Despite big bucks from the U.S., the stalemate in the Ukraine continues, with only minor Russian gains

With the passage by the Senate yesterday of a major foreign aid bill that includes $60 billion in aid to the Ukraine war effort, despite strong public opposition and a House Republican leadership unwilling to approve it, it seems that this might be a good time to look at the actual situation on the ground in the Ukraine. Have the front lines changed in any major way since my last update on the Ukraine war in September, 2023? And will that aid make any difference, should House Republicans break their word and approve it in the end?

Based on what has happened in the past six months, the answer to these questions is “Not much”, and “No”. Note the map below, adapted from maps produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), comparing the territory occupied by the Russians in November 2022 with what it presently occupies in February 2024.
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The emerging long term ramifications of the Ukraine War

With the war in the Ukraine now in the second half of its second year, with no clear outcome on the horizon, I thought it might be a good time to step back and look at what Russia’s invasion has wrought, not just on Russia and the Ukraine, but on the rest of the world, now and possibly into the long term future.

My goal in this essay is to look at the forest, not the trees, and to do so in very broad strokes, based on my experience as a historian who has taken this approach in all my histories.

First however it is necessary to give a short update on the war itself. In my previous two updates in April and July I concluded that the war was devolving into a stalemate, much like the ugly trench warfare of World War I. Nothing has changed that conclusion in the two months since July, a fact that is starkly illustrated by the two maps below, originally created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and modified and annotated by me to highlight the most significant take-aways.
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The trench war continues in the Ukraine

The continuing trench war in Ukraine
For the original maps, go here (April 16, 2023)
and here (July 23, 2023).

My last full update on the Ukraine War, on April 17, 2023, was written about the time that the Russian winter offensive had ended (with generally empty results) and a counter-offensive by the Ukrainians was expected to begin.

At that time I concluded as follows:

The Ukrainians have no hope of getting [sufficient] military aid from the rest of the world. Unless the Russians can bring [vastly larger] 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.

Based on that assessment, I expected the Ukrainian spring/summer offensive to be as ineffective as the Russian winter campaign. This has proven true. The map above, adapted from maps created by the Institute for the Study of War, illustrates the general lack of change in either direction along the entire northern frontline. Though the Ukraine has made some minor gains north and south of Bakmut (as noted in ISW’s July 23, 2023 update), it has not succeeded in recapturing the city. Meanwhile, the Russians have made some minor gains to the north, west of the cities Svatova and Kreminna.

Similarly, though the Ukraine has made some small gains along the southern frontline (compare this April 16th map with this July 23rd map), none of those gains have been of any great significance. The Ukraine’s long pause in offensive operations, from November 2022 until April 2023, allowed the Russians to build a deep and extensive defensive set-up, including many minefields that have slowed Ukrainian advances to barely a crawl.

In addition, it appears that the flooding from the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in the south has almost entirely benefited the Russians, blocking what appears to have been a major Ukrainian plan to invade across the Dneiper River. Since the dam break, the Ukraine has been pushing at the one major bridge still standing, but with no real success. Since the Ukrainians do not appear to have the ability to make an amphibious assault, the Russians need only defend this one bridge, and have so far been able to.

In its June 14, 2023 update, ISW noted the following about the Russian defensive setup:
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Who blew up the dam in the Ukraine?

section of ISW map
Taken from ISW’s report on June 6, 2023. Click for original.

Since the news broke yesterday that someone had blown up the Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River, there has been endless speculation by numerous pundits attempting to pin the blame. It seems that half say Russia, and half say the Ukraine.

Let me provide my readers the answer right up front: We as yet haven’t got the foggiest idea who did it.

Why am I so sure? Because in reviewing all the information I can glean from many different sources, it appears both sides had good reasons to do it, as well as good reasons to not want it to happen at all. Let’s list those reasons.
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Russian communications satellite in trouble

A ten-year old Russian Ekspress geosynchronous communications satellite in early June developed problems that have forced engineers to shut down much of its capabilities.

The problem was similar to issues experienced in 2020 on a second similar Ekspress orbiting geosynchronous communications satellite, suggesting both satellites had the same design flaw.

For Russia the problem is made much more serious because its invasion of the Ukraine has made it impossible to replace this satellite.

The latest impact on Russian satellite communications capacity came at a time when the established production model for the Ekspress satellite family, relying on Western suppliers, had been disrupted by the Kremlin’s escalation of the war against Ukraine in 2022, likely resulting in severe delays if not a complete stop in the development of this type of spacecraft in Russia.

