Trying to discern how Russia is doing in its war on Ukraine
It's been nine weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. Everyone assumed that Russia would storm through Ukraine in days, leading to a speedy surrender. Instead, although parts of Ukraine have been flattened and it's sustained massive civilian and military deaths, Russia is suffering badly, too. The question, then, is what Putin intends to do now.
I haven't written much about the war because I don't trust the information, whether from the Ukrainian, Russian, or American government. However, occasionally, bits of seemingly solid information appear. Lately, that information indicates that Russia is suffering badly at the hands of Ukrainian fighters.
For a long time, Russia was thought to have one of the world's greatest and most dangerous militaries. People alive during the Soviet era remember when the Soviet Union would have incredible parades displaying its military might.
Today, Putin now presides over a shabby oligarchy, kept afloat by the oil and gas Russia sells to Europe (and America). While Russia still has a huge nuclear arsenal, we're seeing that its traditional army isn't in such great shape. Its machines are poorly maintained, its troops poorly trained, and its senior officers have an uncanny knack for being in the line of fire.
It is our assessment that approximately 15,000 Russian personnel have been killed during their offensive. Alongside the death toll are the equipment losses. In total, a number of sources suggest that to date over 2,000 armoured vehicles have been destroyed or captured. This includes at least 530 tanks, 530 Armoured Personnel Carriers and 560 Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Russia has also lost over 60 helicopters and fighter jets.
The offensive that was supposed to take a maximum of a week has now taken weeks.
Last week Russia admitted that the Slava-class cruiser Moskva has sunk — the second key naval asset that they have lost since invading — significantly weakening their ability to bring their maritime assets to bear from the Black Sea.
Of those 15,000 or so Russian men killed, The Moscow Times reports that more than 300 were officers. Given that Russian troops are not encouraged to be innovative in the field (which is why officers are in front, getting killed), losing that many officers indicates a catastrophic loss of necessary guidance in battle.
Additionally, the New York Times notes that Ukraine is pressing into Russia now, using drones is an act of aggression consistent with a winning, not a losing, military.
Image: Putin. YouTube screen grab.
Russia, however, has weapons other than those it's thrown into the war to date. It's cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria until they agree to pay their bill in rubles, and Germany fears it may be next. (This would be less of an issue if Biden hadn't destroyed America as one of the world's net energy exporters.)
What worries everyone is that Putin may go nuclear. During a Wednesday speech, Putin didn't use the word "nuclear," but most assumed that's what he meant:
The despot, addressing legislators in St Petersburg today, said his response to anyone who 'threatens' Russia will be 'lightning-fast' and deadly.
'If someone intends to interfere in what is going on from the outside they must know that constitutes an unacceptable strategic threat to Russia. They must know that our response to counter strikes will be lightning fast. Fast,' he said.
'We have all the weapons we need for this. No one else can brag about these weapons, and we won't brag about them. But we will use them.'
The official Russian media are preparing people for a global nuclear war:
Margarita Simonyan, editor of state broadcaster RT and one of the Kremlin's highest-profile mouthpieces, declared on TV last night that the idea of Putin pressing the red button is 'more probable' than the idea that he will allow Russia to lose the war.
'Either we lose in Ukraine,' she said, 'or the Third World War starts. I think World War Three is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader.
'The most incredible outcome, that all this will end with a nuclear strike, seems more probable to me than the other course of events.
'This is to my horror on one hand,' she told a panel of experts shifting nervously in their seats, 'but on the other hand, it is what it is. We will go to heaven, while they will simply croak... We're all going to die someday.'
A friend suggested that maybe, behind the scenes, Trump is involved in negotiations or, perhaps, telling Putin that when he (Trump) is back in office, Putin is a dead man. Dreaming of Trump, though, doesn't change the fact that we have leading us a demented Biden; a milquetoast Antony Blinken, whom the Chinese humiliated last year; and a secretary of defense and a chairman of the Joint Chiefs who made a complete hash out of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
While it would be great if Russia were to lose this war, it appears that Putin has no intention of losing, preferring to take the whole world down with him rather than accept defeat.