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

Ukraine KIA 500-1,000 a Day

And that’s what Ukraine is willing to admit to.

Up to 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are being killed or wounded each day in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, with 200 to 500 killed on average and many more wounded, a top Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.

In the initial attack, Russia took heavy casualties. They didn’t expect the Ukrainians to really fight, don’t seem to have taken into account the amount of fortifications built in the East since 2014 and were very sparing with artillery and air power. Since then, however, they have engaged in grinding attrition warfare. They have air superiority, more missiles, and far more artillery. They also have far more reserves, and their supply lines aren’t interdicted by hostile air forces, so they easily rotate units in and out of the front.

The result of this is that Ukraine is now taking much higher casualties than Russia and will have a higher killed/injured ratio as well. If they’re willing to admit up to 1K a day, I’m betting it’s at least double that.

Russia is advancing slowly, but they are taking ground, and they seem in no rush. Once they conquer Donbas and Luhansk, the question is whether their primary pivot is to Odessa or to Kharkiv. (I’d say taking Odessa does more harm to Ukraine, as Russia could then easily close off Ukraine’s entire coast, but Russia may want Kharkiv more.)

The other thing to bear in mind is that once Donbas and Luhansk are conquered, most of the rest of Ukraine is not nearly as heavily fortified, except in the sense that all cities are natural fortifications, and that Ukraine is essentially a flat open plain. Advances may speed up a fair bit, though the post Cold-war Russian army (as with most armies) isn’t really suited to breakthroughs and blitzkrieg warfare, as like other modern armies it is organized around brigades which don’t really have the mass and men necessary.

As I have long noted, barring an economic/logistical collapse which seems extremely unlikely, there was never any way that Russia was going to lose the conventional stage of any war with Ukraine. They have a far larger military, and it’s not, actually, crap.

The decision of when to stop the Ukraine war is Putin’s. If he is seen to lose the war, he will lose power and almost certainly wind up dead along with his family, so he won’t end the war until he has a victory, and, as he controls the more powerful military force, he can choose to win.

The longer Ukraine puts off making peace, the worse the terms are likely to be.

As for a guerilla war, my guess is that Russia will take parts that are primarily Russian, and anyone who is pro-Ukraine will be encouraged or forced to leave. Nasty ethnic cleansing, but it is one of the ways you break insurgencies. (They may not even have to do very much, though, considering how many have fled the war. Just don’t let them come back if they aren’t pro-Russian.)

The longer-term consequences are harder to forsee beyond the obvious stuff like Russia now being a junior Chinese ally and Europe now being a much firmer US satrapy. There’ll be a famine, there’s going to be a recession (caused as much by the political and central bank response as the war and sanctions), and so on. Europe won’t recognize whatever Russia takes, and there’ll be a festering sore, probably for decades.

But, bottom line, Russia is winning and will keep winning. The only thing that could change that would be direct entry by NATO, and that would probably lead to nuclear war.



From 2010: The Unvarnished Truth About the US


Open Thread


  1. Willy

    1. Russia eventually gets Ukraine to submit, then in contrition, tries to rebuild what they destroyed.
    2. Strongman fascism takes America.
    3. America invades Canada.

  2. Ian Welsh

    I’ve been telling my fellow Canadians since the 90s that we need a deterrent and that the US has a good chance of invading us (water/agricultural land when things get bad.)

    But Canada knows its place, we would never do the equivalent of letting an enemy alliance to the US into our country.

  3. bruce wilder

    I have tried following the course of the war, but find it tiring, to wade thru the slanted narratives. Much of the Western narrative has never even admitted to the extensive fortification in the East, because to admit it is to admit the history of the conflict and the not-innocent conduct of Ukraine nationalists.

    Body count has never been a great strategic metric, but 200-500 killed per day is truly shocking and way above the 150/day they were admitting quite recently. The ratio of killed in total casualties is also very high, if I am not mistaken, which indicates, perhaps, other serious weaknesses in Ukraine’s military organization.

    I understand Russian Media has applied a filter that makes broadcast sentiment on the War more bellicose and aggressive than Putin himself is likely to desire. I do not know if that becomes real political pressure on Putin. I hypothesize that Putin actually wants to retire from office by 2024, which is not a widely held view.

    I understood Kherson is already substantially in Russian hands, with the Russians taking over administration, issuing passports, using Rubles and so on. Kherson is key to supplying enough water to Crimea. Unlike the two Donbas Republics, I do not think possession was a stated war aim. I could certainly be wrong and the water issue was a sore point in failed atempts to get Ukraine to negotiate a normalization in the spirit of theMinsk Accords.

    Kherson shades into a war of conquest though and Odessa goes even much farther down that road. I don’t know how much conquest Africa, India, China and (all important!) Turkiye can retain sympathy for. Without an outlet to the Black Sea, there is not much left to Ukraine to be a viable state.

