Fog of War, Military and Economic

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It’s been a dynamic last few days in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And it’s also put the issue of often dubious quality of war-related information front and center. That applies most of all to the kinetic war, as in the fighting. But it also applies to the economic war.

Even though this post will be mainly about military operations, let’s not bury the lede. We’ve spoken again and again about timetables, how market time moves faster than political time. Market time also moves faster than military time. It looks ever more likely that the speed of developments in the real economy and markets will well outpace the resolution of the war. We can see some dim recognition of that possibility with government officials in Europe preparing for unrest via increasing policing. But what happens in the face of Tarhir Square level protests? Or a market seizure that threatens Europe’s wobbly banks? How will a finance bailout on top of giving Ukraine an open credit line work if the real economy hits the skids?

In other words, while the physical war is where the action is now, it could easily shift to a real economy and resultant financial crisis taking the fore as early as October.

Now to the war war. The Western press is predictably agog with Ukraine getting off its first successful offensive since 2014. Even Russian Telegram was apparently in hair-tearing mode with what a great loss this was for Russia, how Putin was in trouble.

Russian defeat or pullback? As a reflexive skeptic, I was bothered by the emotionality of many of the takes. This is a very thinly populated area, mainly with small settlements. The population of Izyum is only 45,000. In the early Kharkiv “offensive” both sides had pushed each other back and forth with few men and few casualties.

As Alexander Mercouris pointed out, Russia has earlier planned to use Izyum as a key foundation for moving further south. But they found the advance blocked by a very heavily bunkered “Sherwood forest”. So Izyum became a bit of an albatross: not useful for prosecuting the war, and subject to attacks from Ukraine.

The widespread initial reaction was that Ukraine had forced Russia out, when this operation looks more like a pullback. There were few Russian casualties, no evidence of a rout or even an over-hasty retreat.1 Larry Johnson pointed out that modern militaries do not turn on a dime and that Russia had to have planned to leave. Aside from the lack of a meaningful Russian body count, which is what you’d see if Russia really was caught with its pants down, Military Summary provides anectata that Russian soldiers were being pulled out

What about all that terrain, and the civilians? Part of the distress is falling for map thinking, which is normally imperative in a conflict but is not the driving framework for Russia in this campaign. It is out to destroy Ukraine’s warmaking capacity. It needs to clear the Donbass as a key aim of the Special Military Operation, but territorial targets beyond that are elective,2 and are chosen significantly to advance the destruction of the Ukraine forces. Experts have pointed out repeatedly that in the fighting in Donbass, Russia has often pulled back in the face of a Ukraine advance, which suits Russia just fine, since those advances often make the Ukraine forces more exposed.

But but but…Russia abandoned all those civilians who’d been friendly to the tender ministrations of the SBU. That seems to be much less true than Telegram hand-wringing would have you believe.

Andrei Martyanov provides a must-listen assessment of l’affaire Kharkiv. Don’t be put off by his dismissiveness (although I agree it puts a lot of noise in his signal).

Andrei makes many important points, particularly on the poor quality of Telegram commentary and the map-reading efforts (he has a takedown of Rybar, generally well regarded in the Russia-favoring community, in a related post). Andrei finds only three commentators to be reliable: Graham Phillips, Eva Bartlett and one Russian commentator whose name I can’t hear well enough to render (at 18:55).

Andrei points out that the area had already been significantly depopulated, with only 1/3 to 1/4 of the earlier residents remaining, and that Russia had already evacuated many of the friendlies (and per TASS, apparently made a last run at it on September 8). Andrei argued that the Russians didn’t see much upside in fighting to hold territory when the people left weren’t on your side.

He also mentions the horrific casualties, a point I mentioned yesterday morning in comments, before hearing Andrei’s remarks:

So everyone is freaking out over the map. All the talk is fixated on that.

What is being ignored is the body count.

The MoD, as quoted in various sources yesterday, said:

The RF Armed Forces destroyed more than 2,000 Ukrainian and foreign fighters, as well as over 100 pieces of armored vehicles and artillery in three days.

This was quoted after the end of day Saturday in Russia. But not sure when MoD gave the account.

If the MoD figures are accurate, and most commentators have taken the MoD as accurate or at least not very exaggerated, they killed 2,000 men by at the latest end of day Sat, more likely earlier that day or end of Friday. That implies another 6,000 wounded.

That is out of 9,000 to 15,000 troops. 15,000 is the highest number I have heard attributed to the Ukraine side. So more than half taken out in at most three days.

If this is true, the misreporting/cognitive capture is massive. This “counteroffensive” will have been a worse slaughter than Kherson, but since Russia has not yet moved its troops in to retake ground, and instead is taking them out largely from the air (not the normal Russian order of battle, BTW) this will be the biggest PR headfake in a very long time.

The reason this is not implausible is Big Serge indirectly confirmed that Ukraine was taking a beating in his account, citing a Ukraine reporter:

“There is heavy fighting near Kupyansk, worse than Balakleysky. We are taking heavy losses. The enemy is transferring a bunch of reserves by air. The “Wagnerites” have already arrived in the city itself. The sky is filled with aircraft. Hearing about all this, a haunting feeling of an ambush arises in the soul. What if this all really turns out to be a strategic level ambush?”

The Ministry of Defense reported another 450 total killed in the Kharkiv region in its Sunday report. That would bring the total of dead and wounded, assuming the usual 1:3 ratio, to 10,000 (although between Kharkiv and Kherson, from September 6 to 10, the MoD is reporting a total of over 4,000 eliminated and 8,000 wounded; perhaps they are being conservative on wounded?). Andrei claims that the MoD estimates for Kharkiv are low and insinuates he has some reports from the field.

I have heard second hand that there are higher estimates for Ukraine forces committed to Kharkiv, now more like 30,000. Even so, the loss rate is awful and the fighting isn’t over. And was this increase planned or were reinforcements sent in?

Was this a trap? The Russia bulls seem a bit over-confident that Russia will (further) lower the hammer on Ukraine. But if so, my guess is not that they planned this lure but saw Ukraine massing forces and figured out where they could best take that. But this is the argument, as made by Larry Johnson:

I agree with Andrei Martyanov’s take–the Russians knew it was coming and chose to let the Ukrainians flood the zone in order to eventually hit the Ukrainian forces with a massive counter attack. The Ukrainians are no longer in fortified defensive positions and their lines of communication to support the forward troops are now defined precisely. The Ukrainian attack has not destroyed nor disrupted Russia’s air, artillery, rocket and missile assets. Attacking the Ukrainian units is an easier task, not more difficult.

I am not privy to the Russian plan. But what I do know is that the planning process required to deploy the troops and equipment moving into Kharkov was not a panicked response. Hollywood can create the illusion of rapid movement of military troops, but the real world requires alerting units, making sure they are properly supplied and then undertaking the logistic task of moving those units into combat. This means the planning was deliberate, not a crisis response.

What about damage to Putin? Even though the professionals have been pretty chill about the “Kharkiv offensive,” that does not mean they have a lot of share of mind in Russian media or social media. The explosion of criticism on Telegram suggests there are a lot of people there, and probably in Russia too, who’d like to see the war prosecuted more aggressively.

Brian Berletic pointed out that Putin got a lot of criticism during the Syrian conflict, where he repeatedly allowed humanitarian corridors to be opened, which not only slowed the resolution of the war but even allowed the rebels to get food. Berletic argued that even though Putin looked wrong in the short term, he played the right long game. Russia would not have been able to restore relations with Turkey if it had gone full bore.

Some have said Putin doesn’t have as many degrees of freedom with public opinion with Ukraine as he did with Syria. But Russia engaged in major strikes in southern and eastern Ukraine to take out part of the electrical grid (Ukraine is whining about the damage). This follows Ukraine operators shutting off the last reactor in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and thus taking that electricity supply to Ukraine to zero.

This move was not in retaliation for the Kharkiv offense. Among other reasons, it would have taken some planning to identify targets. Moon of Alabama says instead it is to whack Ukraine for hitting civilian electrical infrastructure, both in Donbass and Belgorod. But the timing worked out well for shoring up optics in Russia.

And in the style Russia has chosen to adopt, this was pretty mild on the pain scale compared to what they could have inflicted. From Moon of Alabama:

Over more than 200 days the Russian special military operation in Ukraine had never attacked the basic infrastructure of the country…

One thus wonders about the Ukrainian decision makers and their ‘western’ intelligence minders who thought that attacking electricity networks under Russian control would somehow benefit their cause.

The Ukrainian military has for weeks attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant…

It was not the only target of Ukrainian infrastructure attacks. As British intelligence asset Bellingcat mouthpiece Christo Gorzev tweeted gleefully:

Christo Grozev @christogrozev – 23:05 UTC · Sep 7, 2022Half of Belgorod is left without electricity after what appears to be a Ukrainian attack on its central electricity distribution station
Embedded video

Belgorod is a city in Russia a few miles north of the border to Ukraine.

Yesterday’s report by the Russian Defense Ministry about its war effort complained about systematic Ukrainian attacks on the electricity infrastructure of Donetsk city and other places:

In order to destabilize the situation in the territory liberated by the Russian Armed Forces and the suffering of civilians, the Kiev regime continues its deliberate shelling of energy infrastructure: generating facilities, transformer substations, and power lines….

It’s important to say that the daily strikes against civilian infrastructure are carried out by the Kiev regime in a deliberate and targeted manner.

By systematically attacking the power infrastructure in Russia and in Russian held territory the Ukrainian government has launched deliberate terror attacks against the populations in those areas.

It seemed to have forgotten the remarks of Russian President Vladimir Putin who had said:

[E]veryone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.

Yesterday evening Russian cruise missiles were launched from Russian ships in the Black and the Caspian Sea. They were targeted to interrupt, not yet destroy, four Ukrainian power plants and to temporarily disable the Ukrainian electricity network:

Russia attacked power stations and other infrastructure Sunday, causing widespread outages across Ukraine as Kyiv’s forces pressed a swift counteroffensive that has driven Moscow’s troops from swaths of territory it had occupied in the northeast.The bombardment ignited a massive fire at a power station on Kharkiv’s western outskirts and killed at least one person. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the “deliberate and cynical missile strikes” against civilian targets as acts of terrorism.

Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv appeared to be without power Sunday night. Cars drove through darkened streets, and the few pedestrians used flashlights or mobile phones to light their way.

The attacks also disrupted the Ukrainian military railway transports which currently move troops from the north and west towards the Vuhledar area in the southeast from where they plan to attack in the direction of Mariupol.

And it appears that there’s more attacks today. From the comments section of Andrei Martyanov’s video post, translating a Telegram channel:

New explosions are reported in Kharkov. An air alert has been declared in the city. The local Gauleiter has already confirmed the new arrivals.

⚡️Electricity went out again in some districts of Kharkov after the shelling

Kharkov, critical infrastructure facilities have been disabled, electricity and water have gone, the metro has stopped

The mayor confirmed. A strike on a target in the Kiev region. There is strong smoke.


According to the mayor of the city, yesterday’s situation on the disabling of critical infrastructure facilities is repeated: the city lost power and stopped water supply.

Thus, the attacks on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the east of the country have been going on for the second day, which gives some hope for the emergence of a systematic approach.


