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The developing trench war in Ukraine

The developing trench war in Ukraine
For the original maps, go here (November 16, 2022) and here (April 16, 2023)

In my last update on the Ukraine War on November 16, 2022, I concluded that the stream of territorial gains by the Ukraine in the previous two months suggested that it was on the march and that in the coming months it would slowly and steadily regain territory from the Russians.

That analysis was wrong, at least in the short run. First, I failed to recognize that the Ukraine would need time to consolidate its large gains in September and October. Continuing the push apparently was beyond its capabilities without significant restocking of its troops and their equipment.

Second, by mid-November the Russians managed to halt the panicked retreat of its army, and forced it to re-establish reasonable lines of defense. It soon announced plans for a winter offensive, with the goal of capturing, at a minimum, the remaining territory of both the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts that either had never been taken or had been lost during the Ukraine’s successful fall offensive.

In the subsequent five months, the Russians have pushed hard, and gotten little for their effort. The map above, clipped from detailed maps produced daily by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), compares the frontlines on November 16, 2022 with the present lines on April 16, 2022. Russian-held territory is indicated in pink, Ukrainian territory is either white or blue, blue indicating territory recaptured from Russia. The striped region is territory Russia grabbed in 2014.

Except for some gains in the south, the Russians have moved that frontline almost not at all.

In the south they are on the verge of taking the city of Bakhmut, but that effort has devolved into a street-battle, where the Ukrainians are forcing the Russians to fight for every block and building, at great cost, because the Russians failed in their two pincer advances to the north and south to surround the city and force the Ukrainians to quickly abandon it. Instead, the Ukrainians, secure in the ability to escape when necessary, have been able show strong resistance, even if they cannot in the end hold the city. Meanwhile, the Russians will eventually take it, but all they will get is a destroyed hulk, with no tactically or strategic value for the larger war effort, and will have done so with large losses in men and material.

In the north, the Russians made some tiny territorial gains in a few places, but generally the battle has devolved into a classic World War I trench warfare, where both sides are firmly lodged in defensive positions that are difficult to break, especially because both sides appear to have had a general lack of tanks. The Russians lost most in the earlier offensives that failed, and the Ukrainians don’t have the ability to build them and must rely on any that other countries send them.

At the moment there have been many rumors for weeks of a coming Ukrainian offensive, but it seems difficult to imagine this offensive will be able to break through these defensive trenches, even with the delivery of tanks from Poland and the U.S., the number of which is not really very large.

In the southern parts of the country in Kherson Oblast (not shown on the map), the frontline is determined by the Dnieper River, and will require an amphibious assault, something that the Ukraine also does not really have the capability of mounting.

In World War I, the war became a long stalemate for years, until the entrance of the U.S. in 1918. American forces themselves figured only a little in the main battle, but the introduction to the Allies of an additional million-plus troops with American heavy equipment was enough to break the morale of Germany. Suddenly the lines broke, the British and French advanced quickly, and the Germans sued for peace to avoid an invasion of their country.

The Ukrainians have no hope of getting similar military aid from the rest of the world. Unless the Russians can bring such numbers to this battlefield, something that seems unlikely based on the present political situation in Russia, it now appears that this war is devolving into a World War I-style trench war. Neither side can make any significant gains militarily, and neither side is willing to negotiate a settlement.

What remains then will be a stale-mate for years.

I must add again that though I strongly want the Russians pushed out of the Ukraine, my goal here is merely to report the state of this war, not to advocate aid for the Ukraine. To my mind this remains a regional war. It is not our business to fight it.

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41 comments

  • Andi

    Minor edit in fourth-from end paragraph: “break the morale of the German Axis”

    Also I believe the German side in WW1 was called the Central Powers. “Axis” came later

  • GaryMike

    Russia overestimated its abilities and its power.

    Ukraine had to learn its abilities and its power.

    A.C Clarke’s battle of the apes over the water hole.

    Carry a bigger stick.

  • Andi: Fixed. And I have taken “Axis” out. Though you are correct about the name, I removed it more because at this point in the war it was Germany alone whose morale collapsed. The other members of the Central Powers were really not a factor by this time.

  • Andrew_W

    I’ve been following this conflict very closely (which is in part why I haven’t been commenting on BtB a lot).

    Some points I think the media has missed and that haven’t been emphasized by expert commentators:

    Ukraine supposedly lifted the number of soldiers in its military to around 800,000, a figure of 175 brigades was recently mentioned. There’s nowhere near that number of Ukrainian troops at the front.