In other words, Russia has lost significant communications capacity, and does not have a way to replace that capacity because of the sanctions against it imposed because of its invasion. Once again, Putin’s idiotic war in the Ukraine has caused nothing but disaster for Russia.

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.
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SpaceX and the Ukraine resolve funding issues for Starlink terminals

According to a Ukrainian official, the Ukraine has worked out a method to pay for another 10,000 Starlink terminals by obtaining funding from several European nations.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov has announced that over 10,000 additional Starlink terminals will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months, confirming that issues regarding how to fund the country’s critical satellite internet service have been resolved.

The governments of several European Union countries are ready to share payment said Fedorov (who is also Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation) in an interview with Bloomberg, affirming that “As of now all financial issues have been resolved.” Fedorov did not publicly identify which governments are contributing towards the payments but confirmed that there’s currently no contract in place and that Ukraine will need to find additional funding by spring 2023.

Elon Musk had threatened to end Starlink support without some form of payment. It appears his threat, which was almost immediately retracted, forced some action by these governments.

France orders Eutelsat to stop broadcasting Russian channels

Arcom, the French television regulation agency, yesterday ordered the communication satellite company Eutelsat to stop allowing three Russian channels from broadcasting using the satellites.

In a news release, Arcom said the television stations’ coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine “include repeated incitement to hatred and violence and numerous shortcomings to the honesty of the information.” Eutelsat said in a brief statement that “it will no longer be involved in the broadcasting of the three sanctioned channels within the prescribed time-frame.”

Arcom’s decision comes a week after France’s top administrative court, prompted by a request from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders advocacy group, ordered Arcom to review an initial decision to permit Eutelsat to continue carrying the stations.

Arcom’s claim, that it made this order because of the content of the broadcasts, is another example of the blacklisting/censorship culture we now live in. The French regulators could have simply stated that, as an ally of the Ukraine in the Russian-Ukraine war, it does not want French-regulated satellites to provide aid to the Russian side. There is a war going on, and this alone is a rational reason to block the Russian channels.

Instead, Arcom uses censorship as its justification. It doesn’t like what the Russians are saying, and therefore has the right to censor them. Remember this argument, because in the future Arcom will likely use it again, but next time against any one of the other broadcast channels under its control that simply says something it doesn’t like.

Slowly the Ukrainians continue to regain their country

The Ukraine War as of September 11, 2022
The Ukraine War as of September 11, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of November 16, 2022
The Ukraine War as of November 16, 2022. Click for full map.

In the two months since my last update on the Ukraine Way in September, the steady and continuing retreat of the Russians has continued, with the Ukrainians last week finally retaking all the territory north of the Dnipro River, including the city of Kherson.

The two maps to the right, created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and simplified, reduced, and annotated to post here, show these gains, with the top map from their September 11, 2022 analysis and the bottom from their November 16, 2022 update. Pink areas are regions controlled by the Russians. Blue areas are regions retaken by the Ukraine. Red-striped areas are regions captured by Russian in its 2014 invasion. Blue-striped areas are regions inside Russian-occupied territories that have seen strong partisan resistance. The green lines in the top map mark the locations of important rivers.

Overall, the military actions of the Russians have continued to be haphazard, poorly thought out, and inexplicable, as they have been from the start of this war. For example, even as the Ukrainians were continuing their steady gains in the north, the Russians seemed relatively uninterested. Instead, it continued its attempts to gain ground in the middle, near Donetsk, as indicated by the two green circles. The Russians have been attempting for months to make gains in this area. Though they have captured some territory, those captures have been tiny and very costly. Nor have these captures done anything to impact the Ukrainian gains elsewhere.
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Ukraine officials in direct negotiations with Musk about Starlink

According to the Ukraine’s defense minister, they are now conducting direct negotiations with Elon Musk concerning the cost of using SpaceX’s Starlink constellation as part of its war against Russia.

In an interview, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said “I know that we will not have a problem” keeping the service active, citing the “personal communication” between Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov and Musk.

Fedorov “is responsible for the digitalization and he has a direct connection with Elon Musk. They have a personal communication, and Mykhailo was really positive” about the situation in their last discussion of the issue, Reznikov said.

I suspect that at some point, the Ukraine will start paying SpaceX some money out of the $20 million per month Musk says it costs. And it will likely draw the cash for those payments from the approximately $50 billion the U.S. has sent it in aid.

