(Crest of Ukraine’s GUR/Main Department of Intelligence of the MOD of Ukraine)
From the Ministry of Defense’s Telegram channel:
More on this after the jump.
Here is President Zelenskyy’s address from earlier today. Video below, English transcript after the jump:
Today we have several important defense decisions what is necessary to support our warriors – address by the President of Ukraine
20 March 2023 – 21:36
Good health to you, fellow Ukrainians!
We have several important decisions today, primarily defense decisions.
Our European partners have agreed on a joint plan to accelerate the supply of shells for our artillery.
This decision is worth 2 billion euros. It provides for both emergency supply and production of ammunition.
This is a strategic step. It gives us confidence in our unity, in the immutability of the movement towards victory over the terrorist state.
I am thankful to all our partners in Europe! To everyone who is truly interested in making Europe strong and free.
A new defense package from the United States was also announced today. The amount is 350 million dollars.
These are rockets for HIMARS, artillery shells and other ammunition – everything we really need to support our warriors.
I am grateful to President Biden, Congress, and all Americans!
I held three international conversations today.
With Austrian Chancellor Nehammer, we discussed our bilateral cooperation – humanitarian and political issues. We also discussed our joint opportunities to restore justice violated by Russian aggression.
I thanked Austria for joining the group that is preparing the establishment of a Special Tribunal on Russia’s aggression against our country.
I also thanked Ireland – Mr. Prime Minister – for his country’s accession to this group. The circle of partners willing to work together to punish Russia for its aggression is inevitably expanding, making the prospect of punishment more and more realistic.
It is not enough to bring to justice those responsible for crimes caused by aggression.
It is also necessary to punish – quite fairly and legally – the original crime that gave rise to all the other crimes of this war.
This is exactly what the Special Tribunal will provide. Every day we bring its creation closer.
By the way, today this issue, as well as our joint work with the International Criminal Court, was discussed in London during the conference of European ministers of justice.
I addressed the participants of the Conference and urged them to support all elements of international efforts to ensure that the aggressor is surely punished.
It is very important that we discussed with both the Austrian Chancellor and the Irish Prime Minister the possibilities of medical treatment and rehabilitation of our people who were wounded by Russian weapons.
With Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, we focused on defense issues, on quite practical steps that will help implement our Peace Formula.
I informed him about the situation on the frontline, our main needs and capabilities.
I thank Mr. Prime Minister for his full understanding of the situation and for his unwavering belief that the power of European values is stronger than Russia’s hatred of European freedom.
Today, as always, I would like to commend our warriors. All those who are fighting for our country.
The 56th and 57th separate motorized infantry brigades – thank you guys! Thank you for your strength and resilience in the defense of Bakhmut!
The warriors of the 72nd Black Zaporizhian separate mechanized brigade, paratroopers of the 79th brigade, marines of the 35th and 36th separate brigades, the 74th separate reconnaissance battalion, our artillerymen of the 55th Zaporizhzhia Sich brigade – I am glad to be able to steadily thank you for the results, for your strength, for your resilience in Donetsk region!
Kherson direction… The 406th separate artillery brigade and the 131st separate reconnaissance battalion – well done, guys! Always accurate, always strong!
I am grateful to each and every one who is now in combat!
Glory to all who defend the independence of our country!
Thank you to everyone who helps!
Glory to Ukraine!
There is no operational update posted today at the Ukrainian MOD’s Telegram channel. However, there is this announcement from Deputy Defense Minister Malar:
Here is former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s most recent assessment of the situations in Adiivka and Bakhmut:
ADVIIKA AXIS /1550 UTC 20 MAR/ After heavy fighting in the last 36 hours, RU decreased offensive tempo. UKR expects continued pressure on Adviika urban area. pic.twitter.com/3XFilP5d4T
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) March 20, 2023
BAKHMUT AXIS /1840 UTC 20 MAR/ Urban combat continues in Bakhmut. RU piecemeal attacks repelled at Bohdanivka, Hyrhorivka and Ivanivske were repelled. pic.twitter.com/elISt1oaz8
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) March 20, 2023
BAKHMUT AXIS/1430 UTC 20 MAR/ Gains by RU along the North [M-03] axis, with an uptick in urban fighting & contact near Ivanivske increases pressure on UKR forces. At present, UKR commanders must assess the security of Lines of Communication and Supply (LOCS) into the city. pic.twitter.com/B4t2GtYYS7
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) March 20, 2023
Bakhmut Demon's update on the situation in Bakhmuthttps://t.co/1DxwFn8uq6 pic.twitter.com/0twmcys70R
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) March 20, 2023
Vladislav Schevchuk from Bakhmut – the city is holding, don't believe fakes about withdrawal of the army from the city. pic.twitter.com/4P1XOZX2yp
— Dmitri (@wartranslated) March 20, 2023
Here’s a great thread on Bakhmut, touching on a few other locations such as Vuhledar, by USMC vet and FPRI Senior Fellow Rob Lee. First tweet in the thread below, the rest from the Thread Reader App:
Thread on Bakhmut. Before talking about the tactical situation, it is important to put it in the strategic context. Ukraine conducted successful offensives in Kharkiv and Kherson after heavy Russian military attrition during the Battle of the Donbas left its lines vulnerable.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 20, 2023