    I think there’s a lot more Western input into the conflict in terms of intelligence and strategy than is recognized, such inputs will be very not visible to public scrutiny, I would expect the weapons and systems being supplied to Ukraine are those intended to see achieve specific goals other than a years long stalemate.

    A few months ago Ukraine was able to push Russia out of vast areas of its territory, since then there’s certainly been a considerable shift in the quantity and quality of weaponry in theatre in Ukraine’s favor.

    We keep seeing media concern about low munitions reserves in Ukrainian hands, I think that’s a red herring, Ukraine has a strong motivation to make noises every time they’ve got less than they’d like, to get more such aid. Russia on the other hand, without foreign suppliers to appeal to, has every motivation not to reveal where its supply situation is most critical.

    So my suspicion is that there’s a lot more strategy and support going on behind the scenes to push for a rapid and successful Ukrainian advance when conditions are right and when they are ready to launch their offensive.

  • Andrew_W: Hm. I hope you are correct, but I remain very unsure. I thought earlier much like you do. I am not so sure the Ukraine can push through any of the Russian defenses. Unlike September and October, the Russians I think are far better prepared.

  • GaryMike

    Russia and China both participated “indirectly” (*cough*) in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

    Any many others, since.

    If we don’t shiv them from time to time they’ll think we’ve finally given in.

  • truth lover

    The main differences between both dates are about 400,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers, destroyed Ukrainian defense systems built over 8 years, huge amounts of destroyed Ukrainian military equipment of all sorts and soon inoperable Ukrainian air defense system. The Russian losses, on the other hand, are low, as the recently leaked US secret document reveals (approx. 1:7).

  • truth lover, or Realist, or whatever fake name you used in the past: I had banned you for your repeated use of obscenities and insults. I am letting this comment through this time to see if you can behave yourself.

    That you seem to use multiple names, all coming from the same ip address and email address, suggests to me that you are likely a Russian operative. No matter. I find your somewhat one-sided perspective illuminating, but not in the way you think.

  • Andrew_W

    “truth lover” you’re referring to the rereleased version of the documents that had been doctored by pro-Russian parties, the original
    documents allege that at that time of the assessment between 15,500-17,500 Ukrainian troops were killed and 109,000-113,500 wounded in action, and that Russia is believed to have 35,500-43,000 forces killed in action and 154,000-180,000 wounded.

  • mkent

    The ebb and flow of the war in Ukraine seems to correlate directly with Russian manpower levels. Russia started this latest invasion with 120 battalions — about 100,000 men. After being driven back from Kiev, Sumy, and Chernihiv, Russia called up about 100,000 reservists. They hit the battlefield in early May 2022, and Russia went on the offensive. They took Sverodonetsk and Lysychansk in early July at the expense of most of those men. That larger force was spent, and Russia even called an operational pause. They never recovered from it.

    The Ukraine then went on the offensive against that spent force, taking back large parts of Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts. In response, Russia drafted 330,000 men in a “partial mobilization.” That was on top of the 120,000 men drafted in the normal fall conscription cycle. They threw about 100,000 of those men into battle with little or no training, which was enough to stop the Ukrainian advance, at the expense of most of those men.

    What of the other 350,000 men drafted last fall? I thought initially they would be used in what Russia was calling their “winter offensive.” Was Bakhmut it? If so, that wasn’t much of an offensive, netting only about ten miles total in daily attacks since July. Are they all being used in fortified defenses along the current front? If so, that will make things difficult for the upcoming Ukrainian offensive.

    The Ukrainian strategy seems to be to hold off on their offensive and instead just attrit Russian forces by hundreds of men each day, until even this larger Russian force is spent. You’d think that would work — even a flatworm turns away from pain. But now I’m hearing Russia is calling up another 400,000 reservists on top of the usual 100,000 spring conscripts.

    A Russian general recently stated on Moscow TV “The West needs to understand that to Russia, there’s no such thing as ‘unacceptable losses’.” So there you have it. Russia: Less sense than a flatworm. Such a waste.

  • mkent

    Truth Lover: Your numbers are way off.

    Russian state media does occasionally print the truth, if only by accident. At the end of March 2022, they printed that Russia had lost 6,500 men in the first month of the war. (For comparison, that’s as many men as the USA has lost in all military operations combined since it left Saigon 50 years ago — and the USA has over twice the population as Russia.) Then, on the two-month anniversary of the new invasion, they printed that Vladimir Putin received a briefing with the then latest casualty figures: 13,000 KIA and 7,000 MIA.

    Then on 28 August 2022, it was reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) had paid out 48,000 death benefits for combat-related fatalities up to that time. Those were only MoD fatalities, not Luhansk, Donetsk, or Wagner forces.

