Observations on the Ukraine Conflict- 28 March, 2022

After 30+ days of war, the situation on the ground in Ukraine is nothing short of a stalemate. The much-vaunted Russian land offensive built around maneuver and superior firepower never came to fruition. Instead, a poorly equipped, poorly-led Russian army crossed the border with minimal close air support and inferior communications backing it up. Then there is the logistics situation which has only made a bad situation even worse for the Russians. Bottom line: Vladimir Putin was sold a bill of goods regarding the conventional capabilities of the Russian military. Corruption, indifference, and a host of other negative variables combined to form an aggressive, yet silent malignancy in Russian forces. It was not clear just how deep the rot had spread until the balloon went up last month. Now the world is fully aware.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian military has proven to be resilient and capable. It is fair to say a great deal of its success on the ground can be attributed to Russian shortcomings and mistakes. However, the Ukrainians are fighting fiercely and exploiting the mistakes and vulnerabilities of its enemy whenever the opportunity presents itself. Ukraine’s soldiers have also reaped the benefits of a significant propaganda effort launched by their government. Kiev has controlled the PR narrative from the start, presenting excessive estimates of Russian losses while minimizing speculation of its own casualties. As a result, many Western media outlets have been openly reporting the Ukrainian estimates and press releases as facts without bothering to independently verify. Social media has done the same. We see a legion of self-described OSINT ‘experts’ tweeting continuously on the same news and even dressing their reports up as factual, verifiable information when it isn’t even close to being that. What can you do? Amateurs are going to amateur. 😊 I’ve avoided this goat rope as much as possible.

Meanwhile, as Russia continues to suffer setback after setback, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is speaking to parliaments and legislative bodies around the Western world. He praises the job his military is doing, and then follows up with pleas for more weapons and assistance. He continues to warn that World War III will break out if Russia wins the war and is trying to lure NATO into the fight. Frankly, I’ve concluded that Zelenskiy is something of a sketchy character, trying to do an end run around NATO leaders and plead his case to the lawmakers and citizens directly. Personally, I believe this is the wrong approach. The West supports Ukraine and will do whatever it can….short of military intervention….to help Kiev and Zelenskiy succeed. But there is nothing in Ukraine worth the life of a single American soldier and I think most Americans would probably agree with this sentiment.

Weak leadership is not helping the West. Despite claims to the contrary, the united front established by the United States and its NATO allies is only skin deep. President Biden has not provided a resolute rock of leadership for the rest of the alliance to rally around. His missteps and lack of foreign policy acumen have diminished the US position and did nothing to deter Russia from taking military action against Ukraine. This past weekend was a typical Biden blunder. While giving a speech in Warsaw that was billed as a ‘major address’ the US president offered nothing of substance, only sound bite material and a diplomatic faux pas or two. England, France and Germany are little better.  Boris Johnson is attempting to funnel as much military aid to Ukraine as he can while applying sanctions upon Russia. In Berlin, Olaf Scholz is attempting to balance Germany’s current  energy needs with the desire to punish Russia for its Ukraine adventure. Finally, in France, Emmanuel Macron is trying to position France to play a decisive role in bringing the war to an end diplomatically. Macron’s motivations here are self-serving. He has an election coming up and continues to make every effort to position France to assume the leadership mantle in Europe during the post-Ukraine time period.

20 Replies to “Observations on the Ukraine Conflict- 28 March, 2022”

  1. It honestly surprised me and far more knowledgeable Russia analysts (ie, NOT the OSINT crowd or Mr. I Drool Over Anything Turkish [you know who I’m talking about]).

    Those people (including me) had assumed that modern equipment was spread far broader and deeper across the Russian military than actually was the case. But they were rolling up in antiques in many places. They assumed that there were more professional troops and fewer press-ganged ones.

    But they also assumed the Russians would follow their own doctrine: An obsessive focus on the fire-strike (which largely didn’t happen) combined with a tight operational focus (when there wasn’t even an initial theater commander). Instead it was crazily treating Ukraine like Crimea, and the result was clear.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think we all assumed the Russians at least had a military with capable conventional capabilities. Ok, we were wrong. If they had followed their doctrine and maybe named a theater commander and battle staff, this could’ve worked out much more favorably for our friends in Moscow.