Russia’s successful withdrawal from the right bank of Kherson and mobilization helped stabilize the lines and stopped Ukraine’s advance to Kreminna. In order to make further serious gains, Ukraine went on the defense to buy time to form new units/train on NATO equipment.The battle in Bakhmut began more than 6 months ago, but became a focus over the winter as both sides redeployed forces to Bakhmut from Kherson. Bakhmut thereby acquired a degree of political significance on both sides.Russia began its winter offensive in late January. Russian forces have attempted to advance in several parts of the front while making minimal gains. In some areas like Vuhledar, Russian forces have suffered far heavier losses than Ukrainian forces.Russia has also sustained heavy losses in Bakhmut, but the ratio of losses shifted as Russia took the flanks (which sit on high ground), beginning with the southern flank in January and the northern flank in mid/late-February including Yahidne on the 25th.Although the center of Bakhmut has strong buildings and factories, the flanks are composed of houses without basements. Once they’re targeted, they’re no longer useful as fighting positions. Russian advances on the flanks put the main resupply routes within direct-fire range.Newly mobilized soldiers are being sent to Bakhmut as combat replacements and the units don’t have enough time to train them properly. There is a trade-off between sending mobilized soldiers to the front or to new units preparing for the spring offensive.Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut: ‘Our troops are not being protected’But multiple defenders of this embattled city in Donetsk Oblast feel that they are in a similar boat, according to interviews with more than a dozen soldiers currently fighting in or around Bakhmut.https://kyivindependent.com/national/ukrainian-soldiers-in-bakhmut-our-troops-are-not-being-protectedAlthough there was a 3-week period in which Russian artillery fire was reduced, it increased at the end of February as the 106th Airborne Division played a greater role, which coincided with greater Wagner-VDV cooperation. Russia has a substantial artillery advantage in Bakhmut.Wagner commanders are given greater discretion and flexibility to fight as they see fit and to find/exploit weak points (TDF units are often deliberately targeted). Some Wagner units operate at night while others only during the day. Wagner convicts are not allowed to retreat.Bakhmut matters to Russia because its stated goal is to seize all of the Donbas, but Russian forces are struggling to advance towards Kramatorsk-Slovyansk from the other directions. It has also been key to Ukraine’s defense of the rest of the Donbas.Ukraine is prioritizing forming and training new units in three army corps for its spring offensive while trying to hold the entirety of the front line. But those are competing priorities, and Ukraine is deliberately holding back reserves. economist.com/zaluzhny-trans…This may give the impression that Ukraine is losing, but, in reality, Ukraine is not committing all of its resources to the front. Ukraine has a better chance of achieving another significant breakthrough this spring than Russia does during its current offensive.Russia is dependent on a small number of elite units for their assaults (e.g. naval infantry, VDV, Wagner professionals), but they can grind their way to slow, costly victories by employing greater forces and artillery. An attritional fight is not in Ukraine’s interests.Until its offensive, Ukraine’s best strategy is to pick battles where it can achieve a favorable ratio of attrition and expend fewer munitions, which could weaken Russian forces’ ability to defend without significantly sapping Ukraine’s offensive potential in the coming months.Although the attrition ratio in Bakhmut has been advantageous for the duration of the battle, the ratio is much less favorable now with Ru forces holding high ground on the city’s flanks. Much of Russia’s losses are prisoners of less military value than Ukrainian soldiers.In contrast, in Vuhledar, the share of Russian casualties from elite units is higher than in Bakhmut, and it isn’t clear if Wagner’s use of convicts would be as effective in a less urban setting.The upcoming Ukrainian offensive will be strategically critical and potentially decisive. Western aid, including ammunition, will likely peak this spring and summer, and it will take years before increases in artillery production capacity can be achieved.Ukraine will not have air superiority, will face stronger Russian defenses than it did in Kharkiv, and will likely only be able to achieve localized superiority in artillery fire and forces. To gives its offensive the best chance for success, Kyiv needs to husband its resources.There is no risk-free option for Ukraine. Retrograde operations are dangerous, withdrawing from Bakhmut could lead to more pressure on Siversk or elsewhere, and there is no guarantee Ukraine would be able to retake the city later if it withdraws.But there is a risk that, by committing the necessary forces to continue holding Bakhmut (where its attrition ratio isn’t favorable), Ukraine will sap some of the forces available for its strategically more important spring offensive. wsj.com/amp/articles/r…Russia’s Wagner Troops Exhaust Ukrainian Forces in BakhmutWith a disregard for losses, the paramilitary group’s penal battalions have advanced at a time when the regular Russian military remains largely stalled.https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/russias-wagner-troops-exhaust-ukrainian-forces-in-bakhmut-b58e726cAnother risk is that Russian forces will continue to press to the west to try to seize high ground north of Chasiv Yar, which is defensible terrain for holding Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Encirclement is also a risk.Encircling Bakhmut is Russia’s best opportunity to inflict a serious defeat on Ukraine. The VDV’s 106th Airborne Division has taken on a greater role, and the Russian MoD will likely prioritize cutting off the remaining MRSs by committing more resources.The mud season has now begun, which could complicate a withdrawal or reinforcement, particularly if Russian forces advance closer to the O0506 hardball road. This could limit the use of wheeled vehicles.As in Mariupol and countless other battles, Ukrainian forces have defended bravely and inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces in Bakhmut, which will likely aid Ukraine’s spring offensive. But the conditions have worsened over the past month.What should Ukraine do? I don’t know. It isn’t a black and white issue and there is uncertainty. Russia may overextend itself trying to take the city and leave itself vulnerable to counterattack. It is ultimately a question of where Ukraine chooses to assume risk.Just as the strategic consequences of Russia’s offensive in the Donbas in the spring and summer wasn’t fully clear until after Ukraine’s offensives in the fall, it probably won’t be clear whether the continued defense of Bakhmut was the right move until after Ukraine’s offensive.
