Future Uncertain – The Unpredictable Ukraine-Russia War in 2023 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #295)

Someday this war will be over, but it will not be anytime soon. The victories and defeats that each side has suffered thus far has failed to bring the conflict anywhere closer to a conclusion. If anything, these respective successes and failures have only ensured the war will continue indefinitely. The coming months could prove to be more decisive than anything that has happened during the war’s first ten and a half months. It would be foolhardy to predict what will happen next. Predictions are predicated upon past performance. Judging by that, this war will be long and unpredictable, just as it has been so far. That may seem obvious, but there have been few obvious things about the Ukraine-Russia War. Like all wars it tends to have a logic all its own. Outside observers, can scarcely understand this logic. More confounding is the likelihood that those on the frontlines may not conceive of the logic that governs their actions. The only thing certain, is this war’s future is uncertain.

Future uncertain – Ukrainian man walks in front of buildings damaged by Russian shelling

Obstacles & Objectives – Putting Up A Good Front
It is understandable that anyone looking to predict the war’s future will look back at what has already occurred. If we go by past performance in the Ukraine-Russia War here is what should happen. Russian forces will continue to lose men and ground. They will lose the latter at a slower rate than before. This is not because they are fighting any better than before, but because they are bringing hundreds of thousands of more men to the battlefront. Even the worse trained, poorly armed, badly fed, undersupplied, and frightened Russian soldier who would rather be anywhere other than Ukraine will be a formidable obstacle. When a Russian soldier is fighting for his life, his livelihood, his chance to make it back home alive, then there is little doubt that he will present a barrier to Ukrainian forces recapturing their territory. That does not mean several hundred thousand soldiers will succeed in any kind of decisive victory. It just means that they will slow the Ukrainians down.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians will make further territorial gains. These will be more like the ones they made in Kherson Province rather than Kharkiv Province. Breakthroughs will occur, but the Russians will throw tens of thousands of men at the Ukrainian forces to slow their advances. The Ukrainians will still destroy large amounts of Russian men and material. They will be the aggressor in most battles and viewed as “winning” the war, but “winning” is not “won”. A decisive defeat of Russian forces will continue to prove elusive. The war will grind on through the spring, summer, and fall. At that point both sides will lick their wounds, assess their respective strengths, and decide whether to negotiate. Neither will have achieved their ultimate objectives. The Russians, because they still have not decided their objectives. The Ukrainians, because they have not taken all their territory back, including that which the Russians captured after their full-scale invasion. Ukraine will be in a better position than they were when campaigning began during the dead of winter in 2023, but this will not be good enough to claim victory. Keep in mind that this is what should happen, it is almost certainly not what will happen.

Before the war – Mariupol Theater at Christmas in 2021

Then & Now – Role Reversals
The greatest argument for the Ukraine-Russia War’s unpredictable future is the past ten and a half months. Consider how so many of the truths now seen as self-evident would have been considered improbable, if not impossible prior to the war. A then and now comparison bears out this transformation. Then: The Russian military is the second most powerful in the world. Ukraine does not stand a chance against them in a war. Now: The Russian military is a disorganized disaster plagued with incompetence and corruption. Ukraine is winning the war. Then: Russia will capture Kyiv and install a pro-Russian puppet government. The Zelensky government will go into exile. Now: Russia not only failed to capture Kyiv, but they have no chance of capturing it in this war. Kyiv is the epicenter of Ukrainian nationhood and will continue to be long after the war is over.

Then: Vladimir Putin is a master strategist who has strengthened Russia into a great power once again. Now: Vladimir Putin presides over a degenerate regime that has weakened Russia irreparably. It is a second-rate power with a bleak future at home and abroad. Then: If the west supports Ukraine with state of art the weapons system Russia will attack NATO member states. Now: The west is continuing to increase military support to Ukraine with everything from Patriot missile defense systems to armored personnel vehicles. Russia can barely hold off the Ukrainian Army. They will not attack a NATO member state because that would lead to an even greater disaster. Then: Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and targeting civilians is a thing of the past in Europe. Now: Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and targeting civilians is part of Russian military strategy in Ukraine. Then: Ukraine will be forced by its western allies into a negotiated peace. Now: Ukraine will decide when negotiations with Russia will begin. The western allies offer continued support for this stance.

War changes everything – Mariupol Theater after Russian siege

Tracking Changes – Never The Same
Those are just an arbitrary list of how much has changed in less than a year of war. The war has disabused military strategists and geopolitical analysts of long held assumptions about Russian military strength and Ukrainian political military weakness. The same can be said concerning the effectiveness of Russian autocracy versus Ukrainian democracy. If someone on February 23, 2022, questioned the Thens given above and professed a belief in the Nows, they would have been called crazy or ignored as a foolish provocateur. The difference between the Thens and Nows proves the truth behind that old cliche that war changes everything. War is provocative and unpredictable. Out of chaos comes clarity. The world as it existed in Europe, Russia, and much of the west prior to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been upended. It will never be the same. The question is what kind of world will arise to replace it. No one really knows. In 2023, we may find out or we may be right back to where we started this year by wondering what the future will bring.