    This was now over seven months ago and also before the Ukrainian Kharkiv and Kherson offensives and the Russian winter offensive. For this and other reasons, I consider it nearly certain that Russia has suffered over 100,000 KIA.

    Whatever the actual number, it’s certainly high enough to fall into the category of strategic disaster.

  • truth lover

    Mr. Zimmerman,

    thank you for your generosity. Perhaps you will allow me, in closing for me at this point, to introduce your readers to a very credible source from your own country with the following link.

    Douglas Macgregor interview: “They’ve lied to us about the Russians”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWpZQEXoo_4

  • Andrew_W

    There’s nothing credible about Macgregor, or Ritter, or the Duran or Patrick Lancaster, or Jeffrey Sachs. Macgregor’s and Ritter’s claims especially have repeatedly been proven far from correct. All these “sources” fail to provide credible sources for the (mis) information they offer. I’ve gone to the trouble of trying to track Sachs offerings on a couple of occasions, in the end they originated from opinionated individuals on social media with no further sources offered.

  • truth lover

    Well really my last addition to the topic (tank you Mr. Z.). May everyone educate themselves by the names.

    Thank you Andrew for the excellent selection of truth lovers. I would like to add other excellent names to this list if you allow, which are far from being a complete list:

    Garland Nixon, Larry Johnson, Brian Berlectic, Pepe Esobar, Glenn Diesen, Ray McGovern, Clayton Morris, Tom Lungo, James Lindsay, Andrei Martyanov, Mark Sloboda, Ian Miles Cheong, “Military Summary”, “History Legends”, Judge Napolitano, Colonel Tony Shaffer and Tucker Carlson

  • Gary

    If you have the time, I would recommend these two contributors to the John Batchelor Podcast.

    One – a contributor who goes by the pseudonym “HJ Mackinder” (not sure why) – has what I’ll characterize as the “Russia is losing, but we aren’t doing enough” point of view.

    https://audioboom.com/posts/8282198-ukraine-omnibus-moscow-kyiv-brussels-dc-beijing-delhi-pov-professor-h-j-mackinder-int

    The other – Michael Vlahos – contributes the “this is a mess and we should be ashamed of spilling the blood of so many Ukranians in basically a mismanaged and ill conceived effort” point of view. The affectation of these segments is they discuss as if they were Roman’s living after the death of the Republic and before the dissolution of the Western Empire. He compares the mistakes and perils of that time with what we are going through now.

    https://audioboom.com/posts/8282173-londinium90ad-gaius-and-germanicus-mature-the-ukraine-war-failures-to-learn-with-the-vietnam-w

    https://audioboom.com/posts/8282172-londinium90ad-gaius-and-germanicus-debate-the-battlefield-on-the-eve-of-the-much-announced-spri

    https://audioboom.com/posts/8282171-londinium90ad-gaius-and-germanicus-observe-the-disouraging-defeatist-words-in-the-unfinished-l

    They’ve been carrying on these discussions for months. I enjoy listening to them. I wish John would have both on to “face off” with each other, but I suspect he doesn’t want to have confrontation.

  • Rigo Spen

    Mr Zimmerman, I believe you are mistaken in characterizing the UA situation merely as a regional conflict. Ukraine grain, seed oil, steel, neon gasses, and other industrial products are of particular global importance. Grain and ag oils are of primary importance to Europe, Asia, and the mid-East, disruption of these can lead to severe economic and social stability issues for vital countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Laos (a gateway for China into the rear of Vietnam), and the Congo (a key source for cobalt). As for neon, it is essential for helium neon lasers, used heavily IC and PCB production, scanning system/interferometry, as well as plasma systems. Prior to 2022 Ukraine supplied 70% of the world’s output, China currently has increased production but there currently is a growing deficiency, the Azovstal plant was a particularly massive producer but it lies in ruins due to Russian shelling and bombing. If Russia is allowed to hold control of territories it now has, it will have effective control over these resources, allowing it to better shape political outcomes in those countries dependent on UA exports to its favour. It would also give Russia a leg up in disrupting supply interdependencies that have underpinned tech development in the West.