Vodyane, Optyne, and Krasnohorivka:
Combat FPV kamikaze drones of the 59th Motorized Brigade of the #UAarmy destroy russian equipment in the area of Vodyane, Opytne and Krasnohorivka villages in Donetsk region. pic.twitter.com/auVbxrdyZH
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) March 20, 2023
Russian Kalibr cruise missiles, transported by rail, were destroyed in Dzhankoy, reported by Military Intelligence of Ukraine.
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) March 20, 2023
My understanding is that while Dzankhoy would be at the extreme edge of HIMARS range, given they type of ammunition we’ve provided, this strike was most likely done with UAVs. But we’ll have to wait for more information to be released. However, since I’ve mentioned HIMARS: obligatory:
I understand the sentiment, and frankly I agree with it, but whether this is actually doable is way outside my areas of expertise:
— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) March 20, 2023
#Ukraine needs ammunition and has asked for it.
I proposed #EU member states jointly procure 1 million shells for Ukraine.
Glad that EU foreign and defence ministers approved the initiative today.
This helps to ramp up European defence industry and boost our security
— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) March 20, 2023
If there is a will, there is a way – was not easy, but political consensus has been reached – 1 million rounds of 155mm to Ukraine. https://t.co/mernfmvSA5
— Hanno Pevkur (@HPevkur) March 20, 2023
The White House has announced the newest military aid package for Ukraine:
Memorandum on Delegation of Authority Under Section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of1961
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
SUBJECT: Delegation of Authority Under Section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 621 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority under section 506(a)(1) of the FAA to direct the drawdown of up to $350 million in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Ukraine and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown.
You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
Here’s what’s going to be sent:
Ukraine continues its fight for freedom. And our partners continue to be committed to supporting our brave soldiers and unbreakable people.
russian tyranny must fail, and its leaders must be punished. Working on it.
Thank you to @POTUS @SecDef and the American people. pic.twitter.com/fuYDZbx9Lt
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) March 20, 2023
That’s enough for tonight.
Your daily Patron!
Patron has retweeted this:
Symbols of the war. @Maliar_Anna@PtashkaAzovstal@davidgilmour@RihardsKols@LinkeviciusL@PatronDsns#Putin_go_fuck_yourself #StopRussianAggression #Mariupol #Yulia #Payevska #Ukraine #Azovsteel #Azovstal #Putin https://t.co/9VC9kpYCT9
— ₩AW: War Against War (@WAW_AgainstWar) March 20, 2023
There’s no new Patron videos or tweets tonight, so here’s some Patron adjacent material for you (and so you won’t riot…):
In trenches #Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineWar #Leopard #CatsOfTwitter #CatsOnTwitter #RussiaisATerroistState #UkraineWarNews #UAarmy #ukrainecounteroffensive #Zelensky #UkraineRussiaWar️ pic.twitter.com/9ovQgLJbrR
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 20, 2023
☺️#Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineWar #Leopard #CatsOfTwitter #CatsOnTwitter #RussiaisATerroistState #UkraineWarNews #UAarmy #ukrainecounteroffensive #Zelensky #UkraineRussiaWar️ pic.twitter.com/HAp9N1CRpu
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 20, 2023
☺️#Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineWar #Leopard #CatsOfTwitter #CatsOnTwitter #RussiaisATerroistState #UkraineWarNews #UAarmy #ukrainecounteroffensive #Zelensky #UkraineRussiaWar️ pic.twitter.com/eXL40W9bGa
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 19, 2023
Time to sleep.#Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineWar #Leopard #CatsOfTwitter #CatsOnTwitter #RussiaisATerroistState #UkraineWarNews #UAarmy #ukrainecounteroffensive #Zelensky #UkraineRussiaWar️ pic.twitter.com/YscsvvfGSi
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 19, 2023
Love #Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineWar #Leopard #CatsOfTwitter #CatsOnTwitter #RussiaisATerroistState #UkraineWarNews #UAarmy #ukrainecounteroffensive #Zelensky #UkraineRussiaWar️ pic.twitter.com/0FaCsF9Gqu
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 19, 2023
Ukrainian soldiers have fun with their animals at field positions. pic.twitter.com/W0gf5ppzzE
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 18, 2023
“Cat, are you okay?
Can you go for a walk while we shoot?”.
The cat decided that he was comfortable living with Ukrainian artillerymen. pic.twitter.com/XiFPdup4Tx
— UkrARMY cats & dogs (@UAarmy_animals) March 18, 2023
Damn, that crest is fuckin badass. I wanna see that emblazoned on the back of a biker jacket.
I know he has to say things like this, because he is a wise and astute statesman, but like…it ain’t “all” Americans who deserve thanks. Many of those “all” would probably happily lick the soles of putin’s shoes if he told them to. This is why Zelenskyy is the leader of a nation and I am not. Among other reasons.
I love how every cat I see in troop photos looks like it is willing and ready to eat orcs’ faces off. Cats: The originators of Resting Bitch Face™.
Thank you as always, Adam.
Was the rail strike a two-fer? This post asserts the rail node in that town is critical for all Crimean rail transport. How they did it remains an intriguing conundrum.
