part, the Russian MoD has played it pretty straight and their statements are largely born out by independent analysis and facts on the ground. (Still, assume lies about numbers at least.) We haven’t gotten actual military analysis from the west, though the French maps are good. In the US we get retired generals and officers working for think tanks or being media stars. And all generals who’ve never had much success in their field. Ritter and MacGregor are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    RMoD said clearly that a frontal assault on the Donbas concentration would be resupplied by the UMoD continuously; a pointless meat grinder. They didn’t exactly say it, but instead they ran a Deep Operations (Soviet doctrine) attack on a huge scale. The point being to tie up and confuse Ukrainians forces so that Russia could focus on eliminating Ukrainian forces in Luhansk and Donetsk. And it worked so well that basically everywhere the AFU withdrew into cities, which is problematic on many levels but severely reduces the AFU’s ability to maneuver.

    The problem with the west is that it assumed what Russia would do based on what the US would do. When that didn’t happen, nobody in the US knew what to make of it. These are not serious people. And it may well be that DoD isn’t even tightly in the loop. They’re certainly not talking. Though recently started dropping anonymous statements that are contradictory to what the TV analysts and WH say. Like at 3 weeks of operations Russia dropped fewer airborne munitions than the US in the first day of Iraq ‘03. But western media runs with whatever UMoD says no matter how outlandish.

    One side is fighting an actual war and the other is fighting an information war. A final consideration, going “slow” allows Russia time to neutralize not only the best trained and most serious portions of the Ukrainian military but also to deeply degrade the whole of Ukraine’s military industrial complex. Yes, small arms can be shipped in but not tanks and planes. Russia is demilitarizing Ukraine, just like it said it would. It almost certainly is not going “strictly according to plan” as RMoD says in every briefing.

  12. Astrid


    Remember how they handled the mortgage crisis, obamacare rollout, HRC’s 2016 loss, and Covid. Heavy handed PR and gaslighting is the only thing in the Dem’s toolkit. GOP isn’t really better, just more bareface and different branding.

    I don’t really see a political solution to this in the US, the neocon/neoliberal ideology is burrowed so deeply and the populace is so powerless. They always doubledown and damn if everybody gets hurt. I’m afraid we are at a Russia late 1917 moment. All assuming that nobody takes a Strangovian turn.

  13. R E

    I think you pretty much have it, Ian. The US/NATO narrative is wildly off the mark and has been from the beginning. That claim was that Russia wanted to invade and occupy the entire country, which was never realistic–they simply don’t have the troops to do that. What is realistic is Russia does what it said all along it would do: liberate Donbas and Lugansk from eight years of near genocidal warfare against them by Ukrainian forces (who killed 15,000 people, mostly civilians), plus make Crimea secure (turning their water back on) and basically cutting Ukraine off from the Black Sea (the route by which 60% of their exports are transported). The encirclement of Kiev and Kharkiv was necessary to tie down those forces, thus preventing reinforcement to the south.

    They’re doing that. So on that score, they are quite successful. The whole failure story is largely based on disinformation. Much of it completely fictitious. Ukies make up some wild stuff and it airs without any questioning from anyone. At this point, the USG might even believe their own BS. It’s everywhere. They ignore the south, because that’s not convenient to their storyline.

    Ukraine’s main fighting force is all along the Line of Contact (LOC) with Donbas and Lugansk. They are now being encircled. This is textbook stuff, really. After that is wrapped up, UA’s military will be largely wiped out.

    I tend to think the US narrative is about two things: 1) creating false hope for UA, thus justifying ever increasing arms transfers (ka-ching $$$), and 2) to paper over the fact we are using them as cannon fodder in a suicidal war against Russia. It also papers over the fact that Zelensky (Hero du Jour and big fan of Nazism) volunteered his fellow countrymen/women/children to die for… what exactly, I can’t say, but he’s known all along his cries for WW3 will not likely be granted. He’s already a billionaire, so what’s the going Ask to be paid to watch your country burn and people die?

    Anyway, they’re going to spin Russia’s “failure to take Kiev” as a failure, even though they never bothered to deploy enough troops to convince anyone that was really intended. Keep the Hopium flowing! Still, the military math is quite hopeless for Ukraine at this point.

    So now, Ukraine has lost some territory, access to the Black Sea, most of their military and a good chunk of their Nazi shock troops. How long before Ukrainians start turning against their own regime as they bury the dead?

    The real kicker (and this is probably worth of a lot more attention) will be the way Germany’s economy implodes, and ours to a lesser extent. NATO is frothing now, but we’ll see how long that lasts once Europe’s economy swirls the drain. And the end of dollar hegemony is probably the biggest own goal in the history of Western “Civilization.” It’s weird to think we were done in by a senile curmudgeon who just couldn’t help himself and no one bothered to stop him.

  14. Joe

    What seems weirdest to me is that we don’t see elite Russian units or top notch ground equipment in Ukraine.

    Where are the T-90s and T-14s? Why haven’t we heard from Spetznatz or any other elite units?

    I broadly agree with Ian on this.

  15. ptb

    “And it may well be that DoD isn’t even tightly in the loop.”
    They probably have a better view of territory controlled by Ukraine than anyone. The satellites can see an awful lot, perfect weather lately, and good chance there are unflagged NATO guys on the ground hooking up communications for Ukraine’s army at the very least. I’d be surprised if not also coordinating air defense. Ukraine’s job here is to fight and do as much damage to Russia as possible, since their people are considered expendable by the West. Fine line providing materials and advice, without discouraging them. Well practiced tho, this isn’t the first proxy war in our history.

  16. different clue


    I am on break from work and must return soon. So I only have time to say this . . .

    The Russia against Ukraine war reminds me of the Israel against Palestine war in its post-l967 phase. The Israelis hoped and still hope to beat the nation out of Palestinians. But the harder they try to beat the nation of Palestinians, the harder a nation they beat the Palestinians into being.

    If the RussiaGov has as its ultimate goal to beat the nation out of Ukrainians, they will find that the harder they try beating the nation out of Ukraine, the harder a nation they will beat Ukrainians into being. That doesn’t mean that Ukraine will necessarily remain a state. But if it doesn’t, then Russia will have a very hardened very embittered Nation of Ukraine within its borders.

    If Russia beats the Ukrainians hard enough long enough, will it turn the Ukrainians into happy campers? I can’t predict yes or no. I merely note that as hard and as long as AmeriCanada have beaten the AmeriCanadian Indians into being happy campers, the AmeriCanadian Indians remain very unhappy campers unto this very day.