    I feel that you are deeply mistaken in regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a regional conflict. The Russian invasion, if not held as illegal and disregarded as actionable by Western & European interests, reestablishes as a legally permissible act that a European state can abrogate agreements that establish other state’s nation status at will, a principle established as illegal by treaty by the leading European powers at the end of the 30 Year’s War in 1648 and codified since into countless international laws and agreements to many which Russia is a signatory. Calling it a regional conflict essentially establishes a second tract of legal behavior within Europe, and no doubt elsewhere, that principles of national sovereignty are only implied and are not explicitly codified, that sovereign states have no great right to self determination or internal governance. Russia’s actions in Ukraine exceed in disregard these governing principles beyond what the Soviet employed as rationale for its imperial predation into Europe during the post war period. Russia then used the context of WW2 and its outcome to enable it to surreptitiously violate sovereignty of other European nations for half a century, a facet of history now held to be not only unjustified but also illegal. Today, in Ukraine, Russia can legalistically use no such historical factors. Russia had not been invaded, nor attacked, nor was it or its citizenry under threat like Soviet Russia had been by Germany. It is a fallacy to believe that if two countries share a border, it grants their conflicts an unique legal disposition. The principles of sovereignty and self-determination, apply across oceans, rivers, mountain ranges, and tundras.

    Furthermore, in respect of my previous point, by tacitly agreeing to the fair legality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, you are endowing the Soviet occupation of Europe legitimacy and giving credence to the primacy of imperialistic ideals over the ideals of self-determination, particularly by brutal, despotic regimes over democratically principled, Western oriented ones.

  • Rigo Spen: You grossly misstate my position by saying I am “tacitly agreeing to the fair legality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” I very much agree that Russia’s invasion was legally, morally, and ethically wrong, and strong action should be taken to deny it a victory of any kind.

    I just think that we in the U.S. should be very very VERY careful about the actions we take in this regard. Sadly, it appears that almost no one in the Biden administration or in Congress or even in the general intellectual class of the U.S. has bothered to take that care. Instead, a lot of dangerous talk and action has occurred that could lead to a much worse and more disastrous conflict.

  • Rigo Spen

    Mr. Zimmerman, I appreciate your response, and I apologize if I misrepresented your views. However, I still disagree with your premise. I believe it is crucial for America to aggressively support the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and to expel Russia from all Ukrainian territories. There are a multitude of reasons for this, avoiding confrontation with Russia will only result in downsides, without any significant strategic or economic advantages for the US, and this was also the case in the 2014 annexation/invasion of Ukrainian territories.

    The US and Europe should have taken stronger actions to isolate Russia, such as restricting its Black Sea access and providing comprehensive defensive capabilities for Ukraine in 2014. Instead, the politically expedient choice was made, and the result is a large war with a very high economic (well over 1 trillion USD) and humanitarian (millions displaced, hundreds of thousands dead) cost in Europe. Strong action in 2014 may have been disruptive and somewhat costly, but far, far less than what has been realized today.

    Russia intends to fight the war until it cannot, and the more recalcitrant the West appears, the further away that horizon appears for Russia. Russia has floated using nuclear weapons mostly as a seemingly hollow threat, with laughable claims about their capabilities regarding nuclear tsunamis flooding England, but WMDs are a real problem the longer Russia holds Ukrainian land. As Russia feels its position less prone to being challenged, given the perceived effect things like extreme threats of nuclear use had on the West as a deterrence, the more likely Russia will turn to these measures to defend gained territories.

    American leaders like Kennedy and Reagan faced even greater risks when they confronted Soviet Russia. The USSR had many times the military power and huge numbers of deployed nuclear weapons pointed at Europe and America, more so than Russia has today. Having lived through WW2, Kennedy and Reagan understood the costs of inaction and appeasement. That basic truth is the same today: responsible nations do not back down from tyranny.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Dominic Cummings is a brilliant english political strategist and thinker. He was a major force behind BREXIT as director of Vote Leave, an organisation which successfully executed the 2016 referendum campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union.
    For those willing to entertain another perspective from a dissenting voice in the United Kingdom, here is an excerpt of his recent writing on Ukraine.

    “We have a humanitarian interest in UKR the way we do for the Congo — they are humans getting slaughtered. We have no significant interests in Ukraine itself nor are they part of the NATO defensive alliance.
    Instead of encouraging the war to continue, it would be better for the UK to push NATO members towards supporting UKR in seeking a peace deal, and this means accepting the unpleasant fact that a) Russia is going to take territory in the east/south and b) UKR is never joining NATO (which we should have agreed before, and instead of, encouraging the war). We should drop all our nonsense about any new NATO members. No more trying to humiliate Russia by pushing it around regarding NATO encroachment on its own borders.
    Instead of continuing with confused pointlessly destructive provocation over borders that are not of intrinsic interest to us relative to the stakes, our priority ought to be strengthening conventional deterrence viz Russia, so anybody sensible around Putin knows they cannot win a conventional war and therefore if they attack western Europe they would be clearly seen by the world as literally launching an aggressive global nuclear war. Our priority ought to be sorting out our own laughable energy policies.”

    https://dominiccummings.substack.com/p/snippets-2-ask-me-anything

  • Andrew_W

    Well said Rigo Spen

    Tyrants cannot be allowed to succeed, they must be kept under control, often the minimum that is required for the security of the world as a whole is for them to be kept within their own borders until they fall over. Putin must not be allowed to benefit from his aggression, if he were to be allowed to do so he’ll only see it as a validation for more aggression.
    Men too long in power always seek more power, if they have absolute power within their own country they’re only option to feed their addiction is to seek power over people in other countries.