And an interesting thought from midori as to why only now to hit electrical grids:

Kolmogorov was saying months ago that Russia will start advance to West Ukraine by cold/late Autumn, guess knocking power grid now means less time to fix and adapt psychologically for Russian advance, Ukrainians are panicking now, they probably believed that Russians won’t do it due to fear of NATO intervention, even recently clown Zelensky said they’ll export electricity to help EU cope with consequences of sanctions LOL

Needless to say, this is an overly dynamic situation with dodgy data. But it still seems like that the economic war will reach a critical phase before the kinetic one does.


1 I’m not persuaded by photos of alleged abandoned equipment without some corroboration. Ukraine has been doing fakes of Ukraine dead tanks or Russian dead tanks from earlier combats as fresh kills since the start of this conflict. Dead soldiers would be more persuasive

2 Russia is assumed to be likely to want to take the Black Sea coast, but the probable expansion of aims is due to the need to subjugate the rest of Ukraine as cheaply as possible, since they reneged on initial settlement commitments.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you followed Gilbert Doctorow, he described some pretty forcefully criticism of Putin and the SMO on political talk shows, the kind that go on for an hour, in the first month. The clip you showed does not seem to show an unusual level of directness or agitation. Russians even on TV don’t seem to go for American style namby-pamby elite speak.

      There are clearly a lot of very unhappy hawks. This talk of general mobilization is cheap. When the topic came up in Doctorow’s circle early in the war, when it looked wobbly, the sentiment was almost universally against it. And it appeared to be not mainly about not putting young men at risk but the recognition that professional soldiers were vastly more effective than green recruits.

      This discussion also weirdly does not seem to acknowledge the strikes on Ukraine electrical grids, which have now been repeated a second day. That may satisfy some of the desire to Do Something.

      I don’t know the hawkishneness of, which is a general geopolitical Russian analogue to Slashdot (reader submitted news links and commentary) but I didn’t see much upset there. The spectrum ran from concern to puzzlement to curiosity to guarded optimism. No freakout or anger in the posts.

      And if Russia is inflicting casualties in Kharkiv at the level the MoD has indicated, and keeps that level of punishment up as Ukraine feeds more reinforcements in (regardless of whether they initially retake the terrain or just pound them from the air and with missiles), the story line in Russia will shift. The latter is event dependent but not implausible

      But the grid hits alone may be enough to assuage concerns about Russia being too soft. Or they may not.

      It may take a few days more of news for Russians, as well as the rest of us, to better calibrate what is going on.

      1. Stephen

        However muted the criticism, of course, gives a lie to two western narratives:

        1. Russia is a total police state where any criticism means you immediately go “missing” or get sent to a gulag in a super cold region;

        2. That any replacement for Putin would be somehow be a “liberal” desperate to make peace, dismember Russia and recreate the 90s.

        Clear that the Kremlin is deliberately fighting a capital intensive rational war, rather than the mass infantry territory based and PR focused war which Ukraine / the west seem to be fighting.

        Russian channels do seem a lot calmer after the overnight air strikes and the apparent black outs in Ukraine! War sure creates Schadenfreude.

      2. Joe Renter

        Yves, I think you have an excellent overview of the current events re the Military special operations. Thank you

      3. Col 'Sandy' Volestrangler (ret)

        I keep trying to point out to people that the ground lost (or in play) was a small chunk of territory compared to the 20% or so of pre 2014 map Ukraine that Russia now occupies.
        Armies that seem hapless and on the ropes but are lavishly equipped can still launch local counterattacks with some success. The Confederates in 1865 were still able to pull of som battlefield victories- and they were wretchedly equipped but highly motivated. Ukraine has managed to hit some ammo dumps with rockets so they’re not completely useless.

  1. Old Sovietologist

    The pain dial is being turned up slowly by the Russians, I expect over the coming weeks we’ll see a destruction of infrastructure facilities such as bridges, substations and power lines. The rather strange taboo on hitting decision-making centres will also be lifted.

    Washington challenged Russia by organizing and coordinating the UAF counterattack. The Americans are already brazenly demonstrating their direct participation in conflict.

    A change in Russian tactics will show not only the US/NATO, but the whole world that Moscow has accepted this challenge and is also ready to raise the stakes as much as required.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The “We’ll hit decision making centers if you hit Russia” I believe came from Medvedev, who seems to get out over his skis from time to time. But I recall there was a more credibly threatening remark from Putin later that more or less said everyone recognizes the decision making centers are not in Kiev but cities like Washington and London.

      1. Susan the Other

        I thought Andrei was very skillful making the point (or circling it several times) that the West, the advisors of the Kiev “government” (CIA and MI6) are totally perfidious. Recent articles (I think RT) have implied that the West has an image problem that is going to explode if Russia, China, and the Muslim world come together economically. And Andrei’s nexus was a timely tribute to 9/11 and making a point of the fact that the whole thing was a “betrayal” of American patriotism. Foolish patriotism that listens to bots from Australia stir the shit constantly. If the economics of the war in Ukraine is going to tip the financial and social stability of the EU simultaneously with a cold hungry winter, he seems to be saying that time is on Russia’s side. But he is so glib he distracts his listeners from really seeing the obvious reality too clearly. Which all makes me think that the economics of the situation will blow sky high. And maybe the West is so deceptive it will only serve to keep the Ukraine war going. So Russia is biding time. Keeping its powder dry. The West might wake up and protest the whole thing. I think it is just as likely that NATO will blame it all on Russia and be the first to use nukes.

        1. sulfurcrested

          “Foolish patriotism that listens to bots from Australia stir the shit constantly. ”
          The “bots” are not from Australia. The Uni of Adelaide did a study into the use of bots — finding considerable use of them on twitter & most often with a positive Ukrainian bias.
          (listen to the “Betrayl” video above]

          1. Susan the Other

            Sorry, my bad. The bots are definitely agitprop, wherever they are from. I did listen to Andrei pretty closely – the “betray he refers to is our use of propaganda to get us into a war, a-la the Middle East War most recently which was facilitated by heavy propaganda about “terrorists” who downed the Twin Towers.

    1. Louis Fyne

      that looks photoshopped

      looking at some of the social media footage of the explosions from the night airstrikes on the coal plants—this wasn’t merely knocking down some wires and transformer stations.

      Some major damage was done. Obviously no one can say for sure without aerial/satellite photos

    2. Greg

      That’s a photoshop job. I first saw it circulated in pro-russia telegram with the caption “look we can use photoshop too!” (referring to the many ukrainian fakes).

      Similarly, the main video of “abandoned equipment” purportedly from the offensive that’s been doing the rounds is from a large repair yard in Crimea, with a mix of busted russian and captured ukrainian vehicles.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Been catching up on material, especially Military Summary, and am now getting the gist of it all. First you had the Kherson offensive in the west to suck in Russian reinforcements by using their B team. Now you have the Kharkive offensive with the A team which was meant to encircle Russian formations but they managed to pull back first. A major aim of this was to drag in all major reinforcements and commit them to battle. I should mention that I have been thinking that what the Russians need is a mobile reserve so perhaps the 3rd Corps is it. With that happening, the Ukrainians then switch to their true target – to split the Russians in the south and advance on Mariupol. From there, HIMARS rockets will be able to destroy the Crimean bridge to the Russian mainland. MS didn’t say so but I can see what he was getting at. The Ukrainians are using their interior lines to switch troops from one front to the other just like the Confederacy was able to do. But the Russian knocked down the power and thus stranding all that armour aboard trains which could then be attacked.

    But here is really where it gets interesting. This is all a NATO operation. Apparently they trained up 10 brigades of soldiers and gave them all the equipment that they needed. But not only that, NATO soldiers were meshed into those units giving orders. Russian traffic interceptions show them to be mostly British and Polish soldiers. And when you pull back, this sort of strategic operation is the sort that you would expect a fully trained professional force to come up with. The Ukrainians are good, but they are not that good. So as I said yesterday, it is really and truly a NATO/Russia war going on – with the Ukrainians just there to do the fighting. The 200,000 Russian force was always small for the task to achieve and they may have done it with the help of the Chechens, Wagner troops, Donbass militias, etc. but the flood of NATO equipment, training and support may indicate that more Russian forces may have to go into the fray to compensate.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If these are such great professionals, why did they go in with no air support? This is not a winning formula against an opponent using combined armed operations. And the big losses are not consistent with a great plan.

      Alexander Mercouris, who knows a thing or two about bridges, says HIMARS can’t take them out unless someone gets exceedingly lucky with where and how often they hit them. They are seriously overengineered. Russian missile defenses have also gotten better at intercepting HIMARS.

      More generally, Dima is pretty good at day to day stuff but Lambert and I agree that he should stick to that and not try to do strategy. He has gone off the reservation more than once on his strategic calls. I remember a program not long ago where he went into total freakout mode over a report from the Institute for Study of War which claimed that Russia would be unable to make another offensive. This right before Russia punched through Ukraine defenses opposite Donestsk (politically necessary if not the best priority) and moved within shelling distance of Nickolaev (most think Russia will hold until it gets its logistical tail in order).

      Dima has also repeatedly claimed Russia has to wrap up whatever it intends to do by November, that they can’t advance in the winter. Huh? Russia has been running offensives in the winter since Napoleon, if not earlier.

      Ukraine has been trying to take out bridges and dams and has not succeeded even with firing a lot of HIMARS at them. The one place where I think they arguably succeeded was damaging what amounted to an on-ramp at the Antonovsky Bridge over the Dnieper in Kherson. There Russia was already using pontoon bridges and ferries as a precaution and started using them pretty much entirely. The bridge became additional cover for the pontoon bridges.

      I am not a missile person so I am hope one or more of the weapons fans would speak up. I believe it is the ATACMS which are the 300 KM HIMARS. They are described as a short range ballistic missile, in that they can change course. However, I don’t see evidence that they pack a bigger punch than the 70 KM HIMARS, which is what I think you’d need for infrastructure damage. See:

      Three different types of warheads are used on the operational models of the ATACMS. The MGM-140A contains 950 M74 APAM (Anti-Personnel Anti-Material) submunitions, which are scattered in mid-air during the final stretch of the missile’s terminal phase. Depending on how far from the target the missile is set to release its submunitions, they can potentially saturate an area of up to 33 000 m2, with each submunition having a casualty radius of 15 m. The MGM-140B disperses the same M74 submunitions, but carries roughly one-quarter as many. The MGM-168A carries a large unitary warhead designed to greatly increase damage to point targets, while minimizing collateral damage. All three of these warheads are most effective when employed against soft targets.

      All ATACMS models are propelled by a solid fuel rocket motor, with the effective range varying between the three operational models. The shortest-range model is the original MGM-140A, with an effective range of 128 km. The reduction of the warhead’s weight in the MGM-140B has resulted in an improved range of 165 km, while the newer MGM-168A has a range of 300 km.

      Any input or corrections very much appreciated!

      1. The Rev Kev

        I agree about Dima going overboard with some predictions and he was panicking the other day and thought that the whole Russian SMO would collapse – which won’t happen. It is after all, an existential fight for the Russians. Here though I think that he might be onto something. Russian troop numbers are small and by hitting the south-west, then the north-east, it would have stretched lines badly in the south enabling a Ukrainian breakthrough. And having the Ukrainians fight their way into Mariupol would be terrible optics for the Russians.