Both the Pentagon and Europe are looking for ways to fund Starlink for the Ukraine

According to an article in Politico today, both the U.S. military and the European Union (EU) are investigating ways in which either could fund the cost for providing Starlink to the Ukraine, rather than remaining a voluntary donation by SpaceX.

The most likely source of funding, several government and industry officials said, would be the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which has been used to acquire a range of weapons and services for the Ukraine war effort.

The Starlink issue also came up during a meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers on Monday, as the countries discussed whether to contribute funding to ensure Ukrainians keep their access to the service. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told POLITICO after the meeting that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell raised the subject of paying to keep the service running in Ukraine, but the effort is still in its early stages.

It also appears there are discussions to find a back-up to Starlink. At the moment however the only possible option would be OneWeb, and it is not clear its design would work for the soldier in the field.

Regardless, considering the amount of cash being thrown at military contractors for the war — much of which is likely worthless and simply pork — it seems entirely reasonable to devote some to Starlink, a technology that has actually made a difference.

Government to Musk: “Nice business you got here, shame if something happened to it.”

The government to Elon Musk: Nice business you got here.
The press and the feds negotiate with Elon Musk

Over the past week a series of events relating to the Ukraine War, Elon Musk, and Starlink illustrated starkly the growing corrupt, aggressive, and unrestrained power of our federal government and the administration state and press that supports it.

Our story begins in early October when Elon Musk put forth his own proposed solution to the Ukraine War, suggesting that to end the war the Ukraine should cede the Crimea to Russia and forgo its attempts to join NATO, making itself a neutral power instead.

Not surprisingly, Ukrainian officials responded to this somewhat naive though sincere proposal with great hostility. So did the press, the Biden administration, and many in social media.

Then, on October 14, 2022 Elon Musk said that his company Starlink cannot continue indefinitely providing service to the Ukraine, without some reimbursement. At the beginning of the war Musk had made Starlink available for no charge, and it has been an important factor to the Ukrainians in their recent military successes.
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The Ukraine’s big victory this past week was no accident

The Ukraine War as of August 30, 2022
The Ukraine War as of August 30, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of September 11, 2022
The Ukraine War as of September 11, 2022. Click for full map.

In the past week the Ukraine has scored a major victory in its effort to drive Russia from its territory, pushing the Russians back across a wide swath in the areas north and east of the city of Kharkiv. The two maps to the right, created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and simplified, reduced, and annotated to post here, show these gains, with the top map from their August 30, 2022 analysis and the bottom from their September 11, 2022 update. Red or pink areas are regions controlled by the Russians. Blue areas are regions retaken by the Ukraine. Red-striped areas are regions captured by Russian in its 2014 invasion. Blue-striped areas are regions inside Russian-occupied territories that have seen strong partisan resistance.

The green lines on both maps mark rivers that act as important military barriers. The blue arrows on the lower map east of Kharkiv show the Ukrainian military push this past week, first to the east to the river Oskil. From there the forces moved north and south. To the south the Ukrainians used the Oskil river to their left as a wall protecting them from Russian forces. That same river acted to pin the Russians down in the south, forcing them in the past day to quickly retreat to the east across the one remaining bridge under their control, but in the process abandoning large amounts of armaments that the Ukrainians can now use.

In the south, the Dnipro River also acts as a barrier for the Russian occupying forces north of Kherson.
The Ukrainians have spent the last month or so aggressively attacking the handful of bridges that cross this river, thus restricting Russian transport to and from its northern forces. As the Ukrainians made these attacks, they were remarkably public about their plans to follow up with a major campaign in the south to retake Kherson and all territory north of the Dnipro.

In that public campaign lies the key to this whole counter-offensive. As ISW noted in its update of September 11, 2022:
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OneWeb lost $229 million when Russia canceled its launches and confiscated its satellites

On September 1, 2022, OneWeb revealed that Russia’s cancellation of the last six or so OneWeb launches as well as Russia’s confiscation of 36 satellites cost the company $229 million.

Russia’s actions were the response by then head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, to sanctions imposed on Russia by the west because of its invasion of the Ukraine. Rogozin’s petty response ended up shooting his space agency in the foot, because it ended up losing billions of dollars in foreign launch business, business that is not likely to return for decades.

OneWeb has since signed contracts with SpaceX, ISRO (India’s space agency), and Relativity for future launches. None of these have been firmly scheduled, though the first by SpaceX is tentatively planned for sometime before the end of the year.

The Ukrainian War: After Six Months

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of June 6, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of August 30, 2022
The Ukraine War as of August 30, 2022. Click for full map.

