Following the war in Ukraine

Aug 19, 2022
Ukraine Russia
Image: Pixabay

To write in real terms about war is not to condone war. War is an inappropriate activity for a species calling itself sapiens.

Compared with other major conflicts, information about the present war in Ukraine, at least since the Russian arrival in February 2022, is readily available with a bit of searching.

The war from 2014 to early 2022, in eastern Ukraine, is harder to track, there being a lack of western media interest and the ready acceptance of Ukraine government labelling of the opposition as separatist and terrorist, without regard for history. Reports of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are of value and show a persistence of shelling against civilian targets, mainly by Ukraine forces.

It is useful to look at the OSCE’s history and contrast with recent international manners.

Russia’s armed forces are the largest in Europe, those of Ukraine the second largest. At the outset both sides were mainly equipped with common weapons, as existed in the USSR and as have been modified from Soviet weapons. This is an article on the scale of the military-industrial complex of Ukraine; the article appears to have been published by this western establishment site soon after 24 February

There have been these trends.

  1. Russia initially attacked Ukraine on all fronts on 24 February. It seems likely that President Putin did not expect Ukrainian nationalist opposition of the intensity that developed. It is definitely the case that delaying the assault until after the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing damaged vehicles and troops camped out near the Ukraine border.
  2. It may be the case as claimed by some Russian commentators that the advance on Kyiv was a feint to distract the preponderant effort by the Ukraine defence force towards Kyiv while the Russians secured territory in their major objectives in eastern Ukraine. In any case, that was achieved. The retreat of Russian forces saw the arrival of Ukraine secret police to eliminate the disloyal. The legend of Russian atrocities in Bucha, so advantageous for showing to distinguished guests, may have been created by Ukraine. Trust no one.
  3. Russia eliminated Ukraine air defence capabilities in the first day or so. They did not anticipate that the US (USAID and Elon Musk) would equip Ukraine defence forces down to local level with Starlink terminals, creating a new high grade communications system, interoperable and interconnected with US comms…and they did not anticipate facing a new technological level of opposition.
  4. Russia has not achieved command in the air (contrast every American invasion anywhere of recent decades). This is an authoritative Russian perspective on this situation. And this is an English language machine translation of that document that I have parked for convenience of access at my blog.
  5. The emphasis in western news is on the delivery of advanced defence equipment to Ukraine. It is likely as suggested in the paper in [4] that there is now a complex system for intelligence gathering, command and control, down to the individual unit. Reporting in the Washington Post has suggested there are significant numbers of people from US agencies in Ukraine. It would be speculative to suggest that they are assisting with firing of unfamiliar missile systems. The paper linked from [4] suggests a NATO/US ability to advise of Russian planes or missiles from when switched on, to alert anti-aircraft and anti-missile units, so they can switch on very briefly before firing at the Russian target, then switch off. This makes the war very difficult for the Russians. The air and artillery battle is an unpredictable balance between available weapons and trained personnel for complex systems. There is no compatibility between existing Ukraine weapons and introduced NATO weapons. This and the preceding paragraph are the frameworking for watching and listening to Ukraine demands for more gear, responses from the US and in Europe especially Germany and the UK.
  6. Flightradar24 shows intelligence collecting, command post aircraft (AWACS) and refuelling tankers, mainly of USAF, mainly from Germany or UK, over Romania near Moldova. They are identifiable no doubt because they operate near major commercial flight paths. The Global Hawk drone, flying out of Sicily, cruising over the Black Sea at 55,000ft, no longer is seen on Flightradar24. The refuelling aircraft may work with fighter/bomber aircraft out of the NATO base at Constanta in Romania or extend the endurance o AWACS and reconnaissance aircraft.
  7. Western intelligence and media have suggested that the slow pace of Russian advance through Donbas reflects capability and morale problems. The Russian Forces say they operate to minimise injury to civilians in their way: the people among whom they are advancing are Russians culturally and linguistically, the people they are there to help. Also a factor slowing the Russian advance is that the Ukraine forces have been in trenches and other fortifications built over eight years, not half a year. This hard part of the war continues. Further north, the Russian Forces backed out of Kharkiv, facing units developed from right wing soccer hooligans who embedded themselves among Russian civilians… hoping to catch the latter when they came wandering out of the city. Such nuance is missed in Western reporting.
  8. Ukraine spoke of making an attack in the south and had withdrawn artillery from the Donbas. That artillery has gone back north towards Donbas to slow down retreat; Ukraine has not attacked in the south, but this following nasty story is in that area…
  9. Russia occupied the Zaporozhye nuclear power station, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, in March. In mid August shells and rockets have been directed at this power station for some days and nights, Ukraine saying Russia did it, Russia saying absurd, our people are there and the trajectories were from over that way. The Russians believe the cores of the multiple reactors are safe, but there is abundant radioactive material elsewhere on site, plus electrical switching systems for almost six gigawatts electric output capacity. Now a dam downstream that holds water essential for cooling Zaporozhye has been under attack. President Zelenskyy, who has recently said that all information is part of the psychological war, has now said the problems would go away if Russia abandoned these places. A rupture of a reactor at Zaporozhye would be a disaster for the whole of Europe and beyond, especially for Ukraine. Potentially far worse than was Chernobyl, at the other end of Ukraine. This is an unprecedented military threat.
  10. Figures for damage, loss and casualties: I do not trust reports on these. But note the following bits and pieces. Russia has sought to avoid using conscripts. There are Russian ‘Wagner’ (private company) units which are experienced in Syria; there are units experienced in Chechnya. They are working with units formed in the newly declared Luhansk and Donets Republics, who have local knowledge and are Russian speakers. Ukraine forces are diverse, see this analysis. Ukraine units include conscripts and volunteers of all ages for local reserves on the other side of Ukraine, who have said they were sent with minutes of training with AK47s to defend front lines. There are various reports of unwillingness to transfer to units that have had severe losses; reports of desertion. There is war, damn war and the statistics. There was a report on 15 August of a mauled Ukrainian brigade (several thousand), withdrawn from the Donbas front for whatever recovery in a town west of Kyiv, but caught at a rail stop during return to the front with loss of many lives and vehicles.
  11. There is no substitute for looking at daily situation reports and observing over time to see if what is reported is real two weeks later. I watch this daily report more than others. He’s not a native English speaker, he’s drawing on Ukraine sources as well as Russian. It’s hard work to follow. He cannot be reporting from Ukraine, the independence of the reports would bring a treason charge in Ukraine.

This was written on 15 March, to suggest a framework for observing events. I do not have a crystal ball.

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