Waiting for that Too-Much-Discussed Ukraine Counteroffensive

At the start of March, we pointed out, Ukraine’s armed forces were more fragile than was acknowledged in the Western press. That’s since been confirmed by more-than-occasional admission-against-interest stories depicting how Ukraine is short on ammo, taking serious losses, and not looking likely to retake Russia-occupied territory.

We’d like to point out a conundrum. The West has been engaging in a remarkable level of propaganda and stunts. Some of that has been that the Ukraine government is particularly good at that sort of thing, and apparently even our intelligence agencies have not been much/at all sanity-checking what Ukraine tells them. Admittedly, satellite imagery limits how much tale-telling Ukraine can do, but many Western official seem genuinely to believe dodgy Ukraine claims, like the level of Russian deaths, where the BBC, despite looking very hard, has been able to confirm a small fraction (16,000 as of the start of March).

All of this perception-management is perceived to be necessary because this war is costing a lot of money and the backers need to be able to maintain enough support so as to be able to get funding bills passed. And aside from being predisposed to make maximum use of its soft power skills, Ukraine appears to be quite cognizant of the fact that it depends on coalition support for its survival, and therefore needs to keep up an image of success, or at least viability.

One side effect of the coalition-ness has been that the military side of this campaign has been far too transparent. There’s been a weird “loose lips sink ships” quality to Western disclosures. Brian Bereltic should not be able to chronicle declining US/NATO weapons deliveries. TASS should not be able to estimate, as it did earlier this week, how many Western tanks have been delivered out of recent commitments.

Perhaps I am old school, but I am pretty sure the Allies didn’t disclose how many landing craft they were sending to England before D-Day, much the less publicize debates among the Allies as to who was supplying what.

Admittedly, the US Defense Department of late has stopped identifying how many weapons are being sent in each package, but that’s apparently due to wanting to hide declining support and not out of concern about over-sharing with Russia.

However, Ukraine and its media friendlies have been actively talking up a counter-offensive, to the degree that Russian and Russia-friendly commentators have been spending an awful lot of time speculating when and where it might happen. Commonly-held views are it has to be pretty soon, particularly since Western experts are now admitting that Western ammo supplies will run dry sometime in the summer. But it can’t happen until mud season is over, and with a late snow re-softening the ground, that probably won’t happen till the end of the month at the earliest.

Given how appearance-driven Kiev is, another reason for launching the perceived-to-be-necessary-to-maintain-support counteroffensive sooner rather than later is to try to offset the demoralizing impact of the loss of Bakhmut, and potentially in the not-too-distant future, Avdiivka, which is near Donetsk city.

The war-watchers think Ukraine will try to cut the Russian land bridge to Crimea, most likely by striking towards Melitopol. This raises the question of what Ukraine thinks it will accomplish. Even if Ukraine were to perform way above expectations and somehow surmount the extensive fortifications that Russia started building when General Surovikin took over as theater commander last October (which would be a massive embarrassment to Russia), Russia still has the depth of forces and materiel to turn this around, particularly since Ukraine would be committing a lot of its remaining firepower to this last gamble.

Indeed, Ukraine has apparently moved toward the recommendation that got General Mark Milley in so much hot water last fall: that Ukraine should sue for peace, after of course Doing Something to improve its bad bargaining position. From the Financial Times:

Kyiv is willing to discuss the future of Crimea with Moscow if its forces reach the border of the Russian-occupied peninsula, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told the Financial Times.

The comments by Andriy Sybiha, deputy head of Zelenskyy’s office, are the most explicit statement of Ukraine’s interest in negotiations since it cut off peace talks with the Kremlin last April.

“If we will succeed in achieving our strategic goals on the battlefield and when we will be on the administrative border with Crimea, we are ready to open [a] diplomatic page to discuss this issue,” Sybiha said, referring to Kyiv’s long-planned counteroffensive.

He added: “It doesn’t mean that we exclude the way of liberation [of Crimea] by our army.”

Towards the end, the Financial Times reports that a February poll found 87% of the Ukraine public is dead set against territorial concessions to Russia. Would the loss of Bakhmut and rumors of how many men died and were maimed trying to keep it, shake that support? Or say a Kiev propaganda push? Past studies have found that a mere six weeks of concerted messaging will generate big shifts in opinion.

Despite all this talk of a Ukraine attack, since Russia decided it needed to commit more forces to the special military operation after having to abandon Kharviv, the war has been generally going well for Russia. Ukraine has continued to play right into one of the comparatively few things Russia has made public about its intentions, that it is waging an attritional war. Ukraine has repeatedly fought tenaciously not to cede territory, typically at high cost in men and materiel, when Russia has the advantage in both categories.

And we are starting to see evidence of the degree of Ukraine depletion. For instance commentators have noticed that the Russian air force of late has been more active. That’s believed to be due to Ukraine running low on missiles for its Soviet S-300 air defense system (the Patriots the US is sending to shore it up are inferior and comparatively few in number)

Indeed, Russia has come to learn it is well positioned even compared to its NATO nemesis. As many have pointed out, NATO’s forces are set up for defense, in or very near their home countries. For instance, Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks are designed for use on good roads, despite being a tracked vehicle and with maintenance close at hand. The US and NATO spent 30 year optimizing their offensive capabilities for regional insurgent wars, not conflict with a major power, and in its backyard to boot.

NATO has at least three other problems. First, coalition of a large number of countries is not a great vehicle for unified action. It’s shocking to see that NATO members have balkanized weapons systems. What sense is it to have a zillion types of tanks and armored personnel carriers? The EU was able to agree on a single commercial airplane operator, the Airbus, and figured out how to divvy up parts manufacture and maintenance so as to keep everyone pretty happy. Why was there no similar effort for an EU-champion for far-more-essential-to-survival major weapons platforms?

Another manifestation of the coalition problem is uneven willingness to commit forces. Even though hawks love talking up NATO manning up to show those Rooskies a thing or two, as Douglas Macgregor and others have pointed out, the only NATO members who might sign up are Poland, Romania, the US and the UK, who might muster among them 100,000.2

Second, not only had the Collective West learned that hollowing out our manufacturing base is at odds with having muscular armed forces, but we’d also need to get over our “just in time” practices and be able to stockpile inputs as well as outputs. Not only would it take, per Alex Vershinin, a decade for the US and NATO to catch up with Russia’s production levels, but we don’t even seem to be thinking very hard about how to get started in closing the gap.

Third is that in most NATO members, support for the war is falling, and in some important states, particularly Germany, protests are rising.

Now admittedly Russia’s silence on its military plans has sometimes been costly, witness when the government refused to ‘splain the Kharkiv retreat. Russia did learn a bit and communicated more when it pulled out of Kherson city. My sense is that Russian citizens would rather be told more but that may be why the government tolerates hyper-active commentary on Telegram: anything on it was presumably also observed by Ukraine, so no risk to the armed services.

In any event, with Russia well along with taking all of Bakhmut, Ukraine will have to create the appearance of success somewhere else. And if not that well-advertised counteroffensive, it would need to be a very big terrorist stunt.


1 German foreign minister Annelina Baerbock famously said she’d keep backing Ukraine, public support be damned.

2 It would take the US nine months or so to send meaningfully more from our side of the pond and then we’d have to get our stuff to Eastern Ukraine, oh, and with not much air cover, since that theater is too far from our airbases.