It is now more than three months since my June update on the war in the Ukraine. It is also six months since Russia first invaded.

No new updates were necessary because little had changed, as indicated by the two maps to the right, adapted from maps created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). For their full interactive version go here.

On both maps red indicates territory controlled by Russia, light pink areas that Russia only tentatively controlled, light blue areas recovered by the Ukraine from Russia, and blue-striped areas regions of documented Ukrainian resistance within Russian-controlled territories. The red-striped regions were regions grabbed by Russia during its 2014 invasion.

The top map is from ISW’s June 6th assessment. The bottom map comes from its August 28th assessment.

Though I don’t solely rely on ISW for information (it tends to favor the Ukraine in most of its analysis), its maps have repeatedly appeared reliable and accurate, which is why I use them here.

As you can see, in three months not much has changed. Russia continues to grind away in the middle regions, gaining territory slowly but steadily. The Ukraine meanwhile has either stopped any further Russian advance in the north or south, or has chipped away slightly at Russian holdings in these regions.
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Northrop Grumman delays next Cygnus cargo mission

Northrop Grumman officials have now revealed that it has been forced to delay the next Cygnus cargo mission to ISS from August to October because of “supply chain issues.”

What these supply chain issues were the company did not specify. However, the Antares rocket that launches Cygnus uses Russian engines attached a Ukrainian first stage. Northrop Grumman presently only has enough engines and stages for two more flights. While there are indications that the Ukrainian war has not yet prevented the delivery of future Ukrainian first stages, the Russians have blocked all further engine sales.

A new American rocket engine company, Ursa Major, is building a new engine capable of replacing the Russian engines, but the engine won’t be ready until ’25.

The delay could be Northrop Grumman’s effort to stretch out the schedule of its last two Antares launches in the hope that the Russians will lift their embargo, which might happen based on the firing by Putin of Dmitry Rogozin as head of Roscosmos. Rogozin had been the person who imposed the embargo. His removal suggests that Putin is trying to ease the tensions between the west and Russia, at least in the area of space.

Russia to take control of German telescope on space orbiter

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, revealed today that he has issued orders for the scientists running the Spektr-RG telescope to figure out how to take over operations of the German instrument on the telescope.

“I gave instructions to start work on restoring the operation of the German telescope in the Spektr-RG system so it works together with the Russian telescope,” he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

The head of Roscosmos said the decision was necessary for research. “They – the people that made the decision [to shut down the telescope] don’t have a moral right to halt this research for humankind just because their pro-fascist views are close to our enemies,” he said.

The Europeans had shut down operations when it broke off all of its space partnerships with Russia, following the Ukraine invasion and the decision of Russia to confiscate 36 OneWeb satellites rather than launch them as it was paid to do.

Yawn: Rogozin tweets threats to Musk, Musk shrugs

In yesterday’s non-news Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos which runs Russia’s entire aerospace industry, issued a threat against Elon Musk for supplying the Ukraine Starlink service in its war against the Russian invasion, and Musk responded with an almost cheerful quip.

On Sunday (May 8), Musk posted on Twitter a note that he said Rogozin, the head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, had sent out to Russian media. The note claimed that equipment for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet system had been delivered to Ukrainian marines and “militants of the Nazi Azov battalion” by the U.S. military. “Elon Musk, thus, is involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment,” Rogozin wrote, according to an English translation that Musk posted. (He also tweeted out a Russian version.) “And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult — no matter how much you’ll play the fool.”

This sounds very much like a threat, as Musk acknowledged in a follow-up tweet on Sunday. “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya,” he wrote. Musk’s mom, Maye, didn’t appreciate that glib response, tweeting, “That’s not funny” along with two angry-face emojis. The billionaire entrepreneur responded, “Sorry! I will do my best to stay alive.” (It was Mother’s Day, after all.)

Musk’s light-hearted response only stands to reason, considering Rogozin’s loud-mouthed track record. Nothing he says really matters, so why should Musk care that much. Musk probably posted Rogozin’s comments out of amusement more than anything else..

The Ukraine War: Reassessing the situation after another month

The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last look at the state of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine on April 7, 2022, not much as happened, as indicated by the two maps to the right, both simplified versions of maps created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The red hatched areas are regions Russia captured in 2014. The red areas are regions the Russians have captured in this invasion and now fully control. The pink areas are regions they have occupied but do not fully control. The tan areas the Russians claim to control but the control remains unconfirmed. Blue regions are areas the Ukraine has recaptured. The blue hatched area is where local Ukrainians have had some success resisting Russian occupation.

