The fact that just the other day UnHerd published a piece arguing that Ukraine can’t and won’t win, and then published this shortly after, is why I love UnHerd.
What I find rather telling and why I appreciate UnHerd is that both articles were sober and realistic analysis backed up by worthwhile arguments.
Which suggests that whatever the result it will come as a great surprise to many. It’s very difficult to get History to sign-up to a playbook in advance.
But at least hindsight is guaranteed one seat at the post conflict table.
The first article was anything but sober and realistic analysis. I was not able to read it up to its end because of Russian lies and propaganda the author repeated as an established truth.
Propaganda coming at us fast and furious from every direction, not just Russia. For all I know, this article is relying on propaganda as well.
Well, the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and Chernihiv aren’t “propaganda.”
They are facts that tend to support the narrative of Ukraine and the MSM.
That’s the thing about the last few years.. I just don’t believe anything I read anymore. Yet here I am.
Putin doesn’t either it seems. He has sacked his top intelligence chief and sent him to prison for what no doubt will be a painful interrogation.
Excellent point. We are not used to hearing both sides of anything these days.
However, it could be said that both articles were making the same point. This article points out that Putin has failed in his initial plan – to conquer Ukraine by walking into Kiev unopposed, but that the Ukrainians probably lack the firepower to go go fully on the offensive; the previous article pointed out that Ukraine can’t ‘win’ in the sense of pushing the Russians out of Ukraine altogether and preventing further wholesale destruction of key cities. Both articles suggest a continuing, and awful, stalemate.
The only winning move for either side, as the 80’s smartest supercomputer figured out, was “not to play”
And the worst case scenario is a drawn out conflict. Even for Ukraine, that would actually be a worse outcome than a quick defeat and loss of the Eastern provinces / Crimea.
Which is why the West’s actions just before and after the war started are both interesting, and unsurprising
Despite their new found aversion for war and distaste for Putin, Victoria Nuland and co knew perfectly well that talks of extending NATO and ignoring what was happening in Donbass were surefire ways of ensuring Russia would react violently.
And the kind of weapons provided, ATGMs etc are exactly what you need to slow down and bog down Russia without actually winning the war for Ukraine.
Unless either side cleanly wins the upcoming battles in East Ukraine, what will happen is another Afghanistan.
My grandfather and father both had to fight the Germans in the two World Wars. I would have thought that the German collective conscience would have demanded their Nation to do anything to be on the right side of history this time. I was wrong they continue to fund Putin and have done little to help Ukraine.
They happily bullied Greece when it got into financial trouble stating that it was their fault and they would have to suffer the consequences. Germany’s failed energy policy is its own fault and now refuses to pay for the consequences. It is time to switch off Russian gas.
It would be rather black humour, but I’m waiting for the first comedian to crack a joke about the Germans association with gas as an act of war.
I remember a surveyor showing some offices to a major German company and they asked if the gas fired central heating was dangerous. He replied that not the way we use gas. They were not amused.
I think the Russian failure surprised most people, unfortunately however, it doesn’t guarantee Russian failure in the second phase of the war.
The Russia initial strategy seems to have been to force a quick surrender through panicking the Ukrainian command by executing an extremely rapid and wide ranging advance. By attacking on as broad a ground as possible I expect the Russians looked to overstretch the Ukrainian army, only to miscalculate and find that it was their own forces that were over stretched and ultimately unable to execute plan B in the North, which was likely the encirclement of Kyiv, though they did achieve some success in the south.
The danger is, that while there have been numerous displays of Russian tactical ineptitude, it is not entirely clear that these are the primary cause of the Russian military failure, rather than the failed strategy they employed in the start of the war. Prioritising speed over established military doctrine, the Russian’s didn’t dedicate themselves to an air superiority campaign, didn’t concentrate their artillery and advanced too rapidly in small, unsupported units, which failed to use combined arms. All of these defects can be potentially remedied in what looks like it may be more orthodox military campaign in the Donbas.
I have tended to hold a Realist position throughout this conflict and I still do, only now I think there is little option for the West to back Ukraine to the hilt. Whilst an off ramp for Putin has been talked about, I don’t think one exists.
One of the great tragedies of this conflict is that it seems Zelensky never thought Putin would invade and Putin never thought Zelensky would fight. Both probably expected a settlement of some kind, but once the fighting broke out, Ukrainian forces may have actually been too successful. Just like the bloody first few months of the First World War, the casualties the Russians have taken are too high for them to seek a political settlement now. These are heavy sunk costs and they demand a proportionate victory to justify them. Putin is unlikely walk away from the table now unless his military collapses.
If Russia wins a clear victory in the Donbas, the costs it’s incurred, a severely damaged military and long term expulsion from the Western economies, it will likely look for maximalist pay off. If it can, then it will likely push on and take the whole of the South-East of Ukraine, Novorossiya as they term it. Ukraine will have fought bravely but will be reduced to a rump state.