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      1. Edgar, not Edmund

        Agreed! An excellent reference. I just wish they hadn’t butchered the books in the TV series. It had its moments, mainly involving Quellcrist and the wonderful substitution of Mr. Poe for the much too much still in copyright Mr. Hendrix.

    1. playon

      Can’t this be a factor of modern hi-tech surveillance, which was not available in WWII? Satellites, hacking etc.

  1. the suck of sorrow

    One side effect of the coalition-ness has been that the military side of this campaign has been far too transparent. There’s been a weird “loose lips sink ships” quality to Western disclosures. Brian Bereltic should not be able to chronicle declining US/NATO weapons deliveries. … Perhaps I am old school, but I am pretty sure the Allies didn’t disclose how many landing craft they were sending to England before D-Day,

    I am old school too, we had declared war on the Axis Powers in WWII. Military operations and logistics were valid secrets.
    I know this is quaint, but there is no declaration of war with the Russian Federation. These are aid packages to Ukraine and the quality, quantity and value should be public knowledge.

    1. Polar Socialist

      I’ve assumed that this facet of the campaign is mostly due to the performativeness and winning in the (social) media: The West has to be seen to do “things”, whether or not it’s actually helping Ukraine is of no relevance.

      To add to the quaint, I believe that in Russia, if this was a war (talking about the legal status), Russian MoD would be required to report the losses weekly to the Duma, but being a “special military operation” MoD can wait until it’s over to deliver the list a casualties.

      1. mrsyk

        FT: “This poll says 87% Ukranians would rather be turned to pink mist than cede one inch of territory”
        (To add to your point on performativeness.)

        1. tet vet

          A hardcore cynic like me would need to see the actual questions in the poll to pay any attention. My sense is that the people were asked to choose between the 87% answer and a bullet between the eyes. “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up” – Lily Tomlin

            1. jrkrideau

              My thought exactly. Did that 87% include the 7 or 8 million refugees in the West, the 2 or 3 million in Russia, plus those in the Donbass & Crimea?

              This survey is up there with the “Dewey Wins” survey.

              1. Jeff

                Likely no one outside of Zelensky’s inner circle and other grifters – perhaps Mrs. Zelensky’s plastic surgeon – were asked. Would’ve been more direct if Ukraine kept Janet Yellen and had her check an ATM with the rest of her luggage when she made her appearance in Kyiv.

                Grifters, the whole lot of them.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Its surprising looking back at old newspapers just how open some of the reporting was during WWII, especially in Britain. There were active arguments in the letters pages of newspapers in London about issues like the ethics and/or usefulness of aerial bombing. I’ve always found it interesting that the media in Britain during that war was significantly less constrained than in the US. I suspect that the reason was that British intelligence was pretty subtle – the more open reporting is, the easier it is to slip in false information. They very successfully bamboozled the Germans about the effectiveness of V1 and V2 targeting.

      Of course, sometimes there were loose lips. The Japanese learned that their depth charges were exploding at too shallow depths from reading US newspapers. A few minor technical adjustments sent quite a few additional USN submarines to the bottom.

      1. LifelongLib

        Interesting. I read a history which said that early in WW2 people in Britain were listening to German propaganda broadcasts for news because British sources were revealing so little. Maybe policy changed later, or that history was wrong?

        1. ChrisFromGA

          Sounds like the way we must go to pro-Russian Telegram channels to escape the US propaganda blitz.

          I still maintain a Yahoo email account and get relentlessly spammed with propaganda from the Ukrainian Pravda, which suddenly showed up as if it were a legitimate news source right when the war began.

    3. redleg

      When this war is considered from an arms sales perspective, which in my opinion (as a former Army artillery officer) is precisely how the US military operates, knowing exactly what & how many weapons systems are in play is critical marketing information. How can these systems create an industry buzz leading to sales if something like OpSec is established?
      This perspective also explains why little thought has been given in the US for trivia such as low-tech ammunition supplies and producing durable equipment.

      DLG makes this point right below me!

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Noting: “Perhaps I am old school, but I am pretty sure the Allies didn’t disclose how many landing craft they were sending to England before D-Day, much the less publicize debates among the Allies as to who was supplying what.”

    Indeed. Loose lips sink ships. But loose lips in the marketing department are there to promote that groovy bellicose buzz that’s needed. Too bad “buzz” isn’t a strategy.

    Culturally, the Ukraine war represents a kind of change: It is the first crowd-sourced war, with too much minute-by-minute analysis, too much manipulation of the press (Kiev and its endless use of Twitter), and too many appeals to the crowd. What recent war has included people sending money to dog shelters and cat rescues in war zone? So we are in some kind of new territory.

    Just as with Covid, the over-media-tated event devolves into propaganda, rigid positions, and, likely, paranoia. The lab-leak hypothesis in COVID is much like the “Putin did this / Putin did that” stuff in foreign affairs. People are now believing their own propaganda about a spring offensive that will settle the score with the Russians. (Never accounting for the thousands of deaths that will happen,)

    Yet in a crowd-sourced war, real people are being sent to the slaughter. Kiev seems to think that it is playing with avatars and that the avatars are going to burst through resistance and re-take Crimea.

    I wish that this whole bloody horror, this whole avoidable event, didn’t somehow remind me of office politics played by the likes of Lindsay Graham and D Wasserman Schultz, mediocrities with easy violence on their brains.

    1. Michaelmas

      DJG: Yet in a crowd-sourced war, real people are being sent to the slaughter.

      More than a crowd-sourced war, a smartphone and drone-captured war where every skirmish, death, or battle can be broadcast instantly on global networks.


      …A victory, no matter how small, must be claimed, and the claim takes the form of a video clip on the internet with the brigade’s watermark in every frame. The potential is there for a unit’s social media team – or for those of Wagner or WarGonzo, which are explicitly commercial organisations – to seek out ‘likes’ and followers, to learn what sort of war content engages viewers….

      There is a terrible, bleak genre of video in which soldiers at the threshold of death film themselves; a kind of farewell message to their loved ones, but with patriotic defiance mixed in, a desperate attempt at reassurance….

      …A mortar shell lands nearby and the phone is poked over the lip of the crater to show something burning about two hundred metres away. ‘That’s my tank on fire,’ the video author reports. ‘In about thirty minutes, the ammo will start blowing up … a big hi to everyone, live from the front. This is what’s going on, right from the horse’s mouth. It’s cunt city here but we’re pressing them, fuck it. Glory to Russia.’

      1. digi_owl

        Maybe it is new how fast it can move around the world, and that it is the individual soldier doing it. But as far back as WW2 there were media units going around, in particular among US forces, filming events as they happened.

        But things took a different tack during Vietnam, with US media showing the horrors USA and SV forces inflicted on villagers.

        And lets not forget that During the Gulf war CNN made it big by having a team set up to broadcast live from downtown Bagdad 24/7.

        What strikes me as curious about current events is not the direct feed from the front lines. But how MSM has people so hooked on the idea that this is WW3, not another Vietnam or 80s Afghanistan.

    2. Stephen

      You are spot on. Far too many cheerleaders for this tragedy who have no personal skin in the game, but have instead much to gain via political donations, weapons contracts and jobs at think tanks.

      No western country has seen any acknowledged casualties and much of the economic cost of the war is still hidden from many people or can be attributed to other causes in a way that the uninitiated might believe.