    The Russian forces are an odd mix, and that could affect calculations. There are the militias of the Donbas Republics, Syrian mercenaries and a Chechan militia paying back past favors and the mysterious Wagner Group. Russia has a conscript army, but I wonder what the politics of using it in deadly conflict for a sustained period really are. How far is that motley crew going to advance?

    Also, the Russians could not conquer Odessa by leveling it and retain broad support on the home front. Odessa is a beautiful, storied Russian city. Destroying it would be a sacrilege to many Russians.

    There is also the idea to consider that the Russians are waging the “real” war not on the military ground but rather against the economic and financial Order of American Hegemony. Putin is the master of frozen conflicts but he may be aiming a bit higher, open to negotiating for European hearts and minds. Maybe there is a play here to bring down Italy and with Italy, the Euro. The picture of Zelensky meeting with the French, German, Italian and Romanian Presidents suggests that there could a lot of parties to this negotiation.

  4. VietnamVet

    The headline today says “France wants victory for Ukraine to include Crimea” in meetings in Kiev. They’ve totally forgotten that Russia keeps getting Sevastopol Naval Base back after it has been fought over, besieged, and occupied by Western Powers in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is like Maximilian I of Mexico’s French scions supporting the Mexican Cartel’s claim for San Diego’s Naval Base Coronado during the looming secession of American States.

    I’ve been huffing and puffing for an armistice and a DMZ between Ukraine and Russia on the East of Bank the Dnieper River and the Line of Contact to no effect. This is the only way for peace to return to the world. The alternative is horrific. The death and destruction of WWII followed by a nuclear war just like 1945. This is what will play out if the 21st century battle for Sevastopol continues. Russia cannot — will not back down. Only if an Armistice is signed and a DMZ manned by Eastern Europeans set up, will the EU, USA, Ukraine and Russia survive for another day.

    Even if NATO never fires a shot, food and energy shortages and resulting inflation plus profiteering are assured for the duration of the proxy world war that won’t be addressed by raising interest rates which will only impoverish American workers and shutter zombie corporations.

    This 2022-2023 winter may well replay the catastrophes of the 536, 541, 1783-1784, 1788–1789 (the French Revolution) and 1794–1795 when the Iceland Volcanoes erupted, and volcanic clouds darkened Europe.

  5. different clue

    So . . . ” France wants victory for Ukraine to include Crimea” . . eh? And didn’t that UK government figure, whats her name, call for a total Ukrainian expulsion of Russia from all Ukraine, including Crimea , so that Putin could be SEEN to have lost?

    To me, that is pretty clear evidence that the Lords of EUrope are independently driving this war on their own, and that NATO’s continued existence itself is a EUro-British conspiracy against America, blame-America-only faith-based narratives from antiAmericanitic antiAmericanites to the contrary notwithstanding.

    All that being said, the Ukranazi organizations are Death Cults who seek to destroy themselves and Ukraine along with them, like Hitler in his bunker at the very end. And since the 2% of Ukranians who are Ukranazis have been very carefully sprinkled throughout every power-center and violence-processing organization everywhere in Ukraine, like metatastic daughter-cancers, the 98% of Ukrainians who are Ukranormals ( or Ukranormies if one wants to use that terminology) will find it very difficult to separate out and kill every single metatastic Ukranazi tumor cell person in Ukraine. Especially given that the Nazi PaperClippers in America and the Deep Culture EuroNazis of Europe are supporting the Ukranazis in particular.

    I don’t believe that Putin wants to “conquer” Ukraine as in “own” it. I believe that Putin wants to turn Ukraine into an uninhabited abandoned-strip-mine asteroid-scape so that no NATO cancer cell can ever EVER establish a physical presence anywhere in the former Ukraine ever again for the next several hundred years.

  6. Z

    War Pimp Zelenskyy is telethoning for war money so it’s hard to take those figures seriously. He could be … just could be … LYING by inflating Ukraine casualties to get the West to give him and his Kyiv Cocaine Cowboys mo’ money and weapons to skim from.

    A wise tactic, if he is, because the U.S. has a well chronicled rep for investing in futile war efforts.

    The Lead Stiff of Weekend at Biden’s believes he’s identified the source of his low approval ratings: widespread mental illness in the U.S.


  7. Z

    I’d imagine that forty or so billion that the Lead Stiff of Weekend at Biden’s and our rulers’ rigged obstacle course of a Congress recently allocated to Ukraine wasn’t a here-you-go $40 billion check, a pat on the back, and a best of luck wish but rather funding allocated to pay for the operating costs of the war. In other words, a stream of revenue that will flow through War Pimp Zelenskyy and his Kyiv Cocaine Cowboys’ hands as long as they are at the helm and the country is at war. And it goes beyond them, they’re a whole lot of folks skimming in one way or another from that stream of money.