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A Conventional War – Ukraine/NATO & Russia Finally Face Off (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #294)

The European theater during World War II was really two different wars. On the Eastern Front, casualties reached levels unprecedented in human history. The most terrifying example of this were losses by the Soviet Union, which reached an estimated 25 million people. That is more than the combined total of all other combatants in the war. Another stunning statistic is that 80% of all German casualties in the war occurred on the Eastern Front. The battles were fights literally to the finish. The hatred engendered by the warring ideologies of fascism and communism infused the fighting with a merciless fury. The Nazi doctrine of racial superiority over Jews and Slavs added another lethal element to the fighting. The result was a war defined in the starkest terms possible. There was only conquest or complete subjugation, if not destruction. The Red Army went through the equivalent of two entire armies by throwing great masses of men at the Germans. This turned every battle into a war of attrition. An insidious numbers game ensued. This favored the Soviets who had much more men and material (with crucial assistance from the Allies).  

Meanwhile in western and southern Europe, Allied forces (Americans, British and French) fought battles relying on their superiority in armaments and equipment. They incurred hundreds of thousands of casualties, but nowhere near the level of those suffered by the Red Army or German forces on the Eastern front. The western Allies also massed great numbers of men (particularly America). Nevertheless, they leaned more heavily on technology than brute force. To be sure, both the Soviets and western Allies used many of the same methods, but for the most part, the Soviets were more reliant on great masses of men, while the western Allies on technology. Incredibly, very little has changed. Seventy-seven years after World War II ended, the same stylistic impulses are getting ready to face each other on the battlefield. The warring sides may be different, but their tactics are much the same as before. The Russians are stand-ins for the Soviets, the Ukrainians for the western Allies.

Conventional war – Aerial view of Bakhmut

Contrasting Forces – The Fight For Supremacy
Despite efforts at modernization and attempts to integrate digital technology, the Russian military has largely inherited its tactics from the Red Army. The past eleven months of war in Ukraine has offered copious evidence that the Russians still prefer massing men and artillery to overwhelm any opposition. The doctrine of brute force lives on in the 21st century Russian Army. The longer the war has lasted, the more Russian tactics revert to those of the Red Army. As Russia has shown less technological proficiency than imagined, their reliance on vast reserves of manpower is increasing. This was the impetus for their “partial mobilization” in the autumn. The Russians are thought to be on the verge of an even larger round of conscription to put greater masses of men on the battlefield.

For their part, the Ukrainians are supported by the technologically superior military might of NATO and European Union member states. They will continue to wage the war with sound tactics, combining them with first class weaponry and military equipment. Their goal is to minimize casualties while probing for weak points in the Russian lines. Stealth strikes done with maximum efficiency can lead to breakthroughs. They have made greater gains on the battlefield than the Russians over the last six months by outsmarting them tactically and relying on precision weaponry. This is 21st century warfare as taught to them by experience and with the assistance of NATO instructors that arrived to train Ukrainian forces after war in the Donbas began in 2014. For the smaller Ukrainian Army these are essential. They cannot afford to lose massive amounts of manpower for minimal gains.

On the road to Bakhmut – Bomb craters (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

Clash of the Titans – A War That Was Never Fought
The clash of differing philosophies between Ukraine/NATO and Russian/Soviet inspired doctrines has been a long time in the making. This could lead to some of the largest battles the world has seen since 1945. This clash was supposed to happen during the Cold War, but thankfully it never did. The great western worry back then was that the Soviets would launch a massive offensive in central Europe. This would threaten to overrun western Germany and then other European allies before American and British force could mobilize a commensurate response to slow the Soviet momentum. The worry was that the Red Army would already be in Bonn, Brussels, and Paris before a major defensive effort could be mounted. Fortunately, this Third World War scenario never occurred.

The fear of escalation kept both sides from engaging in a conventional conflict because it could have led to cataclysmic consequences. That fear has largely subsided. The battle lines between Russian and western style warfare are now drawn much further east than either would have ever imagined. No longer are the opposing sides within spitting distance in Berlin. Now they are a stone’s throw from one another in the Donbas and southern Ukraine. Each side is preparing for the type of large conventional battles that they managed to avoid from 1945 – 1989. The Cold War ended with a whimper, but the Ukraine-Russia War is proving to be different. In the coming months, it will only become more so as the opposing armies conduct offensives.

The fog of war – Scene from Bakhmut

Decisive & Dreadful – Men Versus Machines
Just because Ukraine, rather than NATO, is directly fighting Russia does not mean it will be any less of a showdown. In the past couple of weeks, the west has been increasing donations of lethal weaponry that could make a difference on the battlefield. For instance, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks from the Americans, Germans, British. Poles and many other countries. There is sure to be much more to come. This promises to tilt military technology further in Ukraine’s favor. Meanwhile, the Russians will have little choice but to rely on manpower for the bulk of their military efforts. Masses of men will face off against machines. The contrast in tactics between the two sides is stark. The past and future finally meet on the field of battle in Europe. It has been a long time coming. The consequences will be decisive and dreadful.  

