Looking for Words on the Russo-Ukrainian War
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Categories: Modern

Looking for Words on the Russo-Ukrainian War

a photo of the Innsbrucker Altstadt with the Goldenes Dachl, the Nordkette, a construction crane, and the golden arches of McDonalds
Once upon a time there was a very silly theory that no two countries with a McDonalds had ever gone to war therefore no two such countries would ever go to war. The wars in Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine pretty much disproved that, see also XKCD #1122. Photo by Sean Manning, October 2023.

In August I have been trying to think of anything worth saying about the Russian war in Ukraine. The only things I can come up with this August are Perun’s lectures, the odd talk by the Chieftain, some long-form reporting in the Kyiv Independent, and the BBC-Meduza estimate of Russian dead. In July Russia ended the agreement not to attack ships exporting Ukrainian grain. They hoped to reduce Ukraine’s income in foreign currency, and starve people in Africa and Southwest Asia whose UN representatives might push for a ceasefire to get the grain flowing again. Every so often the Ukrainians launch a new attack on Crimea (in September they used cruise missiles and unmanned surface vessels to sink ships in Sevastopol, other times they have attacked supply dumps and the Kerch Strait bridge). The drone attacks on Moscow and the mutiny of Wagner Group certainly show that the Russian government has limited military power everywhere other than the front. The Ukrainians have quietly resumed conscription, which could mean a lot of their soldiers are dead or wounded, or could mean they have trained up all their volunteers and have room in the training courses for conscripts again.

Almost everything else I can find is speculation, trivia, or propaganda. The Ukrainian government and military are too busy fighting for their fatherland to give full and frank reports, and the Russian government and military lie like crypto fraudsters having a heart to heart chat with the kind of investors who have interesting tattoos and assistants the size of pro hockey players. Calling out specific fantasists, propagandists, and useful idiots seems pointless (do they know me? do they care what I think? do my gentle readers know them and care what they think?) and not the kind of thing I want to talk about on this blog. Someone is always wrong on the Internet. Many of the honest commentators such as Oryx are retiring because its so hard to keep watching people be killed and scroll through disgusting Telegram channels looking for a new photo or video. As I said in my last post, the outcome of this stage of the fighting will be determined by how fast the two sides create and lose forces, and nobody knows those numbers for both sides (the Ukrainian military must know their numbers, but I would not want to bet money that the numbers for Russian gains and losses which reach Shoigu are accurate within a factor of two). Control of ground is not important, what matters is the changing relationship between the forces on and above the ground.

The same that applies to the general course of the war applies to how it is being fought. Some people intone that towed artillery are obsolete in the face of drones, but others have seen pictures of Ukrainian artillery pieces next to giant piles of shell cases, so apparently those particular pieces are not moving after firing two or three rounds. The Ukrainians seem happy with their M777 howitzers and have finally set up camouflage nets and anti-suicide-drone screens! The effectiveness of different unmanned vehicles seems to vary from week to week or month to month or sector to sector. The main countries willing to provide Russia with arms are still Iran and North Korea, and NATO is stronger than that coalition in every way that matters.

I also feel uncomfortable with a lot of what passes for commentary because it does not respect what is happening. Millions of Ukrainians live under Russian military occupation. Millions more live under thugs in Donetsk and Luhansk. Millions have been driven from their homes or their countries. At least 100,000 people have been killed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced into uniform. Russian forces are deporting Ukrainian children and murdering people in the occupied territories; prisoners of war are being murdered or mutilated by their captors. The Russian on-again, off-again blockade of the Black Sea threatens the grain supply to whole countries. Something like 20% of Ukrainian territory is still occupied. Arguing about this war is not harmless nerdiness like arguing about WW II tanks or Napoleonic frigate captains. Whoever is coming off better from the fighting, I have trouble imagining any situation where more civil and military aid to Ukraine would not be a net good.

Under circumstances like this, I feel very uncomfortable watching outsiders making up numbers and pronouncing who will run out of troops and weapons first, or grading the combatants’ performance like a middle-school teacher. I don’t think anyone knows how to fight a war like this with the equipment the Ukrainians have available. The Canadian Armed Forces have not fought without overwhelming air superiority since 1942 (and when they fought without overwhelming air superiority at Dieppe and Hong Kong, it did not go well for them). And you don’t have to know which side is ahead today to conclude that the more arms they receive, the more likely Ukraine is to win soon. And the sooner Ukraine wins, the sooner this war will stop getting worse. (Russia ‘winning’ would not stop it getting worse, because many of Russia’s goals are not possible but they have lots of torturers and concentration-camp guards willing to try).

PS. I have scheduled this post 2 1/2 months in advance because I believe nobody, even the Ukrainian high command, can know what will happen. So if the Ukrainians break through or launch a massed attack and lose hundreds of vehicles in a week, there will be no need to update this post.