      The whole thing is then treated like a giant virtual reality PR game, albeit real people are dying. Bit, of course, that has been true of all previous post Cold War US wars. This one has more profile but is out of the same broad playbook.

      The big difference, of course, is that Russia is not Libya, Syria, Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever else liberal democracy has chosen to intervene. It is a genuinely powerful country that will not just roll over.

      1. Benny Profane

        The most brilliant thing the Neocons did after the political and economic carnage of Vietnam was abolish the draft. You want to see kids put the phones and game controllers down and march in the streets again? Force them to drop and do twenty and tthen send them off to a place they can’t find on a map to get exterminated for…something or other. And, if trends continue as they have been, we may have to do that, since recruitment goals are not being met by a mile. I think it would be good for all if we did. No more forever wars.

        1. Michaelmas

          Benny Profane: … recruitment goals are not being met by a mile…No more forever wars.

          The trend is towards increased use of AI, in part for that reason.

          Geoff Hinton, commonly accredited for promoting the use of backpropagation in artificial neural networks and, thence, much of the current surge in AI and machine learning, talks very specifically in the course of this interview —


          –about how, after coming to the US from his native UK for the research opportunities, he then left the US for Canada so as to escape being forced to accept research funding from the DOD directed at developing AI for military purposes.

            1. Michaelmas

              Ukraine is kaput, effectively. You were talking about future trends and the US military, to which I responded.

              1. Benny Profane

                Oh no, I see your point, and I responding by stating the obvious that Ukraine needs artillery and basic weapons to succeed in this war of attrition, that, yeah, is pretty much over and now will devolve into a messy quagmire of terror attacks from their side for maybe years. But, all we have to offer is techy weapons that, in the end, don’t work. But, seem to be profitable.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            This is the kind of warfare being portrayed in movies these days. Robot warriors, human-operated and not, drones flown by “pilots,” remote-controlled, flying weapons platforms.

            We currently seem to be in the phase of “find some crazies” to do the the most dangerous and violent fighting as in the “moderate jihadis” and now the Azovers. But that is only to bridge to the robots supplemented by armchair warriors.

            Neoliberal countries surely realize by now that they could never lead a war. Patriotism is skin-deep to the extent it exists any longer. Big flags and jets that bomb brown people. Macron can’t field an army. He’s too pressed trying to hold onto the streets of Paris. All the propaganda they’ve slung about Saddam and Gaddafi and Putin and Xi is getting so cliched that it has no power to motivate.

            Those robots will also do a lot better on those Paris streets. Who knows when human cops might switch sides? The French fireman have already gone over, much to the surprise of CNN’s John Berman today.

            Remember those hedge fund guys talking to Rushkoff. Be sure they’re working hard on eliminating the human element in their security.

            The Cylons are coming.

            1. Acacia

              Very good points, though somehow I expect the first generation of flic-robos on the streets of Paris to be a little more like ED-209 or the ineffectual machines in THX 1138.

    3. Rolf

      Yet in a crowd-sourced war, real people are being sent to the slaughter. Kiev seems to think that it is playing with avatars and that the avatars are going to burst through resistance and re-take Crimea.

      I wish that this whole bloody horror, this whole avoidable event, didn’t somehow remind me of office politics played by the likes of Lindsay Graham and D Wasserman Schultz, mediocrities with easy violence on their brains.

      Truth! Great comment DJG

    4. Jeff

      One could make the argument that Debbie Wasserman Shultz’ perm iron could have been sent as a weapon. Done her no favors.

  3. sinbad66

    German defense minister Annelina Baerbock famously said she’d keep backing Ukraine, public support be damned.

    She is actually the German Foreign Minister (which is worse). Boris Pistorious (the defense minister) has been way more sober and realistic about the condition of the Bundeswehr (which is in pretty bad shape).

  4. Louis Fyne

    —-Second, not only had the Collective West learned that hollowing out our manufacturing base is at odds with having muscular armed forces, but we’d also need to get over our “just in time” practices and be able to stockpile inputs as well as outputs.—-

    shhhh, the hollow western industrial base is the only thing that is preventing Diet WW3.

    If the US had the logistical-industrial means today (and no China front), Biden would have 100,000 US troops in Romania and Poland—cuz freedom.

    It took the Suez Crisis to wake up UK-France that their imperial days are over. I doubt that the US imperial death pangs will transit so smoothly.

    1. Stephen

      I am not sure that we the U.K. (and possibly the French too) were woken up so much by Suez.

      Current U.K. bellicosity underlines that. What Suez did do was show U.K. elites that they could not pursue a foreign policy that was independent of the US. But imperial ambitions then continued to be furthered via the relationship with the US. The stupidity of the U.K. spending so much of its defence budget on pocket sized aircraft carriers that are a (not so effective) tool purely for power projection beyond the home island is part of that.

      Arguably too, both world wars were fought at least in part to preserve British imperial power. After all, Churchill even said as much in WW2 when he pointed out that his intention was not to preside over the dissolution of the empire. This perspective is deeply controversial with British people, of course. But on this read of history, Suez was just one milestone and the independent British imperial project took half a century to unwind and did not do so as gracefully as we like to think.

      I cannot speak so knowledgeably for France but my sense is that French elites originally took the lesson from Suez that imperial ambitions would need to be pursued via European cooperation rather than independently. That might be too simplistic though.

      These examples actually support your prime point that the US is unlikely to back down gracefully.

      1. s

        the poodle blair was just echoing what bill clinton did. bill clinton set up nato and america for constant warfare against any sovereignty or civil society in the world to further his feverish goals of free trade.

        after the breakup of the soviet union by idiots gorby and yeltsin, bill clinton calculated the best that a mental midget can, that no one else could go against our carriers and air power.

        but like WWII, the fascist today are no different than the fascists of yesterday, and cannot grapple with the facts that they can’t kill them all, and that civil society will strike back.


        “When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident that the first question that many people ask is: ”Where’s the nearest carrier?”

        Former President Bill Clinton made that remark in 1993 while visiting the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt — the same ship at the center of another crisis today. But disturbingly, while the Navy has 11 carrier strike groups, only three are actually at sea.”

      2. digi_owl

        Frankly UK was overextended after WW1 already. Why the middle east turned into such a mess, as they didn’t have the manpower to do the kind of job they had done in say India.

        Frankly the extensive use of drones has been reminiscent of UKs policing by bomber between the world wars. Where they would first warn a uppity village that if they kept it up they would get bombed, and then would fly over a few days later to drop some WW1 leftovers on the locals.

      3. William Verick

        France’s post WWII imperial ambitions were first hit in Indochina with Dien Bien Phu in 1954, then the Suez Crisis in 1956 and, finally, the war in Algeria, which France lost in 1962. Britain did not have its nose rubbed as thoroughly in the mess of its empire as did the French. This probably helped France in the long run.