However, if Ukraine can repeat the victories of the first month of the war, either by defeating the Russian offensive or by fighting them to a stalemate, then perhaps the Russian elite will ask themselves this question. Which is it worst to be? The defeated, junior partner of China, or the defeated, junior partner of the West? If the answer is the latter then perhaps Putin’s days will be numbered.
A rump state the size of France and far bigger than the U.K., populated by about 35 million people with a hatred of Russia. That’s a Kardashian size rump to have on the Russian border!
Culturally western Ukraine has always been significantly different to eastern Ukraine, so it could have been politically feasible to divide the country. But not now – Ukrainians almost everywhere are united in their hatred of Russia, and we need to supply sufficient arms for the Ukrainians to grind the Russian forces down.
In passing, I was one of the few commenting in Unherd on the madness of this war for Putin last year, as even without any military knowledge on my part, it was obviously a strategically stupid move. But there were many on here who thought Putin would benefit from such a war – how wrong they were.
It’s too soon to tell. The war is far from over. I do have combat experience.
I think far too many people overthink things these days. Putin has started a crazy war and win lose or draw there is no way out for him.
Actually, Zelensky knew Putin was going to invade.
True and he was telling the world but nobody (of any consequence) would listen until it was too late.
If he did, then he was a fool for not taking the French offer to revive Minsk 2 and instead gambling on the odds of an unexpected military victory, however I doubt this. It’s been swiftly forgotten that Zelensky was critical of his new best friends, Britain and America, in the weeks leading up to the war, for destabilising the situation by briefing on Russian invasion plans. Clearly he felt the greater threat was in provoking Putin by making it look like he had backed down. He went as far as complaining that the talk of war was damaging confidence in the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine was still asking the West for tourists, not tanks, right up until the invasion.
Or he’s just another stubborn, cranky dude from the area that was pre-Russia, and born from the lineage of those that survived the previous Russian occupation.
Mad props to all of them for their unexpected show of backbone.
If I was Russian I would be worried about how minutely detailed the British/American intelligence briefings were, and how spot on they have proved.
At some point the economy the size of Italy plays into some of the failings of the Russian military as it isn’t as well resourced as it should be…and some of the failings in those fighting their media war as well.
I mean who decided that the idea a Russian Cruiser had blown itself up after a major fire just *started* on board, was a story that reflected better on the Russian Navy than just saying it was hit and sunk by missiles?
That’s not true, he kept asking the Americans to show him the evidence.
If Russia uses heavy artillery, 150 and 200mm guns to bombard areas, they will be easy targets for drones. The shells have to be stored close to the guns and a suicide drone detonating a few shells will make a large explosion and destroy the guns. Ten drones could destroy a battery of say 10 guns. The suicide drones can destroy command centres, fuel and ammunitions stores. We may be at the beginning of where new technology changes a battlefiedl.
A gun is delivery mechanism for a a few kilos of explosive. A shaped charge of a few kilos in weight hitting a weak spot, say top of turret of a tank or a pile of artillery shells delivered by a NLAW, Javelin, MANPAD or suicide drone is very cheap. In Syria and other places:, Russians were not attacked by suicide drones so they could pound away with artillery for weeks.
I don’t think there will be a long war in Ukraine, unless weapons shipments to Ukraine stop completely. I think Ukraine is starting a counter offensive in the South to cut the land bridge between Crimea and mainland Russia.
Russia abandoned the North in extreme haste. The withdrawn units will take more than 2 weeks to be reconstituted. They were shattered in 6 weeks of heavy combat. They wouldn’t have completely abandoned their positions and withdrawn back to Belarus and Russia if they had not been forced to by very heavy combat losses, as well as cut off supplies. The Northern Front was an almost complete disaster for Russian units, with estimated casualties of 30-40%.
Ukraine already is advancing on Kherson, in the South. The Russian supply situation in the South is likely to get worse as Ukrainian Forces refocus on the South.
Supply for Russian units west of besieged Mariupol depends on ships or a single bridge from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. Russia’s ability to supply by sea in the South was severely damaged when Ukraine sunk a 4,500 ton amphibious supply ship and damaged 2 smaller amphibious ships. No further amphibious operations are possible.
Ukrainian light infantry can infiltrate behind Russian lines in the South under the cover of darkness. Once in position, they can ambush supply convoys, just as they did in the north.
Russia has been trying to expand from the Donbas for 8 years. They have failed. The front is too narrow. Ukrainian Forces are dug in. Russian forces have absolutely no element of surprise. It will be much more like World War I than an armored blitzkrieg.
I don’t foresee any future victories for Russia based on their “redeployment.” Predictions of a long war of attrition assume Russian forces perform far better than they have so far. The best they can manage is a frozen conflict, like the last 8 years in Donbas.