        As for going in without air power, I do not think that there was a real choice. The number of Ukrainian aircraft got rapidly decimated in the first weeks of the war but since the Russians keep on shooting more down every coupla days, some other countries must be feeding their aircraft into this theater. But being so close to Russian proper, any aircraft that the Ukrainians sent in would be rapidly taken out so why waste them? And here may be NATO testing a new doctrine of doing combined ops under an unfriendly sky and see if it can be done. And so far, the results are not looking good.

        1. lambert strether

          Let us remember that Ukraine has interior lines of communication — although to the extent Ukraine’s locomotives are electric, Russia’s strikes the grid may gave added some friction.

        2. Michaelmas

          Rev Kev: As for going in without air power, I do not think that there was a real choice.


          That said, I have also been seeing talk among Russian commentators in the last couple of days that British and Polish professionals are embedded at the forefront of Kiev’s forces.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Lambert quotes Game of Thrones:

            There are old sellswords and bold sellswords but no old and bold sellswords.

            I don’t see how anyone on the zero line in Ukraine can be deemed a professional, save the hapless Ukraine soldiers who have no choice. The real pros got the word that being shelled by Russian artillery was not at all like turkey-shooting insurgents in the Middle East.

            I have no doubt there are furriners operating difficult equipment and in support roles, like medics, logistics.

      2. nippersdad

        “Huh? Russia has been running offensives in the winter since Napoleon, if not earlier.”

        They have been doing winter warfare forever. Alexander Nevsky was canonized for pushing back the Swedes and Germans in a winter war back in 1242.* On a related note, the same national groups keep coming up in Russian history, so one might almost say that this is just another episode of a war that has not ended since (at least) the 600’s when Russian history was first being written down after the split of the Western and Eastern Slavs.


          1. nippersdad

            That is such a brutal climate. It always surprises me when anyone says that they are just going to take the Winter off, as if Winter were not two thirds of their reality.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              Years ago I had a Ukrainian friend (ethnic Russian) in Dublin who used to complain to me endlessly every year how much she hated the Irish winter, with its dreary rain and not quite cold, not quite warm weather. She said she missed the crisp cold and snow of a real Ukrainian winter.

              She had a baby in 2002 and brought it home to her parents for the orthodox Christmas. She cut her trip short after 3 days. She said she’d forgotten just how painfully cold it is in winter and feared for her baby. She never complained to me about Irish winters again (being Russian, she complained about lots of things, just not the winter weather).

              1. nippersdad

                I spent some years living in Wisconsin. One year we had a storm, from Christmas to New Years, where it snowed constantly and then got down to thirty below, seventy with the wind chill. From what I have read about places like St. Petersburg that sounds like a random Tuesday in the winter. That confirmed for me the wisdom of my forefathers to never live anywhere that you cannot successfully grow camellias outdoors.

                It really makes real the history of the Eurasian landmass being largely made up of waves of people trying to get out of there. My question is why they went there in the first place.

            2. Joe Renter

              I recently read the book, The forgotten solider, and currently reading Enemy at the gates, the Battle for Stalingrad. It really is amazing how brutal the winters are in Russia. The wind is what will kill you even faster. Having an intense reading experience has helped me put my existence in perspective. I. like many have a precarious future as a low-income senior, but I will make it work. I have gravy train compared to those who had to deal with surviving WW2.

              1. Dave in Austin

                Sager is good- and he was French. Why the two best German-side books were written by foreigners is a mystery to me. On the Napolean retreat read Calincourt.D

                1. Objective Ace

                  The German’s who survived were probably busy rebuilding / just trying to survive. Sager basically came back to an entirely intact economy that wasnt that different to prewar

              2. HotFlash

                I remember when I was a kid my dad was reading about Napoleon’s march on Moscow. This was half a century ago (the reading, not the march). Dad got up to put on a sweater and make himself a sandwich. I felt sorry for Napoleon.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Not to put a too fine point on it, but ever since the dawn of time the early to mid winter was the preferred time for war, be it raiding or conquering, in the Nordic, Baltic and Novogorodian area. In the summer people had too much to do, scraping the living out of land, and there was not enough surplus before the harvest, anyway.

          But come the winter, extra animals have been butchered, grain is stored and low temperatures freeze the rivers and lakes allowing easy passage and fast travel. And much easier for men, already bored out of their wits, to leave their homesteads in the hope of easy victories and good loot.

          I believe it was only in the 17th century when kings started to disperse their troops to winter camps. The armies with all their logistical tails had become too big to provision during winter months.

      3. Stephen T Johnson

        On bridges (I’m an engineer, but not a civil or structural one), it’s quite easy to knock one down with demolition charges if you control it. Doing it with artillery or missiles is rather more challenging. Most bridges have 3 main structural elements:
        1) Vertical piles to support the structure
        2) Horizontal beams to support the decking, over which vehicles travel
        3) Arches or suspension cables to distribute the load.
        These elements are very robust on big bridges. In general, they’re really hard to destroy. Even that crappy little bridge in – Atoka was ir? East of Odessa anyway. That bridge took a lot of 500 kg Kalibr warheads to take out, and even then it was repairable. The biggest ATACMS warhead is 300 kg, with a range of 150 km (There’s also a 150kg/300km version). Neither is adequate to knock down a substantial bridge.

        As well as those, there’s the actual decking over which vehicles travel. It’s easy to poke holes in this, even quite large ones. The problem is, they’re pretty easy to repair, too. The Antonovsky bridge in Kherson oblast is a good example of that.
        At present, AFAICT the UAF have nothing that could credibly take down the Kerch strait bridge, any more than they could bust the nuclear reactor containment shell at ZNPP, though they can smash up the support equipment.

            1. HotFlash

              That’s by an engineer from Mr. HotFlash’s alma mater. Alma and all her Rensselaer PI kids are so embarrassed.

        1. nippersdad

          I once read about the resonant frequency of cats running over bridges having the potential for taking them down. It may not be long before we hear about the hypersecret cat missiles that will win the bridge war in Ukraine. We will have to train up some more Naval dolphins to save them when the bridge comes down, though. We already have the trained cat patrols to round them up and herd them back to Missile Base Alpha* so that they can be reused for other bridges.

          This might be the new Havana Syndrome spending niche the MIC has been looking for.


      4. Sibiryak

        Dima is pretty good at day to day stuff but has gone off the reservation more than once on his strategic calls.

        Yep. Another example: not long ago Dima speculated that the large Russian helicopter/paratrooper force that was forming in southern Ukraine was probably going to be used in a daring offensive operation to encircle Nikolaev, or something like that. Never happened.

        Having said that, I do find Dima’s basic thesis about the Russian Kharkov retreat to be fairly compelling [that Russia needed to avoid having substantial forces pinned down (or worse, encircled) in the Kharkov region so that they would be free to help blunt a third Ukrainian counter-offensive toward Ugledar /Vuhledar].

        Less compelling is Dima’s speculation that the ultimate aim of the Ukrainian counter-offensive is to take Donetsk city/region, carry out a referendum there that would validate the Ukrainian claim to that territory and thereby deprive Russia of its central justification for invading Ukraine. All that would supposedly lead to a negotiated settlement wherein Ukraine would recognize

        1. The Rev Kev

          Yeah, that bit about Donetsk voting to join the Ukraine was just nuts. Would they actually vote for the people that have been bombing them and trying to kill them the past eight years? Can you imagine what it would be like if the Ukrainians took over Donetsk city? Pogrom does not even begin to describe it.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Ukrainians already consider Donbass being eternal and inseparable part of Ukraine, so why would they bother with a referendum? Especially since, if my memory serves me right, Ukrainian army was deployed in Donbass first time in 1991 to prevent such a referendum.

      5. PlutoniumKun

        Just to be clear, HIMARs is a vehicle launching system, ATACMS is a type of missile. ATACMS can be launched from a HIMARS, but they are usually used for smaller shorter ranged rockets (GMLRS). The missiles for HIMARS have been widely sold, so they may be getting to Ukraine from other sources.

        You can ask any bridge engineer, and they’ll tell you its very hard to destroy a modern bridge of any design with explosive charges as its hard not to get the explosive power to disperse. It either has to be a very large bomb, or it has to penetrate and explode in a precise manner in the supporting structure or span. In the Vietnam War, the US used up vast amount of explosives to knock out bridges to little avail until the laser guided bomb was invented, and the latter were usually 2,000 lb bombs. Even then, they often had to use several to completely break the spans. You can still see the old abutments of bombed bridges in Laos and Vietnam on the old Ho Chi Minh Trail next to the modern road bridges – sometimes more than one.

        The biggest warhead for an ATACMS is around 500lbs (the Russian Iskander has a much larger warhead) and with GPS guidance almost certainly will have a larger CEP than a laser guided weapon. The ATACMS was never really designed for this type of strike, it was designed as battlefield artillery – Nato/US doctrine always focuses on manned aircraft to knock out key infrastructure, not rockets. So its unsurprising that they are not having much of an effect on bridges. The Ukrainian focus on bridges indicates to me that they are either more interested in highly visible strikes than effective ones, or they lack the targeting data to hit more useful targets, such as Russian command centers or ammo dumps.

        1. Paradan

          LGB 2m CEP, but smoke, clouds, and fog interfere with targeting.
          GPS 5m CEP, all weather, more flexible launch envelope.

          The Russians have smoke generators around the bridges, and probably GPS jammers too.

          The HIMARS is undergoing a series of upgrades, the first of which is due next year. The Precision Strike Munition is a 500lb warhead with a 300 mile range. Guidance is GPS with inertial back-up for the flight to the target. It then switches to an imaging infrared or passive radar guidance. CEP 10m, but against a target like a bridge, you can (speculating here) run a little simulation that shows what the bridge should look like at any given moment and then compare that to the IIR image, so might be able to pick where you hit better.

          1. Tor User

            This photo


            Seems to indicate better than 5m CEP for the HIMARS strikes on the bridge. In other photos that far lane looks like it took about a half dozen strikes.

            Yes, I know we don’t know how many attempts there have been to get that pattern.

            The GPS jamming doesn’t seem to have done much against the HIMARS strikes. And with HARMS now being launched from both Mig-29’s and SU-27’s with home on jam capability the GPS jamming will be less effective.

      6. Col 'Sandy' Volestrangler (ret)

        The Russians began their offensive in the winter, so the idea they need to wrap up by then is silly. Unless the idea is they will lose popular support-which is also very doubtful

    2. Stephen

      I posted a comment on Links before I noticed this excellent article and these insightful comments here.

      Mark Sleboda on his Telegram channel is making a similar point about the main Ukraine offensive being expected towards Mariupol. If so, the Russians are not so much setting a trap in Kharkov as avoiding one.

      The big caveat is that we do not know the extent of Ukrainian casualties. They do seem to be fighting like mass infantry charging towards Russian guns without air support. Almost the caricature of how the west saw the 1941-5 Red Army. I exaggerate but the point is directionally valid.

      However unconcerned NATO and Ukrainian elites are about Ukrainian casualties there surely must be a point too where enough is enough and the armies stop functioning. There is presumably not an inexhaustible pool of men who are keen to be cannon fodder; nor can casualties amongst any NATO operatives be covered up for ever either. No matter how compliant corporatist media is.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I need to turn in and haven’t looked at rail lines, but if the Kherson offensive has pretty much gone kaput, it would not seem hard for Russia to move some of the BTGs there towards Mariupol. If the intent was to overwhelm Russia, you’d think they would have been launched simultaneously as opposed to in succession. This may suggest a higher order limitation of some sort on the Western side.