    Essentially what our rulers have done is use the swagger of the U.S. dollar to create a political and financial ecosystem in Ukraine that is a mafia state whose business is war. The more war, the more to skim.

    It also creates internal opposition to ending the war and if Zelenskyy decided for some reason to negotiate with Russia for peace right now he would probably face fierce internal opposition. Not to mention he might lose the protection of the CIA, which could be fatal. They are supposedly looking after him.

    Putin has to figure that even if he got a peace agreement with Ukraine the U.S. will still keep corrupting Ukrainian politics with “aid” and the CIA will continue causing Russia problems so his best chance to get the high quality peace out of this is if the Ukrainian military takes over via a coup. The most fragile component of the Ukrainian war machine’s operations is that they need Ukrainians to feed into the grinder and military leaders willing to do it.

    Poverty and corruption leads to resentment and War Pimp Zelenskyy and his Kyiv Cocaine Cowboys aren’t exactly popular in Ukraine. Tossing their country’s future into the fire, breaking up families, sacrificing husbands and sons, is going to become a harder and harder sell to the military leadership and the public at large.

    Russia is probably treating the non-Azov Ukrainian POWs fairly well right now. Why not? It’s an investment towards creating future Ukrainian opposition to war with them.


  8. GrimJim

    “Without an outlet to the Black Sea, there is not much left to Ukraine to be a viable state.”

    That is the point to the whole exercise.

    As my map indicated, Putin wants to take the lands that were historically majority Russian and even significantly minority Russian, combined with the borders needed for proper defense of what they take.

    That reduces Ukraine to a small lozenge shaped two fifths of itself or thereabouts in the northwest. He’s using ethnic cleansing to reengineer the held territories back to Russian territories.

    That leaves an overpopulated, economically shattered rump Ukraine to bleed Europe dry of funds for military support and refugee assistance, icing on the cake.

    There will also be the blasted no man’s land between the two.

    All proceeding according to plan, if a little behind schedule.

    And once Trump takes back the presidency in 2024, it will be politically unassailable until everything collapses ca. 2028 to 2030ish (sooner if Trump by some miracle somehow loses the 2024 “Selection,” as the US will be too involved with a rebellion to worry about Ukraine).

  9. dsrcwt

    Just a couple of minor corrections. Firstly, the Russian army is a blend of “contract soldiers”, or professional full time soldiers, and conscripts. Supposedly Russia is not presently using conscripts in Ukraine, and the LDNR forces are providing most of the infantry.

    Secondly, the Russian military WAS oriented around brigades for brushfire wars in their near abroad. However, in 2014 when they realized that war with NATO is inevitable, they began reorganizing and have reactivated 1st Guards Tank Army as well as other combined arms armies.

    As the Russians’ stated goal is de-militarization of Ukraine, the attrition war suits them fine. They would rather have had an early surrender but will now make it hurt.

  10. Ché Pasa

    Zelenskyy and his Kyiv Cocaine Cowboys

    Uh, yeah, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? On top of which it’s obvious Volodymyr has been pumping steroids to beef up. I’m so old, I can remember when he was quite a little guy. Not any more, no-sir.

    So how much of the ultra-billions appropriated for Ukraine is going to the drug-lords? Is the end game to turn Ukraine into a narco-state? Well, what’s left of Ukraine after the destruction is done…

  11. Tallifer

    The article cited (and no other news source which I have read or watched) did not say that the Ukraine is suffering many times more casualties than Russia. Indeed, certain sources like British intelligence say that the Russians are taking enormous losses. The video channel Perun analyzes the shortage of Russian infantry and the bloody results of throwing Donbas ill-equipped pro-Russian militias into the fray as cannon fodder in lieu of Russian infantry. Perun also however drew the comparison with the 2nd World War: the West can win if it throws $ 300 billion worth of arms into the fray and perseveres through the days of the black dog as in 1940-42, but my fear is that the West has become too effeminate to strive for victory. At least Biden is old enough to embrace the values of Roosevelt, Johnson has enough jingo (but enough balls? dunno) to imitate Churchill, and Macron has enough ambition to imitate Napoleon III

  12. marku52

    Jacob Driezen has been pretty good for this. He argues that Russia’s initial plan included the race to Kiev on a low probability hope that the government in Kiev would collapse or capitulate. That almost happened, with the negotiations in Istanbul that the US/UK put an end to. After that, the Kiev line just prevented UKR troops from moving east and south until Kherson had been taken (almost without a shot) ensuring the land bridge and water supply to Crimea.

    1000 KIA/day is probably just a ploy to get more stuff from the US. Whatever the true number is, it is more than UKR can afford.

  13. Soredemos

    “In the initial attack, Russia took heavy casualties. They didn’t expect the Ukrainians to really fight, don’t seem to have taken into account the amount of fortifications built in the East since 2014 and were very sparing with artillery and air power.”