I appreciate Mr. Lee’s point that holding ground is many times easier than retaking it–just hope the ghoulish cost of this struggle ultimately proves worthwhile to Ukraine.
Many thanks, Adam.
rumour is it was Ukraine’s TU-141 survelliance drones that have been turned into cruise missiles.
Gin & Tonic
Among them Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, who is actively funding an initiative to eliminate US support for Ukraine. I know the company has long since been sold to Unilever, but Cohen is still a director of that company, so fuck him, and fuck Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, which will never again be seen in the G&T household’s freezer.
@Gin & Tonic: It’s never been in my freezer in the first place!
@Gin & Tonic: That article is stomach-turning.
@Gin & Tonic: Yep, saw that shit a few days ago. I’ll miss Americone Dream but fuck that guy forever now.
Re: 1m artillery shells, I read that the EU cannot actually manufacture more shells, and allocating the $$ will only increase the price per shell. Seems like a moment for, y’know, *industrial policy*, to actually increase the capacity to produce shells. Sigh.
@Gin & Tonic: Made me look.
The Eisenhower group, and Ben’s Twitter, both look like something out of the W years – Democracy Now retweets, Free Assange, Scott Ritter, US (Biden) Empire, etc., etc. It’s like they’re stuck in a time warp.
They seem to have their world-view and time and facts don’t seem to matter.
I think that viewpoint is much less popular than it was back then. At least I hope so…
@Gin & Tonic: Ugh. Another “leftist” Putin supporter. I haven’t bought their ice cream in about thirty years anyway.
Mike in NC
Glad we never spent a nickel on Ben & Jerry’s.
Ukrainian cats are badass. Thank-you Mr. Silverman for these updates. Slava Ukraini!
the EU has the capacity to produce more shells, refurb more tanks, etc, the issue has always been that there have been no long term purchase contracts. Nobody has been willing to incur the short term and long term costs of ramping production with out a contract covering the costs.
Now they do.
@Jay: Pentagon procurement official Doug Bush was quoted in a recent defenseone.com article as saying that right now the limiting factor in shell production is the number of machine tools. Bush said we have sufficient material but the machine tools are large and complex and cannot be constructed quickly.
@Mike in NC: Their ice cream sucks anyway. Too much gelatin.
@Gin & Tonic: Funny, I don’t much care for their product anymore anyway, so, no loss!
Still, I’m thinking of flavors like Tankie’s Pipe Dream, with little candy tanks made of Pop Rocks material so they explode in your mouth.
you double shift, then triple shift, add weekend shifts.
Money is needed to hire and train the labour, money is needed for the added costs of tools, (machine tools wear out), service in the toolroom and the floor, more raw materials, (30 days cost, 90 days net), heat and power, etc.
Where I work, we could triple the number of tools we repair in a month, but we would need a minimum of 6 months of firm contracts, upfront, before even starting the process. If we started the process with out those financial guarantee’s, if the demand dropped off after say, 3 months, we would have to abruptly lay off 2/3rds of our employees and the incurred costs, not yet recouped, would probably cause a bankruptcy
Adding more specialty CNC machines, lathes, etc to the floor is a gatekeeper, (just try to buy a new forklift now), but production can be tripled or more with out adding machines.
@karen marie: It was much better a few years ago. Chunky Monkey has very little walnuts and chocolate chunks in it now. It used to be an addiction of mine – now it’s very easy to resist.
But almost all store-bought ice cream is much worse these days – I guess they’re determined to try to keep the price down and their profits up…
@Jay: There is another possibility: as we’ve discussed here, JDAM -ER GPS-guided air-launched munitions are apparently operational in Ukraine now. They have a 45-mile range from launch point, and are mated to Ukrainian MIG-29s. Depending on the adequacy of Russian radar and AA coverage, this could have been a nap-of-the-earth flight. It’s apparently not known what warheads are in service, but the basic 2000-lb HE would probably be the right payload to wreck a rail delivery at Dzhankoi. They would probably need cluster munitions to take out the railyard altogether—my fantasy pick, of course.
Not saying it was JDAM-ER. But if those are really aimed at Russian targets now, it would be hard to imagine a better one than Dzhankoi. Starobilsk is competitive, maybe.
@Jay: This word picture of bottlenecks laid out in series is very valuable. The approch is then to identify the narrowest bottleneck (labor) and widen it until it is wider than the next-narrowest bottleneck (machine tool availability, floor space, budget, etc.)
@Chetan Murthy: @Jay:
Early on, Biden announced 1M 155mm shells for Ukraine from the USA. At 7000 rounds a day (highest end of the cited range), that’s only 143 days…
More at the link.
As usual, it’s complicated with many, many moving parts and the political parts are often the thorniest.
@Jay: I read of at least one American plant that has triple shifts working on 155mm shell production. So the requisite machine tool would be in operation 24 hours a day and not just 8. But from what Mr. Bush told defenseone.com, they need more of the specialized machine tools to further increase production and they are very large and complex and cannot be constructed quickly. So, Bush says, they are now the limiting factor.
It’s a recent article and easy to find.
For those interested in the effect of Russia’s propaganda apparatus on Russia, this highly-cited 2020 paper compares epistemic bubbles and echo chambers (for 33 pages double spaced), and the paper is an easy read relative to other such literature. First appeared in a more-for-the-public form in 2018; this is the academic version. (Epistemic bubble -> echo chamber is more of a continuum to me, depending on how effectively an echo chamber is defended.) (Paper seen linked recently, but I lost track of where.)