I agree …it may be that the Russians haven’t under-performed so much as just performed as well as they can be expected to given their tactics don’t seem to have moved on since the last century, and the Ukrainians seem to be fighting like mad for their homeland whereas the Russians seem to far less committed once people start shooting back.
A good assessment of the first phase of Russia’s disastrous military operation, and a fair-minded way of ending the war: through referendums. But Putin would never agree to the latter, since any whiff of real democracy is a threat to his regime.
I would hope for an early cease-fire. But from a Real Politik point of view, it is in the West’s interests to keep this going for months, if not years. Permanent sanctions help destroy the Russian economy, particularly when Europe weans itself off of Russian oil and gas. Indeed, the EU should immediately halt the purchase of Russian oil, and do the same for gas next year.
Moreover, even if Putin were to take the whole of his precious “Novorossiya,” he will necessarily have to totally devastate it first, very much as Assad had to do when he reconquered the rebellious areas of Syria. Russia will thus be a very poor country attempting to rebuild a very expensive army. We need to make it far poorer, to insure it has no means of doing so.
In the past, the West has erred several times in hoping that Putin would somehow turn into a rational actor, building a modern 21st C. economy. Instead, each time, he has chosen to make his nation poorer, but with a stronger army. That has actually been the pattern of Muscovy since the 13th C., and there is no reason to believe Putin will change that pattern. If we give him another chance, he will simply do everything in his power to avenge himself on the West.
So, until Putin goes, we must do everything in our power to isolate and impoverish Russia. There is simply no other alternative.
Using proper language, like calling Russia Muscovy, is great start.
Then accepting that what is happening in Ukraine is not some sort of aberration but quite consistent with genocidal Russian Imperialism.
Any attempt to appease Russia will end in failure.
Russia would just rearm and try again.
Strongman regimes (of which Putin is an example) have all the wrong incentives. The advisors of the strongman tend to tell him what he wants to hear instead of the truth. Hitler thought he was winning. Stalin believed in communist genetics and it starved his country. Mao believed his cultural revolution was successful. Saddam Hussein thought he had weapons of mass destruction. Putin believed his military was effective. It’s the same story.
“Saddam Hussein thought he had weapons of mass destruction”.
What utter nonsense! Where did you read that?
Arnaud, I remember that coming out 20 years ago shortly after the Iraq war. I don’t remember the source though, so it may have been an intelligence report at the time (speculating on why Hussein behaved as he did.) Looking it up now, it appears it is incorrect. The CIA officer who interrogated Hussein was convinced he knew his program had ended. My apologies on the misstatement.
Note: I was not saying Saddam had WMDs. He clearly did not. (Although I, like many others, was fooled at the time, and made fun of those on the Left who questioned the narrative.)
Many thanks for that explanation.
They always build their own silo and then wall themselves right inside it by scourging any dissenters or dissenting voices.
My comment might be off topic but I wonder what China has learned from watching the Ukraine invasion fiasco?
I imagine their respect for Russia as a military power has diminished, but what about their own plans for Taiwan? Have they concluded that a military occupation will never work, or perhaps that they must carefully plan such a takeover and conduct it with overwhelming military force? My guess is they’re postponing any such action until they’ve further insulated themselves from possible US and Western sanctions. That will likely take many years.
If I were China, I’d be emphasising to the Taiwanese (in a ‘nice country you’ve got here, shame if something happened to it’ sort of way) how wonderful it is that there’s no risk of anything like the Russia-Ukraine war breaking out between them because who’d ever want to bring something like that onto themselves on the basis of ambivalent American security guarantees when things are going so well between us? And would you maybe like to get even more economically integrated with us in the meantime?
Of course, Xi’s famously a fan of the Wolf Warrior approach so it may be WWIII after all.
It is 60 miles or about 3 hrs steaming from China to Taiwan. Plenty of time to destroy ships. Install pipes and pump crude oil, petrol and aluminium particles onto beaches and landing fields and ignite. Petrol explodes and then crude oil and aluminium burns, even melting steel.
Torch Taiwan and destroy the Chinese Army. How much does China want Taiwan?
I wonder if they are now regretting partnering the 21st Century equivalent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Corrupt and in terminal decline, unable to backup it’s claims to military dominance. A once powerful Empire, trying desperately to cling onto the vestiges of its power.
“Corrupt and in terminal decline…” you mean just like China then?!
China will be delighted.
They are already stronger and more independent economically than the West in manufacturing,, vital services and key materials such as rare earths.
Their strategic weaknesses, similar to WW2 Japan, are food and oil.
And thanks to the *principled” Western bloc (when it came to other countries, that is), Russia is pretty much in the China camp. That’s their main weak points taken care of.
Besides, now they know exactly which technologies the West would try to cut off. The West has shown their full hand in that respect for a war that, in the long term, is minor and limited.
The military experts are always telling us that a seaborne invasion of Taiwan would be pretty vulnerable and incur huge losses on the Chinese. All those single child families in China wouldn’t be at all happy about it.