  5. irrational

    The usual excellent summary of the current situation.
    Re. the declining shipments of “stuff” (ammo, tanks, whatever) observed by Berletic, I must confess that I have had brief moments of paranoia, where I thought that this is the new narrative we are all being fed and UK-US have something else up their sleeves. I hope it is just paranoia and that the war is in fact coming closer to an end because they are running out of stuff.
    However, I have on a couple of occasions noted that stuff that had just been announced by UK-US was observed in Ukraine (not necessarily at the front) very shortly thereafter (latest example the glide bomb), perhaps invalidating Berletic’s assumptions on time to deliver in certain cases (he is certainly right in other cases), so I suspect we are being manipulated to some extent with the enthusiastic help of the mainstream media.
    By the way, this morning’s headline in Frankfurter Allgemeine (now pay-walled) was about how the European peace movement, which traditionally comes out at Easter time, has been co-opted by Russia and are mere tools.
    Specifically on the variety of military equipment, Scott Ritter observed in one of his videos that Russia would not want ammo from China as they want completely control of their supply chain. I suspect the many different tanks and other weapons platforms in the EU are a legacy of a similar lack of trust even between EU members. This may be changing slowly, but judging by the vintage of stuff we’re sending to Ukraine it will take a long time before joint platforms will be developed/procured.
    Finally, Annalena of the 360 degree turn (!) may sound like the defense minister, but she is still the foreign minister – unfortunately no one taught her about diplomacy or trigonometry.

  6. John R Moffett

    While both sides have miscalculated significantly during the conflict, it is the West that has completely gotten just about everything wrong. At times it seems like they are cursed by believing their own lies, but at others it seems like just pure arrogance mixed with bigotry against Russians. At every step the West and their Ukrainian pawns have made misstep after misstep and gotten burned badly. Even the drone incident in the Black Sea showed how arrogant and ignorant the US military is. Did they really think that Russia wouldn’t notice the drone because its transponders were off? Did the US think that no one would ever figure out who blew up the pipelines? Did the US really think they had more ammo stockpiles and production capacity? Did the US really think that Ukraine could defeat the Russian military? That is sort of like thinking Canada could defeat the US. The level of stupidity is monumental.

    1. begob

      Someone made the point that the transponders were turned off, not to bamboozle the Russians, but to thwart the amateur sleuths of the internet, who inconveniently post flight paths. I first came across their activity during the Skripal affair, when they brought to light the covert taxi service of the UK’s air ambulance helicopters.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Now the amateur sleuths noticed that in the video provided from the “collision”, Crimea is very visible on the background, so the drone absolutely was not where it was claimed to have been by the media. Most certainly inside the restricted area Russia has declared on the Black Sea for the safety of air travel during the conflict.

      2. digi_owl

        There are multiple tiers of transponders, and you most certainly want to leave the military tier on in order to avoid a blue on blue incident.

        Major commercial sites that to transponder tracking have been leaned on by USA in particular to only show civilian transponders, and even then to delay those in US airspace by as much as 30 minutes.

        There are non-commercial ones that show military transponders as well, nice way to spot the US/NATO tankers doing holding patterns over Poland day after day. But the biggest such site recently sold out to a VC company or something, and people has gotten worried and scattered.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      How much of the crazy is due to leadership like Nuland and Blinken, and how much is due to our huge think tank industry around DC? The people working in those places are under pressure to produce bright ideas that will beat the Russians. The flood of these “good ideas” are full of the crazy and stupid, but some of these have good PR potential even if they’re very unrealistic and ineffective as military strategy or tactics. Add to that the front row kid’s inclination to join the crowd, and enthusiasm builds for the most idiotic and crazy policies.

      1. Louis Fyne

        both. they are mutually reinforcing causes and effects. Self-feeding spiral of stupid with no off-ramp until at least a few hundred Americans die a pointless defeat in a humiliating battle.

        To General Giap & Dien Bien Phu, DC says “hold me beer”

      2. John R Moffett

        The think tank angle makes the case for them falling for their own paid-for lies. It really is a disinformation bubble here in DC (yes, I live in the DC suburbs). The strangeness of a society that pumps out so much propaganda, and lies about the lies, is especially disturbing when it really does appear that many of the big players like Blinken and Nuland believe the nonsense that they spew.

      3. ex-PFC Chuck

        Don’t forget the banksters of Wall Street. IMSHO if the day ever comes that they realize the Rules Based Order is past its sell-by date and they need to catch up with the multi-polarity juggernaut the Nulands and Blinkens and their supporting think-tankers will be told to stand down.

    3. hk

      Canada DID defeat the United States, when Thomas Jefferson thought conquering it would be merely a matter of marching in…. (Underestimating opponents and overestimating their desire for “freedom” ™ has a long history.)

      1. The Rev Kev

        I think that Canada fought off three invasions by the US back during the war of 1812. But the Canadians are too polite to mention them, eh.

        1. Roland

          Some of the troops were British regulars, some were colonial militia. The militia fought well.

          Many of the English-speaking colonists’ families had been Loyalist refugees from the time of the American War of Independence, and therefore were willing to fight hard.

          The French colonists in Canada had, by that time, reached a modus vivendi with the British, and were in no mood for another change of regime. The French landowners and clergy of Lower Canada tended toward ultramontanism, so that might give you an idea of how they would have regarded an American invasion.

          Finally, certain Indian nations were valuable and longstanding allies of the British crown. They were not of a mind to welcome American invaders.

          n.b. the Loyalist heritage in Canada left an anti-American streak in Canadian politics that didn’t fade until after the Second World War, and which was still detectible as late as the 1980’s. However, since that time, Canadians have fully shifted their colonial allegiance to the USA. It pains me to say it, but facts are facts. We Canadians are a people subaltern as if by nature.

    4. jrkrideau

      That is sort of like thinking Canada could defeat the US.
      Hey, we expect to win but it could take at least 6 months.

  7. Lex

    That Ukraine is entirely dependent on western aid to keep both its military and state operational means that there must be an offensive. It also means it must be to the south because geostrategically the deep focus of the US is Crimea. But because of holding Bakhmut at great cost and less publicized Russian strikes on near-rear Ukrainian military targets, it’s hard to concentrate the force ratios needed to break through. Though breaking through is only half the battle and Zelensky’s statement suggests an odd belief that if the VSU just makes Melitopol or the Azov then Putin will give up and negotiate. What if he doesn’t and a counter attack strands the whole force?

    Degradation of air defenses is real, but maybe more important are the glide bombs Russia is now making and using. At least along the front it means being able to strike from outside air defense coverage and with large munitions. The 500 “lb” version is already up to like 20 strikes/day. Functionally equivalent to kaliber launches.

    1. Greg

      Degradation of air defenses is the only reason those glide bombs can be used. They have a range of ~50km depending on altitude of launch, and serious air defense has a range >100km.
      The Fab-500 bomb is 500kg, not 500lb. Roughly the same as a kalibr, as you say. The Fab-1500 is 1.5tn of kaboom, serious business, and also seen in action with the glide package.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    There is so much active misinformation from all sides to come to any conclusions. Even the most cool headed analysts disagree quite fundamentally about what is going on.

    I suspect that it is Nato (or to be specific the British) who are pushing hard for an assault in the south towards Mariupal, but the Ukrainians know full well that it is probably suicidal, not least because it opens up their forces to air attack. I suspect that they may assault further north, towards Soledar. This seems a more achievable objective, and could potentially put Russian gains in Bakhmut at risk if they win big there. It would be a significant enough win to keep support going over 2023, which seems to be Kiev’s only real objective now.