    I see little evidence of any of this. I’ve seen no evidence that Russia didn’t go in fully prepared for a number of contingencies. I’m sure they *hoped* it would be over quickly (and it very well may have been had the US/UK allowed Zelensky to honestly negotiate), but Russia was already bombing key military infrastructure from day one. They show every sign that the went in planning to fight a long campaign if they had to (this is also why their ‘shitty’ logistics have at no point ever run out of anything after almost four months of fighting. They went in prepared for this).

    I simply do not believe any Ukrainian or Western assertstions about heavy Russia casualties. Full stop. I don’t believe them. Information wars are won by truth, and Kiev and the West have done literally nothing but lie, lie, lie, lie, and lie, about anything and everything, from day one.

  14. Z

    We’re supposed to believe that the two U.S.ers who recently got captured in Ukraine (I got to imagine that there were also U.S.ers who were part of the Mariupol “evacuation” that we haven’t heard from yet) were fighting for the Ukrainian forces due to some sympathy that they had for Ukraine or strange sense of patriotism for NATO because they supposedly only got paid what the Ukrainian solders got paid.

    Well, I don’t know if this is so or not, but I would hardly be surprised if they were supplementing their Ukrainian soldier pay by “moonlighting” for the CIA. You got to think the CIA would be willing to pay U.S.ers embedded in the Ukrainian military to get on-the-ground inside info about the war and the state of the Ukrainian forces.


  15. The headline today says “France wants victory for Ukraine to include Crimea” in meetings in Kiev.

    It’s worse than that. Putin had the constitution amended so nothing like what Khrushchev did in transferring Crimea to Ukraine could happen again. By constitutionalizing this, the wording is such that anyone who even proposes such a sacrilege will be considered a traitor and prosecuted accordingly.

    This amendment to the constitution doesn’t just apply to Crimea. It applies to any and all Russian territory now and in the future. So, conquered lands will be included. What Putin has done is ensure the annihilation of Russia with this amendment. It means any lands obtained illegally by Russia via invasion can only be reclaimed by annihilating Russia since it would be traitorous to return any territory that is considered Russian territory. It pretty much nullifies any chance at an agreeable peace agreement.

    There are several worrying amendments proposed, however Klishas was clearly talking about an additional paragraph between paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 67. This states that:

    “The Russian Federation ensures protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Actions (excluding delimitation; demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with bordering states) aimed at removing a part of the Russian Federation’s territory, as well as calls to such actions, are not permitted”.

    Klishas is quite upfront about what this is supposed to prevent. In an interview to RBC, he explained that “this was written so that nobody could seriously insert an amendment into legislation according to ward Crimea would be handed [sic] to Ukraine. It was done so that not one state body, including the President or parliament, or the government, could seriously hold negotiations, for example, on the return of Crimea to Ukraine”.

    The Russian senator was less than honest in claiming that the amendment was not needed “to run after bloggers or on social media and watch whether somebody has written something like “let’s give Crimea back”.”

    It is true that a constitutional norm to this effect may not be needed, but only because a separate norm in Russia’s criminal code came into force in May 2014, shortly after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, which enables just such persecution. Article 280.1 punishes for something termed “public calls to carry out actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation via the mass media”. It was feared from the outset that this would be used against people who stated, in full accordance with international law, that Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The fears have proved justified with several real or suspended sentences already passed against Ukrainians or Russian citizens.

  16. Trinity

    “widespread mental illness in the U.S.”

    So, Bye Bye Biden finally got something right, although he didn’t note that it ranges from mild to severe depression (the general populace) to sociopathy and psychopathy in the more “deserving” demographics.

  17. Soredemos

    @Dr. LeMay

    Peace will come by giving up any pretense of futile resistance and negotiating until Russian security concerns are satisfied. Just as was always, inevitably, going to happen.

    One side has all the strength and leverage in this fight, and will get its demands met. And that side isn’t the one based in Kiev (or, really, DC and London).

  18. Eric Anderson

    Simple solution:
    Pull a Nasser and fill the Bosphorus Straight with cement.
    Russia, contained.

  19. Art

    Russia is going to lose. The weakness is palpable to anyone not habituated to thinking about Russia as being synonymous with the USSR.

    Putin is running out of manpower. They are already press-ganging military-age men out of Luhansk and Donbas. Sometimes not so military age and rumored to be without consideration of disability. Videos, some quite convincing, and battlefield reports are of untrained soldiers with obsolete equipment being thrown into battle unsupported. Such troops may be useful on the defensive but in an attack, particularly leading the attack, it is a waste of human life.

    Combine this with Putin’s openly begging for troops from satellite states and reports of IFVs without, or with very few, dismounts, and the shortage is an open secret.