        1. Stephen

          Or the idea was deliberately to suck first class regular Russian troops into Kharkov fighting. Commit them. Make disengagement hard. Then launch another attack in the centre against Donbass militias that could not be reinforced and in an area that really matters to Russia.

          By not committing in Kharkov, the Russian General Staff may have nullified the plan. The Ukrainian / really NATO overall plan may have been over elaborate (easy to believe if so many chefs were involved), underestimated Russian strategic savvy or have just reflected the limitations you mention. Or maybe all three.

          German 1918 Spring Offensive was similarly conceived as a whole series of sequential attacks designed to draw in the Allies and overwhelm them. Of course, it failed!

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I suspect Kiev believes they have a time limit. If the Euro zone’s economic consequences continue and military stores are depleted, it’s going to be a cold winter as oil remains a valued commodity despite Janet Yellin’s price cap nonsense. Russia won’t have a problem finding customers for its export industry.

            Kiev is already fundraising for winter clothing. My sense is they are going to throw everything they have into it, probably with the goal of cutting off RF forces and creating shelling terror in a cut off Crimea. If they don’t pull off a major play, they will go into winter and likely hear Biden is putting Harris in charge of Ukraine coordination.

            Reasonably, they would simply get ground down if they don’t launch waves of men as its all they have. The SCO is growing. Argentina is trying to join BRICS. India is a major country. Brazil will have Lula or be in major turmoil. The idea the G7 is the world despite always being able to count on the Isle of Mann is ending. The hysterically predicted collapse of the Russian economy which largely uses roubles internally it when Russians can’t buy BMWs isn’t coming to fruition. Russias still can’t buy BMWs, but it won’t be because they can’t get Euros but because the BMW factories are shut down.

            The lack of celebration by US officialdom and Miley’s worries suggest to me the Pentagon wasn’t too keen on Kiev’s campaign and knows the Russians won’t get caught, too caught off guard. It’s not World War I with messenger pigeons.

            1. hemeantwell

              How confident can Ukraine be in their ability to maintain secrecy? Aside from a variety of aerial surveillance systems, can’t we assume the Russians have riddled the military with informants? I strongly doubt that the Russians can be surprised, though they may miscalculate.

    3. Louis Fyne

      — Apparently they trained up 10 brigades of soldiers and gave them all the equipment that they needed—

      Reasonable guess is that the soldiers who were used in this offensive were the professional soldiers who were remaining (healed and/or retrained in the West) after the one-half of the war.

      I do not want to be in a conscript unit sent in an offensive against a professional army.

      And purportedly from Russia social media, the units overrun were Donbas militia and Russian military police—no Russian infantry units at all.

      Whether intentional or by accident/negligence, the area of the breakthrough was a blatant weak point.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I think that a lot of those Ukrainian soldiers were actually being trained in NATO countries like the UK where they would be safe from bombing. Then they were brought back to the Ukraine to be married up with their equipment before the offensive.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          That training is a joke. Mercouris went on about it. I think he got the underlying intel from someone like Berletic but Mercouris riffed on it very well.

          This was the official billing:

          Hundreds of new Ukrainian Army recruits are training to liberate Ukraine from the Russian invasion — but they are doing it more than 1,000 miles away in England. They are part of the 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers that the British military has pledged to train within 120 days.

          Now normal basic training is three months, so this sounds viable, although Berletic, who got four months of basic training as a Marine, said you still barely know anything after basic training and you needed to learn more with your unit. And stuff like operating a tank takes a lot more instruction.

          But it turns out the plan was to send 4 groups of 2500 and train each for 3 weeks!!! They didn’t have the capacity to train 10,000 men at once.

          1. The Rev Kev

            I agree about this and the numbers for the UK were far under what would be needed to replace casualties though I do not think we know how many NATO countries are training these troops. I think that there might be something missing from the picture and that is the training for specialist troops. And here I mean scouts, sabotage groups, assassination teams and these were the troops that led the way in Kharkive. But you never hear much about them being trained – only regular infantry. But there was a recent story how a bunch of Ukrainians were brought to the US for specialist training that was used days later to hit the Russian ship Moskva. So what I am saying is that these guys are being trained just enough to fill up the numbers but they are also a cover for those getting more specialized training behind the scenes.

          2. jan van mourik

            Nowadays for the Dutch army the initial general training for new recruits is 4 months, followed by a function based training of 3 months.
            Being rushed to the front after 4 weeks of training seems suboptimal.

            1. Louis Fyne

              in the US Army, after basic boot camp of 10 weeks, infantry soldiers get another 22 weeks of infantry warfare training. 32 weeks / 8 months.

              1. KD

                U.S. enlisted infantry enter OSUT (One Station Unit Training) training for 22 weeks, which includes basic training, and this was recently increased from 16 weeks (so basic training 10 weeks + 6 weeks prior to 2019). Field artillery is 7 weeks after Basic. Marines have 14 weeks of initial training because they learn to swim. You can get a functional combat arms grunt in 3-4 months of training.

    4. Kouros

      It seems to me that all this effort can be summarized very succinctly as a pyrrhic victory. And the Russians haven’t even started hitting in earnest. Fought so far with one arm tied back and more…

  3. Sibiryak

    Yves: …one Russian commentator whose name I can’t hear well enough to render

    That would be Евгений Поддубный (Evgenii Poddubnyi, Evgeniy Poddubnyy), a prominent Russian war correspondent featured on mainstream Russian TV channels.

  4. Louis Fyne

    Ukraine is going to need transformers, etc. to rebuild the damage to its infrastructure (whatever the level).

    Doubt UA even has a reserve of transformers to deploy. So is EU and US going to send every spare electrical widget to UA now too?

    Most of UA’s trains (and water) can’t run without electricity.

    1. The Rev Kev

      California: ‘Hey, why are we having all these blackouts?’

      Blinken: ‘We had to send our reserve of transformers to the Ukraine as they need them for their victory. Slava Ukraini!’

      Seriously, I also read that the Ukraine had to shut down power units in two of their nuclear power plants due to imbalance problems as they could generate the electricity but there would be nowhere for it to go.

    2. nippersdad

      Good point about the water. If they wait too long to fix that it may soon become impossible to fix at all once freezing weather sets in. Replacing every water hydrant, much less the plumbing in every building, in Ukraine would be a logistics nightmare.

  5. Gregorio

    Considering the effects of the sanctions on the west and the bleeding of their military hardware to sustain Ukraine, I have to wonder if Putin’s strategy is stretching out the conflict to “overextend and unbalance” NATO and the U.S.?

    1. Foy

      Yes Gregorio I think the Russians are going to do the reverse Rand report on EU and NATO, why wouldn’t they now that US/NATO have shown their cards? Looking long term this is the opportunity to breakup NATO as a force and reduce EU as a threat to Russia for decades. The BRICS+ block world order is the goal.

      The longer the sanctions are in place the more impact the reduction in supply of Russian energy will have on European countries economies, and the greater the internal EU/NATO bickering will be as they all have differing needs. With each country having a veto the EU is not agreement capable internally in a crisis situation. Short of going nuclear, NATO does not have the ability to win a conventional war with Russia according to Ritter, Martynov et al. And nuclear is not winning.

      Europe and NATO said earlier in the SMO that they were going to destroy the Russian economy. I’m sure that was heard loud and clear in Moscow, not that it was anything they didn’t already suspect but now it is well and truly confirmed.

      Russia wont get another opportunity like this to make sure that does not happen for decades if Europe implodes under the weight of its own sanctions. If they can weaken Europe and NATO now so that they are not a threat why would they not take it? It is now confirmed the West is ‘not agreement capable’. Russia doesn’t have to agree/negotiate anything now, the sanctions and subsequent EU energy crisis will do its work for it. They can just continually refer to the treaty ultimatum they gave in Oct last year to return NATO to its 1997 borders etc and wait for sanctions to do their thing.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have no idea what he is talking about. It’s the Communists, the left, that are the hawks, not the right wing. If the discussion above in comments is correct and the West is planning a third punch at Mariupol, the MoD will look like a genius for not taking the bait at Kharkiv but still inflicting big losses on the Ukraine forces by pulling them out in the open and pounding them from the air.

      Second, Russia is not the USSR under Stalin. It’s a democracy. The country has a professional bureaucracy and a professional military. Putin is up for re-election in early 2024. If he lost the support of the Duma, he has the sense and survival instincts to step down. He’s want to assure an orderly transition as part of his legacy if at all possible.

      Welsh is running some sort of bad Bond movie/cold war fantasy about how Russia works. If anyone is going to whack Putin, the odds greatly favor it being someone outside Russia.

      Third, Putin has ALWAYS had to worry about internal politics. Historically, he had to worry about the Western-leaning middle class. They are about 20% of the vote and normally pretty sensitive about how the economy is going. The Western sanctions did Putin a huge favor by conclusively showing them the West hates them even though it was formerly happy to take their money.

      Fourth, this moderate business is all wrong. Putin is a dovish neoliberal and takes the very long view that avoiding creating enemies whenever possible is a good idea.

      1. KD

        Its the Communist Left, the Nationalist Right, and the Anti-Western Centrists (Chinese Camp–probably where Putin will have to settle) that are the hawks. Moscow has plenty of PMC wannabes who hate Russia and want to surrender, and the Plutocrats want their BMW’s and their Rolex’s and their globalist ambitions and are willing to sell their country for them. But Moscow isn’t Russia.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Dictatorships or not, all governments are constrained by the consent of the governed. Putin’s political party is a grab bag mess of people who really had no idea of what to do as the 90’s turned into the 00’s. Putin was picked as Yeltsin’s VP because he was an anti-Yeltsin voice without being aligned with the communists or nationalists and subsequently would never be able to put any group against the wall if he became President and wouldnt have allies if he iced Yeltsin. Small c conservatism will always be a hallmark of Putin. Given the lack of strong political institutions, it’s probably best that small c conservatism be the course for a while.

      Putin has made remarks about the state of political life.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Russia is not a dictatorship. Putin had trouble getting elected in 2012 after his cute swap with Medvedev. It was a merely OK win, IIRC 52%, and that after campaigning hard.

        1. omg

          I spend most of my life living between Moscow and Tver.
          Its clear that this writer has no clue about Russia or Putin.
          Russia is not a dictatorship, Putin is elected after campaigning hard. LOL LOL LOL LOL
          In other news, freedom is slavery, war is peace, ignorance is strength.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Democracy and authoritarianism can co-exist. The SMO required formal approval by the Security Council and then the Duma. It was actually the opposition party that called for recognition of the breakaway republics in February and put forward the bill. Some observers though it was unserious precisely because it didn’t come from Putin/Putin’s party. The executive is also subject to budgetary approval by the Duma and I understand the budget process is pretty strict. Putin can’t spend money because he feels like it.

            Russia may be authoritarian but Putin recently scored high on polls run by Levada, wiidely seen as an anti-Putin pollster. The sort of criticism you see on Telegram and Russian TV you’d never see in China or even Thailand.

            And the sainted Zelensky has shut down all opposition parties, all opposition press, and jailed some opposition leaders. But we are told Ukraine is a democracy.

        2. KD

          From Foreign Affairs, September/October 2022 Issue:

          “Ukraine Holds the Future: The War between Democracy and Nihilism” by Timothy Snyder, a Richard C. Levin Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University.

          First sentence: “Russia, an aging tyranny, seeks to destroy Ukraine, a defiant democracy.”

