12:52 AM, Feb 19, 2023
How Will it End?
I think enough has happened now that some solid predictions can be made about the end of the war in Ukraine, which I believe we will see before the year is old. It was almost a year ago that Vladimir Putin offered spurious, hollow excuses for his country's imperialist, genocidal invasion of Ukraine. The success, such as could be gleaned based on the bad information Putin was acting on, of the "special military operation," was contingent on the successful capture and continued operation of Hostomel Airport, west of Kyiv. But Western intelligence alerted Ukrainian officials of this plan, and though the Russians did wind up capturing the airport after a tug-of-war over its control, they did not manage to do so before the Ukrainians cratered the runways, rendering the site unusable for the planned landing of very large reinforcement forces, supplies, and materiel. From then, we saw the Russian invasion crumble in the north, and soon, the Russians retreated completely from the assault on Kyiv. The war never moved decisively in Russia's favor again after that.
Now, Putin has allegedly commanded his forces to complete the conquest of the four oblasts(Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson) where he staged fraudulent votes to "annex" them into the Russian Federation, last year, by the first anniversary of the invasion, February 24, 2023. As such, a large Russian offensive is currently underway-- mostly in the effort to capture the strategically unimportant small city of Bakhmut, where Russian forces were already breaking like waves on cliffs, against the Ukrainian defenders --and it is going very poorly. On some days, over 1000 Russians have been killed in action-- commanded to sprint into enemy fire by inexperienced, optionless officers, because they know Putin will kill them and their loved ones if they disobey --while thousands more have been wounded out of combat capability. The Russians lack experienced soldiers to lead their newer soldiers, while every Western military considers these experienced soldiers(non-commissioned officers, or "NCOs") absolutely indispensable. Orders come from generals and political leaders hundreds of miles away, to gain ground. Lacking any strategy other than overwhelming shows of force and numbers, the Russians simply run their men into the Ukrainian meat grinder, trading thousands of lives for meters of territorial advancement.
The Russians have very low morale, and after only a day or two in the war, those who survive are even less inclined to fight. It is my belief that over the course of the in-progress offensive, they will suffer calamitous losses, with unnumbered tears back home for the fallen, all without accomplishing any decisive gains. When the personnel committed to this offensive are expended, the Russians will have no option on the battlefield other than defense, while the Ukrainians continue to demoralize the Russians with superior artillery range, and far greater precision, disrupting logistics, command, and striking Russian forces without warning, and with devastating effectiveness. The Ukrainians, even now, have very high morale, are well-trained, disciplined, organized, and are increasingly equipped with and trained on modern Western systems. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and technicians are training in Western countries on how to use these and other Western systems, and are showing a great aptitude for it.
The ground in the Donbas is muddy and soft right now, and will remain so until probably April. This means that a relatively small number of Ukrainian defenders can hold off the zombie-like Russian attacks and inflict catastrophic losses on them, while companies, brigades, and divisions of Ukrainian soldiers can train in Poland and the UK on sophisticated maneuvers they will use to retake territory in the Spring, using modern maneuver-based combined-arms warfare and modern Western equipment the Russians cannot match. Even when the war began, and the Russians were fresh, well-equipped, and as well-trained and as disciplined as the Russians get, they had no grasp of such tactics, and no effective defense against them. Now-- and especially after hollowing themselves out in the current offensive --the Russians are a shadow of a shadow of the force they were before the invasion.
So it is my strong belief that the Russian offensive we are seeing now will taper off in about a month, with 100,000 fresh Russian corpses fertilizing the sunflowers of Donetsk, and 200,000 men will return to their families in Russia with missing limbs and other permanent disabilities. After that, the initiative on the Ukrainian battlefield will be Ukraine's, and will that not change until the lines are pushed back to where they were before 2014. I predict that by Memorial Day, the outcome of the war will not be in any doubt, as the Ukrainians overrun Russian defenses, and Russian forces surrender en masse. By the 4th of July, Ukraine will have pushed the Russians back entirely, and the war will be over.
That is how I think the war would go, if not for a couple of factors. Vladimir Putin cannot afford to lose this war. He cannot afford to lose any war, but it is happening now. He will become increasingly desperate in the coming weeks and months. I think Yevgeny Prigozhin(the owner of Wagner PMC, the mercenary group doing most of the fighting and dying in Bakhmut, and also, as it happens, the man responsible for the 2016 election meddling in favor of Donald Trump) and Ramzan Kadyrov(the leader of Chechnya) will die under suspicious circumstances, as they are both positioning themselves to supplant Putin in the Kremlin. I have little doubt of the deaths of these men coming soon, but one thing I am not certain about is how Putin will react to defeat.
He knows that the use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine, or against civilians anywhere, will turn Russia into an instant pariah, and give NATO all the cause they need not only to intervene in Ukraine, but also to strike Russia's military directly. NATO exists to answer the threat of Russia. Its entire purpose is to avert a nuclear catastrophe, and as such, it would be foolish to assume that NATO's posture for longer than most of us have been alive is not one of being a single command away from executing a coordinated conventional attack on Russia that will eliminate their nuclear capabilities and raze their military with lightning speed. Let's call it, "The NATO Plan." The minute a nuclear launch is detected, the NATO Plan will be executed. Russia's intelligence, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, is far inferior to that of the US, the UK, or France individually, let alone their combined abilities. But even so, I am certain Putin is well aware of the imminent threat of The NATO Plan, and knows that even a desperate launch on his part would spell the end of Russia as a military power within minutes.