Echo chambers and epistemic bubbles (C. Thi Nguyen, Episteme 17 (2):141-161 (2020)) (pdf download button at link)
bold mine, emphasis in original
@Geminid: I think that some discussion here would be helped with links. Might be less misunderstanding, also too.
Repost – DefenseNews.com (includes 9:41 video).
(Watergirl has tried to make it easy for us to post links. Speak up if a pointer would be helpful.)
there are other plants, there are plants globally. Most are currently working in single shifts, as the contracts just arn’t there to add on.
Yup, once you are working machines 24/7, the only way to increase production is through greater efficiencies, subcontracting some production processes out, or add more machines and floor space. And yup, the machines become the bottleneck, and it’s not just the large, complex milling machines. As I pointed out, try to buy a forklift these days. $100k USD and a 1 year waiting list.
guessed that it might be the TU-141 as it has the range, the warhead, (apparently the accuracy now) and there were a couple of vids released yesterday of two launches,…… and you ususally don’t see those,……
@Gin & Tonic: That is gross and so disappointing. They helped set up the whole idea of B corporations, but whatever.
Thanks again for the “bavovna” clue the other day. The WAW vid gives additional backstory. Plus lots of demonstrations of how to pronounce Kyiv.
Since I speak a little Russian and am only getting familiar with Ukrainian now, I will probably always mispronounce stuff, but I can try.
@Another Scott: Mr. Bragg’s point was about the constraint on shell production very simple, and I just relayed it and gave the source.
The article was easy enough to find for anyone who wanted to find it.
@Bill Arnold: In my opinion, this article takes on a very passive and limited interpretation of the term “epistemic bubble,” in the sense that it appears interested in the moldable opinions of passive audiences.
Recall, however, that the term gained traction in the Bush/Cheney/Rove era, wherefrom Republican contempt for the “reality-based community” took its modern virulence. It originally described a situation where decisionmakers and thought leaders actively sealed themselves off from unwelcome evidence. The epistemic bubble that Dick Cheney lived in, and which conditioned him to believe that (a) Saddam Hussein was a collaborator of Osama Bin Laden (despite the absurdity of that proposition) and, (b) Hussein had flooded Iraq with (undetectable) WMD capability, was of Cheney’s own making, shared transversally as groupthink in government, and imposed forcibly downwards on intelligence analysis.
This was not a dynamic interruptible by exposure to facts. It was driven by utter resistance to allowing evidence to supersede belief. In a word, it was unreason.
@Jay: Having reviewed some of the videos, and heard the buzz of buzzbombs, the drone hypothesis seems to fit better after all.
it really doesn’t matter either way. Russia got their assets kicked and there will be fewer missiles terror bombing Ukraine.
@Carlo Graziani: Did Cheney actually believe any of that? I think Rumsfeld’s point that there were “no good targets” in Afghanistan was the real operating principle and they focused on “WMD” (not specifically nuclear weapons because they knew that was unlikely) as a good enough pretext to blow up some Muslims.
I think the only thing that genuinely surprised them was that Saddam had actually destroyed all of his chemical weapons. I think they figured they’d at least find some rusting canisters and they’d be good. I’m not prepared to let them even have “fooled themselves” as a sort of excuse.
dig the camoflauge,…
That is a very informative thread by Rob Lee! Places the WaPo reporting in clearer context.
However, is he really suggesting that Ukraine will not launch its offensive until the Fall? It makes sense on a lot of levels: the ground will be firmer & thus more conducive to mobile warfare & exploitation of breakthroughs, more time for Ukrainian reserves to be trained, & more time for weapons & munitions to arrive from NATO & partners. It would also allow for more time to attrit the Russian forces.
OTOH, one major offensive a year will drag out this war a long time. Waiting until the Fall will give the Russians more time to dig in. Putin seems to have ordered mobilization of another 400K troops. By the Fall these troops will likely be able to man static defensive positions, where they would be more useful than on the attack. Finally, efforts to attrit the Russians are also attriting the the Ukrainians, as is currently happening at Bakhmut & had happened last year at Severodonetsk. I have trouble believing a Fall offensive will prove decisive in defeating the Russian invasion.
A final thought, it would be definitely worthwhile to study how the Russians managed to retreat across the Dnipro at Kherson in decent order last year. Everyone’s hope & expectation at the time was that, once the bridges were dropped, a major Russian force could be trapped on the right bank be destroyed. Had that been accomplished, the state of the war right now may very well be different, & the Russians may not have been in a position to attack in the Bakhmut area. I don’ recall much reporting or analyses as to what had happened, compared to the breakthrough at Kharkiv. Did the Ukrainian Army not have enough forces there to really pressure the Russian formations on the right bank of the Dnipro? Did the Russian VDV & Marines put up a more effective defense? (& if so, how?) How did the Russians manage to evacuate 10s of thousands of troops across the wide part of the Dnipro w/o intact bridges? How many heavy equipment were they able to withdraw? It would offer a lot of lessons to the coming Ukrainian offensive, & how it can be more decisive to the outcome of the war.
Speaking of flying things, … APOD – The Expanding Crab Nebula.
Well worth a couple of clicks.
@Jay: Is twitter down?
not for me, hit the March 20, 2023 hypertext, not the Pic hypertext.
Twitter has become “twitchy” however.
Sounds like those cruise missiles were whacked by a drone. Watching this video taken by soldiers in the area, you can clearly hear it fly overhead before the explosion.