    The curious thing is the failure of Ukraine to launch a counter offensive towards Bakhmut. It may be that they simply don’t have enough men/resources, but they’ve had enough to keep feeding into the city. Its possible that the intermittent mud season took them by surprise, or it may be that they don’t see Bakhmut as the important area to hold, but the ridge west over the city. This will be very tough for Wagner to take and it may be that the Ukrainians think that if they can hold the ridge and pressure Bakhmut they can successfully keep a lot of Russian units tied up on this front over the summer and prevent them concentrating further south or north.

    Another surprise is Ardvivka. The Ukies seem determined to hold on to the last minute, but they still won’t commit to a counter offensive that could relieve it. There are several roads through which an assault could come through so mud season isn’t necessarily a reason. It seems to defy military logic that they will neither withdraw nor try to relieve the defenders – this seems the worst option. It may be due to paralysis in decision making, but there may be some sort of logic to it. Possibly a genuine belief that they can sacrifice men there in order to attrit Russian forces while yet another wave of new recruits are prepared along with their hodgepodge of equipment.

    Ultimately, for the Ukies its all about survival, which means that they have to simultaneously keep the west happy with talk of offensives while trying to make the Russians fight and lose men for every field and village. We will only really know the full picture when mud season ends and one or both sides launch offensives.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Going by this video clip, that mud problem is not one to be ignored by either side-

      https://www.bitchute.com/video/jyAiCfEWBRYG/ (34 secs)

      In years to come, they will find vehicles from this war buried under the ground intact but having sunk in this mud. I believe that they are still finding Russian and German vehicles from WW2 that had the same happen to them. Check out this channel for stuff like that-


    2. Polar Socialist

      In an interview a Russian expert Aleksey Leonkov said that to him it’s obvious that Ukraine is preparing for an offensive – regardless of the battles in several “festungs” AFU has collected troops and saved ammunition.

      From Zelensky’s recent interview I think it’s sort of obvious that holding these fortified cities serves a political purpose – he believes Ukrainians will lose the will to fight if those cities are lost.

      Now, back to Leonkov, he believes Russia is preparing to receive the Ukrainian attack in a battle-of-Kursk-like-manner. Once Ukraine has committed it’s third army into an offensive, and that offensive has been ground to a halt or destroyed, only then will Russian forces go on the offensive. For now they are content to wait, dig trenches, build billboxes* and form mobile reserves of extreme firepower* designed to stop fast moving Ukrainian ‘technicals’ as they were used in the Kharkov offensive.

      To me that makes the most sense. Both sides know that the Ukrainian “spring” offensive will finally decide this war one way or most likely the other, and thus I wouldn’t blame the Ukrainians for wanting to gather just a little bit more men and firepower, for wanting to delay that roll of the dice a little bit longer.

      * often also known as T-55
      ** like those MTLBs with dual “bushmasters” on top

      1. Louis Fyne

        Yes, reactivating those old T-55 makes perfect sense when used as a semi-static/mobile artillery platform in a battlefield anything not under a treeline is immediately spotted by drone cameras and subject to directed fire within minutes.

        And comically/tragically, the Western Establishment is believing the spin that the Russian industrial base is so dire that they need to rush old T-55s to the front.

        1. redleg

          Using the old T-55s to absorb smart munitions that can’t be rapidly replenished is a smart tactic.

        2. R.S.

          Wrt those T-55s there are several more possibilities.

          The trains with T-55s were spotted in the Far East, and the tanks were reported to come from the Depot 1295 near Vladivostok. Technically they were hauled towards Ukraine, that’s correct, but going anywhere west from Vladivostok is “towards Ukraine”.

          1) There’s a tank repair plant no.103 near Chita. It was reported back in October that the plant got an order for upgrading 800 tanks, and T-62s were specifically mentioned. T-54/55 and T-62 share quite a lot of parts: they use compatible wheels and tracks, their engines are of the same family and have compatible parts, maybe more. Those T-55s may be intended to be cannibalized for spare part for T-62s and engineering vehicles.

          Src (in Russian):

          2) The tanks are to be upgraded into something like T-55M5/M6. Say, M5s have updated engines, new sights and fire controls, add-on and reactive armor, can use AT-12 guided missiles and so on. The Syrian Army have been using their upgraded T-55 quite effectively.

          3) Or they will be used as chassis for engineering vehicles like bridge layers, recovery vehicles, etc.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Or those T-55s can act as self-propelled artillery. Never hurts to have extra fire support.

    3. begob

      A couple of weeks ago Mercouris spoke about that high ground to the west of Bakhmut – I think his conclusion, contrary to his own assumption, was that it’s rolling terrain that doesn’t offer a command of the battlefield.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I think from Bakhmut/Artemovsk west the landscape is not as much rolling but almost flat surface often broken by ravines, gullies and glens. I gather that’s the reason most often given for the next Ukrainian defense line being in Kramatorsk. Nothing but open fields and small villages between the two.

        That said the ridge north-west of Bakhmut under Wagner control is overlooking the valley where all the roads open to Ukrainians are, allowing the Russians to use laser guided mortars to do high precision strikes on anything that moves there during the day.

        1. LifelongLib

          Thanks for the info about Bakhmut/Artemovsk being the same place. The atlas I just bought has Bakhmut in the index but Artemivsk on the map. I was starting to question my eyesight.

          1. R.S.

            Let’s say it’s complicated. It was founded in the reign of Ivan IV a.k.a. “The Terrible” as a Russian fort on the river Bakhmut, then grew up into a small town that got naturally named Bakhmut. In the 1920s the Communists renamed it to Artyomovsk (Rus.) /Artemivsk (Ukr.). After 1991 it remained Artemivsk cause no one really cared.

            Then the 2014 gov’t started removing everything “Russian” from the map, and renamed it back to Bakhmut. The LDNR naturally don’t accept those changes, so they keep using the “old” name. The plan with all those places AFAIK is to let the local residents decide after the war is over.

    4. tevhatch

      “but the ridge west over the city.” Unless the topographic maps are a lie, then that ridge is barely a molehill, if there is any advantage there, it’s man-made and underground, and not from the “height”.

      Artyomovsk (Backmut) and Ardvika are shell sumps, they serve to keep Russia expending shells to kill “low quality” teenage boys, and much like Mao sent ex-KMT to be killed by the USA bombers in Korea, Kiev is sending Russian, Hungarian, Roma, and other undesirables to be ethically cleansed by artillery, it’s why they put so little effort into retrieving bodies. It’s a meatgrinder with a purpose.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        Just a thought on the tactical situation in Bakhmut, having watched a few of the “Youtube mappers” who obsessively track every block taken by the Wagnerians.

        Maybe the reason why the UAF has not retreated westward yet is that Zelensky sent in special forces to essentially block a retreat. So the units trapped in the center may have no choice but to fight to the death, although in theory, they could surrender to Wagner. There are plenty of anecdotes of the Ukrainians machine-gunning their own troops when they try to surrender.

        This is a very strange and unsettling development. Most military commanders want to preserve their own troops, if for nothing else than to fight again another day.

        Perhaps your theory that Kiev is committing a form of ethnic cleansing is right on the mark.

        1. tevhatch

          I wanted to post something about ethnic issues on the other side, but the AI of Cloudserve is stopping my post from even registering for being held for inspection.

        2. Greg

          There are definitely nationalist units like Azov and Tornado in Bakhmut, as known individuals have been cropping up fairly regularly in obituaries for the last few weeks.
          I’ve been trying to work out what the logic is in sending these diehards in with the territorials that are being sacrificed, but if they’re blocking battalions that makes sense.