  17. RobK

    You’re a long way from calling for the Russian Army sweeping Ukraine off the board back in mid-February. How did you put it?

    “There will be no full-fledged invasion and occupation, though, if the Ukrainian military seriously resists, Russia will destroy it”

    Now it’s about costly decoys and feints to defeat a credible army.

    A month of watching you react to this war has revealed quite a bit.

  18. VietnamVet

    In the pea soup fog of the initial stages of WWIII, it is impossible to see the whole picture. Joe Biden’s elder gaffe laid out the West’s war goals — “Butcher” Putin “Cannot Remain in Power”. The West (Europe especially) needs Russian resources. Western oligarchs cannot let go of the promise of seizing the subhuman Slav’s oil which is desperately needed to keep predatory capitalism going.

    Russia could have waited. Instead the Kremlin dove head first into an ethnic cesspool with 2/5’s of the manpower that NATO used to invade Iraq and failed. Ukrainian vigilantes are wrapping women looters to street poles and painting their faces green. It appears that Russia has scaled back their goals to annexing the Donbass and the capture of Mariupol makes the Azov Sea Russian. If Ukraine holds on to Odessa it is still a viable rump nation. The basic problem is the West is so depleted and sick it cannot be an impartial party. It is doubling down on grabbing others’ wealth despite the real risks of nuclear war.

    A DMZ is needed to separate the Ukrainians and Russians along the Dnieper River and to separate East from West. Human survival is at state but there is no apparent way to afford or enforce a permanent peace treaty that separates and isolates the 1,000-year-old religious/cultural Balkan blood feuds.

  19. Ian Welsh

    RobK wrote:

    You’re a long way from calling for the Russian Army sweeping Ukraine off the board back in mid-February. How did you put it?

    “There will be no full-fledged invasion and occupation, though, if the Ukrainian military seriously resists, Russia will destroy it”

    Now it’s about costly decoys and feints to defeat a credible army.

    A month of watching you react to this war has revealed quite a bit.”

    You’re a silly boy. I said there would be no full fledged invasion and occupation, and I was right.

    The Ukrainian army is resisting and the part of it in the East (which is the best part, or so I keep reading) is likely to be encircled and defeated en-masse.

    How far wrong was I? I mean, we’ll see, maybe the Ukrainians will break out.

    I actually did make mistakes, of course, I thought Russia would be far more willing to use air power and artillery and to inflict civilian casualties than they were.

    Even if I were entirely wrong, well, so be it. No one is right all the time, but events have yet to prove me entirely wrong, in fact they have proven me half right (not a full invasion and occupation), as for destroying the Ukrainian army, we’ll see how much remains at the end: if the parts forward deployed are encircled and destroyed (the parts resisting the Lugansk/Donetsk takeover) I’d say my prediction will have done well.

    also I’m reasonably sure I haven’t used the words “decoy” or “feint” or said anything along those lines, actually, so I’m not sure who you think you’re talking to. Perhaps I have forgotten and I’ll be happy to be admit being wrong. (I have seen people say the Kyev attack was a decoy, and I may have retweeted them, but I haven’t written that, that I recall.)

    I fail to see your big gotcha, but you do you.

  20. Soredemos

    @bruce wilder

    The Russian military haven’t just been somewhat restrained, they’ve been extremely restrained. If they really wanted to they could engage in total war and very quickly eradicate entire Ukrainian units by just indiscriminately bombarding them with MLRS barrages or thermobaric bombs. The official UN civilian death tally is only (‘only’) around 1200. While the real number is doubtless significantly higher, it’s still going to be increadibly low for a month of fighting involving half a million troops across such a huge amount of space.


    I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the Ukrainian side is getting any smarter or more capable. All they can manage are local counterattacks that have a temporary effect at best. Them managing to get eight of their few remaining planes shot down on the same day is not a sign of growing wisdom. Though it is a sign that Russia controls the skies. If it flies, it dies.

    In fact I expect Russia wants these counterattacks. They draw out forces that might otherwise be entrenched (frequently beside civilian infrastructure, using it as a shield. And if they do get attacked they can then claim the evil Russians are bombing preschoolers and similar), where they can be picked off.

    I don’t think the main Russian strategy has changed at all. The point of most of the fighting outside the east has been to tie up Ukrainian units. If they can make advances, great, but fundamentally none of the other regions and cities are a priority (Kherson was, in order to fully secure Crimea).

    The media wants to pretend that Russia tried to take Kiev but failed, defeated by brave civilians and female warriors, and is now switching to a plan B in the east. But Donbass was always the main focus, and the sight of the heaviest fighting. Focusing on it isn’t new.


    Literally nothing Ukraine says has any credibility. They could claim the sky is blue and I would assume it was really pink. Ghost of Kiev, Heroes of Snake Island, sinking a Russian warahip with MLRS (the ship was photographed in port a few days later, perfectly fine), Russia bombarding the evacuation corridors it itself pushed for, etc.

    The US seems to be emulating Ukraine, with the ridiculous statements it keeps making (‘Russia is running out of munitions’ being my favorite).

    The United States can’t comprehend *not* leveling everything in sight as being a legitimate strategy. It says a lot more about us than it does about Russia (though, yes, Russia is engaging in a militarily less than optimal plan, which gives weight to the notion that their goal isn’t conquest. As far as I know what they’re doing is unique in military history).

    I’m inclined to think that the general flow of events is going like Russia planned. Not absolutely every element (they didn’t expect to lose that suppy ship for instance), but they clearly went in prepared for a multimonth campaign.

  21. different clue

    Here is a video of man/woman-on-the-street interviews in China to see what people there are thinking/feeling about the Ukraine-Russia war. They don’t seem scripted or rehearsed or fearful to me, though how would I know? But if they are free expression of thoughts freely thought, then it is worthwhile for a non-Chinese audience to see this. Titled: ” What do the Chinese think about Russia: a street interview.”

  22. Art

    Ian Welsh:
    Comparing forces in a conflict as a ratio is typically only used for a single battle or limited operation. Ukraine is bigger in area than California but smaller than Texas. Too big to make such a simple force ratio calculation meaningful.

    The German invasion of Russia is a good example. Personnel-wise Germany had a force roughly the size of Russian front-line forces. Russia had twice as many tanks and twice as many combat aircraft.

    Generally , the attacker chooses the battle and tries to concentrate their forces to gain a favorable ratio. The defender has to make do with whatever is at hand in the area until they can move in reinforcements. Air superiority or other obstacles to moving forces complicate things for defenders.

