Tuesday 8 March 2022

What the military experts say about the war

Daily Mail:

Farida Rustamova, a Russian journalist who was well-connected in government circles before fleeing Russia amid a crackdown on free speech, said sources she spoke to before leaving never believed Putin would go to war and are now making 'apocalyptic' forecasts about the weeks and months ahead as fighting grinds on and sanctions bite.
'They're carefully enunciating the word clusterf***,' one source told her when asked how Russian politicians were reacting to the news. 'No one is rejoicing. Many understand that this is a mistake, but in the course of doing their duty they come up with explanations in order to somehow come to terms with it.'

There is a huge amount of Ukrainian propaganda and war hysteria in the British press. 'We are at war' said Harriet Seargent of the Daily Mail and lots of people seem to think 'we' are, even though Putin does not threaten England or Nato - this is because countries are no longer quite respectable things to fight for and values are instead. Yet the Ukrainians are fighting for their country not democracy (they are much more democratic than Russia but still imprison politicians, suppress political parties and their politicians are extremely corrupt, including those at the very top. Mr Zelensky has a house in Italy worth EUR 3.8 million.)


We know by now not to trust experts and that includes military experts. Many think Russian victory inevitable. Quite a few no longer do.

Read Sir Lawrence Freeman's very interesting summary from two days ago here.

Russia has now committed well over 90 percent of the massive force that was gathered around Ukraine before 24 February, and is still unable to take its early objectives, let alone work out, should they be taken, how they might be occupied and then governed. This suggests there is not much spare capacity for the western parts of the country, which is where Ukrainian forces, commanded from Lviv, could regroup with supplies coming in from Poland, Slovakia and possibly Hungary, if Kyiv were to fall.

But the maps don’t show the full extent of the quandary faced by the Russians. To repeat a point made in my previous post, presence is not the same as control. As we saw yesterday in extraordinary videos from Kherson and Melitopol, in which unarmed civilians were demonstrating against the Russians, these towns are not truly in Russian hands. The populations remain resolutely Ukrainian in their loyalties, providing evidence not only of their indignation about the Russian occupation but warning how the lack of effective control could have deadly consequences for Russian units if this turned into an insurgency.

Another area of Russian ‘control’ shown on the map, coming down from Belarus includes the famous 60 km Russian convoy, now stretching from Prybirsk, near Chernobyl, to the much fought-over Antonov airport near Kyiv. This is no longer a convoy. It has not moved for days and is not going anywhere. It is full of vehicles that have broken down, or been abandoned, or attacked by Ukrainian forces. The spectacle no longer coveys a menacing threat but instead epitomises Russia’s poor planning and the limitations of its equipment. Vehicles have not been well maintained and are unable to move off the road as they cannot cope with the boggy land, in some areas made boggier because of deliberately flooding. This ‘convoy’ denies this key road for any following Russian forces as surely as a blown bridge while preventing Russian forces accessing a vast amount of equipment and vital supplies.

Phillips P. OBrien is Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews and thinks Russia cannot win this war. He wrote books called: How the War was Won, and Second Most Powerful Man in the World. He is Editor in Chief, War in History. This is what he says.

I quote some of his thread.

So any Russian forward movement is likely to be extremely costly. Its hard to imagine now any land assault on Kyiv. Would take two to three more resupplies--and there are indications that Russian morale wont tolerate that (and they might be out of trucks then anyway).

If they wanted to take Kyiv we are talking a massive effort for months. They have given no indication that the could carry it off. They would probably have to get working rail lines into Ukraine at this point. It would be a major undertaki

Instead we are seeing the contours of a new Russian strategy emerging, that holds out only the prospect of bankruptcy and permanent war. They might gear up to take the larger cities of eastern Ukraine (Kharkiv) and try to blow up as much of the rest with missiles and bombs

Not sure what that accomplishes. They would still have to undertake some terrible street by street fighting and if anything stiffen Ukrainian resistance with the indiscriminate attacks.

It was true that Putin was widely popular in Russia, thought not with intelligent people under 40 who work in foreign companies, but it is good to be reminded that some Russians think he is evil. 

This is from an article in the Atlantic by a Russian journalist, Sergei Dobrynin, who works for Radio Free Europe. Like me he thought Putin would be idiotic to invade Ukraine. We were both right.

As a journalist, I took part in investigating the infamous Unit 29155, tasked with destabilizing Europe; modern Russian Nazis; the production of Novichok, the nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Alexei Navalny; corruption in the Federal Security Service; Russian hackers; the obnoxious wealth of Putin’s close circle of friends; paramilitary groups. I learned a lot about how Putin’s Russia works.


...Sure, Putin was evil, as Arsenyev had said. Arsenyev had also called him a Chekist, and Chekists are cunning. I thought Putin’s cunning was undeniable. And that is why, when U.S. intelligence started saying that Putin would invade Ukraine, I didn’t believe it. Despite all my reporting experience, everything I had seen, I thought it was nonsense. I was almost angry. I couldn’t see any logical reason, any advantage, any positive outcome of the invasion. It was painfully obvious that a war would be catastrophic. I told myself, Putin is evil. But he is not an idiot.


That’s what I kept telling myself right up until the night of February 24. At about 4 a.m., I switched on my smartphone and immediately saw dozens of videos of Russian rocket blasts all over Ukraine. These blasts were proof of Putin’s evil and his irrationality. Putin had brought our country to hell, just as Arsenyev had foretold, and he was bringing Ukraine to hell too.

Finally, this. 

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