Ukraine
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Ukraine

Objectives in a War on the Eurasian Steppes

a map of territory controlled by government forces, Russian forces, and neither in eastern Ukraine
Ukraine war map, 27 April, by Nathan Russer https://nitter.net/Nrg8000/status/1519328137821454337#m After two months of war, Russian gains are in pockets a few kilometers deep and 10 km wide like an offensive in 1916

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine stalled in early March, I see some people on old and social media who are latching onto the fact that Russia still occasionally takes a new village in eastern Ukraine. Isn’t winning a war all about advancing?

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Where Did the Weapons Come From?

Back in February, as the evidence grew that Putin was about to commit the great mistake, journalists were sharing stories like this:

Dmytro Skatrovsky said he had not been notified by text but had turned up anyway outside the Svyatoshynskyi recruitment centre, in western Kyiv. He spent three years in the army and took part in the 2014 battle to evict separatists from the port city of Mariupol, he said.

“I’ve bought two sniper complexes with good optics,” he added. “I’ve also ordered a drone on Amazon. It hasn’t turned up yet.” Skatrovsky said a group of friends had chipped in to get the rifles – at a cost of $10,000 (£7,370). US contacts had paid $2,300 for the drone, he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/23/business-brisk-at-kyiv-gun-shops-as-ukrainians-rush-to-buy-arms

Over on corporate social media, I see some people who are amazed and offended to see a wide range of kit in photos from the war in Ukraine, ranging from the latest and most fashionable rifles to Maxim guns on steel carriages and – well, I have not personally seen the 1903 Springfield rifles, and the WW II vintage Panzerfaust may have been stolen from a museum. I am not sure if that is as unusual as they think: the German army which invaded the USSR in 1941 has been described as a military museum on wheels, one of the machine guns in the Citadel at Halifax was removed from the museum collection circa 1991 because the Army needed it again, and an American National Guard veteran claims that his unit invaded Iraq in 2003 with old M3 grease guns last produced in 1945. In fact, if you looked at a random army sometime in the past few thousand years, I think you would see just such a diversity of arms, some bought from private sources, others made in rough workshops, others donated, and yet others purchased by the state.

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Two Links on Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Warfare between two powers with airforces and armoured divisions is complicated and technical, and many of the people who talk about it have ulterior motives. Some want to keep their audience by talking about the latest topic, others want to sell something, and a third kind are propagandizing for a state or a movement. Here are two links I found helpful¸and one topic which I wish I had a link on.

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The Power of Fiction

This passage is so extraordinary that I want to quote it for later use even if I don’t have the words in me to say anything about it. It was published shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also in the command center: (Ukrainian army battalion commander) Oleksander’s sword and crossbow — a nod to... Continue reading: The Power of Fiction

The Iron Horse in Ukraine

A digital map of Ukraine overlaid with Russian advances, Russian-controlled territory (in red), and the Ukrainian railroad network, created by https://nitter.net/SukDukDong1/status/1503145121126232064#m on as of 13 March 2022

I added this map to my previous post on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it is worth studying. War in Ukraine has to be supplied by rail. One reason why many people much more knowledgeable than me did not believe Putin would actually invade was that the Russians had plenty of tanks and aircraft but not the trucks they would need to supply such an attack:

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Marching Under the Lash

I feel like I am not clever or wise enough to understand what Herodotus was doing, but every so often, he reminds me that he could tell a kind of truth which was different than truth about the exact size of the Persian army or what day two armies fought.

First

What is it that you say they relate, that the soldier’s is more pleasant than the scribe’s (profession)? Come, let me tell you the condition of the soldier, that much castigated one. He is brought while a child to be confined in the camp. A /searing\ beating is given his body, an open wound inflicted on his eyebrows. His head is split open with a wound. He is laid down and he is beaten like papyrus. He is struck with torments. Come, /let me relate\ to you his journey to Khor (Syria) and his marching upon the hills. His rations and his water are upon his shoulder like the load of an ass, while his neck has been made a backbone like that of an ass. The vertebrae of his back are broken, while he drinks of foul water. He stops work (only) to keep watch.

P. Anastasi IV, 9, 4–10, 1 in William Kelly Simpson (ed.), The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Third edition (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2003) p. 441
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Things I Don’t Know About the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Canadian journalists can’t be bothered to find and print maps of the war but this one on Wikimedia Commons is in the public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukraine.jpg updated 26 February 2022

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, criminal, and mistaken invasion of Ukraine on 24 February surprised me. The most important things to know about it are that so far Ukrainian forces are holding out and that people in neighbouring countries are helping refugees while the world begins to punish the Russian government. Refugees Welcome Polska, https://berlin-hilft.com/ukraine/, and the Kyiv Independent seem like three worthwhile projects; a replica armourer in Ukraine shared the Telegram channel by a former co-worker https://t.me/s/saveukrainestoprussia; the index of demonstrations against this war at https://www.stopputin.net/ is at least more useful than being angry on social media. If you don’t mind American spooks and think tanks, the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC has daily situation reports at https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/ukraine-conflict-updates Because this attack was so surprising, and because I am so ignorant about the region, I decided to write this post about all the things I know I do not know, and then expand the jargon in one of the reports I have seen. But my ignorance is not at all important compared to the people who are fighting or fleeing for their lives!

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