    It is also possible to misuse force ratios and draw misleading conclusions if the forces are not peer or near-peer. Think of conquistadors in Mexico. The differential in the culture, training, and technology of war, made the personnel ratio largely meaningless.

    One thing that seems clear is that the Russian army is less capable than it might be, particularly in logistics, simply because it is using older technology. Russian troops still load and unload their truck break-bulk. They manhandle everything. We moved away from that in Vietnam. We have long palletized cargo and loaded everything but the smallest shipments with forklifts. We are well on our way to starting the next step, which is containerized cargo. If the goal is to ‘Get there first, with the most’ using a more efficient way of loading truck makes a lot of sense.

    You also misuse force ratios incorrectly by using them as proof of no desire to occupy. The military forces used to conquer a country are not the best forces for an occupation. Russia has sufficient numbers of internal police forces that are well trained, paid, and motivated to do the job of suppression in Ukraine. You don’t use a conscript army for occupation. You would want to install a military intelligence organization and a few smaller highly trained military units handy to track and counter the resistance networks and forcefully put down any organized resistance. Russians are only second to the Chinese in the methods and technologies of suppression.

    The Russian army is heavy in teeth and light in tail. Their reliance on artillery puts an additional burden on their logistical situation. Artillery is heavy and logistically demanding. Rocket artillery even more needy. Rockets are heavy, bulky and somewhat delicate.

    I thought Putin was bluffing because I had hints as to Russian inadequacy and issues that generally didn’t show up on paper. My suspicions have been largely confirmed. I still don’t see what Putin thinks he will get out of this war. If the Ukrainian army lats down its arms tonight I still don’t see any win for Russia, as a nation, or Putin personally.

    Yes, he has a huge number of internal police to suppress Ukraine. Are there enough to suppress Ukraine and control an increasingly disturbed Russian population? I don’t know. Yes, he has a fine and functional secret service. Are they going to go along?

  23. Ian Welsh

    They invaded with less than one-third the men, and are taking ground. That’s the bottom line. The Ukrainian military, I’ve been repeatedly told, is trained to NATO standards and is using NATO equipment. (Granted, this may not be as true of the reserves.)

    People let the details obscure the larger picture. They’re bad at unloading trucks. OK, but they’re winning with a force 1/3rd as large. I’m still having a hard time seeing Russian soldiers and military as inherently inferior or some such.

    I dunno, maybe I am misusing ratios. OK, the Russians suck at war but are winning the war even though they have way less men and suck at logistics.


  24. Astrid


    I was going to dig up statists about Russian elections and policing, but these two graphics kinda serve the same purpose.

    Back to listening to circa 2000 Scottish pop music (in case anyone is wondering where I got my online moniker) on Youtube. Damn I wish I could go back.

  25. Lex

    I only meant out of the loop in terms of decision making on policy and description of events on the ground that go public. They’re definitely assisting Ukrainian forces, and as such the US could well be considered a co-belligerent under international law. (I know, how quaint.)

    That’s a lot of naval gazing. Maybe the Russian military isn’t organized like the US. Perhaps it’s built for defending itself rather than force projection. I don’t know if US logistics has gotten better in the last 20 years, but it sucked in Iraq. Remember when we found out that the Abrams and sand don’t get along? The US uses air power instead of artillery but we have no idea how that would work against a modern army with air defenses. I’m thinking that if the Russians can run a huge humanitarian operation concurrent with a very large military operation that they’ve got a pretty firm handle on logistics. I don’t remember DoD telling us how many tons of humanitarian aid were delivered in Iraq every day. I do remember seeing Iraqis having to fight over what aid there was and how the US thought it was kind of funny as well as rumors that DoD had to pirate an oil-for-food shipment because our planners apparently didn’t consider feeding the “liberated” population.

  26. Anon123

    Dear Mr. Welsh

    Looking at a map do the Russians have to be good at logistics? Second, there are many stories about a shortage of diesel. Maybe paid trolls like Art can explain how NATO plans on re-supplying Ukraine without fuel? Given NATO’s lack of heavy weapons I guess the limited fuel can go to supplying small arms to Ukraine.

    There are reports that Russia is supplying lots of humanitarian aid. Maybe this is where the forklifts are? Seriously though, Pat Lang at SST has become the repository for Russia sucks, one NATO soldier is worth 20 Russkies blah blah blah. The old spy even thinks that Russia using up old equipment shows Russia’s military to be a paper tiger. I mean I know nothing, but the idea of using up old equipment first shows logistical acumen. Look at Syria. Keep the new stuff for when you face off against the Brits and French. In Germany.

  27. Ken Cox

    People can choose whichever narrative they like and as RobK alluded to above it’s becoming increasingly clear which one Ian is choosing. In any case it really doesn’t matter much given that none of us reading or commenting on this site are there experiencing what is happening.

    The bottom line is that a lot of people are getting killed and no one can seem to agree on what it is they are dying for.

    Anyways, my narrative choice for today is this.

  28. RobK

    I’ll give you lots of credit for responding to what probably appears like a random troll to you. I suppose we have differing perspectives at a fundamental level on what Russia has achieved here. Hard for me to see what they have won exactly, even if everything goes perfectly for them going forward. I guess only time will tell if you’re read on the situation is more correct.

  29. Lex

    Agreed. UMoD is lying about everything. Badly. My comment on lying was about RMoD, but my take is that their lies are pretty minor. For one, they publish what they assess the starting equipment strength of Ukrainian forces were and what’s been destroyed. For example, they never claimed to have destroyed every Ukrainian aircraft, so there being some left that were hidden being destroyed now is no major revelation.

    I don’t think we can trust RMoD’s Ukrainian casualty totals fully mostly because they can’t know precisely. Probably those numbers are higher. Russian casualties aren’t fully trustworthy either but only because they’re not reporting losses of the Donbass militias or the Chechens (which are national guard). I assume they’re being honest about actual Russian military losses. The flip side of that is that UMoD figured for “Russian” casualties may be closer to the truth than they appear because they would certainly count the militias and national guard.

  30. Willy

    It’s the strangest thing. You can’t be neutral about this conflict. You must take sides. You have to be a Zelensky worshiper or a Putin lackey. No room for critical thinking.

    Reality isn’t perception unless one makes it so. I don’t know what gets people to supplicate to whatever news sources they wind up supplicating to. I’d think it’d taint their critical thinking skills.

    Me, I noted that from one source, the Ukrainian Azov battalion was polled to include as many as 20% sympathetic to Nazis. But then I tend to ask many questions. How good was that poll? Are they actually just Ukrainian nationalists? Are they anti-brown-skinned immigrants to the Ukraine? Do they long for those snappy German Nazi fashions from days of old?