          You need to read DC Comics these days if you are looking for nuance, and stay away from Yale.

  6. Tom Pfotzer

    We’ll see if the temporary removal of electrical power makes a significant difference in the interior mobility of Ukraine’s forces.

    As of 2020, the count of locomotives was distributed between all-electric and diesel-electric as follows: total locomotives – 1,944. All-electric – 1,627, diesel-electric – 301)

    It doesn’t take very long – a day or two – to move a locomotive from one part of Ukraine to the next.

    One note: Ukraine’s rail gauge of 5′ is different than most of the rest of Europe. Ukraine’s current stock of diesel-electric locomotives is probably (nearly) all they’ll have available in the next several weeks.

    Per Larry Johnson, the retreat was clearly planned well in advance, so the issue of “surprise” to me has been laid to rest. There was no surprise. Larry Johnson makes a compelling case, and he’s got the credentials to back it up: a career of high-level military logistics planning and modeling.

    Now the question becomes whether or not Ukraine really did move their bestest-and-mostest* out from protected zones, and into unprotected zones, and whether Russia can and will use their air and artillery advantages to destroy that committed Ukraine force, if indeed it truly is committed. The next week or so will tell that tale.

    So that’s the war-war part.

    The economic-war part, per Yves’ remarks is in motion, but I don’t see a great velocity change in the last few weeks. It’s still the slow-grind routine.

    On the other hand, the domestic-politics part of the war has very significantly changed state.

    The internal Russian politics has likely shifted. The retreat and _apparent_ loss of momentum is likely to tilt the Russian public’s attitude much more toward decisive action. The recent murder of Darya Dugina probably primed the pump significantly.

    I’d say the political landscape among the Russian public has very significantly changed in the past month, and a great deal in the past week.

    This is significant to the degree that Mr. Putin relies on public opinion to authorize further escalation and the commitment of additional Russian troops.

    This may not necessarily be relevant. Mr. Putin may not have to commit additional troops, and he may not need to keep the public on-side in the short run.

    What Mr. Putin clearly needs to do is to respond to the opportunity – if that’s truly what it is – of Ukraine’s attack. There’s a lot of military history of “strategic withdrawal” in order to flush out the opposition. Birds act wounded, and flutter about on the ground in order to lure predators away from their nest. It’s a long-standing and successful tactic.

    I note that there’s been some public grousing and expressions of dismay at high levels in the Russian political dialog. Genuine? Wing-fluttering?

    This next week or two’s military actions will be decisive.

    The political stakes for the West are higher than those for Russia. If Russia decisively responds to this attack and inflicts large losses, the word’s going to get out. It may be repressed in the West, but everyone else will know, and the shifting tectonic plates of world alliances will increase in commitment and velocity.

    And the knives will surely come out during the U.S. mid-terms (just a few weeks now) and most assuredly during the Presidential election. I think this clearly explains the timing of the Ukraine counter-attack.

    Bear in mind that Mr. Putin doesn’t want to engage the U.S. public, as the Russian public has been engaged. Therefore the means of escalation may be more subtle. Mr. Putin is perfectly capable and highly likely to make these sort of decisions.

    So the next few weeks are going to count for a lot.


    *This is a play on Stonewall Jackson’s (famous Confederacy general): The army that wins is the one that arrives @ battlefield “the firstest with the mostest”.

  7. pjay

    This is easily the best discussion of the current Ukraine situation I’ve seen, and I follow a wide variety of sources. Most of the latter have gone off the rails one way or the other, especially in their comments sections (I can only imagine what moderation must be like on this subject). Thank you very much for providing such rational and informed discourse on a topic of world-historical importance.

  8. Stephen

    When it comes to “fog” this article in the usually reasonably sane blog “Unherd” is quite high on the list.

    The author seems to have started his career writing about Iran, in a way that is consistent with “the narrative” and then transferred that to Ukraine / Russia. Guess we all have to make a living.

    Comments are worth scanning. More balanced than the article but not much evidence of true information either. The media has been very effective at screening out things such as queues of Ukrainians trying to enter Russia and so forth, which are obvious points for anyone seeking balance. Propaganda is all about what you don’t say.

    1. Old Sovietologist

      Hasn’t Patrikarakos been embedded with the Ukrainians for months?

      When the article goes on about Russian Regiments, its already on shaky ground There weren’t any Russian regulars in Kharkiv

      1. Stephen

        Yep, the article is classic old fashioned 1950s London fog! It’s that thick.

        I think he has been embedded.

    2. Adrian D.

      I’ll see your fog-generating unherd article and raise you this one from Prof. Phillips O’Brien of St Andrews University. I’ve been following him on twitter for a while (@PhillipsPObrien) – and he relies exclusively on Pentagon, NED Ukrainian (Kyiv Independent etc) and bats**t neocon sources (ISW). That’s how he concludes that ‘Ukraine Pulled of a Masterstroke.”

      1. Stephen

        Wow. Love the bit about Ukraine being having faster strike columns on wheels. Guess that must be the Taliban style pick up trucks they seem to use. Writing such articles is good work if you can get it, I guess.

  9. Boomheist

    I think this has been mentioned earlier during this SMO operation, but may bear repeating here: I think Putin is trying to thread a needle as he continues this operation because he doesn’t want to look like a butcher of civilians, which he knows he will be if the Russians start attacking cities American-style. He also knows that the line between his measured tightening the the screws and creating a horror among the Ukrainians is a thin line, and the West will, as soon as it can, start calling him a monster, evil, another Hitler as the Ukrainians and maybe the Europeans begin to suffer and starve as winter comes. This is his long term power, I think, that the economic war is on his side along with time, but he needs to keep taking steps and reminding everyone he is giving the Ukrainians and the Europeans every chance, and yet another chance, and then yet another, to come to their senses and sue for peace. I expect to see the Western narrative shift now to Putin as a cold hearted monster starving Europe, cruel, a MONSTER. I think his patience, measured steps, and consistent explaining as to what he is doing is his effort to avoid that label, to the degree he cares about labels at all.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      I think in the West Mr. Putin is already pretty well framed as a monster. Biden: “a murderer”.

      And that perspective seems pretty well entrenched and repeated in Western MSM.

      However, in the rest of the world (ROW), it’s a different matter altogether, and your point about threading the needle, and even “bending over backwards” is clearly necessary, and appears to be working. ROW outside NATO and Empire-attached-economies appears to be supporting Russia.

      And it’s likely helping within the EU. I am also sensing that the political pressure against sanctions within EU is ratcheting up as the economic destruction continues to register, and Putin’s repeatedly modulated responses to provocations are certainly helping to remove a key set of justifications for continuing the U.S.’ dictates re: Russian sanctions.

      Yves’s points about the political-economic war moving faster than the military one are apt… until the last few days, anyway.

      The military part of the war just accelerated a lot, and may accelerate a lot more in this next few weeks.

  10. Dave in Austin

    I’ll refrain from commenting on loss figures published by the two sides. I think they’re all bogus.

    On the electrical wars. The US knocked out Belgrade’s electricity in order to “encourage” the Serbs to negotiate. What goes around comes around. The photos from Kharkov today show high-tension distribution towers have been hit, not transformer stations, boilers, turbines and generators. Towers can be fixed quickly. The rest would take years. This is a Russian warning shot.

    On the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Since the Russian occupation it has still provided power to four million Ukrainians. A week ago the Russians disconnected the plant from the Ukrainian grid, shut down five reactors and kept one running to provide the “ramp-down” cooling water for the other five. Just like an oven, a nuc plant takes time to cool off. But having only only one power source for the ramp-down was unsafe. So the Russian reconnected the plant to the coal-fired plant next door but kept the line on standby; no power was flowing. I believe (if there are any nuc engineers out there please correct me) that after the week shutdown of the five, they are safe, so the Russians are now shutting down number six. When that is done the four million Ukrainians will have to get power from somewhere else. These plants are part of the same electrical war we saw yesterday in Kharkov.

    On the war. If the Russians are preparing for a winter slow-down, then having a river between you and your enemy is good practice. Mid-winter in Russia is brutal. Most WWII Russian offensives were in the early spring. Even the Stalingrad offensive was in mid-November, before the worst of the winter hit. So if the lightly-held land west of the Siverskyi Donets the Ukrainans have gained is the end of their offensive, in may mean the Russians are settling-in for the winter.

    A more interesting case is the Russian occupation of Kherson and the large district west of the Dnipro. It would make military sense for the Russians to slowly withdraw from the hard-to-supply positions west of the river and use the river as the winter line. But that means either abandoning Dnipro, a city of almost 300,000 people, or keeping that one enclave west of the river. I venture no prediction.

  11. omg

    The three main issues of our time, this site got them totally wrong:
    1- Russia winning the war narrative is crumbling as the army seems collapsing. Unless Putin resorts to use of nukes, its hard to imagine Russia winning or have the capacity for a prolonged stalemate.
    2- Inflation being a supply chain issue has proven wrong. We clearly have a demand problem which the Fed is moving lately to address.
    3- Covid didn’t turn to be the end of the world event and Chinese way of dealing with it so much lauded here was the wrong approach. Covid is behind us.
    Its what happens when you suppress vigorously any comment that doesn’t agree with your narrative, you start believing your own biases with no chance for critical debate.

    1. Anon123

      1 – time will tell – but Russia does not appear to be collapsing
      2 – maybe partly correct but this is very complex
      3- 100% agree

    2. Paradan

      4- Bugs are actually really delicious when prepared properly, and anybody that doesn’t want to eat bugs is a commie terrorist.

    3. nippersdad

      “The three main issues of our time, this site got them totally wrong:”

      How so? It was admitted from the very beginning that Russia, far from “winning the narrative”, was not even trying to do so; they have let their actions speak for them. It has also been clear that they are winning the war; they are now in possession of a third of Ukraine and are unlikely to lose it. Putin’s four stated aims at the beginning of the SMO are in the final process of becoming reality, no nukes required.

      How can you price things that you cannot buy? You cannot price things into existence. Europe is a perfect example of demand exceeding supply in any number of commodities with the resultant inflation to show for it, and this problem will soon extend elsewhere.

      How can you argue the numbers on China’s response to COVID vs. the US? They have over a billion people and have lost about 5500, we have 130 million and have lost over 1.5 million. New strains are constantly being found and, in the absence of any social policy, we have just about no defense against them.

      Without citations that is just trolling, not critical debate.

    4. Kouros

      1. Russia never sought to win the war narrative, just the actual war. Presently the pyrrhic victory of Ukraine in Kharkov, with more than 2000 dead and likely 6000 wounded is something that cannot be sustained. Russian losses, minimal.
      2. Inflation as it is now is not due to supply chains but with actual supply. EUUS cut themselves from Russian resources and want to cut the world from Russian resources, including fertilizers and foodstuff. the rest of the world is seeing and feeling this and will remember.
      3. Covid is still killing more than 500 Americans daily. I am not sure how you call that a success story and having things behind. Lambert’s second rule of neoliberalism applies : “Go Die”.

      1. Mikel

        His view on Covid is highly related to his supply chain views.
        Kill half the world whether through disease, geopolitical events, or assorted violance and like magic – supply chain issues solved!

    5. Karl

      1. ….the army seems collapsing

      This is a war of attrition, and therefore we will see this a lot, on both sides, in coming months. So I count this “seems” as mere hope. Good luck with that.

