Saturday, 18 June 2022 — Moon of Alabama
This morning I watched an hour long discussion (vid) by ‘experts’ at the Center for Strategic & International Studies about assessing Russia’s war in Ukraine. I have to say that these folks know nothing that is relevant. They seem to have never heard of Sun Tsu’s dictum ‘Know your enemy’:
Sun Tzu says, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy,” but how do you become your enemy? You need to put yourself in the place of your enemy so you can predict his actions.
Not once did the CSIS people consider the view of Russia or its real intent. They talk about this or that U.S. option but do not even once consider how the other side would react to it.
One of the CSIS ‘experts’ says that Russia had planned to take Kiev but failed. Take Kiev with what? There were some 20-30.000 Russian soldiers near Kiev which has some 3 million inhabitants. Historically one needs one soldier for every 40 civilians to occupy a city or country after the fighting is mostly over. Russia would have needed more than two and a half times the number of troops it had around Kiev to take and hold the city.
Several of the CSIS ‘experts’ have previously held high government positions in the security state. With folks like them it is no wonder to see how badly the U.S. plan to drag Russia into a long war in Ukraine is playing out.
As Daniel Larson correctly writes: We should’ve known sanctions on Russia wouldn’t work as intended
The other side of the game is much more conscious of the real situation and it does consider and correctly predicts U.S. reactions.
On Thursday the Foreign Minister of the Russian federation Sergey Lavrov gave three interviews to different news outlets.
The first one with TASS was quite short.
The second one with BBC shows an acerbic Lavrov who several times reminds the interviewer that many cruel things had happened in Ukraine before the “Special Military Operation” started on February 24, that negotiations had failed and that Ukrainian duties under the Minsk agreements were not carried out. The interviewer tries again and again to neglect that historical context and to put the blame for the war on Russia. Lavrov calls that a form of ‘chancel culture’.
BBC: Video with English subtitles
Transcript: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the BBC TV channel, St Petersburg, June 16, 2022
Question: But the situation changed four months ago …
Sergey Lavrov: The situation has not changed. We are going back to what the Minsk agreements were coordinated for: protecting Russians in Donbass, who have been betrayed by the French and Germans. The British also played a leading role. All our Western colleagues kept saying they were unable to make Kiev honour the Minsk agreements.
Question: In the eyes of the West, Russia is responsible for these people. Do you think the death sentence …
Sergey Lavrov: I am not interested in the “eyes of the West” at all. I am only interested in international law, according to which mercenaries are not combatants. So nothing in your eyes matters.
The last Lavrov interview is with a Russian TV station. It is the longest but also the best. It explains Russia’s position quite well and is easy to understand.
Transcript: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the NTV network, St Petersburg, June 16, 2022
A day after Lavrov’s interviews president Vladimir Putin held a speech at the 25th St.Petersburg economic forum. The transcript is here:
Full text of Vladimir Putin’s speech at SPIEF June 17, 2022
The speech is long but the second part is about domestic economic measures in Russia and not of much interest. I recommend to read the fist part in full but here are a few bits:
A direct result of the European politicians’ actions and events this year will be the further growth of inequality in these countries, which will, in turn, split their societies still more, and the point at issue is not only the well-being but also the value orientation of various groups in these societies.
Indeed, these differences are being suppressed and swept under the rug. Frankly, the democratic procedures and elections in Europe and the forces that come to power look like a front, because almost identical political parties come and go, while deep down things remain the same. The real interests of people and national businesses are being pushed further and further to the periphery.
Such a disconnect from reality and the demands of society will inevitably lead to a surge in populism and extremist and radical movements, major socioeconomic changes, degradation and a change of elites in the short term. As you can see, traditional parties lose all the time. New entities are coming to the surface, but they have little chance for survival if they are not much different from the existing ones.
Incidentally, the Americans have adopted sanctions on our fertilisers, and the Europeans followed suit. Later, the Americans lifted them because they saw what this could lead to. But the Europeans have not backed off. Their bureaucracy is as slow as a flour mill in the 18th century. In other words, everyone knows that they have done a stupid thing, but they find it difficult to retrace their steps for bureaucratic reasons.