But I suppose it depends on the resolve of the Taiwanese to stand up for themselves like the Ukrainians have. I don’t know their culture – are they up for it?
Well Taiwan does have one ace up its sleeve – its semi conductor manufacturing capacity (for now) – one of life’s little essentials nowadays for the east and the west and everyone in between.
The US is desperately trying to revive its SC industry and “experts” reckon it will take China at least 10 years to become self sufficient in chip technology at which point they might feel more comfortable about invading.
In the meantime, if Xi goes all Putinish and decides to wade in regardless the Taiwanese could simply say “A plague on both your houses” and blow up their plants – instant global distress and undoubtedly some distress for the Taiwanese as well but potentially a way of stopping a war in its tracks. What would China gain ? A small bit of land with its main asset destroyed, a very pissed off population, a large number of whom (those carrying all the chip IP) would have left before any war began.
China has acted. They have announced, in a roundabout way, that the invasion has been delayed for 4 years.
I suspect 8-10 years
That would be enough to build up to four carriers + dozens of their type 52s, and mature their stealth fleet (J-20 and successors)
They know time is on their side.
I disagree – time isn’t on their side. They are facing a huge demographic timebomb which will weaken their ability to field military resources (especially with single child families); the west has united with Germany and Japan building up military resources; Aukus is in place and will attract other countries to create a defensive ring around China.
The time for them to take Taiwan is the next 5 years. If not by then, then it ain’t going to happen.
Absolutely. I suspect we are experiencing “Peak China” right now. Much as people thought Japan was economically unstoppable in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They have built up massive debt problems that are currently hidden, but won’t be for much longer.
Well, 5-10 years is nothing. Spot on about the demographic issues and the inherent risk aversion that comes with single children, but that’s if anything worse for South Korea and Japan.
All that it means is the war would be fought more through economic means and restriction on technology.
The problem is though China at least understands there is a war coming. The West still thinks it’s 1990, the red horde is the threat and trying to bully “on the fence” nations in Asia is a bright idea.
I would also add (gift of hindsight here) that Putin’s recent wars have been directed at insurgents in the main, i.e. Chechnya and Syria, and not organised armies. Donbas/Crimea was a limited engagement and Ukraine has obviously used the intervening time to good advantage.
Maybe Operation ORBITAL had something to do with it. ORBITAL was the deployment, since 2015, of British troops to provide capacity building and training to the Ukrainian army.
From your experience in the MoD do you know if we taught the Ukrainians to employ women in their Infantry Battalions, as we do?
Additionally do you have any knowledge as to how successful or otherwise this has been? Could it even be the secret of their unprecedented success so far?
Your continual sarcasm is getting tiring.
That’s not a very potty-trained answer! I must say I had expected better from a former MoD employee, now happily retired in Silchester.
Are you really unaware that women are now serving in British Infantry Battalions? And thus it is a perfectly valid question to ask if we have included this practice in Operation ORBITAL, is it not?
Success has many fathers.
“Renunciation of any further claims on Ukraine.”
Oh Edward, seriously? You actually think that would be worth the paper it was written on?
Sad truth is the way this has to end is after a brutal attrition war, enabled by an endless flow of weapon to Ukraine, Russia’s ability to prosecute the war has to be bleed away. In short, Russia has to lose. Never forget their economy is about the size of Italy.
Unfortunately, you may well be right. Russian assurances are worth nothing whilst Mr Putin is in power.
Like it or not we shall have to deal with MrPutin eventually.
No doubt the MoD and various arms manufacturers are delighted with the present state of play, but we must stop supporting this nonsense immediately, it has nothing to do with us. We should recall what that expert, Otto von Bismarck had to say on this subject:-
“Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.”
Yes, Otto von Bismarck that well known pacifist – Blut und Eisen.
Correctly: “Eisen und Blut”.
Bismarck liked start wars he thought he had won before starting them…Putin is more like the Kaiser Wilhelm.
We shall see. Early days yet.
Putin has not and he is a Chekist so people are pawns to be used for his benefit. One death is tragedy, a million a statistic – Stalin.
Surely you mean Chess Player? Otherwise yes off course, he is just another KGB brute, just as his father was an NKVD one, but we have had twenty years to deal with him and failed miserably.
No, it’s Chekist, as in Cheka.
Thank you,I stand corrected, but isn’t that a rather anachronistic term?
It’s what the Russians themselves use.
A very humane observation from a man who started two wars and engineered a third. At least he won them though.
That best continuing support be the supply of armoured vehicles is interesting. That prominent responding Nations are Australia and the UK would be of no surprise to Berlin Mayor Reuter who pleaded that the west not abandon his city following WW2. “Peace can only exist with Freedom,” he said. Years later, seems to have fallen on deaf ears in that town, and across much of Europe.