Russia has now completely shifted its military resources from the north to the eastern parts of the Ukraine. As a result it has had some success firming up its control over the regions it had invaded to the north and east of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions it had grabbed in 2014. Yet, these gains were only in areas Russia had already occupied. In the past month it has almost entirely failed to invade or capture any additional territory.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine has begun to have some success in retaking territory around the city of Kharkiv. It also successfully pushed back an advance Russia attempted to the west of Donetsk. Moreover, despite repeated expectations that the full occupation of the city of Maripol would be completed a month ago, that occupation is still not complete, with resistant forces still fighting heavily in one area and thus tying up Russia forces for far longer than expected.

The May 5th assessment by ISW said this:

Russian forces continued ineffectual offensive operations in southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk Oblasts without securing any significant territorial gains in the past 24 hours. The Pentagon assessed that Russian forces have not been able to make further advances due to their inability to conduct offensive operations far from their ground lines of communication (GLOCs) along highways, as ISW previously assessed, and muddy terrain. … Russian forces are reportedly suffering losses in stalled attacks along the Izyum axis, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that elements of the 4th Tank Division and the 106th Airborne Division withdrew to Russia after sustaining heavy losses in the past several days.

Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks in Lyman, Severodonetsk, and Popasna, and maintained shelling along the line of contact in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Russian forces also used thermobaric munitions against Ukrainian positions in Lyman and are unsuccessfully attempting to leverage massed artillery fire to break through Ukrainian defenses.

The overall trend seems to favor the Russians. Whether it can gain more territory is unclear, but it seems that except for one area near Kharkiv it is firming up its control on the territories grabbed in early March. The question now remains: Can Russia expand its invasion, or can the Ukraine push back and force the Russians back?

Right now it looks like neither can do either, and the situation shall remain bogged down for the near future.

The Ukraine War: Little change in the past week

The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last weekly report on the Ukraine War, so little has changed that I am not bothering posting a new map. The one to the right is from April 7th, and other than some minor changes, including the completion of Russia’s full withdrawal from the entire northern regions, the front line in the east remains essentially the same. The most recent map from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) can be found here for comparison. In one place Russia appears to have pushed forward, while in another it has pulled back. Meanwhile, ISW reports increased Ukrainian resistance efforts in one large area.

Overall, the Russians appear bogged down, while the Ukrainians show renewed military strength.

The Institute today also published its weekly summary of the entire war situation. The most important takeaway is that it appears all negotiations between the two nations have collapsed.

Ukraine and Russia are both unlikely to advance ceasefire negotiations until the ongoing Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine develops further. The Kremlin likely seeks to capture at minimum the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, while Kyiv seeks to further degrade the Russian military and potentially conduct major counteroffensives.

This fact suggests strongly to me that the Ukraine has concluded its military situation is excellent, and that negotiations serve it no purpose. While Russia has been focusing its invasion effort entirely in the east in the hope it might make more gains that way, it has also made very little progress. While it continues to slowly take control of Mariupol street-by-street, the city has remained unconquered now many weeks longer than expected. This failure of Russia to quickly take the city not only ties up a large part of their military, it sows morale issues in its own army while the Ukraine resistance is enlivened by it.

The next few weeks will reveal whether Russia will be able to harness the necessary forces to make further gains in the east, or whether the Ukraine will begin to retake territory back from Russia. Right now it is difficult to predict which way the war will go.

TASS: China has suspended science partnerships with Russia

According to Alexander Sergeev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Chinese scientists have also suspended all cooperation with Russia’s Academy of Sciences, as have all western nations due to its invasion of the Ukraine.

“If we talk about the southern or eastern directions, unfortunately, I can say directly that our Chinese scientific colleagues have also pressed the pause [button], and over the past month we have not been able to enter into serious discussions, despite the fact that we had excellent cooperation along with regular communication,” Sergeev said.

It is impossible to say at this point whether the actions of these Chinese scientists to refuse cooperation with Russia is based on a decision of the Chinese government, or simply reflects the decision of the scientists themselves. I would suspect the former, but if so it is quite surprising, as China’s communist government has made no such announcement. It could also be that China has decided it does not want to appear a party to Russia’s invasion in any way, but also does not want to make that decision public. Thus, it might have told its scientists to pause all work, but do this quietly.