      2. ….Inflation being a supply chain issue has proven wrong. We clearly have a demand problem

      You can always “tame” inflation by killing the economy (demand). Thanks for that profound insight!

      3. …Covid is behind us.

      Let’s see what happens this winter, when Covid typically picks up due to life moving indoors.

      Strike three.

    6. Mikel

      1) who knows how long the Russians can hang out at a border country and I don’t see anything that makes them have to start resupplying oil and gas to Europe…anytime soon
      2) If demand can’t be met, that’s indicative of a supply chain that has issues. Rather than admit the inherent issues with the current globalized supply chain change the narrative? And the demand that can’t be met is mainly being fueled by the sliver of the population that benefitted most from over a decade of cheap money.
      3) if you think a solution is being infected over and over again by disease that has shown its ability to cause a host of other issues and then keep getting injected with pharmas latest experiment. NC has mainly been trying to focus on ways to protect the most vunerable and pointing out the numbers of deaths that people like you find acceptable is not a winning strategy in the long run

    7. Roquentin

      1) I think this point is way overblown. I don’t understand why everyone seems so intenr on drawing massive conclusions about victory or defeat in the war over a few days in one battle. Time will tell.
      2) I half agree with you. The much better answer is that it was both. Inflation doesn’t have one cause and it was the result of supply chain issues, massive fiscal defects, and loose monetary policy. I also don’t understand why this is an “all or nothing” scenario either. The thing is, the Fed can’t solve the supply chain issues on its own so it dealt with Inflation the way it could.
      3) I actually agree that this blog went in a little too hard about COVID. I appreciate the US government being taken to task for an inept response, but that only goes so far.

      1. Mikel

        “I actually agree that this blog went in a little too hard about COVID”

        I don’t. It’s been a place where people have loved ones with comorbities can find info that helps keep them alive.

      2. Basil Pesto

        What does “went in a little too hard on COVID” even mean? It implies that the blog has some kind of ability to enact policy. It obviously doesn’t, and simply reports the news vis à vis the virus, considerably more accurately than most if not all other mainstream sources of information.

        Incidentally, to the best of my recollection, at no point has anyone here claimed that Covid is an “end of the world event”, because that is clearly silly. “Life goes on” is a bland truism; the point is what that life is going to look like now in the context of sabotaging the very concept of public health, as well as undermining the scientific and medical progress of the 20th century and replacing it with the pseudoprogress of inadequate market solutions (the mRNA bezzle, etc), and what we have sacrificed (freedom from wanton spread of dangerous infectious diseases with limited treatments – for an idea of how annoying and unpleasant that is, one can turn to 19th century literature, although for obvious reasons it’s rarely the protagonist that dies of consumption or whatever, but usually various hangers-on). It’s going to look worse in every respect, and it’s all so unnecessary.

        1. Mikel

          “Incidentally, to the best of my recollection, at no point has anyone here claimed that Covid is an “end of the world event”, because that is clearly silly…”

          Thank you for pointing out that BS.
          I had to step away because I was about to come up out of myself and get banned.

          1. Basil Pesto

            It’s not even possible either, I don’t think. Assuming the worst possible completely hypothetical SARS variant imaginable becoming dominant and staying dominant (say a 99% fatality rate. I don’t think this will ever come to pass), the human population would become sufficiently thinned out, and human communities so isolated from each other, that the virus would die out, unable to find new hosts, and humans would then repopulate

    8. Lambert Strether

      > Covid is behind us

      What garbage.

      > Chinese way of dealing with it so much lauded here was the wrong approach

      Why? Because slaughtering a million or so elders is a valid goal for public policy? GTFO. Note that if the Chinese nasal vaccine should turn out to be sterilizing — which has always been the hope — then all the lockdowns will have been more than worth it to buy the time to develop them.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Krhm. According to Nature globally between 12-20 million avoidable excess deaths due Covid.
        And if 20-30% of cases turn to long Covid, that means 120 to 180 million cases in the world.

    9. SteveW

      All garbage without substantial evidences:
      1. “It is hard to imagine…. “, no evidences or logical deductions, just imagine…
      2. The inflation is more of supply and supply chain origin than demand. If you measure demand over the past three years using any metrics, there has not been demand increases. Vehicle supplies and supply chain issues are well known. Fertilizer, natural gas, oil, semiconductors, transportation bottlenecks, all supply chain issues…
      3. This site looks at covid as a serious threat, especially to the elders and vulnerable populations. You totally mischaracterize the sentiment here as “end of the world event” level. If China has not responded firmly, you would be looking at millions of deaths and total collapse of the medical system. In the US, life expectancy has declined over the past year while in China, life expectancy improves. Life has been more normal in China over the past two years than most places, including Canada where I live. Harsh short duration targeted lockdown versus long duration half measure.

    10. KD

      1- Russia winning the war narrative is crumbling as the army seems collapsing.

      Yes, its 1942 all over again.

      2- Inflation being a supply chain issue has proven wrong.

      Yes, now economists are working on proving how many angels can dance on the head of pin. Because economics and medieval theology are based on proofs, not empirical evidence.

      3- Covid didn’t turn to be the end of the world event and Chinese way of dealing with it so much lauded here was the wrong approach. Covid is behind us.

      No one said it was an end of the world event, and it is just a question of how much of your population you want to kill off. China doesn’t have to worry about the solvency of social security or pensions, so they can afford to protect the old, the weak and the sick. . . but Covid is not behind us.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        It’s not just the weak and sick. A big study based on VA data (large and high quality sample) shows that getting Covid more than once has a health cost. Getting it does lasting damage in many, potentially all cases, and that damage compounds. Being cavalier about being infected is disastrous.

        Those with reinfections had a higher risk of all-cause mortality, with HR of 2.14 and an excess burden of all-cause mortality of 23.8 per 1000 persons at six months. These individuals also had a higher hospitalization risk, with an HR of 2.98. In addition, people with reinfection exhibited an increased risk of sequelae in the pulmonary and several extrapulmonary organ systems. Accordingly, reinfection increased the risk of adverse health outcomes in people with cardiovascular disorders, kidney problems, gastrointestinal issues, and musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. Overall, reinfection adversely impacted several extrapulmonary organ systems and the pulmonary system.

    11. Yves Smith Post author

      Others have dealt with the rest of your argument.

      Regarding the inflation the only paper that has actual evidence, as opposed to economist sloganeering and theology, is this one, which show the inflation is due to Covid supply chain shocks (and the energy price runup before the war is one, we discussed how that was due to oil/gas demand whipsawing, that the producers could not dial up supply quickly enough, and energy inflation propagates though all goods with lags) and sanctions blowback. It actually goes through the other theories of the inflation and shows they don’t match the data.

      The pre-sanctions inflation was consistent; extremely high increases in some sectors like used cars, none or little in others. This is what you see with supply chain shock.

      Servaas Strom provides data, which you have not.

      If you can debunk this paper, you might have an argument. Until you do, all you are doing is flapping your lips via a keyboard. Oh, but it’s 113 pages. You might have to work to actually prove something, assuming you can.

  12. Tomislav Ladika

    I have a serious question—am genuinely interested to hear the answer.

    The majority view on this site seems to be that Russia is carrying out an effective military operation, and will achieve its goals especially given a long-term perspective. Meanwhile western leaders and mainstream media analysts are seriously misguided to claim that Russia is losing.

    My question is: What type of event would lead you to re-evaluate the above view? In other words, what military event would lead you to think that there is a decent probability that Russia’s military strategy and performance are ineffective? Thanks.

    1. Sibiryak

      If the Ukrainians were, for example, to recapture Kherson city, or Mariupol, or significantly roll back Russian gains in the Donbass region, I would consider such events as serious signs that Russia was in danger of losing the war.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Or find a way to inflict equal casualties to Russians, then the mindless sacrifices would have at least some Western Front 1916-1918 logic. Come to think of it, Ukrainians could probably wear Russia down while suffering 2:1 casualty rate, because they still have more meat to throw into the grinder.
        But with these 5-10:1 rates I don’t think the Ukrainians can achieve any more Izyum victories without running out of manpower.

        1. pjay

          I tend to agree with both of these responses, which I think are reasonable. But with regard to the original comment, just because many here reject both pro-Ukrainian propaganda and the doomsday panic of supposedly pro-Russian sources doesn’t mean there have not been criticisms of Russian strategy or tactics. Obviously there have been, as demonstrated even within this discussion (excluding troll commentary). While many here at least understand Russian motives, and most of us detest US/NATO hypocrisy, I have seen few NC commenters who are mindless Putin cheerleaders. Of course, those who see any criticism of the Western narrative as propaganda will disagree.

          1. jsn

            Having watched the State Department, CIA and Pentagon to varying degrees, involved in non-stop regime change efforts towards the global integration of populations and resources into private US capitalist control since WW2, mostly successful, Putin has big boot to fill to compete on global evil, not to suggest he hasn’t contributed.

            US efforts began with Greece in 1948, followed by Syria in 49, Albania from 49-53, Iran in 53, 54 Guatemala, Syria again in 56, Haiti in 57, Indonesia 57, Laos 58-60, Cuba 59-present, 59 Cambodia, 60 Ecuador, 60 Congo, 61 Dominican Republic, 62-64 Brazil, 63 Iraq, 63 South Vietnam, 64 Bolivia and Brazil, 65 France, 65 Indonesia again, 66 Ghana, 67 Greece again, 70 Costa Rica, 71 Bolivia again, 73-75 Australia, 73 Chile, 74 Portugal, 75 Angola, 75 Zaire, 76 Argentina, 76 Jamaica, 79-89 Afghanistan, 79 Seychelles, 80-92 Angola again, 80-89 Libya, 81-87 Nicaragua, 82 Chad, 83 Grenada, 82-84 South Yemen, 82-84 Suriname, 87 Fiji, 89 Panama, 91 Albania again, 91 Iraq, 93 Somalia, 99-2000 Yugoslavia, 2000 Ecuador again, 01 Afghanistan again, 02 Venezuela, 03 Iraq again, 04 Haiti again, 07 to present Somalia again, 11 Libya again, 12 to present Syria for a third time, 14 Ukraine, Brazil again in 16 and Bolivia and Ecuador in 2018. Ongoing destabilization efforts are underway in Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China. If you buy Michael Hudson’s argument, there’s currently a war being waged on the Socialist model of government in the EU with Ukraine as it’s fulcrum.

            It’s interesting to watch Putin and Xi hang policy on the legal structures of the UN, with which FDR had hoped to keep the USSR out of the cold after the war. Instead, Truman backed the Anglo American secret services ratlines for ex Nazi’s to the New World, breeding todays cadre of eastern European Nazi sympathetic leaders. So, no, I don’t particularly like Putin, but at least he’s clear on who the Nazis are.

    2. Karl

      A metaphor for a war of attrition (which this is) seems to be a “random walk superimposed on a trend”….In statistics parlance this is known as a martingale. In other words, the front tends to see-saw, with one side being “up” (winning) more often than “down” (losing). The important implication, here, is that the losing side always has an occasional “up” day or two or even three. But it’s the overall trend that counts.

      It’s like flipping an “unfair” coin, with heads as probability of 1/4 and tails with probability of 3/4. I see Ukraine constantly betting heads, a losing proposition overall, but even an unfair coin will have 3 or 4 heads in a row occasionally. The Western media will then crow “the tide has shifted.” For a variety of reasons covered extensively here on NC, the trend is not Ukraine’s friend. How can anyone say this? — we must refer not to the actual coin toss results, but to the fundamentals.