  • milt

    I think that one of the major takeaways form this post — looking past who is a “credible” source, or not, for war news — is how the war in Ukraine is turning into much the same kind of bloody, protracted stalemate as World War I, and what this might “mean” for all of the parties involved. As Robert writes, “… the war became a long stalemate for years, until the entrance of the U.S. in 1918. American forces themselves figured only a little in the main battle, but the introduction to the Allies of an additional million-plus troops with American heavy equipment was enough to break the morale of Germany. Suddenly the lines broke, the British and French advanced quickly, and the Germans sued for peace to avoid an invasion of their country.”

    But as Robert also notes, “The Ukrainians have no hope of getting similar military aid from the rest of the world. Unless the Russians can bring such numbers to this battlefield, something that seems unlikely based on the present political situation in Russia, it now appears that this war is devolving into a World War I-style trench war. Neither side can make any significant gains militarily, and *neither side is willing to negotiate a settlement.*”

    The history of World War I in this respect — see

    https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/western_front
    https://www.britannica.com/event/Western-Front-World-War-I

    — is hardly salutary in terms of suggesting a happy outcome, and now we have the specter of the use of nuclear weaponry as a last resort. Moreover, even a cursory comparison of the Western Front in 1914 with the Armistice Line of 1918 suggests that the staggering slaughter in this untoward adventure (estimated at 15 to 22 million killed, including civilians) was so grotesquely out of proportion to anything gained that it will forever remain a black mark on human history.

    Sadly, it appears that no one, least of all our leaders, has “learnt” the lesson of World War I*, and — after a colossal failure of statesmanship / diplomacy that allowed this war to start in the first place — we are right back to watching history repeat itself. If not something much worse.

    *That is, according to the gallows humor of Official Washington, prosecuting the war in Ukraine to the the very last Ukrainian. Who cares how many Ukrainians die, let alone Russians, or what remains of their country.

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    Good shot, Truth Lover. You’ll find little agreement here, except for a few of us. I follow many of the sources you cited. I am amazed that so many Space Cadets suddenly believe the same sources that have lied to them for 6 or more years and are now proven frauds. Russia russia hoax, Covid didn’t come from a lab. The Jab is save and effective, Joe Biden won’ the 2020 election. The most free and fair election ever.

    Maybe too many of space cadets here fill their rice bowls at the Deep State and Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

    Hey Bob, how about that Arizona election?

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Milt an Mr. Z – Your emphasis on trench warfare is MISLEADING.
    In addition to trench warfare, Artillery was often a decisive factor in WW1.
    Artillery was the most destructive weapon on the Western Front. Guns could rain down high explosive shells, shrapnel and poison gas on the enemy and heavy fire could destroy troop concentrations, wire, and fortified positions. Artillery was often the key to successful operations.
    Regarding the Ukraine War, Ukraine is firing 6,000-7,000 artillery shells a day, around a third of Russia’s total.
    Here is a recent headline from ‘The Hill’ – “Artillery usage could show the future course of the Ukraine war”.

    https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3934532-artillery-usage-could-show-the-future-course-of-the-ukraine-war/

  • John

    It is amazing to see the prevalence of trench warfare in the 2020’s, but that is a result of the poor performance of both sides. A line of static fortifications should be able to be crossed by a modern mechanized maneuver army the same as any river. The fact the Russia is building trenches everywhere speaks to how they see their ability to fight going forward- and what they think of their opponent. I think the biggest take away for westerners is how little of a threat the Russian military is, especially now after their losses. That is, if you have the quantity of munitions and equipment needed, which sadly Europe doesn’t. This is a regional conflict, and the Europeans should be upset, but what can they do?

    One military mobilizing hundreds of thousands at a time to throw into a slow bloody meat grinding creeping advance. One military training and equipping tens of thousands with the most sophisticated technology it can get. They’re trying to be polar opposites, and it will be interesting in a tragic way to see how it ends. Hopefully the ending is soon and it stays regional.