    And sometimes I suspect that polled number would be in line with, well, if the USAF was similarly polled. Doesn’t make them evil, or Putin a good guy, though.

    I fail to see any good actors in this shitty play. Ukraine and Russia, the US and Nato have all behaved abominably and the end of this debacle will not be pretty.

    I think the refugees, the civilian rubble dwellers, and those helping them are the good actors. I think the warlord PTB and their enablers are the bad guys. For me, I guess it’s about who’s got the power and how they choose to use it. And the end result for the innocents. The bad guys are the ones who tend to least consider all the impacts to the innocents.

  31. Ché Pasa

    I think the only thing we really “know” about what’s going on is that Our Rulers are just fine with Nazis in Ukraine (and wherever else?) doing Nazi things as they will, and that Russia’s war in Ukraine isn’t quite like the USandNato’s numerous invasions and terror campaigns around the world.

    Russia has been circumspect in what they have to say about their actions while the Western media and Ukraine’s statements are a dog’s breakfast of fantasy, fact, fabrication, and fury that anyone should be able to see through (but obviously they can’t).

    There’s no telling how this will end.

    But there are growing signs that the West will not be unscathed nor will it be soon fogiven.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been pondering what drives the Kagan-Kristol-Nuland and now Blinken axis in their extreme desire to destroy the Soviet Union…. erm, Russian Federation. It’s way over the top. Is it because they are descendants of people who survived or escaped Russian pogroms at the turn of the 20th century? I don’t see a pecuniary interest. No, they want to kill and dismember Mother Russia and burn the parts.

    Why are they so willing to fight to the last Ukrainian for their objectives? Why would they ally with Nazis to do it? Why would they pretend that Ukrainian Nazis weren’t eager participants in the Holocaust? What is wrong with these people?

    I just don’t get it.

  32. Art

    I’m not saying Russians suck at war. Nor am I saying the Russians are going to lose.

    I am saying that someone in charge, IMHO most likely not a general, came up with a plan that assumed that a mad dash to Kiev and a quick removal of the Ukrainian government was possible and if that didn’t work out the Ukrainians would be as easy to push around as they were in 2014 so a couple of hundred thousand, by shear force of numbers and firepower would quickly prevail. If all else fails they have a million-man army and two million in reserve. Gun, boots, warm body and orders to kill.

    What I’m seeing is that the mad dash plan with an air bridge directly to Kiev fell apart in the first few days. The strategic strikes against air defense were too small and were not backed up by determined suppression. Why?

    It may have been assumed that the raid and replacement of government would be over in a day or two so no need to destroy the assets Russia would be inheriting.

    It has also been pointed out that Russian pilots are not extensively trained or enthusiastic about air defense suppression. A lot of this is simply a matter of Russian pilots getting a third the flight time of US pilots. Even less for SEAD missions. Units specializing in SEAD get roughly twice the air time as regular pilots. This tends to attract the best, and most enthusiastic, pilots into these missions. If you like to fly you get in these, and few other, specialized units.

    The Russian military wasn’t structured for this. They don’t necessarily suck at war, just this type of war. Pays to remember that the Russian army has always been primarily about defending the motherland. Brush wars, expeditionary operations, and assisting allies are sidelines. Sidelines that may have absorbed a disproportional share of funding.

    This seems to show at lower levels. Delays loading and offloading cargo is a very big issue. Particularly when the Russian army, by design, simply doesn’t have enough trucks and cargo capacity to project power over land more than roughly 100 miles without resort to trains. Logistics was always going to be an issue.

    But then the Ukrainians went with tactics that emphasized destroying trucks and logistics. Oryxs has evidence that over 650 of those have been destroyed, damaged, or lost. Working the rest less efficiently only makes everything worse. IMHO this was allowed to happen because driving trucks is where you put your less well trained foreign conscripts. Race is an issue. Less care translates to less protection.

    The raid didn’t work. SEAD wasn’t accomplished. The Mud and cold (Russians are supposed to laugh at cold and mud) was a problem. Airborne units, some of Russia’s best, were left outnumbered and with only light equipment fighting much heavier mech infantry. The land-bridge was not established.

    The army suitable for holding back western armies was left disorganized, using unsecured communications, and badly strung out. Much of the equipment that makes them a modern army, radar and air defense systems, was lost. Lacking a NCO corp they depend on senior officers. Now they are losing those.

    They shifted from offense the defense just to stop the bleeding. From maneuver to static lines. Some sectors are moving again, slowly. Still, every day another couple of dozen vehicles are lost. Casualty figures are all over the place but Russian casualties (combined wounded, dead, missing) of 12000 to 15000 don’t seem out of line to me. If true this is right up there with 15000 dead in Afghanistan in ten years.

    Putin could mobilize and send in a million hearts full of hate, reserves. Simply swamp Ukraine in warm bodies. Good odds that would work. Even if it does scream of desperation and political consequences.

    As pointed out Ukraine is big. A lot of talking past each other has to do with what sector your talking about. Mariupol is not Kiev. Ukrainian morale seems higher near the capital but lower in the SE. Russian morale, I have less insight into Russian morale but I think it is safe to say nearer Kiev it is lower and in the SE higher.

    As it is now, morale is going to be the deciding factor. Which army is going to break. Both might break in different areas. Where? Will it be local or regional. Will it spread? How are those mothers on both sides take those deaths.

    Assuming Putin wins the war, how does Putin pacify the public? The Ukrainian people have had a taste of Western prosperity and relative political freedom. They aren’t going to give that up without a struggle. Of course, this what it was always about. Putin can’t long run a autocratic, oligarchy built on the immiseration of the majority of the population next to even a relatively free and moderately prosperous nation. The surfs might get ideas. That is the real existential threat to the Russian system.

    Besides the whole surf uprising thing there are also issues with the Russian leadership and military. What happens if Putin slips in the bathtub?

  33. StewartM


    The German invasion of Russia is a good example. Personnel-wise Germany had a force roughly the size of Russian front-line forces. Russia had twice as many tanks and twice as many combat aircraft.

    Just a historical correction; good god knows how many actually useful tanks the Russians had in June 1941; many that they did have were either obsolete while others were barely functioning and quickly abandoned. Plus they were scattered and woefully under-supplied. Most Russian formations had only a fraction of their authorized paper strengths.