      But they didn’t. And the Russian military ran the con of the decade in convincing the world….and Russian leadership…that they were a first rate force once again.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. People say the Russian military is a paper tiger and while that may have some merit considering its questionable performance right now (even though I did knew that Ukraine would put up a fight ASAP regardless), I’m not entirely sure on that since NATO is (rightly and reasonably) spooked and that China is a potential game changer on the side of Russia in terms of supplies (even if they’ll try to look like they’re not and play off both sides for the sake of its goals), and I haven’t even touched on the nuclear part.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good point. I wonder how NATO will regard Russia’s performance in the coming weeks and months. It would definitely be a mistake to assume Russia’s conventional forces are a paper tiger. That kind of thinking has a habit of coming back to bite you

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike, I am wondering how deep the rot goes… because outside of some Third World Armies, what is wrong with them over there is damn epic.

    It’s readily apparent now that the vaunted Russian Military has more problems than anyone thought- and as we’ve both said/discussed, Putin was sold a bill of goods.
    A super rosy picture on how prepared his military was for this “Special Operation” and that Ukraine would collapse. Total opposite happened… and “Wow” just doesn’t cover it. To be honest, I am not sure there is even any words that can adequately describe the utter failure of Russian Intel and preparedness. Maybe an English Major can come up with something- I know my grunt self can’t
    If you had said a year ago that they were this bad, I would have told you to check your drink because someone must have spiked it…

    I agree with some of your points- leadership issues, the # of experts who say X and don’t back their assertions (always johnny-come-lately’s there- worse in the modern era, that’s for sure)…. But up until all this happened, I did have doubts about NATO being able to respond with Unity this strong. I don’t think anyone thought there would be none… They would Scream, Yell, complain, shake fists… but not have the level of cooperation on overall message and action. I am very happy to be wrong on this.

    Hell, even the Germans (who were the weak link) have stepped up. NATO does seem to be more unified than the Russians expected (another intel failure?) which is a pretty big deal. At least to me. Your mileage will vary.

    What Zelensky is doing is absolutely questionable in many ways… but I’m not sure I’d not do the same if it were me in his shoes. I do think he waited far too long to mobilize reserves in the beginning… But then, I think (and I think we talked about this) he was hoping an invasion was just a bluff… I know I thought it could be as the potential for this to be a giant trolling *was* there and invasion made zero sense to me. Still does… but leaders don’t always act sensibly.
    No one wants to fight alone… and being a Fledgling Democracy, I am certain he (Zelensky) is hoping for more than supplies. Not going to get more than that, of course, but imo, I am pretty sure he was hoping. And still is, with his appeals.

    Western Weapons are 100% a huge help in this stalemate… and a ground war has to be won with the supplies given and Ukrainian blood. With the apparent pushbacks in spots, it very well may happen. Which would be wild and VERY impressive. Don’t see more than limited pushes though- an infantry heavy army (which is what the Ukrainians have right now) can pull it off but it will be stupid slow (low mobility) and hamstrung by the lack of supporting armor and air. Yeah, obvious observation there… but they potentially can push the Russians back because of weight of numbers coupled with their will to fight. Low odds of success, of course and damn sure won’t be fast… The Russian forces might get their heads out of their 4th point of contact eventually, which would stop any gains.

    If the Russians break out large scale chemicals (as its been warned about), I’m not so sure all of the West will stand back and let it happen. We (the US) won’t jump unless all of Congress pushes for it… The other countries? Who knows.
    Not an expert by any means- and I am not sure anyone else in NATO other than the Poles are in a position to do much. I hope to all the gods he doesn’t… but as its been said before, desperate men make desperate choices. And that would be a very desperate choice.

    I remember all the assertions back in Basic on the Russians being able to fight in that environment… with how they are performing now though, I have serious doubts on that. (flipside, MOPP gear is warm and well, it’s pretty cold there…)

    Damn scary time, this is… and there are far too many ways this can go. Like you have said, no one really knows among the real experts- though there are lots of educated guesses… and I’m pretty sure the migraines among the pros are rampant in trying to puzzle out near-future intentions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Two points about the Russian forces poor performance: I wonder to what extent have they kept back their best troops, expecting an easy win and wanting to deter NATO. If this really is their best then it gives the lie to Putin’s claims of believing that NATO is a military threat to Russia. I also wonder whether some of the problem is a lack of enthusiasm for attacking people the Russians traditionally see as their brothers (despite all the preparatory work to cast them as fascists) – that lack of motivation might not apply against other opponents.