Let me add that this statement by Sergeev could also be simply disinformation, demanded on him by Putin’s government. While Russian scientists tend to deal straight with other scientists, the situation is unique. For example, Dmitry Rogozin today claimed in TASS that the private space company Axiom owes Russia about $25 million for the nearly year-long flight of Mark Vande Hei to ISS. The problem is that this is utterly wrong. Axiom had nothing to do with Vande Hei’s flight. He was a NASA astronaut. Rogozin’s statement however is aimed at the Russian public — which has limited resources to question his statements — and is designed to slander both NASA and the private companies that now compete with Roscosmos.

If Rogozin can so nonchalantly issue false statements like this for propaganda reasons, so can Sergeev.

Video of panel discussion of Ukraine War’s impact on the global space industry

Stephen Fleming, who founded the Arizona Space Business Roundtable which co-hosted the Ukraine War panel discussion on April 5th with the Arizona Technology Council has now made the video of that event available on line.

The event was intended to outline and review what the impact of the Ukraine War on the global space industry might be.

You can download a video podcast of the event here.

The speakers:

Robert Zimmerman: The impact on Russia and the Ukraine space industries
Alex Rodriguez: The impact on the world’s space-related defense and military industries
Stephen Fleming [moderator]: The impact on the rest of the world’s commercial space industries

Also speaking remotely was Jim Cantrell, former CEO of Vector and now in charge of Phantom Space.

As expected, the event ran long, though no one left or fell asleep. Instead, there were good questions and comments. Alex reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about: When NATO had expanded after the fall of the Soviet Union, it only did so after signing an agreement with Russia calling for joint military operations, in order to convince the Russians that the expansion was not intended as a threat. That agreement, signed by Yeltsin, was essentially “shredded by Putin,” as Alex noted.

Give it a watch. You might find it enlightening.

The Ukraine War: Russia in retreat in the past week

The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022. Click for full map.

In the last week the situation in the Ukraine changed quite radically. Last week there were hints that the Ukrainians were beginning to push back successfully against the Russians, but those gains appeared small and were uncertain.

These small gains in late March are indicated by the green arrows on the first map to the right, a simplified and annotated version of the map provided on March 31, 2022 by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). I strongly advise my readers to read their reports to get a fuller understanding of the overall the war situation. Anecdotal reports from either side do not tell you much.

The second map, published today by ISW and once again cropped and simplified by me to post here, shows starkly the retreat of Russian forces in the past week. The blue areas indicate regions now controlled by the Ukraine, with the arrows indicating the fast exit of Russian forces. The hatch-marked red areas surrounded by a black border are regions of the Ukraine captured by the Russians in 2014. The solid red areas are areas they captured in the past month and appear to still hold. The light red and tan areas are regions the Russians have entered but do not yet control with certainty.

The Russian effort to take the Ukraine entirely has clearly failed. Its gains after a little more than a month of battle are now shrinking. It has fled from Kiev so that the entire north and west of the country are no longer under attack. Though its military now claims Russia has finally taken central Mariupol in the south — after weeks of fighting — that capture is still not complete, with large sections of the city still outside of Russian control.

Meanwhile. the focus of the war shifts to the south and east, as both countries redeploy forces there. According to today’s ISW report:

Russian forces are cohering combat power for an intended major offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the coming days. Ukrainian civil and military officials continued to warn local residents to evacuate prior to a likely Russian offensive. Russian forces will likely attempt to regroup and redeploy units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine to support an offensive, but these units are unlikely to enable a Russian breakthrough. Russian forces along the Izyum-Slovyansk axis [circled areas just north of Luhansk] did not make any territorial gains in the last 24 hours. Russian forces are unlikely to successfully capture Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts if Russian forces in Izyum are unable to encircle Ukrainian forces on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.

The next week will tell us whether Russia can successfully shift its effort to this region, or whether the Ukrainian forces can push back and force more Russian retreats, possibly retaking all of Russia’s gains in the past month and even possibly pushing back into territories taken in 2014.

Upcoming Event: The impact of the Ukraine War on the global space industry

LAST CALL: If you wish to watch this event via Zoom or in person you need to comment below. I will then email you the log in information or the location details in Tucson of the event.

Original post:
On the evening of Tuesday, April 5, 2022, I will be one of three panelists discussing the overall global impact of the Ukraine War on the world’s space industry at another Arizona Space Business Roundtable event in Tucson.

The panelists will be, in speaking order:

Robert Zimmerman: The impact on Russia and the Ukraine space industries
Alex Rodriguez: The impact on the world’s space-related defense and military industries
Stephen Fleming [moderator]: The impact on the rest of the world’s commercial space industries

My readers know who I am.