  • BtB’s Original Mark: In WWI both sides used artillery extensively and repeatedly, with little effect. Lots got destroyed, yes, but these bombardments did little to allow either side to move forward successfully. It was only the introduction of the tank that some territorial progress seemed possible, but even here it didn’t happen much because the two sides were so evenly matched — until the Americans arrived, tilting the seesaw so drastically in favor of the Allies that Germany quickly folded.

  • Andrew_W

    The descent into attritional trench warfare is a result of a lack of armored vehicles. Russia is down to a fraction of the 3500 tanks in active units that they started with.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Mr. Z. – I appreciate your response.
    As a historian, you may be interested in this article- ‘First World War, the battle of the historians’.

    The subtitle is “From almost the opening shot, the Great War has been fought over by historians wishing to interpret and understand what happened and why. Their conflict is not over yet.”

    https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/07/simon-heffer-first-world-war-battle-historians

  • Andrew_W

    Truth Lover, you forgot to mention Sarah Bils in your list above.

  • Biglar

    The war in Ukraine isn’t really a stalemate though it does feature, at least outside the cities, a lot of trench warfare. Instead has become, purposefully on the part of the Russians, a war of attrition. Because the Ukrainians are not viewed as a trustworthy negotiating partner (due to negotiating in bad faith for years after the Maidan accords), the Russian perspective is that the military capabilities of Ukraine must be completely destroyed or Ukraine will simply rearm in a few years with help from the west and the war will resume, perhaps with Russia now at a strategic disadvantage. When viewed through this lens, what the Russians are doing across the front line makes perfect sense. In this war, who controls the most territory at any point in time before the end of the war doesn’t really matter, as the scorecard for the two sides is kept in units of weapons, ammunition, and lives, not square kilometers.

    From the beginning, Russia has sought to dominate the artillery battle and has also made great strides in the development of precision guided weapons (which would not have happened had it not been for this war – thanks Biden). Russia has also destroyed a huge proportion of Ukrainian artillery, tanks, aircraft, and anti-aircraft weaponry. While NATO has sought to supplement Ukrainian weapons, the amounts of weapons provided are fairly measly relative to Ukrainian losses, and western ammunition stocks have now been depleted to the point that they can no longer continue to supply ammunition in meaningful quantities.

    Ukraine continues to stuff lightly armed and poorly trained bodies onto the front line in places like Bakhmut to make up for Russian artillery and air superiority. I don’t pretend to know what the relative casualty rates are for the two sides, but while Russia may lose a lot of men in storming operations, Ukraine at the same time probably loses a lot more in daily shelling. And at least one Ukrainian commentator bemoans the fact that Russia loses prisoners while Ukraine loses its future. This was a stupid war, envisioned and started at the highest reaches of the State and Defense Departments, and perhaps forced on some US political figures by the spectre of FCPA and official corruption prosecutions.

    The US has succeeded in this war only in pushing Russia into an alliance with China, weakening if not killing NATO, and beginning the displacement of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. And most importantly, causing the death or disablement of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides. It’s simply disgusting.

  • truth lover

    Biglar:

    I congratulate you on this very good analysis and summary, which I think reflects the truth. Perhaps an addendum: the Russians also want to minimize their own casualties, which affects their overall strategy.

    If you don’t know him yet, I also recommend an analysis by Big Serge, which is linked below.

    https://bigserge.substack.com/p/russo-ukrainian-war-schrodinger

    One more comment on my above statement about dead Ukrainian soldiers, based on information provided by Colonel MacGregor:

    Already 6-8 weeks ago he stated a total of 357,000 Ukrainians killed and missing in combat. This number came from his contact at the Department of Defense. Assuming that the majority of the missing are dead (many fallen Ukrainians were never recovered) and since around 500 Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day across the front lines, we are quickly approaching 400,000. The number of wounded Ukrainian soldiers is likely to be significantly higher again. In and around Bakhmut alone, 80,000 Ukrainians are said to have fallen. All independent analysts, on the other hand, assume that the Russian losses are only a small fraction of this. The leaked US secret paper is said to indicate a ratio of 1:7.

  • Andrew_W

    There are a lot of people adamant that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was justified, there have been several justifications offered by Russia, and other justifications offered by Russia’s supporters:
    1. Genocide in the Donbas
    2. Prevent NATO expansion/NATO commitment not to move one inch eastward.
    3. Persecution of Russian speakers in Ukraine
    4. Nazis in control of Ukraine
    5. Illegitimate government in Ukraine
    6. Need to demilitarize Ukraine as it posed a threat to Russia
    7. America has invaded numerous countries
    8. Russia’s right because Ukraine is in Russia’s “sphere of influence”

    Addressing these arguments:
    1. The link below provides the UN observers summation of civilian casualties in the Donbass from 2014 to 2021. In 2014 over 2000 conflict related deaths, in 2015 about 900, in the last three years prior to the Russian invasion the annual number of conflict related deaths on both sides was in the mid-twenties, with the majority of those deaths due to landmines and ERW likely to have been emplaced or fired in the earlier years of the conflict.