    But manpower is not the only thing they lack. Precision guided munitions, trucks, and so few remaining modern tanks that they resort to resurrecting T-64s.

    Then there are the limited production capabilities. Guided missile and tank production have stopped. They are firing rockets far faster than they can be replaced. Even the supposed endless supply of artillery ammunition, and unworn tubes to fire them, are estimated to be running out. It doesn’t help that massed fires seem to be inefficiently used. Reports of over 200 rounds being fired at nothing abound. And nobody can deny the use of expensive navy precision strike resources on RR tracks and glorified outhouses. Tracks and buildings that are cheap and easy to repair.

    Once used those resources are gone in the near-term. Press-ganging kids from nominally friendly areas also seems to be a profligate waste of a resource, in this case: good will.

    Even the use of units is wasteful. The retreat from Kiev was a reasonable time to pull depleted units out to rest and rearm. Putin didn’t do that. Instead they stuffed the battered units right back into the line. No break. No replacements and retraining. No systematic rearming. Morale, and effectiveness, have suffered. The effect is clear because the Russians are still communicating in plain language on open channels.

    I also wouldn’t put much faith in the capture of territory. The Ukrainian strategy is one of defense in depth using small groups. You hold until it is no longer reasonable to hold and then you give ground. In the last month a capture of a few hundred meters, at a cost of significant Russian losses, is considered to be a major advance. Ukraine is big. Almost the size of Texas. Every retreat is an opportunity to get in behind Russian lines.

    If Russia can’t close the deal in a couple of months the shortages and deficits ( material, morale, economic and internal politics of Russia) are going to hand the advantage to Ukraine.

    IMO Russia has already lost. Few still fear the all-mighty Russian machine the way they used to. They may still salvage a ‘win’. War is always hard to predict. Russia, even if Ukraine surrenders today, is not going into Poland. Or anywhere else inside of five years. It will take, at minimum, that long to rebuild what they lost. In ten years the demographic cliff will be at hand for Russia. If Putin is going to regain his empire he has only five years to do it starting in 2027.

    Assuming we don’t have fighting droids by then you can file that under: Things that aren’t going to happen.

  20. Astrid

    Thank you Art, now I know what’s going on in the mind of Nuland and Freeland. Looking forward to your read out of the Taiwan Strait.

    (Not sarcastic)

  21. KT Chong

    Ukraine is not winning, and Russia is not losing either. It’s hard to predict if Ukraine or Russia will win the war. It will depend on how long the West — particularly the US — is willing to fund, supply and support Ukraine and prolong the war.

    Therein lies the problem for Ukraine: the reliance on America, specifically on Democrats. It is really Democrats that want to support Ukraine: all of the Democrats in House and Senate voted for the $40-billion bill to fund and supply Ukraine, while almost all Republicans voted AGAINST the bill.

    (It was also Democrats who provoked Russia into attacking Ukraine. Hillary Clinton and her clique are still the main power broker in the Democratic Party. Hillary is petty and vengeful, and she still blames Putin for losing to Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats control the White House and both chambers of the Congress right now, so Hillary is getting the war and revenge she wants.)

    US economy is in a worse situation than even 2008: Americans are experiencing the highest inflation in 40 years, a recession that could be worse than the 2008 financial meltdown, and crime waves in cities all over the country. Americans voted for Biden to get rid of Trump mostly due to Trump’s mishandling of the COVID pandemic that crashed the economy, yet Biden has been unable to fix the pandemic and repair the economy after one and a half year in the White House, and things have been getting worse since Biden became president. After Democrats won the election and took over the government in 2020, they have not accomplished anything or passed any major domestic bill. Things have gotten WORSE under Biden than Trump.

    Americans are blaming Biden and Democrats for all the crises that are going on in America right now. America has a big election coming up in November, and Democrats will suffer a historical loss. Democrat will lose the majority in BOTH House and Senate. After Republican takes over the Congress, will they continue to support the Ukraine war? The more important question is: will Americans continue to tolerate the US government keep giving money to Ukraine when the US economy is in troubles and Americans are suffering? For how much longer? Another month? Two months? Four months until November?

    When the money from the US stopped, it will also be game over for Ukraine.

  22. Soredemos


    So which four letter agency do you work for?

    Among many other falsehoods, I note that you don’t seem to understand the difference between the Donbass militias and the Russian army. The militias are exactly that, and do indeed have fewer fighters and rely heavily on looted equipment. But they’re doing a fine job of keeping Ukrainian troops pinned in place, while the Russian regular army, which is not remotely running low on anything, does the bulk of the heavy hitting.

  23. Ché Pasa

    All empires lose eventually. Iron law.