@YY_Sima Qian: I was also surprised at how well the Russians did in retreating from Kherson. But I have to imagine that the tactical situation of the Dnipro Bear Trap must have been clear to command levels by mid-August, and there must have been a concerted, if surreptitious, effort to withdraw equipment across damaged bridges and pontoons. Withdrawing personnel is obviously simpler, particularly given Russian indifference to personnel losses. It is certainly clear that Russian resistance to getting pressed out of the Zaporizhzhia-Mikholaiv-Kherson triangle was much less active and aggressive than current Russian operations, which suggests that they gave up long before the liberation of Kherson was official.
As to counteroffensive timing, what Lee is saying seems ambiguous. If the UA really is holding Bakhmut (and the Avdiivka salient at Donetsk, and the Kupyansk front) with the minimum forces required for the task so as to generate a reserve for strategic counter-strike (as implied by Zaluzhny’s “may the soldiers in the trenches forgive me…”) then the urgency of the attendant risk seems to me to dictate a much more compressed counteroffensive schedule than Fall. May’s mud-drying, at the latest, seems much more plausible.
Xi Jinping is in Moscow for a state visit. Here are a couple of good analysis of the dynamic at play, & how it relates to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, by Evan Feigenbaum & Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment:
I know, not the right thread for it, but I wanted to jump into the new/main one because I think it’s important. This is about the school lunch issue.
It’s not just about race. It’s about the upper middle class vs the middle class.
Where I grew up the homes ranged from a few hundred thousand to a few million. In elementry schools which were smaller and everyone came from the same tier of home the meals were great. Sure they had crap in them (do you want the grilled cheese or the sloppy joe, and do you want fries or tots, choose free chocolate or regular milk, here are your veggies, pick your cookie at the end) but they were good. You were the oddball if you didn’t get the lunch in the land of lawyers, doctors, diplomats, and more! These were free.
When we merged with the other schools for middle school (ie not just families with incomes in the seven figures but also the low sixes) that all changed quick. It wasn’t just a free planned meal there were discounted “choices”. You know where this goes. The more well off kids got the planned meals at (IIRC 3 bucks) and the others just sort of got the main course. Que high school where there was no “school lunch” but there was a profit making center. This is all ala carte so to speak. So the more well off kids are going to get pizzas, cheese steaks, veggies, apples, and the lower end gets bagels microwaved and soaked in butter. Even then those like me drove off from the school to go get stuff because at the point for $20 for a good meal in the 90s there were better options like five mins away.
Who’s going to do better at school? The kid eating two butter bagels a day or the kid eating at the diner for breakfast and having restaurant burritos for lunch? And every single parent who was not at the bottom of this loved the system. Wasn’t about race, mostly whites and Asians where I was, it was all about policing the boundary between lower middle class, middle class, and upper middle class and making sure their precious wasn’t going to have competition from the level down. And don’t get me started on the dining halls I had to go through at GPrep or Landon and that level of “free” food.
There is a very deliberate method to starving kids brains at all levels. You cannot blame the rich. These were all Clinton voters. Pro choice and the entire social program. But the moment you mentioned something that might let the five figure crowd compete with the six figure crowd or the six figure crowd compete with the seven figure crowd for their kids future all hell would break loose and they’d all start goose stepping down the street screaming to end this all now. We had PTA shit shows over adding more instructors to have more AP courses because that lowered the value of their kids AP, this wasn’t lead by a white Karen.
It all strikes me as so funny because unlike most there I left and enlisted into the military after. I’m an IT manager so I turned out OK in income. I’ll get by. But when I was in the military feeding the fuck out of everyone with good food that you need was always the priority. It’s rarely great (admirals mess is great when you get to go), hell it’s rarely good, but there is a ton of it and it’s free and it’s good for you and you should eat it. The military had Ike Eisenhower pitching up a storm that people just didn’t enough food, let alone good food.
The sheer lunacy of not feeding people and educating them, when “our troops” such as Eisenhower and McRaven (Navy SEAL admiral who ran our bag or tag and orchestrated the raid on Osama) were always screaming at the top of their lungs that it’s a national security issue to do these things is frustrating.
On Russian social media, many troops appeared to be in panic as they sought to escape, with pro-Kremlin bloggers echoing panic, suggesting a collapse in morale and logistics. Many reports from journalists, Ukrainian civilians and authorities as well as individual Russian soldiers indicated that the withdrawal had been rather chaotic, with many Russian servicemen and materiel left behind on the right bank. Deutsche Welle reported that major equipment pieces such as anti-aircraft defence systems appeared to have been successfully transferred to the other bank, but this would leave troops stuck on the northern side vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery and drone attacks. Groups of Russian soldiers (some of them wounded) were reportedly captured, or voluntarily surrendered to advancing Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian official Serhiy Khlan stated that some Russian soldiers failed to leave Kherson, and changed into civilian clothing. One unidentified Russian soldier appeared to confirm that the last order his unit received was ‘to change into civilian clothing and fuck off any way you want’. Some Russian soldiers reportedly drowned while trying to swim across the Dnipro. Ukrainian intelligence posted a Russian-language statement on social media, calling on remaining Russian soldiers to surrender. Footage on social media suggested that Ukrainian troops had captured several Russian tanks, armoured vehicles and crates of ammunition, contradicting the Russian Defence Ministry’s statement that ‘[n]ot a single piece of military equipment or weaponry was left behind on the right [west] bank’.