Somehow early on, our intelligence services were seen as having redeemed themselves by accurately predicting the invasion.
Big deal. There were 100,000 Russian troops on the border. “Hey, Mr. President, it looks like Russia is planning to invade.”
But the true error in intelligence was predicting quick and total Russian success. That colored American and European responses in the early pivotal days of the fighting. All the allies ran away, convinced the Russians were going to roll over the Ukes. The US even offered Zelensky an airplane to fly him out. (We’re good at that — see Kabul.) No intelligence service predicted either the hardy Ukrainian resistance (admittedly a hard thing to predict) or the Russian ineptness — WHICH IS THE JOB OF AN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE!
Sorry, the weeks since the invasion have shown what a stupid, disastrous move this was. I certainly didn’t think Putin would be dumb enough to do this.
The intel svcs (and a very few analysts outside) deserve full marks for this.
Moreover, the Ukrainian response involved some very brave and unexpected moves at the very first. That the attack on Hostomel airfield was thwarted was in no way a done deal. But it began the cascade of disasters that beset the northern Russian armies.
“The want of a nail” is unpredictable–and very often decisive.
In Vietnam and Afghanistan the ruling class was not prepared to fight and die, in the Ukraine it is. Without fighting spirit the body and mind cannot be tempered. Without a tempered body and mind, weapons are a waste of money.
The Romans said they were able to conquer Greece because the Greeks had lost their martial valour: they were correct. The Greeks martial valour declined from 323 BC with the death of Alexander.
Moshe Dayan said Orde Wingate taught the Israelis to fight, he was correct. Brigadier Bernard Fergusson said Wingate trained people to overcome the fear of the jungle and the Japanese. Britain had developed a fear of the jungle and the Japanese which needed to be broken for victory to occur.
If a people have the fighting spirit, then the bodies and mind can undergo the tempering which if they they are prepared to to die to defend their freedoms means any enemy has to endure massive losses. This is why It then comes down as to whether the enemy is prepared to suffer the losses to occupy the country. Britain won the Battle of Britain because Hitler was not prepared to suffer the losses.
At this rate, what will be the condition of the Russian armed forces in a months or two months time?
Alexander wasn’t a Greek, but a Macedonian, like his father Philip who was the real ‘destroyer’ of Greece. By the time the Roman arrived it was Macedon they conquered not the feeble remnants of Ancient Greece.
Wingate was a Zionist nutter who should have been court-martialled and dismissed the service before the war.
Do you seriously believe that Adolph really intended to invade this country, against all the odds, including the unbeatable Royal Navy?Additionally he (Adolph) initiated the planning for the destruction of the Soviet Union* in July 1940, a mere two months after the debacle of Dunkirk.
Perhaps you might have mentioned that the UK scuttled out of both Basra and Afghanistan because we too could not sustain the losses (albeit minuscule in the scheme of things.)
(* Operation Barbarossa.)
Fergusson disagreed with you with regard to Wingate.
Brown tied the military’e hands – listen to J Beharry VC.
Er, The Battle of Britain was an AIR battle, designed to gain control over Britain’s air space. It’s very doubtful if Britain could have continued fighting if that had been achieved.
Nonsense, you’ve been reading too many comics.
Defeat at Singapore was largely due to lack of airpower.
To a large degree. And poor training, preparation and communications (no radar, no air warning system to seek of), not to mention a large network of Jap spies (including more than one British officer) and a sorry lack of nous, enterprise and fighting spirit among the senior British command, notably General Percival. The Empire garrison (including thousands of newly-arrived Australians) was surrendered to a Jap force half its size. A sorry episode all round and a humiliation from which British prestige in the Far East never recovered.
You haven’t read enough…had The Germans been able to target the places making war material (after achieving air superiority) and destroy airfields (and pilots) how exactly would we have kept fighting (given there were already those that wished us to negotiate peace after the fall of Macronland but before September 1940.
The Luftwaffe never had the heavy bombing or pinpoint strike capability – or the target intelligence – to do really crucial damage to British war production, which was, by then, widely dispersed into shadow factories.
As Churchill put it, ‘Hitler knows that he must beat us in this island, or lose the war’. The onus was on Hitler. And as with Napoleon, he simply couldn’t get his army here (see my previous post). He was stymied. The RN had Germany, as in 1914-19, under a crushing blockade. Britain, as in 1914-18, had access to all the finance and supplies of the globe.
Read Leo McKinstry’s book on Op Sealion and the British air, land and sea defences in 1940. It’s a story – and a historical truth – that ought to be far better know.