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No Going Back – The Dnipro Apartment Building Attack (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #290)

Certain moments in the Ukraine-Russia War are points of no return. Moments where it becomes obvious that there will be no going back. That an invisible psychological barrier has been breached between moderation and excess, reason and emotion, logic and madness, anger and fury. In retrospect, the first of these moments is the most obvious, the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. The moment Russian bombers, missiles, tanks and troop transports violated the Ukrainian border in the early morning hours of February 24, 2022, nothing was going to ever be the same again between the two countries. History was about to be written in blood and so it has been.

Crime against humanity – Result of Russian missile strike on apartment building in Dnipro

Targeted Terror – A Wave of Atrocities
There have been many more moments of no going back since the initial invasion destroyed what little trust was left between Ukraine and Russia after eight years of on again, off again warfare in the Donbas. One point of no return was reached at the end of the Battle of Kyiv in the suburban town of Bucha. This happened when Russian forces assassinated innocent civilians and left their bodies lying conspicuously in the streets as a message to Ukrainians that the Russian way of warfare was deeply personal. The message could not have clearer. While Ukrainians might have defeated the Russian Army on the outskirts of Kyiv, they could not stop them from execution style killings of innocent civilians. Thousands more atrocities would soon follow in occupied areas.

Another turning point was the Mariupol Theater airstrike where the Russians knew children were sheltering. The outrage this provoked hardened attitudes towards any attempts at negotiation and ceasefire. The same could be said for the ten waves of missile strikes against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure which have denied its civilian population of electricity and water during the dead of winter. At this point, the chance for attitudes to soften enough for a brokered peace between the two sides is less than zero. And now as part of those airstrikes, there has been another point of no return reached last week when a Russian missile slammed into an apartment building in the city of Dnipro.   

Deadly sign – Smoke rising from Russian missile strike on the apartment building in Dnipro

Crimes Against Humanity – The War on Normalcy
Russian forces have committed so many war crimes in Ukraine that only the most outrageous and deadly attacks garner headlines. Those that get noticed by the media usually involve multiple deaths that target women, children, and the elderly. Or attacks that strike targets where large groups of people are in the same area. One of the most infamous involved a missile strike on April 8th that hit the railway station in Kramatorsk. This strike killed 60 people (seven children) and wounded 110 more. Many of those killed were waiting on the platform for trains to evacuate from the war-torn city. Another sadly memorable tragedy occurred on July 14th when several missiles hit a shopping center and several other buildings in the city of Vinnytsia at mid-morning. The attack killed 28 people (three children) and wounded another 203.

The latest Russian attack on Ukrainian civilians to garner international media attention and stoke outrage occurred last weekend. On January 14th in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro a Russian missile slammed into an apartment building with 1,700 inhabitants. The impact destroyed a portion of the concrete edifice causing 72 apartment and two staircases to collapse. The specific missile used in the attack was a KH-12 meant to target ships. It can also be used to carry nuclear weapons. The overkill was deliberate and the targeting intentional. The strike was part of two volleys of missiles fired that day in the tenth wave of Russian missile strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure since the beginning of October. In this case though, the target was not electrical or water facilities. Only on a superficial level was it an apartment building.

Instead, the target was everyone living in that building. Mothers and daughters, husbands and sons, newlyweds and elderly, people who felt lucky just to have a roof over their heads. That was until the roof caved in and the walls collapsed. The target was also normal life. People cooking, sleeping, cleaning, playing, watching television, meeting with friends. And of course, life itself was targeted. The death toll so far is up to 40 people with 75 wounded, and many more missing. There will be no going back from this attack, just as there was no going back from the attacks at Bucha, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Vinnytsia, and now Dnipro. A litany of war crimes that no one can forget, even if they wanted to. These atrocities are representative of the indiscriminate violence which the Russian military has carried out against Ukrainian civilians. This is the byproduct of hatred and a policy of terror. The Kremlin wants to make sure Ukrainians never forget that, not for one moment. They want them to live in terror, always looking to the skies to see what fate is about to fall upon them.

Targeted terror – Damage from the Russian missile strike on the Dnipro apartment building

Hearts & Minds – Fixated on the Future
The Kremlin and Russian Defense Ministry deny carrying out attacks such as the one in Dnipro. Their denials are little more than lip service. The statements are made for domestic political reasons. Cynicism informs the denials. The truth is that the Russian want the Ukrainians to know these attacks on civilians are deliberate. The desired outcome is to depress morale and break the Ukrainian people’s will. To make them believe the war is not worth winning. Thus far, the attacks have done the opposite. Spines are stiffening, fists are perpetually clenched, voices are filled with determination, minds fixated on the future. There are rage and tears in Dnipro, there are similar scenes like this all over Ukraine. There are people who live to see the day when those who committed these crimes are held accountable, but not in the hallowed halls of the Hague. They want to see it happen on the field of battle. There is a war going on in the hearts and minds of the survivors. A war that will not stop until the enemy is defeated. Only then will justice be done and still that might not be enough.