    So even though the Minsk 1 & 2 agreements have been described as stillborn, the intent, to greatly reduce the intensity of the conflict is being achieved, so what justification can there be for Russia to start a war that has increased the civilian casualty rate a thousand-fold?
    https://ukraine.un.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/Conflict-related%20civilian%20casualties%20as%20of%2031%20December%202021%20%28rev%2027%20January%202022%29%20corr%20EN_0.pdf

    2. The NATO charter prohibits countries joining NATO that have active border disputes, Ukraine obviously has had a border dispute in the Donbas since 2014, as long as that dispute exists, and Russia was in the perfect position to ensure that it did, Ukraine cannot join NATO.
    Regarding “one inch” that “assurance” was in a speech made by Jim Baker when he was US Secretary of State, it was never written into any agreement with Russia, and I don’t see how Baker was in any position to make assurances about the future membership policies and invitations to membership made by NATO. Baker, I think, was speaking off the cuff and out of turn.

    3. While the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine makes Ukraine the only official language at state level, it also guarantees freedom to use Russian and other languages outside of official communications, there are no restrictions on Russian being used in private, religious practice, cultural events, within private institutions, transactions by consumers, patients etc.
    The vast majority of Ukrainians are fluent in both Ukrainian and Russian, and in day to day life outside of official dealings people are free to use either language and others.

    4. In 2019 Svoboda won one seat in the 450 seat Ukrainian parliament, Svoboda is described as “ultranationalist” it is an opposition party, and no other political party is anywhere near as far right as Svoboda.

    5. The Euromaidan started in November 2013, it was a popular protest to President Viktor Yanukovych’s sudden decision not to sign the EU association agreement that had been worked out between the Ukraine Government and the EU. Yanukovych announced instead that he would seek closer ties with Russia. Ukraine’s parliament had overwhelmingly approved of implementing the agreement with the EU, Yanukovych changed his mind about the agreement after having a little chat with Putin.

    Russia pushed a narrative that it was a US plot to orchestrate a coup against Yanukovych. This narrative does not stand up to critical thought.
    Why would hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian’s revolt against their government because the US wanted them to? Isn’t it just a tad more likely that they were not zombies under the mind control powers of Victoria Nuland, but rather normal human beings acting in their own interests?

    If Victoria Nuland has the power to influence hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to revolt against their president in this way, why on earth hasn’t she been sent to Moscow??

    Since the Euromaiden Revolution there have been two elections in Ukraine, in 2014, shortly after Yanukovych fled the country Petro Poroshenko was elected, in 2019 Zelinsky was successful when he stood against Poroshenko, comfortably defeating him. Poroshenko is currently actively working against the Russian aggression, both in encouraging Ukrainian’s and calling for more international support.

    6. Russia is a nuclear power, Ukraine is no threat to Russia, and as I mentioned above the conflict in the Donbas has declined to very low levels, inarguably in his first 3 years in power Zelinsky supported the decline in the level of conflict.

    7. If someone were to use the fact that America has invaded several countries and been involved in many other conflicts in recent decades to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, logically it would mean that they think invasions of weaker states by more powerful states is a good think, “yay, we need more of it”.
    But that’s not their thought process, their reasoning is more along the lines of “It’s a really, really bad thing for powerful countries to invade weaker countries, but the US has done it, now Russia should get to have a turn”
    When you point out to people using this irrationality to justify Russian aggression, they quickly back track to say, well, no, they’re not actually trying to justify Russia. Then the conversation suddenly ends.

    8. This is Cold War mentality, that powerful countries have a right to dictate the foreign policies that smaller neighbours are allowed to have. No they do not. Often people arguing this nonsense go on to say “if Canada decided to align itself with Russia the US would invade Canada, then they mention the Monroe Doctrine. These people also run away when they’re confronted with the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have all sort closer ties with Russia and no US troops have invaded any of them.

  • Andrew_W

    I think it’s useful to watch these sorts of street interviews to get a feeling for the perspectives of Ukrainian’s and Russian’s, obviously you have to consider that there might be bias in which interviewees are actually shown on the video.
    https://www.youtube.com/@theRealUkraine

    A Russian channel doing similar interviews is simply called “1420”.