  9. The Rev Kev

    When asked for information about the upcoming great Ukrainian counteroffensive, Zelensky’s Office stated that the offensive will be launched on April 16th at oh-four hundred in the morning. That there would be two forces, each consisting of two Tank Brigades and four Assault Brigades, that will be launching themselves in the direction of Mariupol to split the Russian forces in two and that air cover will be provided by the Mig-29s that the Poles have just provided. All the Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks will be in the eastern column while the UK Challenger tanks with the US Bradley vehicles will be in the western column. When asked if President Zelensky would travel to that region to supervise the assaults, the spokesman refused to answer that question as it was classified.

    1. spud

      just like Kursk, Stalin and Zuchov knew a head of time the date and time for the start of operation citadal.


      “By late June, decision time had finally come for Hitler. Satisfied that sufficient equipment and troops were in place, Hitler set Monday, July 5th, as the launch date for Operation Citadel. British intelligence, along with Russian spies, diligently tipped off Marshal Zhukov with the day and time of the attack. Zhukov reacted by beating Hitler to the punch via a massive artillery bombardment at 3:20 a.m. on July 5th, precisely ten minutes before Citadel was scheduled to begin, thereby knocking the Germans off-stride during their opening moves.”

      1. tevhatch

        One of Zhukov’s bad moves. He should have waited 20 minutes or more to catch the troops outside their shelters in the assembly areas to catch them in the open on the march.

  10. KLG

    Short report from one PMC front:
    Zelenskyy is a saint and Putin is the devil. Mention Vicky Nuland and the 2014 coup in Ukraine or ask how the US would react to Chinese military presence in Mexico or Canada and all you get are bovine stares followed by an incoherent cascade of whataboutism.

    Also too, on another topic, the vaccines work and this is still a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

    1. chris

      Yeah. Bleating “whataboutism” is the only response these people have to the US having completely abdicated any pretense of legal or moral standing in the world. We do what we want because we want to do it. Lots of people die because of it. Oh well. I’ll have another venti mocha please…

      1. Jeff

        Damn shame that so few are paying attention to the protests in France. I’ve had to retract every negative thing I’ve said of the French. Their people get it. Protesting in front of government, err, Blackrock buildings is a smart move.

  11. Ignacio

    A big terrorist stunt by Ukraine would, IMO, only appeal to the most anti-Russian minds out there, but would also be a bad move on the PR front. For some, or for many, supporting Ukraine turning into a terrorist state might be something difficult to sustain or at least might give important reasons to cut ties with Ukraine and to oppose the militant neocon of turn. The narrative would crumble.

    This leaves still the puzzlement open on the announced spring attack. I thought that such an offensive would have a possibility to succeed only if strong air support is to be given to the Ukrainian forces but that means risking WW3 as well as having blood in NATO’s nose if Russian air defences somehow work. I think it is unlikely though I cannot rule out anything given how low we are going in diplomacy and the low chances the stunt has without such support.

    1. chris

      I think what we’ll see is a sudden buttoning up of the people allowed to opine on the war effort, and a general removal of the war from the media. I can imagine people at NYC fashion week talking about “how the Ukrainians won the war last year, isn’t that great?” while models in swathed in yellow and blue stalk down runways lined by the people whose investments rely on the war continuing forever.

      Regardless of whether there is, or isn’t, a spring attack, US citizens won’t hear about it unless something easily spinable comes from events on the ground. The people who want this war will continue to push regardless of what happens. The people who oppose it don’t have any power or representation in the US government, so who cares what they think? Unless our economy dives below even the current meager altitude, or we experience a genuine catastrophe at the US/Mexican border, the conflict in the Ukraine will continue until the likes of Victoria Nuland want it to stop.

      Which means never. There’s always time for another Minsk II… with just a few more years, I’m sure we’ll be able to beat the Russians next time…

  12. NotTimothyGeithner

    “only if strong air support”

    In short, an impossibility. Like the Leopard being designed to defend German territory, the air bases aren’t forward enough to bring fighters into the combat zone. The big bases are effectively outside of combat range of planes but not missiles. The distance from Lviv to the combat zone is basically the combat range of planes. The air bases and carriers in the Gulf War were 1/3 the distance of the combat range from targets and outside the Scud range. Even if NATO tried to bring them up, everything necessary would be wiped out before encountering Russian air defense.

    Ramstein and the other base would be destroyed by missiles long before planes came up, and Turkey won’t play with their base. The other bases are too small to organize the kind of operation needed.

    I’m sure magic no fly zones just appearing drove policy. Zelensky’s most insane statement was when he said he didn’t realize it takes 3 hears to train a pilot. Characters like Sean Hannity were screaming about enforcing a no fly zone and bombing that Russian convoy last year. Then it just stopped because the Pentagon, the more serious types, explained these realities. Then they just bounced from wunder weapon to wunder weapon and sanctions. I have no doubt the CNN threat of US Air power drove everything.

    1. tet vet

      One might say that we face the same limitation of projecting air power in a war with China. A casualty of our years of preparation for small regional conflicts against less that formidable forces.

  13. Benny Profane

    “Towards the end, the Financial Times reports that a February poll found 87% of the Ukraine public is dead set against territorial concessions to Russia.”

    How in the world can a valid poll (if that’s possible anytime, considering our own election polling) be done in Ukraine right now? The security clampdown is so severe there (no opposition parties, no non state media) that I’m pretty sure any sensible citizen who even responded to questions would just parrot whatever they saw or read from above, just to be safe. I mean, they’re raiding churches and monasteries, for crying out loud. Then there’s the severe population loss. Millions who could have escaped to safer countries, and military aged men along with boys and elders are on the front being chewed up in the meat grinder.

    1. chris

      I think a better question is why poll the Ukrainians at all?

      “Sir, should the people shooting at you stop now, or later?” “NOW NOW NOW!” Result: 87% of Ukrainians think more should be done to end the war by any means, the other 13% think NATO should just nuke the Russians and get it over with…

      On a slightly more serious note, the Ukrainians have no military, no economy, and no negotiating position without the US. The war will continue as long as the US wants it to, and not one second longer. So who cares what the Ukrainians will accept? The only question that should be asked is, “What does the US want?” And unfortunately, the answer to that seems to be: an excuse to kill Ukrainians and Russians.

      1. Stephen

        Precisely. Ukrainian “opinion” is just yet another proxy for the U.S. leadership to manipulate and use.

        This is so that the for ever war with Russia that it seeks can be portrayed as defending freedom or democracy or Woke or whatever else is flavor of the month.

        Ukrainian opinion only matters to the extent that it serves what the US wants to do anyway.

      2. Roland

        On the other hand, if Ukrainians were unwilling to fight, the war would have been over quickly. I don’t think one can deny that, as client states go, Ukraine has fought passably well. In terms of combativeness, they have no cause to be ashamed.

        Without Western aid, Ukraine would soon be defeated by the Russians. But that wouldn’t necessarily mean the fighting would end quickly. It might just mean that a lot of Ukrainians would get slaughtered until their armies disintegrated, which then might be followed by an indefinite phase of desultory and dismal irregular warfare.