Click here for: A Sense of Immediacy – Ukraine & Romania Reconnected By Rail (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #291)

Battle For A Place That No Longer Exists  – The Struggle For Soledar #3 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #289)

According to Vladimir Putin everything is going to plan. That is a sure sign Russian forces have failed to fully capture the salt mining town of Soledar in Donetsk Province. This is not a case where two things can be true at the same time. Either the Russians are in full control of Soledar or Putin is wrong, lying and has no idea of facts on the ground. Considering the Kremlin’s continued mismanagement of the war, no one those fed a steady diet of Russian propaganda would believe what Putin says about Soledar. In the past week, Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin who is the leader of Wagner Group’s mercenary forces that have been fighting for Soledar and Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s chief spokesman all have claimed that Russian forces have captured the town. The pronouncements smack of desperation. Anything to show that Russian forces have achieved a successful outcome, no matter the thousands of soldiers lost in the fighting for what military analysts unanimously agree is a town of little strategic value. Declaring preemptive victory for such a minor success shows just how bad Russia needs a victory to sell back home. Nothing symbolizes the futility of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine quite like the Battle of Soledar.

Violent Trajectory – Lacking In Logic
Over the past week as the Battle of Soledar continued to rage with reports of high casualty rates on both sides, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak called Soledar “the Verdun of the 21st century.” While it is nowhere near the scale of that bloody, prolonged, and critical battle for the French fortress during World War I, Soledar is the same type of grinding battle on a much smaller scale. This is a battle that has been fought so ferociously that it has become less about territory, tactics or strategy. The battle has advanced to a level of violence which has little to do with logical outcome and strategic imperatives. Zelensky himself said that there were no walls left standing in Soledar. This means that in the dead of winter, there is nowhere for attackers or defenders to run and hide. The battle is analogous to hand-to-hand combat with machine guns, missiles, and artillery.

Soledar hearkens back to the fighting that occurred in the Donbas during the spring and early summer as Russian forces made slow, but steady progress. That fighting resulted in the last true Russian successes with the capture of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. There are differences between those battles and the one for Soledar. The battles for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk were heavily reliant on artillery. Massive quantities of shells were expended in those efforts. At Soledar, shelling has also been one of the tactics used to take the town, but the most conspicuous method of attack has been human waves of prisoner-soldiers employed as Wagner Group mercenary forces. Ukrainian sources report that their bodies litter the ground in and around Soledar. If they die, which most of them do, their bodies are “left to rot” according to Yermak. These attacks are nothing if not suicidal and still they have not been able to completely capture what amounts to scorched ruins. A question that needs to be asked at this point is what if the Russians do capture Soledar? The answer to that question is crucial to understanding the importance of Soledar for both sides.

Fighting for scraps – Scene at Soledar (Credit: K. Tymoshenķo)

Insidious Cycle – A Microcosm of Russia’s War  
Any reasonable military strategist would have advised the Russians several weeks ago to stop their assault on Soledar. A cost benefit analysis would show that the rewards are not worth the losses. It is not only the thousands of men they are losing which call their attacks on Soledar into question, it is also the fact that if or when they do manage to take what little is left of the town, Russian forces will be exhausted. This defeats the original purpose of the campaign which was to push on towards the city of Bakhmut and lay siege to it from the north. Whichever battalions on the Russian side manage to survive Soledar are not going to be in any condition to continue fighting. The longer the assault on Soledar has gone on, the less it has made any sort of sense. Yet the Russian forces fighting for the town are caught in a trap of their own making.

Now that they have claimed control over the town, calling off the assault would be a public relations disaster. No matter how the Kremlin and/or Wagner Group would try to spin a withdrawal, the truth would be obvious. They had wasted thousands of lives, expended countless number of missiles, shells, and other ammunition for a town that was never worth taking in the first place. In a sense, Soledar is the entire Russian war effort in microcosm. The problem for the Russians is that now Soledar must be captured. There is simply no going back. And after capturing Soledar, they are committed to making a push on Bakhmut, otherwise Soledar will not have mattered. This cycle is just as insidious as the battle they are fighting.

Into the maelstrom – Ukrainian military vehicles near Soledar

Elusive Victory – To Be Continued
The Ukrainians have a different objective. They can afford to lose Soledar, the town as it was once known no longer exists. Losing men fighting for what is left of Soledar makes little sense, but there does seem to be a method to this madness. Ukrainian forces are holding out because they want to exhaust Russian forces at Soledar. This will make it more difficult for the Russians to attack at other places along the front lines. Furthermore, the Russian focus has been squarely on Soledar for several weeks now. This benefits any future Ukrainian offensive because while Russian forces are fixated on capturing a place of dubious strategic value, Ukrainian forces might launch an attack at a weak point in the Russian lines, hoping to achieve another breakthrough like the one that occurred in Kharkiv Province this past autumn. Whether or not that happens is likely to be determined this spring. Meanwhile, the Battle of Soledar will continue as both sides search for an elusive victory on their own terms.