      The fundamental here is that Ukraine is indeed tossing an unfair coin–heads 1/4, tails 3/4, due to Russian air superiority, artillery superiority, logistical superiority, etc. Only the U.S. giving Ukraine more chips again and again keeps it in the game. U.S. long-run commitment is weak–another aspect of the fundamentals favoring Russia.

      This does not mean that Ukraine cannot, statistically, win this war by doing the improbable–tossing ten heads in a row, causing severe morale repercussions among Russian troops and political repercussions for Putin. There is always “hope”, and that, I think, is what keeps the Ukrainians going.

      Right now that’s a long, long shot. If this ceases to be a conventional war (i.e. goes nuclear), all bets are off. That has to be everyone’s biggest worry.

      Maybe Putin is deliberately giving Ukraine some “wins” to keep this war conventional until winter, when the EU will get cold and will be rife with division? I’ve heard that Putin’s goal is now the weakening of NATO. If so, letting this war drag on has its advantages for Russia, if it can maintain domestic support, yes?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I must admit I underestimated the willingness and ability of Ukraine to keep throwing untrained men into the meat grinder. The losses in Kherson were horrific and if the MoD figures on Kharkiv are correct, are on track to be as bad there. But having gotten rid of opposition parties and press helps.

        I have trouble seeing that many of these men are foreigners or NATO. Word has gotten out about how awful it is to be pounded by Russian artillery, I could see NATO countries providing personnel in support and technical roles, which still are very important bodies, but not at the zero line.

    3. Donald

      My own view is that Russia is winning militarily, but I think it was morally wrong to escalate the war ( which started in 2014) and I am not sure why they did it, unless the idea is to expose the West as a paper tiger. If so, they might “ win”. The claim is that they wanted to denazify Ukraine, but it seems likely that if anything, they have probably increased the support for rightwing Ukranian, Russian- hating fanatics. To my mind they have done the same thing the US did when it invaded Iraq— that ultimately created ISIS. We see here and in other places the claim that Russia is trying hard not to kill civilians while the Western press portrays them as brutal war criminals. My impression is that they are somewhat less brutal than the US, which is a low bar, but there simply isn’t a way to conduct a humane invasion. It is nonsensical. Thousands of civilians have been killed.I don’t doubt that many Russian- speaking Ukranians support the invasion, but I doubt that Russia has won over people who weren’t inclined to support them from the start. That is just my guess, but it seems commonsensical. If they wanted to increase anti- Russian hatred by their Ukranian neighbors, this was the way to do it. Invasions tend to do that.

      I despise Western megalomania, but I think this war probably escalated it. We need to be focusing on climate change and this invasion has given the Western warmongers the excuse they need to spend even more money on useless environmentally destructive weapons.

      But Russia may not care about that. They may be winning by their standards.

      Russia is losing by their standards if something like this offensive really does turn the tide of the war.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I’m not saying that this is not an issue, but complaining Russia-Ukraine to USA-Iraq is pretty much apples and oranges territory.
        The issue was fought over twice in the last century, and both times for a ‘Russian’ eventual victory. For any meaning of the word. To the extent that this time it took 30 years for the ultras to move the Ukrainian Overton window from local, western Ukrainian whispers about UPA to actually ban nationally any criticism of UPA and Bandera. And even then it was only made possible due to plenty of support from USA and EU while looking trough their fingers.

      2. juno mas

        Donald, the Russians recognize that the taunting from Nato/Ukraine, beginning in 2014, is not going to end with any sort of “agreement” with the West. For Russia, the war in Ukraine is existential. Watch for the escalation over the next few days and weeks.

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        We and other sites have been over this.

        Russia tried repeatedly not to have to do this. The Minsk Accords, which Ukraine signed but never implemented. The late 2021 negotiations, where Russia repeatedly provided written proposals. The US refused to respond and falsely depicted Russia as not willing to negotiate. Biden telling Putin at the end of 2021 that he was reneging on his promise not to put more missiles in Ukraine. Zelensky in mid Feb repudiating the French-German attempt to revive the Minsk Accords and shortly thereafter saying Ukraine wanted nukes. Ukraine per OSCE reports greatly increasing shelling of Donbass and moving troops.

        Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? This was a similar, but more fully developed threat to Russia. If Russia had tried something similar in Mexico, we would have invaded long ago.

        I could have been a lot more pointed in my response: “What about ‘proxy war’ don’t you understand?” The initial invasion quickly brought Ukraine to the negotiating table. Ukraine made key concessions but the West made Zelensky drop them. The US/NATO have admitted their objective is regime change in Russia, as in getting in a Yeltsin-style puppet or breaking up Russia to facilitate Western exploitation of its resources.

      4. Foy

        Donald did you see the OSCE ‘observer’ reports of the very large increase in shelling of the Donbass by Ukraine in week or two before the SMO and that Ukraine had massed very large forces near the line of contact with the intention of taking back the Donbass?

        As Yves said Putin’s demeanor changed that week when he realised that was going to happen and had to act. I don’t agree with you that Russia was morally wrong to start the SMO. At the very least it is ambiguous whether it was or not, but I lean the other way. Ukraine did not implement the Minsk agreements which they agreed to, twice.

        They continued to shell Donbass civilians and as ex President Poroshenko has said, Ukraine never intended to implement Minsk and as Arestovych said it was a mechanism to start a war with Russia. Ukraine clearly acted in bad faith and were now escalating the conflict and Russian speaking Ukrainians who did not recognise the illegal 2014 coup regime were at serious risk. Enough moral reasons there to start the SMO in my opinion. And that is before considering NATO red line existential issues and NATO sponsorship of the Donbass civil war.

    4. hk

      Just speaking for myself, I don’t think Russia has been conducting an “effective” military campaign: manpower commitment has always been way too low, but that’s understandable since professional soldiers are essentially irreplaceable in the medium term and Russia was able to built the professional part of uts military only at great expense over a long time–and if you suffer even mildly heavy losses to your professional cadre, your military effectiveness is badly degraded–especially if you have other commitments, as Russia’s does–one needs only to look at US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how fragile a professional army is.

      But, on the other side are completely absurd lies told by the regimes in washinton, Lonfon, Brussels, and Kiev, spoken with mad conviction of fanatics. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring information.

      What would actually convince me that Russia’s military in Ukraine is ineffective would be a Russian army advancing through Warsaw or cruise missiles hitting Portsmouth, to exaggerate somewhat for emphasis. As long as Russia is doing well enough in Ukraine, fight will remain localized, I suspect, to, at most, the historically Russophone regions of Ukraine–the Black Sea Coast and the regions east of Dnieper. They will escalate beyond the region only if they feel that the fighting can no longer be kept contained. Personally, I don’t see why anyone other than some crazies want to see this sort of escalation…but this (the path of escalation, not necessarily my exaggerated desc) seems to be where we may very well wind up…

  13. caucus99percenter

    Hmm, do I observe an uptick today in the phenomenon of pro-establishment-narrative comments whose originators appear out to disparage and denigrate NC?

    1. Foy

      Agreed it is very interesting to observe e.g. I was immediately a bit suspicious of ‘omg’ and ‘Anon123’ following each other, cover 3 different topics in a short comment, with one slightly disagreeing with the other but agreeing mostly and therefore giving some support and authority to omg’s comments. I wonder if they are in the same room?

      And then the NC readership comes to the fore and straightens things up with proper reasoning, which is always great to see.

    2. Greg

      It was really interesting yesterday during the blackout in Ukraine. The number of despairing Russian commenters on telegram and twitter dropped through the floor. All those “but the civilians left behind!” and “Putin must mobilize!” and “all is lost the end is nigh!” type comments were down by close to 100% on the volumes from the day before.
      I haven’t checked but presumably the volume is back up today.

      This is relevant to when Yves comments about “The explosion of criticism on Telegram suggests there are a lot of people there, and probably in Russia too, who’d like to see the war prosecuted more aggressively.”

      There are clearly a lot of Russians who are sick of the kid glove treatment for Ukrainians, when the favour is not returned. But there’s also a huge fog of psyops in the “Russian” social media as well as the western channels, so it’s very hard to tell proportions of true belief.

  14. Old Sovietologist

    I have mentioned before keep an eye on Moldova.

    It looks like the Moldovan Army has moved into Gagauzia, The country is on the verge of civil war. The country is entering a energy crisis and regions are are shaken by protests. Political repression of the opposition is now in full swing.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I was reading that the Chechens had raised about four more battalions to send to the Ukraine, one a very oversize one of 1500 men.

    2. Greg

      Intel Slava is teetering on the brink of being culled from my watchlist. Over the last week, that channel has propagated a lot of Ukrainian psyops lines and built up the hyperventilating over the Kharkov offensive in an excessive manner.

  15. Bsn

    I wonder if Putin is reluctant to destroy Uk. infrastructure to avoid what happened in Germany and Japan after WWII. If most of Uk.’s fundamentals are destroyed (train/rail, power, bridges, industry in general) and Uk. is sold down the river to western Oligarchs, a “modern Ukraine” may be built that will be more capable in threatening and challenging Russia. Putin may want to retain Ukraine’s 5′ scale train system for example.

  16. Sibiryak

    Bucha redux:

    Authorities found the bodies of four tortured civilians in the recently recaptured Kharkiv town of Zaliznychne, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said.

    The discovery is an echo of the war crimes uncovered after Ukrainian troops retook Bucha and other areas around Kyiv.

    * * * *
    In the recently recaptured territories of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces are finding bodies of civilians that show signs of torture, said Inna Sovsun, a member of the Ukrainian parliament – echoes of the war crimes discovered after Ukrainian forces retook Bucha.

    A Telegraph reporter said on Friday that police exhumed two bodies that bore signs of torture in Hrakove, one of more than 20 towns and villages that Ukraine’s general staff said its forces had retook in the past days. Russian soldiers had forced local men to bury the bodies, which wore civilian clothing, months back .

    –The Guardian

    1. lambert strether

      A sure sign the Kharkov front has stabilized. Now Ukraine has time to send in the propaganda teams.

  17. Louis Fyne

    Both sides need to avoid the “body count trap”—Using enemy dead as a proxy for success.

    Didn’t work in Vietnam for both sides, didn’t work for the US in Iraq 2004-7. Didn’t work for the US in Afghanistan.

    To disagree w/some of the other prominent commentators, the only thing that matters is territory. To “demilitarize” Ukraine, a necessary condition is that Russia needs to capture the entire Black Sea coast to Transnistria along with a healthy buffer east of the Dniper River that would keep the Donbas population centers outside of artillery range.

    For Ukraine to win, “bleeding Russia” will never work, they need to be in a position to imminently threaten/recapture Crimea.

    1. KD

      A war of attrition is about body counts. If you kill enough enemy bodies, the enemy will not be able to form a coherent military. It worked in WWI and WWII.

      The US lost the political will to fight in Vietnam. If they had kept going, they would have wiped out the Vietcong. It just takes years and hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers. (Of course, the Vietnam War served no point, so winning or losing didn’t matter.) The US Army told the public that they had destroyed the Vietcong’s ability to fight (which the CIA knew was false), and after Tet, the public realized the Army lied to them and turned against the war. They lied in the first place because they didn’t think the public would accept how long and how costly “winning” would be.