    A final pedantic point – “England” isn’t playing any part in this diplomatically or by providing weapons, any more than California or Bavaria. You must be thinking of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! The United Kingdom. 🙂 Apologies, Nathan. I’ve been typing so many European national names in recent days that I’m out of practice.

      I wonder the same things about Russian forces. Morale would’ve been higher for an attack on Poland or the Balts, I believe. Going against Ukraine is like attacking a cousin, and I agree that most Russians aren’t thrilled about moving against them


  5. Agree. My worry, regardless of the outcome in Ukraine, is that Putin obviously plays a much longer game than Western leaders, with a focus on his own (literal) survival. Ukraine will be a personal failure. I assume there will be some head chopping in the military, but I wonder if Russia has the economic ability and will to truly modernise, and probably shrink, their forces?
    In 5 or so years, will we see another ‘special operation’ to recover/bolster his position? You’d think he would pick a less media sensitive target in a southern/eastern Republic, or will his ego push us all into a Baltic based conflagration? If so, is the current Politburo capable of removing him?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That modernization was supposed to have started in 2014. The Russians made a big deal about the efforts underway to reequip and modernize the conventional forces. Apparently, that was just a smoke screen at best. Or at worse, Putin was sold a bill of good. I would say that within 5 years, if Putin is still around, he’ll probably launch another ‘special operation’ and it will probably be aimed at the Baltics or Poland. Ego is a driving force with this guy and he’ll want to pay NATO back for the help it has given Ukraine


  6. I would say the biggest surprise has been that the vaunted Russian cyber warfare and EW capabilities haven’t been matched by modern comms and that has voided Russian efforts by leaving them open to exploitation by the Ukrainians, which, frankly have come a long way since 2014 and have shown they have learned where to hit the Russian bear to hurt most. That said, it’s also true that the Ukrainian army lacks the strength needed to push the Russians out, or so it seems…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. Wonder if the Russians haven’t used their much vaunted cyber and EW capabilities because they either A) didn’t think it was necessary or B) did not want NATO to get an idea of their capabilities.


  7. Has he really lost though if he holds Eastern Ukraine and beats Kyiv into submitting to “neutrality”…? He (Putin) can spend his last decade poisoning and bribing “neutral” Ukrainian politicians into moving more fully into Russia’s sphere, and make a Russian (do you know how many times I’ve caught myself typing “Soviet” in this post?) de facto takeover of Ukraine a fait accompli.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He might just try what was done in Chechnya. First attempt by Russia to take it over was beaten back, so the Russians pulled back, learned from their mistakes, let some time pass and then tried again a couple years later.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct myself with typing ‘Soviet’ instead of Russian over the last 34 days LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A comment and a question.
    1. Zelenskyy is first and foremost an actor before a politician. (Like somebody else pertinent to this blog!) He understands social media and how to use media to appeal directly to the world citizens in order to shape those nations’ policies to be favorable to Ukraine. I think he’s asking the West for the stars so the West will give him the moon, if that makes sense.
    2. About the criticism of Biden- What more do you expect an American president to do in the current situation? What would your wish be? I’m not sure what else an American president could do than he’s currently doing so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Teach me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for the long wait in responding.

      1. Zelenskiy really is asking for the moon and the stars. His latest demand for assurances from ‘nuclear-armed nations’ to guarantee Ukrainian neutrality in the event of a peace agreement is a good example. That is never going to fly and even if it did, remember Belgium and its neutrality in 1914.

      2. I really believe Biden has not been able to bring America’s European allies together as much as he claims. Right now, France and Germany are openly exploring their own diplomatic and military support paths. Not simply to help Ukraine but also to strengthen their own positions in the post-war period. And undermine American influence on the continent too, if possible. The problem is there are two supra-national bodies battling for the lead position here: NATO and the EU. The Biden administration hasn’t taken that into consideration. I’d hope previous administrations would of, but that’s just speculation at this point. I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to see more examples of leadership from Washington instead of words and promises that seem to evaporate immediately.


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