Click here for: No Going Back – The Dnipro Apartment Building Attack (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #290)

Fighting Among Themselves – The Struggle For Soledar #2 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #288)

In any war it is bad enough to fight the enemy, even worse is to fight among yourselves. Dissension in the ranks is a cancer that can easily spread. At its worst, this can metastasize into mutiny. There is also the chance that internal dissension turns to infighting where forces fighting on the same side begin to target each other. In the Ukraine-Russia War, mutiny and infighting are two distinct possibilities due to the low state of morale among Russian soldiers. There is good reason for this. They have been forced to fight against a highly motivated opponent while plagued by poor supplies, inedible food, careless commanders, and an alarmingly high number of casualties. The chance of internal dissension is due to increase because most Russian soldiers fighting in 2023 will be conscripts. Many of them were given little choice if they wanted to fight. Some were press ganged off the street, while others were selected because they were ethnic minorities living in rural areas. This is the Kremlin war where the poor man is made to bear the ultimate burden.

Salt in the wounds – Soledar

Winner Takes It All – More Than Bragging Rights
Some analysts believe the inherent tension in a war of choice that most Russian conscripts would gladly have chosen to avoid, might eventually manifest into an outright mutiny. There have been sporadic reports of refusals to fight among individual Russian soldiers and small units throughout the war, but nothing to the extent that it has detrimentally affected military operations. At least none that is known. While a mutiny is improbable, recent events have shown the ugly specter of infighting is not. Internal conflict reared its ugly head this past week as tension between Wagner Group mercenary forces and the Russian military went public over who should get credit for the capture of Soledar. This salt mining town in Donetsk Province is of dubious strategic value, but highly symbolic because its capture would allow the Russians to claim their first battlefield success since early July. There is more than just bragging rights at stake in what might be called the Second Battle of Soledar. This is a fight for power that goes all the way to the Kremlin’s gilded halls.

On one side is Yevgeny Prigozhin the leader of Wagner Group, who yearns to play a much bigger role in Russian politics. His mercenary forces have seized an opportunity to show they can conduct their own successful military campaigns in Ukraine. On the other side is the Russian Ministry of Defense. While success has largely eluded the Russian military, they are concerned that the Wagner Group may be gaining in power at their expense. The tensions between the two broke into the open when the Russian Defense Ministry announced they had captured Soledar. The Ukrainians soon provided a rebuttal stating that the claim was false and their troops were still holding on in the town., This was nothing new. Competing claims between the two sides over contested areas have been common, but this disagreement had another side. A senior commander in the Wagner Group, Andrei Troshev issued a statement saying, “Soledar was taken solely with the efforts of the Wagner Group fighters.” He added that “there is no need to insult the fighters by humiliating their effort.” Troshev accused the Russian Defense Ministry of taking credit for the work of Wagner Group forces.

Before battle – Soledar (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

Power & Prestige – The War Back Home
For several weeks it has been well known that Wagner Group soldiers have been doing the bulk of the fighting in what has been described as human wave attacks by Ukrainian defenders. Most of these mercenaries are prisoner-soldiers who signed up to fight in return for their freedom if they manage to survive the frontlines. It appears that the Defense Ministry was claiming credit for an operation which the Russian military played at most, a minor role. After Troshev’s comments, the Defense Ministry issued another statement saying a “heterogenous group of Russian soldiers” had captured Soledar and Wagner Group soldiers had been responsible for the street-by-street fighting. Ironically, both sides were fighting over what military analysts say is a minor victory at most. The capture of Soledar will not matter to the overall outcome of the campaign to take the nearby city of Bakhmut. Furthermore, it is still not clear whether Russian forces, either regular military or mercenaries, have complete control of Soledar.

The real importance of Soledar is that it shows the infighting among Russian elites to win favor with Putin and positioning for a post-Putin Russia. The Russian military has borne the brunt of public criticism in Russia for mismanagement of the war effort and rightfully so. Everything from planning to supplies to operations has been mismanaged. Because the military has been so inept and Russia’s casualty total so high, the Kremlin has encouraged the use of mercenary forces to achieve military objectives. This has not affected much change on the battlefield. The casualties taken by Wagner Group forces in the Battle of Soledar have been extremely high. Human wave attacks and frontal assaults are not sustainable with an estimated force of 50,000 soldiers, but for Yevgeny Prigozhin that is not the point. Prigozhin’s goal is to increase his power and prestige in Russia. Leading a Russian force to its first success in six months would be a boost to his profile domestically.

After battle – Soledar (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

Putin’s Promotion – A Test of Loyalty
Prigozhin’s day of glory will have to wait. In the same week his forces supposedly seized Soledar, Putin put Valery Gerasimov in overall command of Russian forces. This meant Sergei Surovikin, a favorite of Prigozhin and other pro-war, hard right nationalists had been demoted. He will answer to Gerasimov in the future. Gerasimov is a longtime Putin loyalist whose fingerprints were all over the Ukraine invasion plan that failed so miserably. His ascendency means that Putin has decided that the Defense Ministry will be firmly in control of leading the war effort. Prigozhin’s dreams of greater things, both on the battlefield and domestic front are deferred for now. As for Putin, he knows that only the military can organize and carry out the kind of major spring offensive he wants. Wagner Group will be relegated to a lesser role, but they are still dangerous. As much as to their own side, as to the Ukrainian forces.  