Further Reading

“Bring out your dead: A joint investigation by Meduza and Mediazona reveals the true number of Russian soldiers killed so far in the invasion of Ukraine,” Meduza, 10 July 2023 https://meduza.io/en/feature/2023/07/10/bring-out-your-dead

The Chieftain, “Designing the Tank of the Future,” 21 July 2023 {try minute 19:48 for the Ukrainian talk on UAV defense} https://piped.garudalinux.org/watch?v=iFs6LG0TEyU

Perun (YouTube) https://piped.mha.fi/channel/UCC3ehuUksTyQ7bbjGntmx3Q



https://kyivindependent.com/pro-russian-sympathies-make-life-harder-for-soldiers-cops-in-kupiansk-district/ {do the 2014 borders precisely divide people who want to be part of Russia from people who want to be part of Ukraine? Probably not. But without this stupid war people could come to an arrangement similar to that between Italy and South Tirol, or Spain and Catalonia. As the Kenyan delegate to the UN said, the borders left over from the European empires of the early 20th century don’t make sense, but it would make even less sense to fight over them}

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/11/zelenskiy-sacks-all-military-recruitment-heads-over-frontline-bribes-scandal-ukraine {Shakespeare makes jokes about the practice of taking bribes to conscript the moneyless and friendless, and Sir John Smythe got in trouble for criticizing it}

https://euromaidanpress.com/2023/08/23/the-one-most-important-thing-for-ukraines-counteroffensive/ {semi-official statement from a Ukrainian think tank: if Ukraine runs out of weapons and ammunition before breaking through Russian lines in 2023, it will hold until ammunition production in the EU increases then attack in fall 2024 or spring 2025}

https://theins.ru/en/confession/263400 {Russian sex workers on their military clients, I don’t know the venue}

PNAS Political Science with one of the less bad casualty estimate by academics https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2307372120

Holger Roonemaa and Eero Epner, “How Estonia’s Military Intelligence Secretly Helped Ukraine,” vsquare 15 September 2023 https://vsquare.org/how-estonias-military-intelligence-secretly-helped-ukraine/ ‘Although his agency picked up early signals ahead of the current war, this time they fell short of predicting the start of the war. “When you looked at the composition and concentration of Russia’s forces [along the Ukrainian borders], the answer was that they wouldn’t be able to do it. As it became clear, they really can make very stupid decisions and conduct the operation with only a third of required forces,” (retiring Estonian military intelligence chief) Grosberg says.’

Wong, Leonard and Gerras, Stephen J., “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession” (2015). US Army War College Press. Monographs, Books, and Publications. 466.
https://press.armywarcollege.edu/monographs/466 {sometimes the difference between an army that fights well and an army that collapses in lies, theft, and crimes against civilians is as thin as the edge of a knife; the problems of Russian ground and naval forces are not unique to them, just especially severe and visible; cp. the observations of journalists who cover court cases that Canadian cops perjure themselves a lot}

US General Zaluzhnyi, UDC 355: MODERN POSITIONAL WARFARE AND HOW TO WIN IN IT https://infographics.economist.com/2023/ExternalContent/ZALUZHNYI_FULL_VERSION.pdf

(scheduled 23 August 2023, updated 15 September 2023, added link 28 October 2023, 5 November)

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2 thoughts on “Looking for Words on the Russo-Ukrainian War

  1. Pavel Vaverka says:

    When the war is over (2024 or 2025) we can talk about which informational source was the best. I guess History Legends https://www.youtube.com/@historylegends/videos (Canadian creator) on YT was among most. When RF failed miserably at Vuhledar, he made competent analysis, when Russian navy was under siege in Crimea few weeks back, again he reported it with many details. When VSU hit the wall this summer repeatedly he showed why. He’s got also very good video about Armenia-Azerbaijan war 2020, scary news like cartel situation in Mexiko, expansion of Turkey (Russia failed to notice drone war in Armenia and Syria before Ukraine).

    But nobody till today could explain some issues like, why is RF incapable to do recon before their massive Avdivka attack? Why they cannot properly demine (they are boasting with new vehicle https://www.eurasiantimes.com/new-gun-mounted-on-listva-mcv-to/)? Why are they so bad with coordination of their attacks (land + air cooperation, artillery)? Most VSU artillery pieces remained untouched during Avdivka attack!!! Why both sides with 10 000’s of drones don’t do large overwhelming attack in one sector just with thousands of drones?

    Last Alex guest is pure idiocy, but that’s so far one video when I can point out pure false info and lies, but creator is not to blame (except by choosing the guest). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idriss_Aberkane I was thinking during his speech, that HAMAS is in my livingroom and other states exists purely to listen muslim countries… I think now I can understand why some perceive alternative media as threat, this was really scary. But solution is not sending people to jail, ban them or nationalize their property, that’s tyranny Trudeau! (and others).