  • markedup2

    weakening if not killing NATO

    I don’t see this at all. I’ve been an advocate of disbanding NATO since the USSR fell and I’ve never seen it stronger. Finland just joined, Turkey is actually being useful, Poland is on a shopping spree, Germany is increasing its budget, Estonia has emptied its reserves, Norway is pumping oil as fast as it can, Spain is in the news (although I don’t remember what for – but when was the last time you heard _anything_ about Spain and NATO?), France is, well, still being France.

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    Andrew_W,

    You missed the money laundering, corruption and 10% for the Big Guy. Thats why the US is pouring billions into this Ukraine cluster F. Keep the money flowing to the deep state, the MIC and the NGO’s. Wash rinse repeat. They had to replace Afganistan to keep the whole grift going. Just ask General Raytheon, the Sec Def.

  • Shallow Minded Reader: Watch your language. You are very close to getting suspended for using obscenities.

  • Andrew_W

    My comment examines Putin’s excuses for invading Ukraine, Putin hasn’t offered “deep state” etc as one of his excuses.

  • Andrew_W

    Truth lover, repeating a lie often enough doesn’t make it true. The leaked papers were picked up by Sarah Bils, doctored to show the fake casualty ratio mentioned, and then that misinformation was spread by her to Macgregor and other Putin supporters.
    It appears that it was only with that wider distribution of the doctored version that US authorities because aware of the leak.

  • Andrew_W

    Biglar: “Instead has become, purposefully on the part of the Russians, a war of attrition.”

    People have argued that the reason it’s turned into a war of attrition is because that’s what Russia is good at and so fighting in that form of warfare is to Russia’s advantage.

    That is complete nonsense.
    Given the choice between mobile warfare and attritional warfare only a fool or someone completely indifferent to the lives of their own people would choose attritional warfare with its many times higher losses.

    The reason the conflict has descended to attritional warfare is because Russia no longer has the mobile armor to continue to conduct mobile warfare. What we are seeing is the war the Soviet Union fought against Germany but in reverse. In that war the Soviets were forced into attritional warfare with their lack of mobile armor early in the conflict, it was only later, when their factories had produced more mobile armor than Germany could put on the battlefield, that Russia was able to switch to mobile warfare and push Germany back at speed. Unfortunately for Russia today, no such supply of armor is available to them.

    Putin also of course, is discovering the difference between the resolution of people defending their country and the reluctance of troops to risk their lives following a leader into another country to achieve nothing more than sate their leaders need to exercise his power.

  • Biglar

    Russia has no mobile armor? Russia still has a lot of armor, though how armor can be used in modern warfare has changed dramatically. With the advent of ATGM and anti-armor drones, tanks and IFVs have become much more vulnerable. But large mobile attacks are still possible. Ultimately, however, they are prone to waste valuable equipment and because your foes are also mobile (the Ukrainians just use civilian cars and trucks because their stocks of armor are mostly depleted) at the end of a large maneuver the Russians would have gained significant territory but with limited impact on the fighting capabilities of the opponent, which as mentioned above will ultimately determine the long-term victor in this conflict.

  • Andrew_W

    I didn’t say “Russia has no mobile armor”, I said “Russia no longer has the mobile armor to continue to conduct mobile warfare.”

    Russia started this conflict with about 3,500 tanks in active military units, it’s lost at least 2,000 of them. Even those tanks and other armored vehicles were mostly over 20 years old, it’s been pretty obvious that maintenance in the Russian army was not up to a good standard before their invasion, since then those armored vehicles have been serving in a war for over a year.
    Though there are claims of 12,000 tanks and numerous other armored vehicles in reserve the majority of those are over 50 years old and the storage is mostly outside in the Russian weather, additionally they’ve been cannibalized for spare parts, so the majority of those are not recoverable.
    Evidence exists that Ukraine has captured over 500 Russian tanks intact and a similar number of other armored vehicles.
    It’s likely that in terms of serviceability the Western armor heading to Ukraine will be far superior to anything Russia now has. I would hope that most of the Western armor Ukraine is getting has gone through extensive reconditioning before it gets there.

    It can be argued that the reason we haven’t seen Russian armor used in numbers over the last few months is the winter, but even before that the absence of significant Russian armor after the initial invasion was glaring.

  • Andrew_W

    Found this interesting:
    Ukraine: Why the Right Lost the Plot, interview with Dr Sebastian Gorka.
    Sebastian Lukács Gorka is a British-born Hungarian-American media personality, military and intelligence analyst, and former government official who served in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump as a Deputy Assistant to the President from January 2017 until August 25, 2017.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbFtmHkdgZ8
    [16:30]

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