        Bear in mind that the outcome of a war can be reached long before the conclusion of a war, while a war can also conclude, without the need for any outcome at all.

        Therefore, while Ukraine’s only chance to avoid defeat depends upon on foreign aid, nevertheless Ukrainian consent remains critical for the purpose of actually ending the war. It matters what Ukrainians think.

        Finally, I keep telling people that the supreme logic of war seldom amounts to more than the Sunk Costs Fallacy. It is quite mistaken to think that the human suffering or material expenditure on the part of any of the war’s participants will have a direct or timely effect on their willingness to wage war. The dearness of war often endears a war to those who wage it. You see it happen again and again. It’s happening in this war, too.

        Escalation is the only prediction I am willing to offer.

  14. chris

    Whatever it is we’re doing it has been enough so that no one is talking about peace. Anywhere. With anyone. The weird coalition between the likes of Gates and Omar is treated as a freak show. No one is pushing for any formal declaration of anything. All we get is talk of war, or conflict, and in the event we are the cause of the conflict, as in Syria, those details are obscured to the point where it seems as if the media are reporting on bullets raining from the sky as natural causes. No one born in the last 22 years has known a time when the US was at peace. No one who came of age in the last 30 years has known a time when friends and family weren’t being sent to war. No one in the US in the last 50 years has known a time when the defense budget wasn’t an insult to all of our suffering citizens. The companies who supported the war effort during WWII at least were capable of making plans to produce civilian oriented items after the war. The companies supporting the various conflicts now lobby for more conflicts rather than looking for alternate markets or purposes for their wares.

    The US has created a world where it can only exist if there is war and conflict. Which means hoping for peace puts me at odds with my country. I can only hope that the insane people running things leave as soon as possible so there is some hope of repairing the world. But I think what we’ll see if things continue is a huge loss abroad coupled with undeniable suffering at home which will result in civil violence and disunity. Which means the peace I so desperately want us to achieve will only come about at the end of a long and bloody road. God help us all.

    1. Starry Gordon

      If, as you say, the United States (that is, the US ruling class and government) is driving the war, then the deteriorated condition of the home front may suddenly become significant, that is, catastrophic. I am surprised this possibility is not discussed in more detail. “Things that can’t go on forever, don’t.”

      1. chris

        Benign neglect is a wonderful thing. And freedom of the press only matters if the people who read the news can act on it. Between the two of them, I don’t see how the average US voter has any agency in what is happening right now.

        1. Jeff

          The average voter is a propagandized skin sack seen by our overlords as ATMs with legs. Until said average voter worries less about woke and just wakes up, this will get worse.

    2. tet vet

      Well said! I fear that our military will end up destroying us eventually. With no pun intended, we have gotten so little bang for our bucks that we are now nothing but a paper tiger. I agree with Douglas MacGregor that the only thing that will reign in the nut cases in control is the destruction of our financial system so that we are forced to stop bankrupting ourselves with useless military expenditures. Like the old saying: We are losing a little on each sale and trying to make it up on volume.

      1. chris

        This is a great example of past being prologue. A couple millenia ago, western historians noted:

        “The fall of Athens occurred when the tyranny that Athens had practiced on so many they finally turned on themselves.”

        That’s where we are now. When we can no longer abuse people in other countries, we’ll support deficit spending to further militarized our police so that dissenting citizens will be kept in check or killed.

      2. Rob

        As an example, look at the protests going on in Europe at this time. They are all about domestic economic issues rather than the war and associated sanctions that are causing those issues. In the end, people are most concerned with their own material welfare. The ruling class need only provide the masses with bread and circuses above a certain threshold level, and they will be free to do almost anything that pleases them.

    3. jan

      I can only hope that the insane people running things leave as soon as possible

      Bit of a problem there. People used to say, “vote them all out!”, but how do we do that? Not sure, but maybe Trump may think differently about Ukraine than Biden. But what about China? In other words, who could we vote for to make a real difference?

      1. chris

        I really don’t know. I don’t think anyone currently running, or with delusions of office, could be trusted to actually stop the Blob from its mad rush to destruction. There will never be enough Russia blood shed to satiate Vicky Nuland, Bob Kagan, and all the other psychopaths in the state department and aligned organs. That’s the thing about irredentists. They’re happy to make other people run ragged and fight their battles. Short of purging them from office and think tanks and media… I don’t see how this ever stops.

      2. Rob

        And Trump is a proto-fascist, so there’s that to think about. Fascists tend to be fond of war, so can you trust him to end the Ukraine War and not start another one? Pick your poison.

  15. Camelotkidd

    ‘”Just in time’ F-35 supply chain too risky for next war, general says. NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will need a more resilient supply chain to ensure the military can keep it flying in a future, highly contested war, the Air Force officer in charge of the program said Monday.”
    Like I keep saying–it’s hard to maintain an empire with a neoliberal economic system

  16. Maxwell Johnston

    In order to launch a major offensive, it’s necessary to assemble your strike forces and a large number of support vehicles (fuel, ammo, water, medevac, etc) in a quite small area near the point of attack; otherwise, the offensive will end very quickly as soon as your troops exhaust whatever fuel and ammo (and water, troops can go a few days without food but not without water) they’re carrying on their persons or vehicles. Against an opponent which has cheap observation drones (let alone surveillance aircraft), plus sufficient artillery and rockets to hit what they see, it becomes impossible to assemble such forces secretly. Even gathering your forces under cover of darkness and camouflage doesn’t work anymore, not if your enemy has thermal and night vision sensors on its drones and aircraft. You can of course try to pull this off, but at the risk of having your enemy spot what you’re up to and pummel your conveniently assembled forces, thereby degrading your offensive before it even starts.

    I continue to believe that cheap drones and cheap electronics are changing the nature of warfare, but not the way many military types thought they would. It’s tough to hide on the modern battlefield.

    In short: I don’t think UKR will be able to launch a successful big attack. And even RU won’t launch this kind of WW2-style concentrated offensive until UKR forces are thoroughly degraded. And given the amount of western equipment being poured into UKR, that might take a long time.

    1. Benny Profane

      If you believe the reporting of Brian Beletic, Alexander Mecourious, and Colonel MacGregor, Ukraine isn’t getting much at all, and NATO doesn’t have much to give, anyway. This is what happens when you destroy your manufacturing base, and then make trillion dollar Star War toys to wow the taxpayer and make them feel secure.

      It may sound fantastic, but I think that there are plans for a NATO force to stream out of Poland to at least establish a DMZ somewhere in western Ukraine. The prize for Poland is land that they consider their historical right. Not that that will end well, but, war goes on.

    2. dandyandy

      RU is presently executing exactly the field operation that suits them best. And it is the most cost effective one – pure capitalism :)

      Namely, attract a maximum number of UAF into fire kotels where they can be easily disposed of, until such time when UAF can send no more. Not just Ukrainian but when no more Poles and Balts and other adrenalized crazies are available. Essential part is cooperation from idiots currently running the UAF war strategy – the Banderista Nazies and their NATO Nazi tutors, that part is still flooding in.

      Only then the RU forces may decide to sweep the field, kind of like what USA did in WW1 and WW2.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      He’s late and derivative. Andrei Martyanov has had this in detail in his BOOKS, FFS and revisits that topic with details on his site. Andrei so owns this topic that his analysis was the focus of a review by in American Affairs by Philip Pilkington.