The very structure of Western sanctions rested on the false premise that economically Russia is not sovereign and is critically vulnerable. They got so carried away spreading the myth of Russia’s backwardness and its weak positions in the global economy and trade that apparently, they started believing it themselves.
While planning their economic blitzkrieg, they did not notice, simply ignored the real facts of how much our country had changed in the past few years.
National Defense Magazine had an interview with the logistic commander of the Ukrainian land forces which includes some revealing details.
First, you have to understand that the frontline is 2,500 kilometers long. The frontline where there is active combat in more than 1,000 kilometers long. That’s like from Kyiv to Berlin.
Think about this: one brigade occupies around 40 kilometers of the fence line. That means that to cover the active combat conflict we need 40 brigades. Every brigade is 100 infantry fighting vehicles, 30 tanks, 54 artillery systems — just for one brigade, and we have 40 of them.
I’m not going to talk about the anti-tank guided missiles or anti-tank guided weapons for now. I’m just talking about heavy weapons. As of today,we have approximately 30 to 40, sometimes up to 50 percent of losses of equipment as a result of active combat. So, we have lost approximately 50 percent. … Approximately 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems.
I believe that those loss numbers are too low. The daily Russian clobber list counts more than double of those numbers as destroyed. While that list is very likely off (as any such lists inevitably are) I doubt that it is off by that much.
Colonel Markus Reisner of the military academy of Austria provides a presentation (vid) about the ‘heavy metal’ the Ukraine has lost and for which some replacement is now coming from the ‘west’.
According to him Ukraine started the war with 2416 tanks and other armored vehicles, 1509 field artillery and mortars, 535 MRLS and so on. (Ukraine like had additional depots with more rusty weapons in various states of (dis)repair.) It has additionally receive 250 tanks and other armored vehicles, and some 200 field artillery pieces and 50 MLRS.
It had in total 21 active brigades with 14 more in reserve plus various support units. That is less than the 40 the Ukrainian commander says are needed to cover the frontline and no reserves. The newly delivered stuff could provide for one or two more brigades. But with a 50% loss rate at least half of all that is likely already gone.
The Ukraine is not building reserves that could launch a counterattack but seems to send anything that comes from the ‘west’ directly to the frontline. It is in total far too little to replace the daily losses and certainly not enough to create forces for counterattacks.
The Ukrainian logistic commander also mentions that the U.S. delivered howitzer are very vulnerable:
Unfortunately, we don’t have an opportunity today to have foreign supplied equipment sent back to a restoration facility simply because of time constraints. That is why we are discussing spare parts here so that we can maintain and repair that equipment right in the field.
For example, the M777 artillery systems are really prone to being damaged by enemy artillery. For every battery of M777, there are six pieces.
After every artillery contact, we have to take two artillery pieces and take them back to the rear to maintain them because some of the subsystems are damaged by shrapnel. This happens every day.
I bet that Soviet era equipment is much less prone to break under fire.
Last but not least let me point you to a fine essay by Aurelian about the future of the ‘west’ as the new reality sets in.
The Hinges of History Creak.
The future will develop not necessarily to the West’s advantage
However, western nations continue to act as though they were economically and militarily superior, and to try to coerce nations on which they are economically dependent, as well as fighting a proxy war against a nation which has more combat capability in Europe than they have.
In this sense, Ukraine is a test to destruction of both NATO and the EU, and the wider, western-dominated multilateral system they are both part of. NATO, in particular, has just been confronted by exactly the kind of situation that its founders expected—the exercise of Russian military power—and it did effectively nothing. No amount of hand-waving, no amount of sanctions or arms deliveries, can change that fact, which in turn changes everything. NATO and the EU can prolong the war, cause more suffering, and destroy many economies, including their own. But
they can’t fundamentally affect the result
, and the nature of their responses, beneath the surface posturing, demonstrates that they know this.
There is another new normal now: a Europe in which Russia is the largest military power, and where the West as a whole is dependent on Russia, China and India for its economic prosperity. This is not new, of course, but
it’s a shame that nobody noticed it before.
And the reason for that is that the ‘west’ in its arrogance has for far too long listened to fake ‘experts’ like those at the CSIS.