@Carlo Graziani: Just reread Rob Lee’s thread, it seems that he is saying there will be a series of Ukrainian offensives in the Spring. He only mentions Ukrainian offensive in the fall at the lat Tweet. So either he things the course of the war will not become clear until after the Fall, or that he miswrote in the last Tweet.
stuck in moderation at #46
Very interesting read. India should be really nervous about these ties between them. I dont think Russia will do anything to risk their standing with India who has been silent when it comes to the genocide that’s happening. It’s a sad thing.
Alexander B. Pevzner 裴則男 at the Reichman University in Israel, fluent in Chinese, Russian & English, has a Twitter thread on Xi Jinping’s statement in Russian state media & Putin’s statement in Chinese state media, & the differences between the two:
@Jay: IIRC, video game
@cain: I doubt Russia will stop selling arms to India (or Vietnam for that matter) at China’s urging. It needs all the cash it can get. However, eventually China could prevail on Russia to curtail certain kinds of weapons sales to India, such as leasing of nuclear attack submarines, collaboration on stealth fighters, etc. In any case, India has already been diversifying away from Russia as the main source of weapons in the past decade, pivoting toward western suppliers, particularly for its navy & air force. Russia’s performance in the current invasion of Ukraine has greatly damaged the reputation of its weapons, though perhaps somewhat unfairly (much of the ineffectiveness has to do w/ poor maintenance, poor training/tactics, & low availability, not ineffective design). However, Western countries are not as willing as the Russians are to share the most advanced technologies to India, SSNs & stealth fighters again come to mind.
China could also cajole Russia into sharing the most sensitive defense technologies that the latter had hitherto been unwilling to provide – nuclear submarines & high powered rocket engines, to name 2. A few years ago I would have included aircraft engines, but that gap has largely been closed.
@Jay: The armor never douse their headlights through the entire encounter! Only things on the road, in convoy, lighting up the countryside like used car lot spotlights, obviously marking themselves for Javelin snipers, and even under attack they’d rather see light than go dark. I guess there really is no IR/light amplification gear in that amateur-hour army. Without mass, they have nothing.
@Carlo Graziani: The video is from a video game so it’s not real.
Chetan pointed out it is probably a “deep fake” from a game.
In combat areas, there would be “blackout lights”, “convoy lights”, Night vision, only in a rear area would you use actual headlights. Unless you are dumb.
@Jay: This video showed up in the early months of the war: it was identified as a vid from a video game back then.
@eversor: It has always puzzled me why meals for kids wouldn’t be provided by the schools (like in Finland): the kids do need to eat and this seems like the most convenient and cost-effective way to arrange it; also, easy enough to provide healthy, nutritious food while you are at it.
@YY_Sima Qian: Thanks for the pointers; :) Xi’s visit got me curious as to what China is up to here: probably mostly exploiting the isolation of Russia with a bonus of diplomatic posturing (with the audience elsewhere than the US); on one hand China probably doesn’t mind the US being distracted by the war, then again the war is an unpredictable source of instability which everyone could do without (also, there could be lucrative business in the massive reconstruction).
At Carnegie this too was interesting: How the Ukraine Grain Deal Went From Boon to Burden for the Kremlin A tidbit of information from it: there is a ammonia pipeline from Russia to Odesa (“Togliatti-Odesa”). This is a part of the grain / fertilizer export issue as ammonia is used to make fertilizer, and, as you might expect the pipeline has been blocked by Ukraine. The general dilemma is that allowing exports bolsters the Russian war chest while denying them makes the fertilizer shortage worse worsening the food (grain) shortage.
Jay, Thank you for the Girkin live stream….as repeatedly noted in the comments below, it seems a miracle that he is still alive….(he is obviously protected by the FSB or, out of the country entirely). Telling Mr Putin to Shut Up, comparing or warning Mr Putin of Milosevic, Gadaffi, Sadaam…Yikes! That seems insanely dangerous to me!
But, having heard this rant from Girkin and for all the pleasure it gave me for his slapping around Mr Putin…this does serve also as a stark reminder why we are better with Mr Putin running Russia than Mr Girkin….this later possibility is the true Double Yikes to be avoided at most all costs.
And a note on China…Two actually, I am still both amazed and depressed at how easily Xi and China so thoroughly and completely conquered Hong Kong….Damn that was quick and effective. Further the student protesters were correct in assuming that the proposed new security law would be used against them…as it immediately was. And off to prison they were whisked…
Secondly, Mr Putin took the incorrect lesson from China’s Excellent Adventure in Hong Kong. (different situations, different results). I wonder it Xi advised Mr Putin when they met just before the start of the Beijing Olympics at how easily these things could go…or did Mr Putin form his incorrect opinion all on his own?
This would work if the Russians weren’t rabidly anti-Asian, as in terribly racist against anyone with Asian facial features.
Russians see themselves as Europeans and belonging to the salons of Paris, not Beijing.
@Sebastian: The Russians in Moscow & Saint Petersburg, sure. I don’t think Gabuev is saying that the Russians in Muscovy will be excited about the prospect of being China’s weak junior partner, but that the powers that will be will find it least among all evils (to them).