The German invasion plan was hopelessly unworkable and the Kriegsmarine and the saner heads in the Heer knew it. The Kriegsmarine had 10 destroyers to defend 1,000 pairs of converted Rhine barges (only one of each pair even engined and capable of a pitiful 3 knots) against over 100 RN destroyers, plus two dozen cruisers, a slack handful of battleships and more MTBs and corvettes than you could shake a stick at. It would have been a complete massacre. Even if any of the 200,000 German troops had got ashore, they would by September 1940 have faced beaches mined and fortified like Verdun, bristling with barbed wire and flame weapons, with 1.2 million pretty well-armed men ready and waiting. Seelowe was a great big bluff – and one that suited WSC’s purposes as well as it suited the Fuehrer’s.
He, like Putin, thought we would sue for peace, then when we didn’t he thought we would not pay the price of aerial bombardment. There were British people who did want to take peace but they were over ruled, and Britain, like Ukraine was prepared to pay the price. And eventually Hitler blew his brains out.
Well, while you’re congratulating yourself on your noble historic lineage, you could also consider that the Channel and North Sea put the then Great Britain in a fundamentally more secure position vis a vis Hitler than the Ukraine is in vis a vis Putin. Not one Wehrmacht boot landed on Great Britain’s soil. Russian boots – and tank tracks and cartridge cases – are all over the East of Ukraine and this could be a long, damaging ground war, from which the Ukrainians have little chance to disengage.
The failure (so far) to predict how this has evolved is clearly exposed in the article. That failure – and Covid is also on the recent list – could have consequences, not just for for the Russian elites, down the road.
The list of the weaknesses of the Russian invasion force should include low troop morale, should it not? There are reports, too, that the Russians are finding it difficult to recruit replacements, resorting to mercenaries from Syria, for example. I have read no reports that the Ukrainian army is experiencing similar recruitment difficulties.
The problem for the future is that it is difficult to see how either leader would be willing to accept any outcome other the the unconditional surrender of the other side.
I’ve read elsewhere, possibly here, that many Russian troops were basically conscripted militia, who only became full time troops almost by stealth, during an exercise that they thought was training, and not an all out war. Another heavy blow to any moral they may have had.
Yes, I agree
Failed?? “conquer Ukraine in one fell swoop” – that’s quarter million sq miles we’re talking about.. in one swoop?
Just another lightweight pretending he knows plans of Sauron.
There was a belief that a large land war in Europe could not happen again. That Asymmetric war would be the future, terrorist groups with limited heavy armor and weaponry would be all we would have to fight because nuclear war was unthinkable. There will always be people who mistakenly believe the world will be at peace and the only wars will be in far away places with people that don’t have nuclear weapons. Anybody really believe the mullahs don’t want a nuclear weapon? I can’t speak for the future but the world can be a dangerous place. Russia and China want to dominate it…..anybody believe that is not the case?
Quality article – as are others on here taking the opposing view. I’m not going to play mystic meg other than to say the Princes of Kiev were Tartar placemen when Moscow was just a fishing village and i expect the nation they founded will be around long after Putin has gone. I am not sure intelligence failures account for the Nato’s lack of support for Ukraine: Biden desperately needs Burisma buried regardless of how many lives it destroys (remember he brought in the “3 strikes” rule against african americans – life sentences for stealing pizza!) Boris would love a war because he is an historicist who thinks history is created by white men on horses/tanks with swords/artillery. (Read his Churchill book – like something from the 1870s). Macron and his German equivalent are just opportunists who will support Russia one day and Ukraine the next dependent on winds of public opinion. They are the geopolitical equivalent of shoplifters where BJ and Sleepy Joe front large but dysfunctional organisations. Not quite the Cosa Nostra, more 2nd Division Mexican Cartel. They are ephemeral but will do a lot of damage in Ukraine as well as their own temporary fiefdoms.
The idea that Russia intented to enter into urban warfare in a metropolitan area as large as Kiev is absolute balderdash. This man is a fool and a tool. Russia had no illusions about a swift 3 day war. That is a total myth and anyone pushing that idea is a mythologist.
Precisely, well said.
Sergei Markov, a noted tool of the Kremlin candidly said that they expected 30 to 50% of the Ukrainian army to surrender without a fight.
That is GENIUS!
Reminds me rather of the recent Afghan debacle. Perhaps Markov and our ‘clowns’ drink from the same well?
Ridiculous. They clearly intended a coup de main. Otherwise you don’t send airborne and armored spearheads out 50 miles ahead of the supporting troops. That’s just suicidal if you expect organized resistance.
But did they really expect “organised resistance “ as you call it?
They didn’t. They expected the Ukrainians to run away. They were very, very wrong.
Bit like us expecting in the Yanks to ‘leg it’ at New Orleans in 1815 for example?
‘We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico…’
No one says that they intended to enter into urban warfare as you say, although they’ve proved often enough that they have no inhibitions against doing so.
In my opinion, in the north, they intended a brilliant operation, occupying the seat of government, decapitating the existing government and installing a ‘denazified’ Ukrainian one, but it failed.