Alex Rodriguez has worked for Vector and now with Freefall 5G. In the late 1990s, as an Action Officer inside the Pentagon’s J-5 Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Alex worked directly on the first round of NATO enlargement in both the Executive Branch and as subsequent detailee on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that authorized the ratification of NATO enlargement.

Stephen Fleming, who founded the Arizona Space Business Roundtable, made seed or early-stage investments in over a dozen aerospace companies, including XCOR Aerospace, ICON Aircraft, Nanoracks, RBC Signals, Vector, Freefall, and Phantom Launch. He was also one of the founding investors in the Space Angels Network.

After we each describe the ramifications of the war in these three areas, the room will be opened to Q&A from the audience.

The event will begin at 5:20 pm (Pacific), and likely last until 6:30 pm, though if the discussion is lively we will certainly go on longer.

This is a public event in Tucson, being held jointly by the Arizona Space Business Roundtable and the Arizona Technology Council. It will also be broadcast online.

If you want to attend via Zoom, you will need to express your interest as a comment below, and I will then email you the Zoom url and password. We are not publishing this information publicly to avoid a hacking during the event.

If you wish to come in person please comment below as well and I will then forward you the location. The event is open to the public but I wish to do it this way so that the organizers will have a reasonably accurate estimate of the number of attendees, for planning purposes.

Note that I have written these essays previously about other Arizona Space Business Roundtable events:

Rogozin tweets: ISS cooperation to end

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s aerospace corporation, Roscosmos, today confirmed in a series of tweets that Russia intends to end its partnership at ISS due to the sanctions imposed on Russia due to its invasion of the Ukraine.

Rogozin however did not provide any details other than saying:

Specific proposals of Roscosmos on the timing of the completion of cooperation within the framework of the ISS with the space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union, and Japan will be reported to the leadership of our country in the near future.

I predict the following:

1. No more barter flights, exchanging Russian and international astronauts on each other’s capsules.
2. No more mutual research on the station.
3. Russia leaves as of ’24, after it adds its remaining modules.

Once those extra modules are launched and installed on the Russian half of ISS, Roscosmos will be more capable of separating its half from ISS and fly it independently. There will be engineering challenges, but this plan will give them two years to address them. It will also give everyone else the time necessary to plan for that separation.

The Ukraine War: Increasing Ukrainian gains in the past week

The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022. Click for full map.

Another week has passed in the Ukraine war, and with it we begin to see increasing evidence that not only has the Russian invasion stalled, but that the Ukraine is beginning to push back with more and more effectiveness.

The two maps to the right are from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and have been simplified, annotated, and reduced to post here. The top was from ISW’s March 24, 2022 report, the bottom from its report today. The dark red areas are regions either controlled by Russia or areas of confirmed Russian advance. The light red indicates areas the Russians claim to control without confirmation. The blue areas mark areas retaken by the Ukraine in battle. The circles indicate areas of recent heavy fighting.

The green arrows I have added to both maps indicate areas where there have been changes since the week prior. Like last week, the arrows point almost entirely to areas where Russian control has ebbed, either because the Russians have chosen to retreat, or because Ukrainian forces have pushed them out. The summary from ISW is succinct:
» Read more

Arianespace and SpaceX adjust to the new commercial launch market, without Russia

Link here. The article is mostly about how both companies need to adjust their launch schedules, with Arianespace scrambling to find rockets for its customers who had been scheduled to launch on Russian Soyuz-2 rockets and SpaceX describing how it will readjust its schedule with the addition of the OneWeb satellite launches.

The article had two quotes of interest. First, this fact about Arianespace’s new Vega-C rocket:

The Vega C uses an upper stage engine provided by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash, and supplies of that engine are in question because of the ongoing invasion. ESA officials said March 17 that they have three of those engines, enough to handle the anticipated Vega C missions this year.

ESA is supporting work on a new upper stage engine, M10, for a version of the Vega called Vega E that is slated to make its first launch around 2025. [Stéphane Israël, chief executive of Arianespace] said there was “no need” to accelerate work on Vega E, though, citing the Ukrainian engines in storage.

Thus, Vega-C is in the same boat as Northrop Grumman’s Antares, which also relies on Ukrainian rocket engines. When you also add the difficulty that both Blue Origin and ULA are having getting new rockets off the ground because of the delays in the BE-4 engine, it appears that in general there is presently a strong need across the entire rocket industry for rocket engines that is not being fulfilled by the engine builders available. This fact puts the new rocket engine company Ursa Major in a very strong position, should it begin to build bigger engines to serve this need. It also suggests there is an opportunity here for other engine builders, such as Aerojet Rocketdyne, if they have the wherewithal to grab it.