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Grains of Salt – The Struggle For Soledar #1 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #287)

The battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces has been ongoing for a salt mining town in eastern Ukraine with the atmospheric name of Soledar. A name that at least visually has striking similarities to that of the word soldier. Soledar and soldiers only goes together in the most diabolical sense of those words. Thousands of soldiers have fallen fighting for what not so long ago was a town of eleven thousand known for the salt mined there and nothing else. Aerial photos recently taken of the town show that nothing has been left standing. Among the fallen have been thousands of soldiers whose blood has been spilled in the dead of winter for what amounts to little more than an advantageous position where many more can die fighting for the city of Bakhmut further to the south. That is the only strategic importance for Russian troops.

The embattled Ukrainian defenders at Soledor have a different idea of what this battle means. While it is important for them not to lose any ground they occupy, their main strategy at Soledor is to inflict heavy casualties on Russian forces while losing fewer of their own. The fighting has been particularly ferocious for the strategic stakes to be so low. That is because Soledor is much more than a battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces for a town, it is also a battle between two groups of Russian forces for the right to claim responsibility for Russia’s first success on the battlefield since early July. Whomever prevails, they will ignore the fact that Soledor now ceases to exist, and its strategic value is nowhere near the loss of men and material needed to take it.

Looking down – Aerial view of Soledar

Wagner Group – The Blessing of Putin
Soledar means “gift of salt”, but for thousands of soldiers it has only meant the diabolical gift of death. Since August, Russian forces have been trying to take the town. Their efforts stalled out after capturing its eastern half at the beginning of autumn. During the next three months, Russia’s military high command had much greater worries than capturing the rest of Soledar. Specifically, the high command was focused on Russian forces losing 3,000 kilometers in Kharkiv Sector and being forced to abandon Kherson, the only provincial capital in Ukraine they had captured since the war started. Meanwhile, the battle for Soledar was frozen. Few knew it at the time, but there was another less “official” military leader who saw Soldedar and the nearby city of Bakhmut as an opportunity for the taking. On December 27th, mercenary forces of the Wagner Group renewed the push to take Soledar.

The Wagner Group is the brainchild of Putin’s former chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man of rapacious ambition. Prior to the war, the Wagner Group was a relatively small, tight knit group of mercenaries who were sent to such places as Syria and the Central African Republic where they helped ruling regimes solidify their control. They became notorious for committing numerous atrocities against civilians. As their leader, Prigozhin is the personification of rogue leadership. He has no inhibitions about ordering his mercenaries to disobey the acknowledged rules of war. For the Wagner Group, words such as “genocide” and “war crimes” are meaningless. The group works outside of Russian military control. They have the blessing of Putin, which is all they need.   

The gift of salt – Soledar

Ready Recruits – Desperately Seeking Soldiers
Prigozhin has been among the most vocal critics of Russia’s military leadership by publicly pointing out their woeful management of the war. Prigozhin’s goal is to present Wagner as a competent alternative fighting force. One that can provide a solution to what ails Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine. Prigozhin is not doing this for altruistic purposes. He wants to establish his own power base that will prove useful when Putin is no longer the leader of Russia. The fight to succeed Putin has already begun. It now extends all the way to the frontlines in Ukraine. At Soledar, Prigozhin decided to take matters into his own hands. Before doing this, he utilized a unique approach to find more soldiers. Prigozhin began recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine under the command of the Wagner Group.

Russia is so desperate for manpower that they will enlist almost anyone for duty in Ukraine. This includes convicts, many of whom are fighting under the Wagner Group’s command. Any prisoner who completes a term of military service in Ukraine will have their crimes forgiven. Their only problem is trying to survive on the battlefield. Prigozhin is estimated to have recruited upwards of 50,000 prisoners for what amounts to a suicide mission in the hope of forgiveness of their crimes and freedom. These prisoners have been the cannon fodder for Prigozhin’s to show Putin that the Wagner Group can succeed where the Russian military has failed.

Wagner Group soldiers are notorious for having a take no prisoner’s approach to battle. Likewise, they expect no quarter from their enemies. This makes any battle in which they are engaged a life and death struggle, with an emphasis on the latter. Reports from Ukrainian sources state that the streets of Soledar are littered with bodies. Most of these are led by the Wagner Group. The human wave attack is the preferred tactic of convict forces. Ukrainian sources report that the streets of Soledar are littered with bodies due to frontal assaults. These attacks have been somewhat successful, but at a massive cost in lives. Prigozhin could care less if thousands of convicts get killed. Their life is less valued at the front, than that of the Russian Army soldier. The fact that Wagner’s leadership has less regard for their soldiers, than the Russian military has for their own soldiers is startling.