@Traveller: Conquering Hong Kong is the wrong framing. No one disputes China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, & China’s promise not to interfere for 50 years was just that, a promise. The deal always had an escape clause (a mile wide depending on interpretation) for Beijing that said it could intervene should Hong Kong fall into chaos or become a sanctuary for forces that seek to overthrow the regime. Once the CCP regime decided to implement its own version of the National Security Law, taking advantage of the fact that Hong Kong had failed to pass such an ordinance as stipulated by the Basic Law, there was nothing anyone outside of the territory could do. Clearly Xi & the CCP leadership calculated that they would be condemned in Hong Kong & the West whether they dialed the repression to 50 or to 100, so they dialed it to 120. Activities that the CCP regime tolerated through gritted teeth for 20+ years (Falun Gong on the street corners of Kowloon, massive annual gatherings that commemorated the Tiananmen Square Crackdown, opposition filibustering government initiatives in the Legislative Council) all were swiftly banned. All opposition political figures arrested. Given the Jong Kong’s importance to international & Asia-Pacific finance, & economic activities w/ China, it was always unlikely that any Western country to take punitive actions that threatened their own interest.
Of course, there were many outside forces that behaved cynically toward the Hong Kong protest movement at the time for parochial political benefits: the GOP in the U.S., the Tories in the UK, & I would argue the DPP government in Taiwan. During the protests/riots these actors championed the cause, but after the crackdown they were really hesitant to take refugees from Hong Kong, ostensibly out of concern for potential CCP agents hidden therein. Most of the young student leaders (the ones in the Western MSM speaking for the movement at the time) escaped the West to get their graduate degrees at Oxbridge or Harvard/Yale, it was the mid-level leaders & the established opposition politicians that stayed behind who ended up paying the price.
In 2014 & 2019 the protestors took an uncompromising stance, apparently in the belief that Hong Kong’s high visibility & the rhetorical support from the West would force the CCP regime to back down, which was incredibly naive to anyone acquainted w/ how the regime typically respond to challenges. The hope that the West would exercise the nuclear option to punish the CCP was always a vain one.
The largely diffuse movement in 2019 also made a major mistake in failing to rein in its more extremist elements: the anti-Mainlander nativists, independence advocates, the colonial nostalgists, & the violent nihilists/anarchists, etc. The acts of violence against Mainlanders, Mandarin speakers & Mainland businesses evaporated any sympathy that might have been found among the Mainlanders. The only factor that would have caused any hesitation by the CCP to pursue a harsh post-protest crackdown would have been widespread sympathy among Mainlanders.
The CCP regime will pay a price for turning Hong Kong from a soft authoritarian regime into a hard authoritarian regime: the bankruptcy of support for any political deal w/ the CCP regime in Taiwan across the political spectrum (not that there was much to begin w/), the continuing (of suppressed) resentment building in large segment of the Hong Kong population, the reputational damage in the West, etc. However, the CCP regime is foremost occupied by addressing perceived domestic challenges to its rule, perceptions overseas is not an important part of the calculation.
I highly doubt Putin references Hong Kong before invading Ukraine. His precedents were the take over of Crimea & Donbas in 2014, the take over of Abkhazia & South Ossetia in 2008, & the wishful intel that told him Kyiv was poised to fall.
I see from Noel Reports that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishidi is making an unannounced visit to Kyiv. Mr. Kishida was visiting India earlier.
@Geminid: Iranian President Raisi has accepted the Saudi invitation for a visit to Riyadh. There are reports that the ruinous Yemeni Civil War & the disastrous Saudi intervention will formally end. Perhaps the Saudi-Iranian detente is advancing farther than expected.
@Jay: Hah! Made me look!
@YY_Sima Qian: Laura Rozen has been linking to a lot of material on the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, including one of her own articles. One interesting report is that the Iranian negotiations were conducted by the office of the Supreme leader, bypassing the Foreign Ministry and IRGC. Leader Khameini also played a part in the positive outcome of IEAE Director Grossi’s recent mission to Tehran.
Other reports are that the US has encouraged the Gulf States to lower tensions with Iran, and that the agreement signed in China culminated a process begun in Qatar and Oman.
Oman is apparently serving as interlocutor in other disputes as well. There was a story a few weeks ago that Iranian and Ukrainian officials had met there at least once.
Agree, due to a lack of alternatives they will go along for a bit but that’s not enough for a stable ideological alliance.
Russia is Moscow and St. Petersburg. Everything else is just hinterland.
I don’t know if it was speculation or an official announcement but Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China are in some sort of alliance.
@Sebastian: It’s not a stable ideological alliance, never was, & not intended to be. This is also why China bends over backward to give Putin & Russia face in these interactions, to slow the inevitable build of resentment in Russia that finds itself the “junior partner” (though “seniority” may not be the most useful framing, but an increasingly stark asymmetry in power dynamics & available options).
@Sebastian: I highly doubt there will ever be an alliance between Saudi Arabia & Iran. A detente is not an entente.
@Geminid: Everyone has domestic challenges they need to mind.
@YY_Sima Qian: I have to agree that the Students over played their hand…but when you are holding nothing, over play is all you have. I was unhappy seeing the streets of Hong Kong full of smoke, tear gas and torn down barricades…this was going to end badly….no one watching could honestly think otherwise.
And yet, there was a tremendous sadness that the seeming independent existence as a minor state.let was going to be destroyed. And it was…
It is said, I think correctly, that Hong Kong as an intellectual space is entirely gone and vanished. See here at the Diplomat
Yes, many leaders emigrated away from Hong Kong, but real people were arrested and going on trial…See Jimmy Lai of Apple Press….
It is and was an Ugly Business
Best Wishes, Traveller….who misses at least the idea of a moderately free Hong Kong (and yes, I do think Putin also looked at Hong Kong before his Invasion decision)