The second quote from the article of interest was from a SpaceX official, describing how the company is dealing with the sudden requirement to launch 216 OneWeb satellites:

Tom Ochinero, vice president of commercial sales at SpaceX, said at the conference that the company’s vertical integration and large fleet of reusable boosters offer the company flexibility to accommodate customers like OneWeb. “We can react very quickly because we’re just managing a fleet,” he said. [emphasis mine]

I just love the significance of the highlighted quote. Unlike all past rocket companies, SpaceX doesn’t have to build more rockets to add new customers, which makes adding new customers difficult and expensive. It simply can readjust how it uses the rockets in its fleet to get those new customers in orbit. And the new business will likely pay for SpaceX to expand that fleet so that it can launch more satellites even quicker.

The Ukraine War: Another week, little change

The Ukraine War as of March 17, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 17, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last post on the state of the Ukraine war one week ago, on March 17, very little has changed, with tiny gains and losses in territory by both sides.

The two maps to the right, the top from last week, the bottom from today, both created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and simplified, annotated, reduced by me to post here, illustrate the somewhat static situation. The three green arrows in the bottom map point to the regions where the most significant changes have occurred. The red areas of regions under Russian control. The light red regions are areas the Russian claim control, but have not been confirmed. The blue dots and areas indicate Ukrainian advances or resistance.

For the Russians, the biggest territorial gains took place in the northeast, solidly linking two different fronts. The Russians also made minor gains near Chernihiv, northwest of Kiev, and near Donetsk.

Meanwhile, the Russians have still not taken the besieged city of Mariupol, though their forces have finally made some inroads into the city’s center.

For the Ukrainians, a Russian push beyond Mykolaiv in the south was completely defeated and forced to retreat. More importantly, Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russians back on the western outskirts of Kiev.

The primary question remains: Is this situation indicating that Russia is bogged down and facing a long protracted quagmire? Or does it more resemble the American situation shortly after D-Day, when Allied forces were stymied somewhat close to the beaches for almost two months before suddenly breaking out and overrunning much of France in the next two months.
» Read more

SpaceX raises launch prices

Capitalism in space: Though most of the press has focused on the Starlink announcement on March 22nd that it was raising its subscriber rates, that same day SpaceX announced that it too was raising its prices, increasing its launch fees by 8% to 10%.

The starting prices for a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket will each increase by about 8%. A Falcon 9 launch will cost $67 million, up from $62 million, and a Falcon Heavy launch will now run $97 million, up from $90 million. A footnote on SpaceX’s pricing page notes that “missions purchased in 2022 but flown beyond 2023 may be subject to additional adjustments due to inflation.”

..The company also adjusted its prices for its small satellite rideshare program. Those flights will now start at $1.1 million to fly a payload weighing 200 kilograms to a sun-synchronous orbit, up from a base price of $1 million. SpaceX increased the cost of additional payload mass by 10% as well and will now charge $5,500 per extra kilogram, up from a previous $5,000 per kilogram.

As with the Starlink announcement, SpaceX officials stated that the price increase was due entirely by inflation.

The irony here is that SpaceX could easily raise its rocket prices by 20%, and still be undercutting its entire competition. Even with these increases it is still by far the cheapest game in town.

Nonetheless, when it comes to inflation we have only just begun. The consequences of the Ukraine war, the sanctions against Russia, the Biden administration’s restrictions on domestic oil production, and the various COVID regulations restricting commerce are all still in effect, and are all putting pressure on supply. Prices will continue to rise.

Russia launches three Russians to ISS on Soyuz-2 rocket

Russia today successfully launched three astronauts to ISS on its Soyuz-2 rocket, the first time the crew on a Russian launch to ISS was entirely Russian.

The docking at the station is expected three hours after launch.

The reason for the all-Russian crew has nothing to do with the Ukraine War. Initially NASA and Roscosmos were negotiating to have an American on this flight as part of a barter deal, whereby astronauts from the two space agencies fly on each other’s capsules in an even trade to gain experience with each. In October both agencies agreed to hold off the first barter flight until ’22. With the on-going sanctions however it is now unknown whether that barter deal will go forward.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

10 SpaceX
6 China
3 Russia

The U.S. still leads China 16 to 6 in the national rankings, with SpaceX having a scheduled Starlink launch this evening.

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