    The actual attrition rate in Ukraine on both sides is unknown. Any level other than minimal is unsustainable thanks to the fact that both Ukraine and Russia have suffered population losses since the end of the Soviet Union. Because of the exodus due to the war, the population loss in Ukraine is around 50%; all remaining “military age” men have been conscripted along with an unknown number of foreign volunteers/mercenaries. Russia seems to be making do with its own mix of volunteers, conscripts, mercenaries and Ukrainian anti-nazis and separatist militias.

    Neither nation can sustain the level of conflict and destruction we’ve seen regardless of the weapons and resources supplied domestically or from abroad.

    The conflict is causing ripples globally. The West is feeling the strain, not as severely as some other parts of the world, but the comfort and convenience of Europeans and North Americans has been significantly compromised — with no end in sight, even if by some miracle the conflict ends. The complications will continue and intensify at least over the medium term.

    The US is politically unstable enough that the strain of this far away conflict could easily trigger the breakup we’ve been discussing for a while now, and that in turn could allow/require the End of (the USandNATO) Empire. What that would mean domestically and globally is not entirely clear.

    Other nations which have seen their Empires disappear in the last century have managed to get through the loss relatively well. The US might as well.

    The decadence and deterioration of the political economy is another matter. Unless that is addressed positively, the end of US hegemony and empire won’t turn out well for most of us.

  24. Soredemos

    @Ché Pasa

    “Neither nation can sustain the level of conflict and destruction we’ve seen regardless of the weapons and resources supplied domestically or from abroad. ”

    Citation needed. The current Russian strategy largely consists of blanketing Ukrainian positions with artillery barrages, before moving in after the target has been well saturated. Do you have any evidence that Russian factories are showing any signs of losing the ability to mass produce rockets, bombs, and missiles? No? Then the Russian war effort can continue indefinitely.

    Because it literally is all about weapons for the Russian side. They aren’t taking massive human casualties. Having meat to throw into the fight is not currently a problem for Russia. It might be somewhat of a problem for the militias, but their job isn’t primarily to take territory.

  25. Jeff

    Ian, good commentary in general, but I think your Odessa vs Kherson as next Russian objective was actually meant to be Odessa vs Kharkiv. Kherson has been under (relatively peaceful) Russian control since late March.

  26. Astrid


    I suggest you take a look at this week’s JMG article, which makes a distinction between types of empire.

    The sort that the Chinese and Russian empires have been will eventually undergo collapse fail due to internal incompetence or outside stress, but often reconstitutes themselves easily in a few generations. The sort that the American empire is, and British and Spanish empires were, are a different beast.

    If we want to talk empires, the Russian Federation and the PRC are not yet empires, though they hold the inheritance of previous empires. Ukraine, on the other hand, is very much the proxy of a faltering American empire stupiding itself to the very end.

  27. Lex

    Holy copium being passed around in this thread. Some people like Art and Talifer need to get out more and not base their world view on propaganda issues by western military analysts. Wasn’t Russia going to run out of munitions by the end of March? Still hasn’t happened. That Perun link is straight garbage. Most of the fighting has been in Donetsk and Lugansk and most of the infantry is composed of the original militias. That’s why there’s a bunch of old dudes with donated equipment … which btw, pretty well puts away the idea that those separatists were/are fully supported by Russian MoD. They’re fighting for their land, just as they have been since 2014.

    And we know that Russia is neither suffering significant losses or defeats because if it was the headlines would be blaring about them. I would also suggest to people that they access some Ukrainian social media. Morale is not good on the Ukrainian side. They’re being ground into a fine red mist with artillery equivalent to the entire artillery spent in Desert Storm, except it’s every day.

    And NATO isn’t going to do anything about it. Russia has something like 18,500 artillery pieces. All of NATO (minus Turkey) has about 8,000. 4,000 of those are operated by the US. (Ukraine had 3,700 but not so many anymore and they’re currently demanding 1/4 of all US artillery stocks to replenish.) The point is that Russia is using a fraction of its military power in Ukraine. And that is crushing the largest army in Europe and stressing the material support of NATO. It’s not a matter of good or evil, right or wrong. It’s just the facts that the west cannot impose its will on Russia anymore. And it should be thankful that Russia doesn’t appear interested in territorial conquest because Europe could not defend itself, nor could the US defend it … except by nuking it (if our nukes even work anymore).

    Ian, I disagree on the need for ethnic cleansing or the potential for significant guerrilla war. Mostly because an insurgency where the occupier speaks the same language as the population is hard to maintain. And also because russia is already doing the real counter-insurgency work. Debt jubilees, rebuilding, paying salaries and pensions. Ideology never trumps stability except among the ideologues.

  28. Ché Pasa

    Wars end. Mutiny is one way to bring war to a conclusion. But so is running low on or out of weapons, resources and people to make war with.

    Russia does not have an unlimited supply of anything; Ukraine has much less even with gobs of foreign fighters and a blank check from USandNato. The conflict will end. Let’s hope sooner rather than later.