What I do think Putin would be willing to do though, is incinerate his own people in a false flag operation. I think it is highly likely that he would strike a major city in the distant parts of Russia with a nuclear weapon, and claim it was a NATO attack, in an attempt to align another nation with him in a war against NATO, and to muster a patriotic mobilization of his own people. Here, though, I think he underestimates the intelligence capabilities of the West. For one, I think Antony Blinken will warn against exactly this scenario before it happens(just as he warned the world of the invasion and Putin's approach to it, ahead of time), so that if/when Putin tries it, the world already knows he is lying. I personally think that Putin striking a city, even within his own country, would be reason enough to execute the NATO Plan. Second, it will be easy for the West to document the entire flight of any nuclear missile, showing that the attack was obviously Russian in origin.
Putin will become increasingly desperate, but his own lack of originality will be easy to work around, in my opinion. Ukraine will be free and victorious before midsummer.
3:34 PM, Feb 22, 2023
I Don't Believe the Military Experts
Over and over, Western military experts have given Russia the unconditional benefit of the doubt, and it is against this fatalist outlook that the Ukrainians have amazed the world. The, "Russian offensive" that the experts warned could possibly tilt the war back into the Kremlin's favor is tapering off now.
The Russians are short on armored vehicles-- they've lost most of their infantry fighting vehicles, and their museum of main battle tanks that were made for our grandparents' generation has just about played out --and are reduced to just mindlessly sending waves of "infantry" into Ukrainian fire, supported only by poorly-operated artillery for which ammunition is running low.
All seems to depend, the experts say, on whether or not Putin declares another mobilization. Surely, another 300,000 Russians sent to the front lines would bolster the beleaguered attackers in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Avdiivka, and all other parts of Russia's 600-mile front line. It makes sense that if Russia's advantage in numbers was exacerbated, Ukraine would fall, right?
Yeah, all of that is nonsense.
First, a new mobilization would have to be actively obeyed by the Russian public, and that seems highly unlikely, given the mass exodus that took place when Putin announced the last mobilization in the Fall. A new mobilization would create enormous problems for Putin, as his "special military operation," is devastatingly overdrawn, and increasingly difficult to depict to his people as anything other than a failure.
This is a repeating theme, but it bears mentioning again: Ukrainian artillery has annihilated and demoralized Russian supply chains. Simply moving troops, food, ammunition, medical supplies, tools, and vehicles to the front is an extremely dangerous undertaking for the Russians. As a result, all commands are issued from hundreds of miles away, by people without a clear picture of the battlefield. Supplies cannot be stockpiled within 100km of the front, as they will be quickly destroyed, so that means the artillery support needed by the Russian infantry is hamstrung.
Keep in mind too that every Russian soldier who arrives at the front line is less effective than the fallen soldier he replaces. Morale is disastrously low, and the strategy of the Russian command does not and cannot change. "Take that city," are the orders. "Gain ground!" So they simply run their unsupported infantry into enemy fire, suffering unacceptable casualties.
Ukraine suffers from none of these problems. On the contrary, they are training up on technologies that will enable their use of state-of-the-art offensive equipment and tactics that the Russians have never had. They have enough food, clothing, tools, supply chains, communications, and morale to continue a war of attrition far longer than the Russians. The result will be that when the mud dries in April or May, the Ukrainians will drive the Russians out of their country, and reclaim all the territory they lost, including Crimea.
So when I hear military experts talking about how this war will be a grinding war of attrition for another year, I don't believe them for a second. Russia is hanging on by a thread, and when the mud dries in the Donbas, the thread will be cut.
10:00 AM, Feb 27, 2023
Can Russia Contain its Putin-shaped Loose Cannon?
The military picture of the war in Ukraine is that as soon as the mud dries, Ukraine will begin maneuver-based warfare against which Russia has never had any defense. Putin's forces will be pushed back to pre-2014 lines by mid-Summer.
The political picture is much more open-ended though. After Russia loses its war, and the war will be characterized as a loss for Russia by any metric, Putin will be severely damaged. He might be able to have his internal propaganda channels frame the outcome into a complimentary shape, or even make the history disappear, maintaining support among the elderly, docile Russian population who haven't fled the country. But the rest of the world will see Putin as the leader of a country without the military might to threaten anyone.
The people and governments of Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Scandinavia, the Baltics, The Caucasus, Japan, and any other countries Putin has threatened will have received a clear message that Putin cannot back up his posturing with actions. His allies, vassals, and would-be allies will no longer see him as a valuable ally.
As Russia's global position depends heavily on its primacy, a President who is not valued by allies, and not feared by anyone else is of no use to Russia. As such, I think we're going to see a lot more people falling out of windows in the Kremlin, and the nightmare scenario of Putin incinerating one of his own cities in a false-flag operation may play out, but that's still extremely unlikely to move anything into Putin's favor.
Putin is a wild card, but I just can't imagine any options available to him that will not change what I see as a fact: the future will not have him in it.