As usual, the headline’s provocatively wrong, because they also launched several other advances, including severance from the sea, which are still going, probably more slowly than expected. The Ukrainians are obviously more exposed in the east. Undoubtedly, Putin would like visible success within a month, but if he doesn’t get it, will see no alternative but to continue.
My worry is that even if Russia’s economy is suffering, but that of Ukraine is being damaged much more severely, and I see a time soon when all countries willing to support Ukraine will need to create an association, and methodically organise grants and loans, for the supply of weapons, essentials of life, fuel and money with which to keep Ukrainians in the field and some semblance of an economy running in unoccupied areas.
You mean their mass retreat from Kiviv indicates there was no Russian plan to occupy the city? Really?
What if Kiev was never the objective, only a feint to keep Ukraine forces defending the capital?
In this view, the Russian strategy was successful.. As the article states, the Ukraine forces were unable to relieve their encircled forces in the east and south.
That’s what really happened. The rest is neolib propaganda UnHerd is proud to be part of.
Correct, but please be careful or ‘Linda Snell OBE’ will have you cancelled.
Ultimately this will be correct. No matter how much the Russians, or Putin, didn’t expect any resistance, I can guarantee you they have had plans B and C. After all, propaganda doesn’t reflect reality, it reflects the view people are supposed to have about reality. Obviously if Kiev had been given freely to the Russians, the objective would have been Kiev all along. Since Kiev couldn’t be taken, now the objective was always Eastern Ukraine. Through more or less veiled threats of nuclear escalation, Putin made sure his army would be able to march through the country virtually unopposed. So they were able to just “try for the heck of it” and see what they can.
Like stated in the article, if Ukrainians now come out of the cities they have predictably taken a stand in, they won’t have much of a chance. Putin knew this would happen, and now he tries to profit off of it. Contrary to Western propagandists and warmongers, I do not believe this war will (or should) take a long time. Neither Putin nor the West can afford that. EU politicians of course love the idea because it would distract from the crises they themselves have created with pointless COVID restrictions, and it’s an easy way for them to gather morality points and embezzle more cash.
There’s no plan B for “My army sucks”. The troops are unmotivated, the equipment is out-dated, they have poor logistics, and no professional NCOs. You don’t fix that in a matter of weeks or months.
Sounds like the British Army in Iraq. What did the US forces call us? “The Borrowers” wasn’t it?
Oddly enough, the coalition actually took all of Iraq.
Or was it all MSM spin?
400 million v 36 million how else could it have ended?
When you’ve a bushel of well-fuelled armoured columns and massive air support and technological advantages, ‘taking’ a flat, desert tribal country from a half-starved army of Arabs armed with 1950s Warsaw Pact junk is the easy bit. What good did that do? The problem was securing it, governing it and, er, turning it into a sandy South Korea, Puerto Rico or the Philippines.
Everything sounds like something else to you…. but right here and right now the Russian Army is looking a shambles. That elite ship that was sunk, that just happened to be named after the capital Putin’s sitting in..what propaganda genius decided it was a better story to pretend its useless crew started a fire themselves and it blew itself up…In what crackers universe is that *better* than getting hit by missiles?
They’re losing the information and media war as badly as the real war right now. It’s a clown show top to bottom.
Well, they’re sure losing it on the BBC and Daily Telegraph. I doubt it’s playing out quite as badly in the Russian press, or even in Italy, India, Japan, China or Brazil.
I agree with you, in part.
I think there was an attempt at a ‘coup de main’ operation, based on a faulty assessment by Russian intelligence; thereafter the main function of the 40-mile convoy was a ‘feint’ to attract the world’s attention away from what was actually happening: steady advances in the east, to make the eastern provinces viable entities; and an attempt to create a corridor to join-up Crimea and the east. In that, the Russians have not been unsuccessful, if horribly brutal.
Well he’ll be taking over a devastated wasteland, with no money to rebuild, and a handful of Russian Ukrainians to populate it. Yup, sounds like communism.
But he’ll have a land link to Crimea – that makes it worth it I’m sure.
Sounds like an ideal time for the Chinese to make a major investment in the rebuilding of Russia. Belt & Road or whatever it is called.
But why would China want to help Russia?
What is the Russia trade contribution to China in comparison to trade with the West?
Having Russia as a vasal (despite the nukes) is what suits China.
A feint where they got 25% of their regular army gutted, including their elite Airborne and Armored units? Not bloody likely.
Most countries do things like that: lose a quarter of their ground forces as a “feint.” 100s of tanks and APC. 1000s of soldiers. Sure…
The main Ukrainian forces have always been in the east, so as a feint, it was useless.
Moreover, they aren’t “encircled,” at least just yet. They are still holding much of the front line that has been there for the last 8 years.
Russian artillery and airforce, their two greatest weapons have not been engaged in this operation, only missiles and tanks. As such the idea that the Russians were defeated or held back in a full scale war is misguided. This is far more complicated than the article suggests, once the initial coup de main failed.