    Then there was the supply situation. Even the best tanks the Russians had, like the new KV-1s, which had armor almost impenetrable to any AT weapon the Germans possessed, were force to try to *run over* German AT guns because they had no ammunition whatsoever for their main gun; others had HE ammunition but lacked AP ammo for their gun to fight German tanks.

    So whatever numerical superiority in tanks the Russians had was more than effectively neutralized by all these problems.

    The West’s popular view of the Russian military underwent a sea change in the 1950s. Before the 1950s, during WWII, when Western military advisors and experts examined Russian weapons given to us for examination, both the British and the US were usually very complimentary. Even as late as the Korean war, I’ve read examinations of captured T-34/85s that said that some attributes they had were as good or better than those found on US equipment. US data comparing mechanical failure rates of Russian-built T-34s and SU-76s indicated that they were much more reliable than the tanks we were using in Korea. WWII data indicates that Soviet tank armor may have been the highest quality of any of the major combatants in the war (it was certainly much better than German tank armor; the kindest you can say about German armor is that it was ‘spotty’ and that because of armor quality issues, no German panzer was as well-protected in reality as it was on paper).

    Then, after WWII we interviewed a bunch of ex-Nazi generals who often gave us very biased and also very self-serving opinions. Based on those, the Western perspective of the Russian army changed to something like “Russian tactics are piss-poor, they only overwhelm you with hordes of soldiers and tanks thrown mindlessly at you, their equipment is primitive, crude and inferior,” and similar. You see that opinion echoed in DKos, from Kos himself, who being ex-military was trained with that prejudice (his reviews of the war, though relying almost exclusively on Ukrainian data, technically aren’t bad though).

    Many are worse, I got into an discussion with a Kossack who insisted that Russians used their tanks like Kleenex, after they broke down or were damaged they just threw them away and melted them down or whatnot as they were incapable of fixing them. I sent him several links to Russian military archival data on tank reliability and tank repair; Russian repair crews were quite proficient and their tanks were designed to be easy for repair both by the repair mechanics as well by the tank crews themselves, and that if you read articles from Soviet archives about tank design from Soviet engineers you see that the issues of reliability and ease-of-repair were held to be of equal importance to the ‘performance’ issues like gun performance, armor, and speed.

    Only in the past generation, by historians like David Glantz (US War College) has the perception of the Russians being something else than blundering buffoons who only win if they have huge numbers in their favor, began to change, at least among serious historians. But that’s not been enough to change the popular perception.

  34. Ian Welsh

    One can choose any narrative one wants, yes, but narratives should be ways of organizing data, and a narrative that doesn’t fit the data one considers reliable is a bad narrative that should be ditched.

    What happened in Ukraine will become far more clear as years pass, and for a lot of things, it will indeed take years to know exactly, though some stuff we’ll know after the war is over, assuming no massive occupation beyond areas where the population tends to lean towards Russia.

    This is, in fact, the hard period. There’s a huge amount of propaganda and social pressure.

    I will gently suggest that one default to lean somewhat away from the dominant narrative of one’s media and social environment. If we were in Russia, that would mean expecting the war is going worse than we hear, here that it is also going worse than we hear.

  35. Carborundum

    If this isn’t a full fledged invasion, what would qualify? Two thirds of Russian forces are committed…

  36. ptb


    “Ukrainian Azov battalion was polled to include as many as 20% sympathetic to Nazis.”

    If you’re in a company or battalion or whatever, and every 5th guy has the SS badges decorating their stuff, and is all about their far right MP’s with a history of beating up opposing politicians etc … and you carry a gun with them even though you don’t share their views … then you’re still a part of it. This is precisely the way fascism crept up on so-called civilized Europe. If you stand around in uniform while your mates are carrying out acts of intimidation, and look the other way out of solidarity or military obligation, then even worse.

    “And sometimes I suspect that polled number would be in line with, well, if the USAF was similarly polled. Doesn’t make them evil”

    It does, we’re just in denial.

    I’d say the US has many of the same conditions that enabled right-wingers to take over the Ukrainian polity post 2014. Blind worship of military by politicians, belligerent cops who get away with murder (literally), ethnic tension, oligarchs who exploit it to manipulate the political system for money, media and professional institutions getting accustomed to crude purges of contrary opinion.

    We’re just not as far along, thankfully. The right-wing fringe do their marches, but there hasn’t been a national emergency that boosts that 15% fraction of people willing and eager to fight. They haven’t yet got radicalized to the point of sending out mafia thugs to shut down their opponents in primary elections. There isn’t a larger wealthier nation feeding them to further their larger plans. That’s the difference.

  37. Soredemos

    @Ken Cox

    That Daily Kos piece is amazing. Where to start.

    First of all, the T-80U is not the latest Russian tank. It’s literally Cold War vintage; it was first used in 1989. The actual latest Russian tank is the T-14, of which at most only a few hundred have been made so far. The latest tank in common usage is the T-90M, vintage 2017. There are T-72 variants that are newer and more advanced than the T-80U. Only one unit in the Russian military still being equipped with T-80Us is because it’s outdated and being phased out. It’s not a sign of favor to be equipped with them, they aren’t a premier vehicle.

    The Oryx database is garbage, and is also most likely being run by one western intelligence agency or other. It presents absolutely ridiculous loss numbers, and gets to them by doing things like listing different pictures from different angles of the same vehicle as multiple vehicles.

    The Russian military has not used significant numbers of conscripts in Ukraine. That’s been a point Putin has been keen to emphasis.

    There is no reason to think the Russian plan was ever to take Sumy or Kharkov (or Chernigov for that matter). Russia troops are redeploying because they’ve accomplished their mission of keeping Ukrainian forces pinned while most of their heavy equipment and all of their military infrastructure was destroyed. Now the Russian forces can fully concentrate on the Donbass cauldron.


    There’s literally no reason whatsoever to believe that capturing Kiev was ever a Russian goal. This is just a meme western media has convinced itself of and repeated endlessly.

  38. Mark Pontin

    Regarding narratives and what we *can* know —

    The real fog of war and the global clouds of propaganda mean we cannot have a clearly true account of what’s happening on the ground in the Ukraine now. Ritter’s points might be good ones — though Ritter also has his priors — or might not, because the ground war in the Ukraine is another ‘inflection point’ war, like Gulf One (w. the US introduction of ‘smart’ weapons) or the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 2006, where it was only clear from the postwar analysis how much Hezbollah had run rings around Israel with advanced ordnance supplied by Iran.