Casualty of war – Near Soledar

Results Driven – Mission Impossible
The prisoners fighting for Wagner Group are either getting killed, getting wounded or getting results. One Ukrainian soldier fighting in the Battle of Soledar remarked that when making an attack, the prisoner-soldiers seemed more terrified of their own side, then they were of the Ukrainians. That is probably because of the brutality that awaits any prisoner-soldiers who fail to follow the Wagner’s Groups orders. The upshot has been an incredible number of killed and wounded in the Battle of Soledar. According to Russian reports, Soledar was captured this past week. That was when another battle began over who would claim responsibility for a limited success, if it can even be called that.

Click here for: Russia’s Internal Dissent – The Struggle For Soledar #2 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #288)

Half-Truths – Russia’s Most Serious Defeats in Ukraine (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #286)

As the old saying goes, a broken clock is right two times a day. This applies Russian officials who despite trying their best to cast fallacy as honesty and utilize cynicism as substitute for sincerity, still manage to allow the truth to seep out in some of their statements on the war in Ukraine. Half-truths are a step up from outright lies. Russian officials are notorious for not just bending the truth, they enjoy telling the opposite of it. That is why it is worth taking notice when any statement from a Russian official comes closer to telling the truth. This was the case when Danill Bezsonov, spokesman for the Russian proxy government in Donetsk Province, commented online about the Ukrainian missile strike that destroyed a soldier’s barracks in the town of Makiivka, killing an estimated 400 Russian soldiers. In the wake of that attack Bezsonov wrote on his Telegram channel, “The enemy inflicted the most serious defeats in this war on us not because of their coolness and talent, but because of our mistakes.” There was both a half-truth and contemptuous disdain in his words.

Up next – Vladimir Putin with Valery Gerasimov\

Self-Defeating – Decisive Turns
Start with the half-truth. Bezsonov is correct that the greatest defeats suffered in the war by Russian forces have been largely due to their own mistakes. The list of Russian military failures in Ukraine is long and inglorious. From the start of the war right up until the latest self-inflicted disaster at the barracks in Makiivka, the Russians have managed to perform well below expectations. A nation that historically is no stranger to military debacles has added many more since the war began ten and a half months ago. The old saying, “how you start, is how you end” has never been truer. The Russian invasion was poorly planned or more to the point, hardly planned at all. This resulted in a poor performance that ended in a resounding defeat at the Battle of Kyiv.

Other early military operations went a bit better, but once Ukrainian forces were fully armed, the Russians met with little, if any success. Most armies that continue fighting a war that is not going well learn at least a few lessons from their failures and try not repeat them. The Russians have been largely impervious to learning from their mistakes. Another example occurred this week when Vladimir Putin replaced Sergei Surovikin as overall commander of Russian military forces in Ukraine. General Surovikin was nicknamed the “Butcher” and lived up to that nickname for the past three months. He executed one of the few successful Russian strategies of the war by targeting Ukraine’s critical electrical and water infrastructure.

While this did little to turn the war in Russia’s favor, it did cause major problems for the Ukrainian government which was forced to focus less on the battlefield and more on taking care of a civilian population enduring difficult winter conditions without heat, electricity or water for long periods of time. Surovikin also convinced Putin to allow Russian forces to withdrawal from Kherson, saving them from a siege and probable surrender. Yet none of this saved Surovikin from being replaced by Valery Gerasimov, the long time Chief of Staff for the Russian Armed Forces who was one of the invasion’s chief architects. The Kremlin still fails to heed the lessons the war should have taught them long ago. They have become masters of self-defeat.

Another mistake – Smoke rising over Makiivka

Inferiority Complex – A Less Than Superior Attitude
Bezsonov also put into writing the contemptuous disdain that the Russians have shown towards Ukrainian forces. By saying, “the most serious defeats” were not because of the Ukrainian forces “coolness and talent, but because of our mistakes” Bezsonov illustrates the Russian attitude of superiority. That superiority is not the product of Russian skill or results on the battlefield. Instead, it is a failure to admit the obvious, that the Ukrainians have shown an adeptness at combat coupled with superior strategy and tactics that the Russians have been unable to match. If anything, Bezsonov’s profession of scarcely disguised Russian superiority is the product of an inferiority complex. Arrogance and disrespect are the tell-tale signs. This is natural for a people who have long professed their superiority to Ukrainians.

A sense that the Russians are losing the war has caused no end of consternation back home. Beyond the predictable casting of blame, there is a realization that the Russians do not care to admit, the Ukrainians are superior to them on the battlefield. That must be terrifying for the Russians. If they lose their sense of superiority what do the have left other than reality. They find themselves saddled with a despotic government, a war that should never have been fought, and innumerable economic problems that are unsolvable without massive reforms. It is easy to see why Bezsonov and so many other Russian officials do not want to admit the reality of their situation. The Russians not only are faced with a government that lies to them, but they are also lying to themselves. The latter is just as dangerous as the former. Russian finds itself in an increasingly untenable position that is likely to get worse before it gets better.