      1. Greg

        It was a disappointing post. Simplicius (I forget what his nom de plume at the saker was) has otherwise had some interesting things to say, but seems to be best on the tactical and operational level.

  17. Alex Cox

    In this excellent piece, Yves remarks that the EU concentrated on Airbus, and not on a unified project to build ‘far more essential-to-survival major weapons platforms’.

    In what way are major weapons platforms necessary for Europe’s survival? Who threatens Europe? I think the EU – like the US – is far more endangered by its aircraft and weapons production than by any external threat.

    1. hk

      The curious thing is that Europeans did try to come up with standardized European tanks and fighters before: Leopard I and AMX30 came out of such a project in 1950s (I think Italy was left holding the bag when that project fell apart) and the Eurofighter project was based on the same premise, too. The reason Leopard I/AMX30 project fell apart was the problem typical in “cooperation among equals”: France and Germany had slightly different ideas about what the new tank was going to be equipped with (I think they had different ideas about guns and engines) and when they couldn’t agree, they took their toys back home with themselves and made their own tanks (and those who didn’t have the toys to make tanks from scratch with, like Italy, were left in the lurch.).

      1. Polar Socialist

        I think Europe is too big for military standardization (Hi there, NATO!).

        Of the 18 biomes on the globe, Europe has 6. European countries have different sizes, geographies, strategic needs, tactical needs (or even options), etc.

        A good example is the Nordic Combat Uniform project. Something as basic as the clothing for a soldier took 7 years to arrange between countries that have collaborated for decades and have similar mentalities. Of course, each Nordic country will have it’s own camouflage pattern (because nature), and procure their own foot- and headgear and personal protective equipment.

        Different nations have different military problems with different military solutions, and “multipurpose” mostly means “not really suitable for anything in particular”. It’s almost a law of military equipment that the simplest and most focused systems turn out to be the most versatile and long-lasting ones.

        1. hk

          Incidentally, this partly accounts for why US military procurement is such a mess, too.

          Navy and Air Force have different strategic orientation, operate from different environments (e.g. taking off and landing from carriers), etc. Pentagon always wants to create a common program that can slot into both Navy and Air Force requirements and these programs almost always fall apart under their own weights (F111 “fighter”-bomber in 60s-70s; F35 nowadays). Of course, in this case, the question is whether US actually needs to operate in so many different environments and situations in the first place.

          I am surprised how troublesome Nordic uniform project was. You’d figure that Sweden, Finland, and Norway should be “close enough” environmentally so that whatever fits one should fit others well enough. (And why does Denmark fit into this grouping?)

  18. Gulag

    I tend to be a fan of Paul Craig Roberts critique of Russian strategic moves in this war.

    Strategic Mistake One–after the U.S. coup in 2014, allowing eight years of Ukraine rearmament before doing something.

    Strategic Mistake Two–Not going all out in its initial invasion of Ukraine–i.e. sealing its borders, destroying energy infrastructure, and installing a new government in Kiev.

    His key assumption is that Russia by allowing this war to drag on for 14 months has increased the probability of nuclear war.

    Roberts continually points to the neo-conservative war doctrine– that the purpose of American foreign policy is to prevent the rise of any power that could serve as a constraint on U.S. unilateralism.

    Roberts argues that we now face a situation where the neo-cons, who in fact run and actually implement American foreign policy, have not been shocked out of their assumption that Russia may be a paper tiger.

    He believes that it was and is imperative that the Russian’s make a decisive military move in order to shatter such neo-con assumptions.

    Roberts, as an under-secretary of the Treasury in the Regan administration has, in my opinion, key insights into neo-con thinking and behavior.

    Again, he now argues that we are a nanosecond away from world-wide nuclear annihilation.

    1. Roland

      Russia never had the conventional forces strength to crush Ukraine in one swift offensive. When I consider RU military expenditure and overall posture of the pre-war years, I am mostly struck by their conventional forces’ relative modesty, compared to their potential national security risks. This was a reason why I was sceptical of their intention to really invade UKR.

      But Russia’s relative conventional force weakness must not be seen as good news for their enemies. The Russians have gone to war over what they see as a vital interest. I use the word, “vital,” literally, as meaning a matter of life or death. NATO in Ukraine is for Russia an unacceptable danger, especially in view of the loss of good faith that has happened over recent decades. In the face of great danger, the Russians will not concede defeat until they can no longer fight.

      When their relatively slender conventional means of fighting begin to approach exhaustion, or perhaps somewhat before, the Russians will carry on the struggle with their still-considerable nuclear forces.

      In other words, Russia’s relative conventional force weakness means that this war’s escalation curve will probably not be smooth, nor evenly stepped. Instead, that curve is likely to spike.

      It is possible, of course, that our coming nuclear war will be waged tentatively. The world just had a pandemic that proved much less than apocalypse, so why can’t we have a thermonuclear exchange that proves less than armageddon? Mind you, even if done mincingly, such a conflict would still bid fair to reach a nine-digit death toll, because of enhanced surplus mortality worldwide due to all causes relating to the war. When it comes to war, optimism’s the creed of a misanthrope.

      The Ukrainians, too, now see themselves as waging a desperate war over vital interests. Their means to fight are less than Russia’s, but their commitment is no less. Rightly or wrongly, their country has been invaded. Don’t expect them to back down, either.

      I find that a species of desperation also seems to have taken hold among Western elites. Despite their wealth and prestige, they seem to feel beleaguered and under threat. These fears of theirs are absurd in one way, understandable in another–and dangerous, whether absurd or not. Absurd, since the West is nowhere near as threatened as either Ukraine or Russia. However, those in the West who want to claim the tantalizing prize of world dominion, often sought, never won, can feel the opportunity slipping away, and may attempt something drastic to fulfill the dream. For the mighty, visions and ambitions can assume the entire importance of life itself–i.e. a vital interest.

  19. TomW

    I find that larger trends are not much discussed. The holy grail seems to be modern combined arms warfare. It was basically the difference between WW 1 and WW 2. Since this resembles WW 1, I think it is due to the impossibility of traditional air superiority. Leaving air activity to relatively anemic drones. Secondly, surprise seems impossible, loose lips or not. American supplied C3 support is never discussed. But Russia has enough satellites and drones to eliminate major surprises.
    So maybe the devolution to WW 1 style warfare is inevitable. Realistically, Russia can’t really go further than the Dniper, so they are maybe 1/2 done or more. Ukraine’s successes to date relied on surprise which they won’t get again. Meanwhile both sides seem to prefer to duke it out across fixed lines. Whatever they say.
    Long term, this is bad news for the American military. Which relies very heavily on traditional air power. What will they do with obsolete carrier groups?

  20. Cresty

    Aside from the powerful families that own weapons makers in various euro countries, there is some sense behind being able to make key weapons, like tanks and jets, completely in your own country. If your neighbor gets mad they could hold up some key supply chain piece for the multinational tank or fighter. If you make it all they lose that leverage.

    As we know, the US can just turn off the targeting for f16s if it doesn’t like who/what/why you’re fighting. Controlling that stuff is what makes a sovereign state sovereign.

  21. Frank James

    The entire British army could fit into Wembley Stadium with a quarter of the seats empty. About 75,000 on paper, but seriously under recruited so maybe closer to 60,000 in reality.

    We are not going to send men to the Ukraine.

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