    Among the novel factors in Ukraine, for instance, is that the Russians haven’t run the US-style aircraft-supported ground campaign some expected not only because (a.) a destructive ‘shock and awe’ onslaught from the air was not what the Kremlin wanted to do (Ritter was right there), but also (b.) Ukraine, unlike Iraq, is stuffed to the gills with advanced anti-aircraft missile systems supplied by the US and NATO, so as a result Russian aircraft support for their ground troops and tanks is fairly infeasible. The same goes for Ukraine’s air forces, however, such as remain, vis and vis Russia’s missile systems. (Which means that all the Western talk about ‘no-fly zones’ has just been nonsense.)

    Similarly, how much of a role have Ukrainian drones, supplied by Turkey, played against Russian tanks? We’ll only know these sorts of things from the postwar analysis.

    Looking at the big picture, however, we CAN know two central things with high probability.

    [1] The ground war in Ukraine is only the front end — the sharp edge — of a larger hybrid war that Putin and Russia have launched to redraw the map on the existing US-led “rules-based order.” Most significantly, the US and EU sanctions on Russia have given Russia the opportunity to abrogate the existing arrangements by counter-sanctioning the dollar and euro with a demand that Russia must be paid in rubles or gold or else it’s turning off the gas.

    For those who haven’t seen the details, Russia is the primary external source of energy to the EU in all three energy categories of gas, oil, and coal —

    Putin has a fairly staggering capacity to inflict pain — to make the EU substantially weaker and poorer — over the next two years, and to create division among his enemies. Indeed, the EU and the US have put him in a place where he not only has absolutely no reason not to, but Russia will suffer if he doesn’t.

    [2] As for the endgame on the ground in Ukraine, the French maps of the current state of play — which seem accurate — suggest Russia has already gained enough control that it could potentially move its forces to establish the Dnieper river as the new border between a new Novorossiya and a rump-state Ukraine headed by Kiev. A subsequent quagmire in terms of Russian occupation of the former East Ukraine — avidly desired by Washington — is avoidable if Russia drives all non-Russian Ukrainians across the river into the rump Ukraine or EU, ‘weaponizing’ them as refugees and imposing further costs on the EU. Does anyone doubt that Putin and Russia are hardcore enough to do that?

    And if Putin isn’t winning the war now — and the maps suggest he is — Russia has a total military manpower of 3,568,000, including paramilitary. Since he’s committed now, Ukraine east of the Dnieper has more of the best farmland and resources for mining — as well as primary real estate like the Crimea — than West Ukraine. Having started this war, why wouldn’t Putin grab some of that?

    So whether or not Putin is ambitious enough to go all the way to the Dnieper, it’s likely that the future Ukraine, capitol in Kyiv, will be smaller than it is now.

  39. someofparts

    Ken Cox –

    In 2004 Daily Kos was absolutely certain that John Kerry would win the election.

    After Kerry obviously lost there was not one word at Kos about being wrong.

    Kos has become rich and smug being a brazen, unapologetic propagandist.

    Taking Kos seriously signals other people that we should not take you seriously.

  40. Trinity

    “Hard for me to see what they have won exactly”

    I don’t think the goal for Russia is to win anything beyond suppression of the “little bad guys” (no money, angry, small weapons) who hurt people, and prevention of the “big bad guys” (lots and lots of money, also angry because they don’t own everything, and also hurt people) from taking over the world (i.e., Russia). Everyone over the age of ten knows it’s a really, really, really bad idea to invade Russia. This is the big bad guys sneaking in through the back door.

    At the end of every day, from the US big bad guy perspective, it’s all about money, and taking over the world, which requires more money. They (the big bad guys) don’t ever pay anything out of pocket, and furthermore everything spent must pay a high quarterly dividend forever and ever (can I get an amen!) So, for the big bad guys, a new revenue stream (arms sales, and new policy aka theft) is needed so they can then buy (takeover and control) Russian resources (revenue streams). Not only do they believe they will make out like bandits, it won’t cost them a cent (except for a few “investment” funds take from the enormous profits they get by selling to almost all sides).

    Going into this, they (the big bad guys) had only two problems. One is that some countries are now on to them, and are instead dealing with China (or Russia, or others) for better terms. This is why they install their puppets everywhere they can. And two, there are almost no more big bad revenue streams in the US that aren’t locked up (i.e., corrupted) already. So this is their solution. Like the Borg, the big bad guys cannot stop until they’ve assimilated every possible revenue stream on earth, and enslaved or destroyed every living person, animal, bird, insect, and plant on Earth.

    That’s my take on the situation. And while I feel very deeply for the Ukrainian people caught up in this, I also know the same big bad guys are killing me, too, just a bit slower, a death by a thousand cuts and a hundred dreams denied.

    The big bad guys are also who (supposedly) will benefit from this fiasco. I wonder, though, if that’s going to be true, or true forever. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

  41. Erelis

    @different clue
    Interesting video and interviews. There were some serious complaints in comment section on translations were wrong giving the wrong sense of the opinions. But what was of interest when people were asked about Putin, none of them resorted to invective and insult and hysteria. They did not characterize Putin as a cartoonish villain straight out of comic book movies. Imagine how people would answer in the US/Canada/Europe.

    I do have many ethnic Chinese friends from all over SE Asia. And have spoken to them about the war and Putin. To a man, they may not like the war, but they all support Russia and even think of Putin as a hero for standing up to the West and the US. Many of them are going out of their way to buy Russian products. Russian chocolates seem to be very popular.

    As for a reference to Daily Kos. It is a cesspool of the worst Russian xenophobia and propaganda. And calling it a cesspool would be an understatement. The people there talk about the Russians using the same sort of themes when the real German Nazis spoke about the Jews.

  42. someofparts

    Found an odd thing perusing the internets just now.

    Here’s the link –

    A bit past the mid-point of the post, there is this interesting passage –

    “It seems the Pentagon has – for now – won in the war with State Department and has begun the process of ‘correcting the narrative’.

    Contrast these two U.S. narratives:”

    So … the Pentagon and State Dept are pitching different narratives …

    … and then I remembered the scenes from Wag the Dog where the political consultants who have started a fake war get pulled over by the NSA, who let them know they realize there is no war, and then follow up by going on television and announcing that the war is over

    So, I’m starting to lose track of the script here. Is life imitating art? Is the truth so far fetched that art is the only way it can get revealed?

  43. bruce wilder

    I wish I had more reliable facts to feed my attempts at narrative analyses. I do not and I am unwilling to root for any side in this awful war.

    In leaning against the dominant narrative, in the scarcity of reliable fact, I find “support” in what I recognize as deliberate omissions as well as dubious themes and tropes of the propagandists.