  29. StewartM

    There’s a rule of thumb in warfare stretching for several hundred years: the KIA total is about 1/5th to 1/4th of the total casualties (the recent exception is Afghanistan/Iraq, where advances in medicine and speeding up getting wounded men to treatment has resulted in many of those who would have died living–well, living mostly for a lifetime of addiction to morphine addiction).

    So, 1,000 casualties a day equals about 200-250 dead a day. The 500 figure (half) seems high; if it is 500 KIA then the casualties might be 2000-2500.

    Insofar as Russian casualties, we don’t know. However, I will add there’s a cottage industry of historiography in the West that has traditionally inflated Russian/Soviet casualties *way* past anything remotely reasonable. I joke that its’ the school of historiography that can’t do math’.

    Let’s take the conflict the Ukraine war has been most frequently compared to–the Winter War with Finland, 1939-1940, which was a bloody and ugly Soviet victory. You read KIA for the Soviet side as high as 168,000, and wounded as high as 207,000 thrown around. Such figures yields a total of 375,000 casualties.

    First of all, you should ask–why doesn’t this follow the “KIA = 1/5th or 1/4th of total casualties” rule? Yeah, there could be exceptions (maybe the extreme cold) but that should be your first observation.

    Your second question should be–how many guys did the Soviets have fighting? Well, Wikipedia lists 425,000 – 760,000 soldiers. How many units did the Soviets commit? Wikipedia is more helpful there:

    The 7th Army, comprising nine divisions, a tank corps and three tank brigades

    The 8th Army, comprising six divisions and a tank brigade

    The 9th Army, four divisions

    The 14th Army, comprising three divisions.

    That’s 22 divisions (presume: infantry divisions) a tank corps, and four tank brigades.
    Pre-WWII Soviet infantry divisions were 18,800 men apiece. The tank corps would be 12,700 men. The four tank brigades are 2,900 men apiece by what data I can find. So, with all the combat formations at full strength, this total equals 437,900 men.

    Hmm, so if the 425,000 figure from Wikipedia is accurate, these units have to be considerably understrength–especially since all Soviet manpower would not be in combat units (there are logistics, repair, and other supporting services that eats up manpower, and moreover, even within the combat units themselves not everyone is lugging a rifle or machine gun or in a tank). This leads me to believe that the 760,000 figure is probably more accurate.

    But the casualties I cited above—375,000–would amount to 85 % (!!!) of the men in combat formations. That would have meant the Soviet forces that, after all, did eventually WIN the Winter War (albeit winning ugly) would have been utterly destroyed as combat units. Yes, they could have gotten replacements but even then, after one takes 25-50 % casualties typically the offensive power of that unit is spent; besides, the Soviets did not fight that way in WWII (rather than feed replacement troops into the units in combat, as the Americans did, they pulled the beat-up division out of combat to be refitted).

    What did the legacy Soviet records say of their losses in the Winter War? Anywhere from 55,000-65,000 dead, and 265,000 total casualties. Note how this fits much more logically with the “KIA equals 20-25 % of total casualties” rule, and moreover (if one assumes the 760,000 total manpower utilized) this figure represents a very costly victory. Casualties are not distributed uniformly; the non-combat manpower will suffer only a small fraction while such figure would have meant that the front-line rifle and tank regiments and battalions would still have gotten the crap shot out of them.

    This is far from the only such example I have read (No, the Soviets didn’t lose 40,000 dead in the Battle of Seelow Heights; more like 5000-6000, for another example). Or “300,000 dead in the Battle of Berlin” (nope, 84,000 dead). The people who cite such figures don’t seem to take the time to do these simple calculations and ask “does this figure seem reasonable?”

  30. Ché Pasa

    Ah, Greer…

    Keep in mind, the present-day imperial powers are primarily domestic empires, not primarily overseas or global empires such as was common with Euro-American imperial manias of the late 19th century. The US, China, Russia, India, Canada, Brazil, Australia, are all set up as discreet contiguous territorial domestic empires that are or could be relatively if not completely self-sufficient without rampaging around the world for plunder the way Britain most notoriously did, but it was a pattern set long before by Spain in the New World, and one followed by Europe’s major countries and the United States until WWI put paid to the “civilizing” notion of Euro-American (particularly Anglo-Saxon) exceptionalism.

    As Gandhi is said to have said about Western Civilization: “It would be a good idea.”

    As for Spain’s modeling imperial conquest followed by so many others, one of the interesting things to me is that the accounts of the conquest of Peru especially state that all the Spanish were wiped out and all the Incas and their allies were wiped out in battle after battle, over and over again. Strikingly similar accounts are coming out of the Russo-Ukrainian war. By now there should be no fighters of any stripe left, and yet they battle on, don’t they?

    And the accounts say they can battle on indefinitely. For ages and ages to come.