    Weeb Union and The New Atlas (no any amount of Western tanks can’t do job done for VSU, again this is not soccer but stating the facts based on analysis. Brian was in US army and knows things) got the many points right. I don’t want to bore other by opinions and basis, why I think this is more probable than mainstream just read Zaluzhny https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2023/11/01/the-commander-in-chief-of-ukraines-armed-forces-on-how-to-win-the-war and analysis https://simplicius76.substack.com/p/zaluzhny-pens-oped-for-the-economist

    This war showed that new tactics, technology is needed, but it’s too late for this conflict to implement it (yet Russia claims, that every new tank will be protected by system Záštita (shield) against drones), excuse my Czech translation, I am still learning Russian. Any movement, surprise is impossible on the battlefield and frontlines when everything is visible. Monster defenses positions are hard to break for both sides. Demining is difficult and it takes too long and with heavy casualties (You also need system which can destroy flying mines in the air before they hit the ground). Russia is mostly not willing to accept heavy losses. Yet I think the rightly coordinated attack with WWII density would succeed for both sides.

    I can recommend book https://www.amazon.com/Seconds-Die-Military-Nagorno-Karabakh-Warfighting/dp/1636241239 Tank is not over and tactics from WWII needs to be reworked. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2023/10/17/stealth-tank-Korea-defense-Hyundai-Rotem/7571697549300/
    One notice, why is EU,USA doing heavy monsters which are not usable in Ukraine mud and not able to go over any bridge? Japan can https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_10

    Again I have to refer to sad reality of industrial production of US, EU, we are not capable to do ammo, tanks, etc. in necessary quantities. VSU is running out of people suitable for war. And I am not saying this look I was right, or I am fan of RF. But this is reality, British study (RUSI) about ammo issue is from May 2022 https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/return-industrial-warfare Nothing has changed since then. Cluster ammo was sent, because nothing else is in the storage. There will be absence of ammo between February-April 2024.

    Why is Ukraine war industry setting up in foreign countries only now after two years?! Jeesh, even if You don’t trust my sources, Zalužnyj scifi report what is he want is basically new movie script waiting for adoption. It’s absurd and full of we need new fantastic technology, which is not available and won’t be available. You cannot win an air war when enemy has got https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-37_(missile) or things like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-350_missile_system I have to find report when in automatic mode (without human operator) this machine destroyed 5 targets simultaneously.

    Meanwhile for Russian speaking, comrades discovered that Chinese comrades are not friendly https://www.mk.ru/economics/2023/10/11/kitay-atakuet-vmesto-importozameshheniya-rossiya-popala-v-eshhe-bolshuyu-importozavisimost.html Not to mention stopping big projects and they were canceling some even years before war (like new train tracks it’s my job to know, so I know!) Please stop believing fantastical lies and explanation about roots of war and conduct of Russian military to civilians. I talked to many Ukranians here, I got only hearsay about some ministry of interior battalions and their bad behaviour in Charkov against civilians. Zoom out and with Dreizin report I can agree two dying civilizations should not battle each other (USA -RF, these are the same team with Israel), when islamic countries are on the rise and China is most powerful in history.

    Think in long durée, geopolitical horizon, what horrible mistake happened in the East, because of pride and corruption (Biden family). West is now realizing thanks to Gaza tragedy we were importing the enemy to us. And I said so with others since 2014 some cultures are not compactible with each other. One or the other will wipe out each other or You will live in fear, like in Israel. Congrats to neomarxists and cretins, idiots, and NGO’s, and other organization, politicians commanding the import of otherness to Europe… When it is suicide and criminal act.

    1. Sean says:

      Wow most of that is not the kind of thing that I talk about online (and not the kind of thing I am comfortable having on my blog). I lived with Afghans, Egyptians, Iranians, and Turks in Calgary and Innsbruck.

      It seems to me that every one of the countless well documented Russian crimes in this war is the kind of thing which has happened since the Bronze Age and probably the Paleolithic! Nothing “fantastical” about them just human. Deliberately killing civilians, kidnapping children to raise them as your ethnic group, forcing people to give up their language and adopt new names, mutilating captured soldiers, sex crimes against locals, they are all things that happen unless you deliberately chose to act differently. And I think that most of the witnesses to for example the Bucha Massacre are busy in Ukraine or dead, but they have worked with the UN to publish reports like this.

      I think most of the Nato tanks for Ukraine have been Leopard I which are very light (they were designed before there was effective armour against shaped charges). About 2/3 of the tanks promised or delivered have been Soviet designs, most of the remainder were Leopard I. Would tend to agree that going on about how this or that ground combat system will turn the tide is a bad way to think. The Ukrainian military has always wanted more long-ranged weapons such as combat aircraft and missiles and NATO countries held them back for a long time.

      None of the wishes in the report by Zaluzhnyi seemed like it would take a long time to R&D. Many seem like technology that already exists, but Ukraine does not have or does not have in quantity.

      Idriss Aberkane does sound similar to some figures in the USA!

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