  44. Rick Jones

    >I don’t know if this the correct picture of the war

    It’s not.

    Russia is doing very poorly, and the Ukrainians are actually doing very well. Why?

    First, the Ukrainians have been fighting in the Donbass region for quite a while, and they have many seasoned fighters. The Russians have a huge number of untested conscripts.

    Second, the Ukrainians have an innate 3-1 advantage. How? Because, as Napoleon said, “The moral is to the physical as three is to one.” The Ukrainians are fighting for their country and their freedom. What are the Russians fighting for? Not much. As almost all of the great generals in history would tell you, that makes a giant difference.

    Third, the Ukrainians have been trained by NATO and are using one of NATO’s principal tools: what the U.S. calls the doctrine of Commander’s Intent. In other words, every soldier on the battlefield knows his or her commander’s intent, and is empowered to carry it in whatever way they see fit out as the fog of war gets thicker. This creates incentive and innovation of the battlefield. Russia, on the other hand, has a doctrine of centralized command. Russian soldiers at almost every level need permission to deviate from the plan. This is a horrible disadvantage.

    Scott Ritter has been out of the loop for several decades now. And—according to Wikipedia—he’s employed by RT, the Russian-controlled state media. He’s not someone whose opinions on this war I’d pay too much attention to.

  45. Blueberry Hill

    Carb, be it 1/3 or 2/3 it is a substantial, material percentage of Russia’s military. This is such a colossal blunder by Putin in so many ways. It strengthens NATO and support for NATO and support for NATO expansion. Free advertising for all of that and free positive public relations at Putin’s expense and indeed at Russia’s expense. Also, it’s a blunder in that it exposes Russia’s military as rather Potemkin. Russia’s military is not all it was cracked up to be. That is obvious. Sure, I have no doubt Russia’s military can defend Russia proper, but Russia’s military has proven itself, thankfully, incapable of traditional hegemony. Asymmetrical attempts at hegemony won’t cut it. The only Trump Card Putin has that mitigates Russia’s total demise at this point is Russia’s nukes. Putin cannot reclaim that former Soviet thrill on Blueberry Hill . You can never go back. Never.

  46. edwin

    Late to the party:

    Russia’s military spending is a small fraction of NATO spending. Russia is not strong. It is not a serious threat to NATO.

    At the same time, if indeed Ukraine has been trained to NATO standards and is armed with NATO weapons, then it looks like Russia currently has a military advantage over NATO when on it’s doorstep with limited re-enforcement. Given the military spending, and the number of Ukrainian troops, it looks very much like Russia has the better army overall. I have no idea on how to analyze soldier capabilities. That would include the Ukrainian army.

    The US is talking about regime change in Russia. I am wondering if this policy is a deliberate attempt at giving China time to arm and prepare for the US to pivot east and attack their number one enemy

    Never underestimate the gullibility of people who desperately want to believe something is true even when it isn’t.

    I want the war over and civilians safe,

    I agree

    and I was a critic of Putin back when liberals thought he was their man in Moscow.

    Never underestimate the gullibility…

  47. edwin

    sar The US is talking about regime change in Russia. I am wondering if this policy is a deliberate attempt at giving China time to arm and prepare for the US to pivot east and attack their number one enemy /sar

    formatting disappeared. sorry.

  48. anon y'mouse

    why is anyone surprised at our alliance with nazis? our elites of that time paid for Hitler to do his thing, specifically so that he could destroy Russia. it was only later that we found fault with his actions and went against him. isn’t this well known?

    Hitler was our man, like all of the other dictators, until he suddenly wasn’t. and i doubt seriously that the concentration camps are what made us turn against him (at the very last possible minute, hoping he’d just go after eastern Europe & Russia).

    just because war films with John Wayne have been playing on the screen for the last 80 years glorifying our “just” war doesn’t mean we didn’t try to create it what turned into a giant fiasco for all except USMIC and US industrial giants of the time.

  49. Feral Finster

    The US fired more missiles at Iraq on the forst day of war against that country than Russia fired in the entire first month of the war.

    In fact, Russia has used a remarkably light touch, compared with our own handiwork in Sirte, Fallujah, Mosul or any of a hundred other places subjected to our tender mercies.

    That is honestly not intended as an excuse, but let’s not pretend that Russia could not do far worse, and that we have already done so.

  50. Feral Finster

    If Russia had a strategic war aim of taking Kiev, the first thing they would have done was destroy infrastructure. Electricity, communications, heat, radio, TV and especially water and sewer. This is what NATO did to Iraq and Serbia, to name two examples, and this is not hard to do.

    Kiev, a city built around fairly modern sewer and water infrastructure, would quickly become largely uninhabitable. Cholera, for instance.

    For whatever reason, and I do not kid myself that it is because Putin is such a nice guy, this has not happened. (Interestingly, Russia seems to have figured out that destroying fuel and weapons depots is the most effective way to disarm Ukraine. The best tank in the world is useless if it is out of fuel.)

    Meanwhile, I see reports (I read Ukrainian and Russian) that the Ukrainian leadership is concerned with increasing desertions in its forces. Additionally, Kiev is integrating neonazis into their army units as a “stiffener”.

    If and to the extent true, one need not be The Amazing Kreskin to figure out what these nuggets in fact mean. It is not that the enthusiasm displayed by the neonazis is so contagious that will inspire even the most reluctant warriors to risk it all for victory. Rather, Kiev intends to force its soldiers to fight, at the risk of being murdered by their own comrades.

    Nice regime we are supporting.

  51. Feral Finster

    @Dan Lynch: I have seen interviews with refugees from Mariupol who confirm.

    One refugee expressed particular vitriol at the Americans, who gave Ukraine nothing but propaganda and weapons, and, according to the refugee, trained the Ukrainians to fight in cities and using civilians as human shields.

    To be fair, I suspect that the neonazis would have done this, with or without American help.

  52. Art

    Ian Welsh: [This is, in fact, the hard period. There’s a huge amount of propaganda and social pressure.]

    So very true. It is mind-bendingly difficult to sort out. Everyone has baggage, biases and flaws. I include myself in this.

    Many of the most experienced analysts are still caught up, IMHO, in the assumptions and dogma about the USSR circa 1975. A vast and powerful machine of war, akin to a force of nature, that fully understood the synergy of massing both firepower and ground forces. For defending the motherland or pounding your way into Berlin to destroy an unavoidable existential threat it is a winning plan.

    I think those days are gone.

    On the other hand, there are indeed people who think the Russians are bumbling lummoxes incapable of coordination and precision and/or fatally rigid and hidebound.