      The US “won” in Iraq, they just had no plan and no clue as to what to do when they won.

      Afghanistan, not much to do except put your puppet in Kabul and periodically prune the insurgents. America could be there indefinitely, except that it was a pit of money and lives which offered no compensation in return.

      Ukraine isn’t going to win by destroying the Russian Army, they will win by destroying the Russian will to fight, and perhaps, if there is regime change (although in reality, it will probably be the hawks that replace Putin if he is replaced.) Like Afghanistan.

      1. The Rev Kev

        That is what the Ukrainians did to the Donbass back in about 2014 – declare it to be an anti-terrorist operation – which meant that all those Donbass militias they treated as terrorists.

    1. Foy

      Big Serge is producing some good analysis, it’s been very useful to read his recent explanatory words and opinions, and twitter feed during the SMO.

  18. Old Sovietologist

    “The governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov called for the evacuation of those residents of the settlement. Zhuravlevka and Nekhoteevka, which are still in their homes”.

    There are some shall we say hot heads in the Ukrainian army who are itchy to head across the border. Will they take the bait?

  19. Andrew Watts

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with this analysis at all. Nor am I inclined to believe anybody who doesn’t talk about the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of the campaign.

    The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv has been successful and achieved a strategic surprise. They’ve used their advantage in manpower to great effect and it appears the Russian attempt to use massed firepower to overcome their deficiencies in this campaign has failed thus far. Considering how far they’ve advanced and their pace the Russians weren’t able to fall back to any prepared positions. The Ukrainians probably faced minimal resistance so any causalities they suffered were light. The Russians would’ve needed both a hammer and an anvil to manage more than that. It hasn’t stopped the offensive yet in any case and that’s more important than any Westmoreland-style bodycount presser.

    Furthermore, the idea that this is an organized withdrawal, or that the Russians are luring the Ukrainians into a trap isn’t a claim I can seriously consider as viable. If they were going to launch an ambush or counter-attack it would’ve happened already. The lack of defensive positions around Izium that could’ve slowed the Ukrainian offensive down and provided an opportunity for local counterattacks is evidence of that. Any assault would’ve diverted manpower reserves away from the battle in the Donbass, or the defensive line around Kherson, and that’s a risk Russia might not want to undertake. I think they’ll try to stabilize the frontline instead by establishing a new defensive line mainly outside of Kharkiv oblast.

    The Russian Ministry of Defense has repeatedly stated that the Donbass is their primary concern and this offensive has left a dark cloud over their campaign there. Ukraine now has multiple strategic options to counter-attack there depending on if they can consolidate their current position. Either by driving east into northern Luhansk or outflanking any Russian advance westward from the north. The idea that Izium lacks any strategic value given it’s geographic position and amount of roads/rails running through it in multiple directions is a ridiculous assertion regardless.

    “Andrei makes many important points, particularly on the poor quality of Telegram commentary and the map-reading efforts “

    It was reportedly Russian telegram that first noticed the Ukrainian buildup in the vicinity of Balakliya. Which was probably the Ukrainian’s initial goal in the first phase of the operation. It’s probably why they were losing it after the offensive began. The open source maps are probably wrong, and they were in Syria, but so what? It’s the only general overview of the situation available.

    1. nippersdad

      So, on to Moscow?

      It kind of looks like Ukraine, by forcing their own best troops into what sounds like a relative vacuum, is relieving Russia of the trouble of creating their own cauldrons by making one itself.

      “If they were going to launch an ambush or counter-attack it would’ve happened already.”

      Why? They have been fairly leisurely in their efforts to grind down the Ukraine troops thus far, why would they change tactics now?

      1. Andrew Watts

        Any successful offensive is going to outrun their supply lines. The Russians wouldn’t want to give the Ukrainians time to dig in and consolidate their gains. It’s the moment when when they’re most vulnerable to a counter-attack. The burden of proof is on the people making the claim that “it’s a trap!” to tell us where they think it might be triggered and when that might happen.

        “It kind of looks like Ukraine, by forcing their own best troops into what sounds like a relative vacuum, is relieving Russia of the trouble of creating their own cauldrons by making one itself. “

        Everything being relative the quality of the troops is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is if they can accomplish the mission set out for them. I don’t believe any of the casualties numbers from either side as they’re both likely inflated beyond recognition.

        1. nippersdad

          It took them eight years to “dig in” last time and this is steppe country, short of reoccupying their former (now destroyed) earthworks, there is nowhere for them to hide. You, yourself, have admitted that Russia has the edge in artillery and that looks like a shooting gallery.

    2. The Inimitable NEET

      “The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv has been successful and achieved a strategic surprise. They’ve used their advantage in manpower to great effect and it appears the Russian attempt to use massed firepower to overcome their deficiencies in this campaign has failed thus far. Considering how far they’ve advanced and their pace the Russians weren’t able to fall back to any prepared positions. The Ukrainians probably faced minimal resistance so any causalities they suffered were light.”

      – You’re using military terms incorrectly. This is a tactical victory that has failed to break operational depth; therefore it is a tactical victory. It is not a strategic victory and if anything, presents several daunting obstacles for the UAF in terms of how exposed the area is. Has no one questioned why such light occupation troops (i.e. DPR militia and National Guard without artillery or air systems) were stationed there in the first place? The land is almost indefensible and the UAF is now committed in terms of optics to hold it at all costs. They are extremely vulnerable to any concentrated counter-offensive.
      – No, the casualties were horrific. This is standard when an infantry force outstrips its artillery and CAS to capture territory as quickly as possible. You run headlong into infantry fire, air strikes, artillery barrages and keep moving forward. The kill ratios we’re hearing about are not outsized from a historical perspective either. In the Battle of the Bulge, there were quadrants of the battlefield where the Nazi forces were dying at 18:1 rates (or higher). This was before the skies cleared up and U.S. air support was brought in en masse. Russian troops had the same issue during the onset of the SMO.

      “The lack of defensive positions around Izium that could’ve slowed the Ukrainian offensive down and provided an opportunity for local counterattacks is evidence of that.”

      There are no defensive positions in that area in general until you reach the Oskil river. It is steppe land populated by tiny villages.

      “Either by driving east into northern Luhansk or outflanking any Russian advance westward from the north.”

      This is already out of the question. UAF forces have been repelled multiple times at the Oskil river, while a new defense line has been formed at Lyman.

      1. Andrew Watts

        This doesn’t resemble the Battle of the Bulge the way you think it does. The Russians weren’t the ones who apparently achieved the element of surprise. Within days of that offensive the Red Army was launching attacks that were designed to pull German forces away from the Western Front.

        Ukraine is keeping an abundance of Russian forces in the vicinity of Kherson through what looks like local counter-attacks over villages they might’ve traded hands multiple times already over the last few months. Once again, any offensive in the south against Kherson doesn’t make any sense.

        “This is a tactical victory that has failed to break operational depth;”

        What do you think the goal of the offensive was exactly? If it was limited to capturing Izium and large swaths of the oblast than they more then achieved those objectives.

        “There are no defensive positions in that area in general until you reach the Oskil river. It is steppe land populated by tiny villages. “

        Except, you know, the city of Izium. Urban combat has long been used to slow down forces of maneuver since the advent of armoured warfare.

        “This is already out of the question. UAF forces have been repelled multiple times at the Oskil river, while a new defense line has been formed at Lyman. “

        There isn’t any indication that Ukrainian forces have reached the Oskil river in force yet. Perhaps recon units have and they’ve launched probing missions, but I don’t claim to know one way or another. Ukraine is likely more interested in the consolidation of their current gains as opposed to making any new ones at any rate. How many bridges do you think the Russians blew up in their retreat?

  20. elkern

    I’m more concerned with whatever is happening around the ZNPP; reliable info is extremely scarce. Anybody got any good links on this?

    IMO, Russian attacks on Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure are about ZNPP, not a response to the push around Kharkov/Izium.

    For 6 months, Russia occupied the ZNPP but/and allowed the plant to continue to deliver power across the river to non-occupied areas. To me, that is a clear statement that Russia had limited objectives; it says “we’re not here to smash/take your whole country”.

    I suspect – without evidence – that Russia started to divert (more) electricity to areas it controls as a response to the Ukrainian (counter-) attacks in the Kherson Oblast – especially attacks on the bridge at Kakhovka which threaten the dam. Breaking that dam would cut water supplies to Crimea *and* deprive the ZNPP of coolant – a two-pronged strategic threat.

    OTOH, Russia might have decided to redirect power from ZNPP before the Kherson counter-attacks, or as a later response to Ukraine’s direct attacks on the Plant.

    In any case, it appears that Ukraine made a choice to try to regain control of ZNPP, and they are willing to risk another Chernobyl to do it. Russia wants to remind them that their electrical infrastructure is vulnerable, and that everybody will be better off if both sides avoid strategic warfare (on civilian infrastructure) and stick to tactical military “competition”.

    1. Polar Socialist

      According to Izvestiya it seems that the administration of the “Russian” Zaporozhe and the ZNPP personnel have had enough and are shutting the plant down to prevent any accidents.

      At least the area of Zaporozhe under Russian control is connected to the Crimean grid to get electricity even after the shutdown. It also seems that even IAEA is verifying that the backup power connections to the plant have been restored in order to safely shut down the only still operating reactor.

      Speaking about IAEA, apparently they still can’t figure out where the darn shelling is coming. Even after 20,000 citizens of Energodar told them, in writing.

  21. digi_owl

    So apparently western media is now crowing about Putin’s “empire” falling to pieces.

    I guess their “birthing parent” never told them to not sell a bear before it is shot…

  22. Foy

    In the last few days I have seen three references to a confidential Rand Corporation report issued in Jan 2022 before the SMO started, titled “Weakening Germany, strengthening the US”. I was reluctant to refer to it as I could not find a copy or reference to it anywhere else. However I see Larry Johnson has now referred it in his recent blog, and he linked to a substack which has photos of the document.

    The report basically says [its words]

    “- there is an urgent need for resources to flow into the [US] national economy especially the banking system
    – only European countries bound by EU and NATO commitments will be able to provide them – an increase in the flow of resources from Europe to US can be expected if Germany begins to experience a controlled economic crisis
    – current German production is based on two pillars, unlimited access to cheap Russian energy and to cheap French electrical power, the first factor being considerably higher
    – thanks to our precise actions it has been possible to block commissioning of Nord Stream 2
    – the only feasible way to guarantee Germany’s rejection of Russian energy supplies is to involve both sides in the military conflict in Ukraine
    – a reduction in Russian energy supplies, ideally a complete halt of such supplies, would be disastrous for German industry
    – the Euro will inevitably and most likely fall irreversibly fall below the dollar…it will become a toxic currency, the gap to be filled by the dollar and yuan
    – a prolonged drop in living standards and rise in unemployment will entail the exodus of skilled labour and young people with no other destinations than the USA
    – in the medium term (4-5 years) the cumulative benefits of capital flight and reduced competition may amount to USD 7-9 trillion
    – Europe’s deep political dependence on the US allows us to effectively neutralise attempts by individual European states to draw closer to China”

    It basically summarises what Michael Hudson was saying at the start of the SMO and sanctions, this is the method the US will use to defeat Germany for the third time in a century.

    Here is a link to the substack with photos of the report.

    It will be very interesting if this report gets verified. If Larry hadn’t linked to it I wouldn’t have posted it here

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