    From Russia’s point of view, the Novorossya parts of Ukraine are integral parts of Russia’s domestic empire. They have “always” been Russian and are returning to the Motherland. Those bits that were part of Poland/Lithuania or Austria/Hungary should probably go back to their former domestic empires, or the remnants thereof. From this point of view, Ukraine as an independent and hostile nation of its own is, as Putin said, a fiction created by Lenin — in error.

    The USandNato interest appears to be 1) rehabilitating Nazis as full members of the Civilized World and using them as sacrificial troops against the Hordes from the East; 2) sowing chaos and destruction on the peripheries of Europe; 3) securing the wealth of the armorers in perpetuity.

    Plenty of looting and plunder domestically, but not much to steal from Ukraine (except people, vast numbers of whom are now scattered in Eastern Europe and eager to emigrate to Western Europe, Canada and the United States.) Others have pointed out that no matter who wins the conflict, Ukraine is being depopulated rather efficiently, and it’s likely the destroyed cities won’t be rebuilt — at least not the way they were.

    The other thing is that the conflict has severely strained the economic underpinnings of the USandNato imperial project begun in earnest in 2001 — which itself has economically crippled most of the West in a futile quest for global hegemony.

    The End of Empire is certain. It will happen. So all the predictions I’ve been seeing since the ’60s that the American Empire is on its last legs will — eventually — come true. Maybe not in my lifetime, but Oh Well.

    On the other hand, domestic empires like the US and Russia and China can fall and reconstitute over and over and over again, and that’s probably what’s in the offing.

    The overseas parts will be let go — most already have been — and the domestic contiguous portions will be reinforced. And can survive through many, many sometimes catastrophic changes of climate, politics, and populations.

  31. Tallifer

    France in the First World War had a similar population to the Ukraine’s around 40 million, and they suffered on average 500-800 casualties per day, crushing economic hardships and the loss of their industrial north, but they persevered to the end (with the help of their allies who perceived a a righteous cause just like the Ukraine’s allies now). Patriotism in defense of his Motherland motivates a man to the utmost.

  32. Soredemos

    >Ché Pasa

    “As for Spain’s modeling imperial conquest followed by so many others, one of the interesting things to me is that the accounts of the conquest of Peru especially state that all the Spanish were wiped out and all the Incas and their allies were wiped out in battle after battle, over and over again. Strikingly similar accounts are coming out of the Russo-Ukrainian war. By now there should be no fighters of any stripe left, and yet they battle on, don’t they?”

    What a shockingly ignorant paragraph. No, actually, increasingly, they don’t fight on. And that’s only going to get worse in the next few weeks.

    Further, it doesn’t matter much if a bunch of guys with AKs continue to be motivated or not, when they have no supplies or heavy weapons. This isn’t a middle-eastern insurgency, where one side doesn’t have to win, it just has to not lose for years or decades until the enemy gives up and goes home. It’s a full-scale war between large formations of troops. Ukraine has nothing left but meat to throw at the overwhelmingly superior Russian artillery and air power. This isn’t war; it’s one-sided slaughter.

  33. Ché Pasa

    One of the claims about the high Ukrainian casualty rate is that it is not true even though they are making the claim themselves. It is instead propaganda in order to cajole the West into supplying more weapons and sending more volunteers/mercs.

    It’s not unlike the Spanish accounts of all the Spaniards and all the Incas wiped out over and over again during the conquest of Peru. “Shockingly ignorant” perhaps… if you believe it. But clearly designed for the purpose of persuading more Spaniards to come fight in the Conquest –and it worked.

    One of our ongoing problems in The West is that almost all the information we get — about nearly anything, but especially this conflict — is propaganda for one side or the other, and very little gets through to us that is reasonably accurate information. We really don’t know what is going on, how many casualties there are, whose side is “winning”, nor what the eventual outcome will be. The problem isn’t confined to The West by any means.

    We can easily believe that Russia will be victorious — whatever that will mean by the time the rubble is sifted and sorted through — but we’ve believed a lot of things. Like Russia wouldn’t attack. Or if it did, victory would take no more than a couple of weeks. That the Ukrainian military wouldn’t fight. That the Overwhelming Russian Firepower would pulverize all those troops in all those cauldrons into a gory mess and so on and so forth. Whatever is happening isn’t following pretty much anybody’s mental script about what might or could or should take place.

    I won’t say nobody knows. But I will say we don’t.

    In a world where propaganda rules everything, everywhere, it’s little wonder at the commonplace level of freak-out, madness, violence, and despair.

  34. Astrid


    The US empire is not sea to shining sea. It’s everywhere that the US has military bases and coercive trade agreement with. Now that the wealth pump has sucked most of the global South dry (or they’re developing an immune response to the empire), it’s turning on consuming Europe and itself.

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