    I don’t assume either is true.

    I do know that the difference between a successful operation and chaotic defeat is often a fight between a failure to pay attention to details and radical adaptability.

    That and military force organizations and structures are very much Not PNP, Every military organization is designed for a mission. You don’t use a drag racer to haul gravel and you don’t expect competitive speeds over a quarter-mile out of a dump truck. The Russian army, I’m not including the few expeditionary units, is designed for a near-peer face-off. In that context, particularly if the battle is on Russian soil, the flaws in the Russian logistical system are largely inconsequential.

    [What happened in Ukraine will become far more clear as years pass, and for a lot of things, it will indeed take years to know exactly, though some stuff we’ll know after the war is over, assuming no massive occupation beyond areas where the population tends to lean towards Russia.]

    I used to war-game. Oh for the days of laying out stacks of little cardboard unit chits. Everything from a God’s eye view. Everything a known quantity. Italian units in North Africa using an extra unit of water supply to boil the pasta.

    Observing a war is much more fraught, complicated, and loaded with doubt. Everyone has a spin. I really do try to pattern match my narrative to the reality with sources being rated for accuracy.

    One of the reasons I like Oryx is the simplicity of their output. They draw no/very few conclusions. That “destroyed truck” is pretty clearly what they claim. Hard to even fake locations. A photo is remarkably difficult and time consuming to fake or seriously mischaracterize. How about 2000.

    There are going to be mistakes and judgment calls but outright fraud, based on other sites, is often quite easy to spot. So far, I have yet to find any issues. I see people bad-mouthing the site but nobody showing any evidence. I have a feeling that, even more telling, is that if you do find some issue they will quickly make it right.

    I agree it will all likely come clean given enough time and access. I love battlefield archeology where the physical evidence is compared and contrasted with historic accounts. Mysteries are explored and often explained away. A classic one from the US Civil war being why were Confederate troops so slow attacking, and why did they attack when the Union had already reinforced. It all gets clearer when the topography is examined with an eye on what various generals could see. The Confederate generals didn’t know the Union disposition. In the first case they assumed there were union troops when there were none and in the second, the exact opposite.

    No doubt that given a decade or two there will be books and dissertations galore to peruse. Some of them might be factual. A few even readable.

    As far as the war in Ukraine goes … I don’t know. I’ve been back and forth. Win, lose, or draw I still don’t see what Putin gains. Then again, Putin, who may in fact be the richest man on the planet, isn’t risking much.

    Worse case he screws up the dismount and ends up dead. More likely he does an Idi Amin and has a plush and luxurious retirement and dies from some combination of old age and debauchery. But who knows? When you have that sort of money and control you might never feel any inconvenience. I’m not sure a global nuclear war would seriously interfere with his schedule. He lives in a different world. Which might explain some of what we ‘little people’ see.

    Anyone claiming Russia didn’t want to capture Kiev … sure. Capture, surround, recognizance-in-force. Perhaps they just wanted to tour the architecture. Lots of that going around.

    Jan 06 a group over-enthusiast tourists at the US capital were just trying to find the gift shop. Given that most of their leaders had contacts with Russians and Russian money it seems it may be a Russian affectation.

    Seems several thousand Russian wounded, maimed, dead Russian troops might disagree about what they were doing in the vicinity. I get the feeling that not everyone is entirely focused on any recognizable version of objective truth.

    I keep swinging and life keeps pitching. I’m feeling lucky if I can duck the dingers.

  53. different clue


    Thank you for the clarificational comment. I don’t know Chinese and have to take other peoples’ word for what is being said. I did note that all those people seemed to be normal man/woman in the street level headed non-hysterics and non-operatives. If they were actors, then they were very good.

    About where the Kossholes’ heads are at, there is a word for it. Antirussianitic racist antirussianites. And of course the Daily Kos is a nest of Clinton Sympathisers and supporters. They all support their beloved Goddess-Empress Hillary’s firm belief that the Evil Putin ate her homework or stole her throne or whatever.

  54. Ian Welsh

    I’ve seen some pretty harsh criticism of Oryx, that they’re getting as much as 3/4 wrong. The pics are there, but they aren’t interpreting them right.

  55. Astrid

    More from Ritter

    This is basic stuff that even a dummy like me can understand.

  56. Astrid


    Your world view is so tilted towards seeing “adversaries” as irredeemable evils that I’m honestly not sure how to start responding. I have some Russian emigre friends and know China quite well. They’re different from Americans but they’re not pod people. They want to live a good life, they’re proud of their history, and they want to do the right thing. They don’t like hurting other peoples and they’re not imperialist in the Western sense. And they’re not nearly as brainwashed as westerners imagine them to be. Remember that both the Russians and Chinese overthrew their governments several times in the last 120 years. Their governments knows this and fear this, the Western governments no longer have that fear to motivate them to do right by their populace. I see the Russians and Chinese governments taking measured and reasonable actions, while the West is hysterically supporting Nazis.

    If you’re actually interested in questioning Oryx’s sourcing, I suggest starting with Telegram channels for inter slava and Russian MoD. They highlight many of the more egregious fakes, such as pictures taken from Syria and prior Donbass conflict, the Palestinian girl yelling at soldiers, and of course the resurrected dead general and ship. There’s also pictures of purported Russian equipment that turned out to have Ukrainian fittings and markers. This stuff isn’t being reported by the Western MSM, so you won’t see it unless you look for it.

  57. someofparts

    The Allies won WWII because we had oil and our enemies had trouble getting enough of the stuff, and we had the manufacturing powerhouse of the world in the U.S., too far away from the war theater for our enemies to mount a massive attack against it.

    So now it’s 2022 and let’s see … who has plenty of oil? and who has the manufacturing powerhouse of the world in the middle of a continent so big that enemies can’t afford a massive attack on it? Oh, wait …

    For that matter, who has banks that other countries trust to hold their money?

    Or who has staged coups and overthrown legitimate governments in more that fifty countries since WWII, because if that doesn’t build goodwill what will?

    But, by golly, we are better liars than the Germans ever were, so I guess that’s really all that matters. When the men of the country can spare a few minutes from their video games, they are completely convinced by what they see on the telly. That’s how you build a powerful, competent nation, that right there.

  58. paintedjaguar

    “The entire narrative we’ve been fed about the war will turn out to be false, and will be proven false in a way which cannot be denied.”

    Oh, I think you underestimate the shamelessness of the US propaganda industry and the obliviousness of the American general public…

    Deny, deny, deny

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