That’s ridiculous. Russian artillery has been shelling Ukrainian cities for over a month. Their air force can’t do anything b/c they’re out of PGMs and the US shut off their GPS navigation. They’re flying by map coordinates, and have to attack at low levels to hit anything, so are sitting ducks for MANPADS.
Doctor Khrushcheva once said a very profound thing: Putin has goals, but no strategy.
Events up to this point have only proven that correct. I suspect one of the prime goals in his “special military operation” was to corner the market on grain. Together Russia and Ukraine grow 25-30% of the world’s grain. But it’s doubtful if he can achieve this now.
Note, however, that Putin is already threatening unfriendly nations with food cut offs from Russia itself. And, if he can’t take much more of Ukraine, or even begins to lose territory, his only real option in an unfriendly world–and skyrocketing grain prices–is to start selling massive amounts of Russian grain to rebuild his army.
Stalin did precisely the same thing in the 1930s. Of course, that meant mass starvation in the Soviet Union. But Putin may well see that as the only way to save his skin.
Moreover, since “Russians are the same as Ukrainians,” Putin may well see that it really makes no difference who dies, as long as his goal of a Great Russia is achieved.
mass starvation in the Soviet Union
Did you not mean mass starvation in Ukraine, because that is where something like 80% of deaths occurred – and it was deliberately done in Ukraine.
I mean it will now probably mean mass starvation in Russia. If that’s the only means he has to keep his military going, he will do the same as Stalin.
Realms of fantasy. There’ll be starvation all right – but it’ll be Egypt that takes by far the biggest hit. Stand by for Arab Spring 2…
The big question is not why it failed but rather did it? This article is filled with the words “assumed” and “assumption.” The author is a strategist and strategists are often wrong. Most of the information about the war is Ukraine propaganda repeated in the media and by analysts. Considering who Russia has been actually targeting, not the propaganda put out from Kiev, it appears Russia is accheiving it’s goals of driving nationalists out of Donbas and destroying neo-Nazis.
…feel obliged to observe that our own often unloved PM did make the right calls, did provide the A/T missiles that have proved so invaluable, is providing more (including at last count AFVs)…and was presumably doing so because it was in his nature to get the big calls right…and MI6 were providing him with rather better intelligence than the CIA, the DRM and the BND were managing. Which might explain why Zelensky is rather more polite about both him (and us) than our own press jackals are…
The Russians enjoy staging areas, supply depots and armored advances with safe harbor from any serious air attack. They still failed at Kiev. NATO air forces would have routed them before they deployed. They can still do that and the Russ know it.
The next phase in Donbas will be different. However they need at least two major armored breakouts to encircle the UKR army. Not clear the roads or off road conditions favor this effort which also requires heavy infantry screening to neutralize UKR anti tank weapons. Attacking forces will take serious casualties and only highly motivated and well trained units can complete this maneuver granting artillery, etc dominance. I think such an effort will deteriorate into a slow slog.
More neocon porn propaganda. When is Unherd going to ask what the dinosaurs think of all this?
If things are as bad as the author states I’m rather surprised Mr Putin hasn’t gone for the Nuclear option and detonated an 800 Kiloton device above Kiev.
What is there to stop him? The US certainly aren’t interested, and as the only European Nuclear powers Britain* and France, finding themselves in a similar position to that of September 1939, are very unlikely to respond. So checkmate to Putin.
(* Not that the British nuclear weapon is ‘independent’ by any stretch of the imagination.)
Perhaps he is almost as seasoned a strategist as you?
Or even your good self?
You would think the Poles of all people would ignore words on paper and have a robust defense. Now that the End of History has ended, Europe has to spend money on defense rather than shelter under the umbrella held by Biden’s caregivers. It’s hard to imagine more untrustworthy hands.
I’ve heard it said that a country [military, etc] in a new conflict tends to fight its last war. In regards to Russia I think it explains a lot of things.
Before it started Putin had reportedly 150,000 troops on exercise for weeks in the depths of a harsh winter. I dare say morale wasn’t high then. Weeks for Zelensky to make plans with his 200,000 strong army and 900,000 reservists. Weeks for NLAWS, Javelins etc to be delivered. We’ve seen the results. A lot of chit chat about whose fault. It’s Putin’s fault and he must be removed, Ukraine rebuilt and the Russian economy restored.
I’m afraid we’re having a repeat of Afghanistan. We have read a thousand times that the Taliban are powerless and irrelevant. Now we read that the Russians are powerless (except that they are advancing according to the map). We feel better, but we are making the wrong decisions.
As bad as the Russians are, let’s not forget that this is a matter of life and death for them. They have to win Ukraine, even if they have to have five million dead and if the majority of the population is starving to death. Every Russian tank destroyed brings us closer to nuclear war.
Clearly it didn’t fail. The “masters of the universe” are possibly conceding. Read this article carefully and note the source.