A little respect – Ukrainian troops on the road in Donbas

Truth Telling – Facing Reality
Bezsonov’s statement managed to sum up the intractable problem that Russians face with the war in Ukraine. To put it simply, the Russians are their own worst enemy. They continue to make self-defeating mistakes in combat and managing the war. At the same time, they do not respect their opponent. The Russian sense of superiority is fragile. It has been proven false time and again by results on the battlefield. Admitting that the war in Ukraine is being lost would be a shock to the system, one from which Russia might not be able to recover. For a nation led by a man whose entire regime has been based on lies and continues to be, it is not easy to face reality. Ironically, the only way to stop repeating the same mistakes would be to start telling the truth, the whole truth. To do otherwise will just delay the reckoning that is bound to come.

Click here for: Grains of Salt – The Struggle For Soledar #1 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #287)

Getting Closer To The Truth – The Attack on Makiivka Barracks #2 (The Ukraine-Russia War #285)

Communication is integral to success on the battlefield. Without it, a military force marches blindly into battle. The consequences of which can be terrifying at best, and deadly at worst. It is a given that military communications should always be secure. Otherwise, an enemy might become privy to their opponent’s plans. This can lead to devastating consequences. The Russian Army should know this from experience. One of the most famous instances of an enemy force gaining knowledge of their battle plans occurred in August 1914. During the Battle of Tannenberg on the Eastern Front, the Russian Imperial Army used unencrypted radio communications. This allowed the German Army to know exactly what the Russian forces were going to do in advance. The Germans adjusted their plans accordingly. The consequences were devastating. The Russian Army lost most of its First and Second Armies as 120,000 – 170,000 Russian soldiers were killed or taken as prisoners of war. The Russian Imperial Army would fight on for three more years, but the Battle of Tannenberg was an ominous sign of further catastrophes to come.

Getting closer to the truth – Makiivka Barracks after missile strikes

Deadly Indiscipline – Fatal Impulses
Many things have changed militarily since the First World War, but the Russian failure to use secure communications on the battlefield is not one of them. For some strange reason, the Russian military believes in learning lessons the hard way or not learning them at all. The latest example of this trend occurred at a soldier’s barracks in the town of Makiivka in Donetsk Province. Anyone who has closely followed the conflict will recall how at the Battle of Kyiv during the first weeks of the war, Russian soldiers made themselves easy targets by using civilian networks to make calls with their cell phone. Ukrainian forces tracked their signals and then attacked those positions. This caused great loss of life for Russian forces and halted their offensive. Eventually, the Russians were so shredded by stealth, hit and run attacks that they were left with little choice other than to retreat.

For a military that was regarded as the world’s second most powerful this was both alarming and embarrassing. Alarming, because such amateur mistakes showed an appalling lack of organization and discipline. Embarrassing, because the Russian military was exposed for its poor quality. The most worrying aspect for the Russians was that this happened with a force made up mostly of professional soldiers. These problems were bound to get worse if they were forced to mobilize conscripts. That is exactly what happened. This was predictable because either the Russian military refused to learn from their mistakes or those in command have little regard for the lives of common soldiers. It is likely a combination of both.  

Opening fire – HIMARS launch

Precision Strike – New Year’s Detonation
On New Year’s Day, hundreds of Russian soldiers were in a barracks at Makiivka. These were conscripts who were not well versed in military protocol. They had been rushed to Ukraine in order to alleviate the Russian Army’s manpower shortage. It is doubtful they had been given much training. Many of them were prone to using their cell phones for calls. This allowed Ukrainian forces to know exactly where they were located. Unlike earlier in the war when the Ukrainians often relied on drones to attack enemy positions, they now have American HIMARS which are extremely extreme precise. Two rockets hit the barracks. This would have been bad enough to cause a high number of casualties. What made the strikes much more lethal was ammunition also being stored in the barracks. This led to multiple explosions. The Ukrainians reported that at least 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the attack. Russian military bloggers soon laid the blame for the attack on the commanders.

The Russian Ministry of Defense felt compelled to issue a statement because they feared losing control of the narrative. They cast blame on the conscripts for using their cell phones. The statement also gave a casualty figure less than a quarter of the Ukrainian estimate. There is plenty of blame to go around. The moment HIMARS rockets hit those barracks the truth was laid bare. This was a failure on multiple levels that went all the way up to the Kremlin. The fact is that those soldiers would not even have been in those barracks at Makiivka if not for the shoddy partial mobilization ordered in the autumn by Vladimir Putin. Furthermore, the ramifications of rushing soldiers to the front likely had something to do with soldiers sleeping atop a powder keg of ammunition. A spark was the only thing needed to set the barracks and those inside it ablaze.

Vision of war – Image of the aftermath from a Ukrainian missile strike

Stuck on Repeat – An Unchanging Situation
The attack at Makiivka was followed by the usual attempt by the Kremlin and military command at damage control. As smoke was rising from the ruined barracks and bodies of four hundred ruined lives, the Kremlin and military command were creating their own smoke screen to obscure the truth about their continued mismanagement of the war. This mismanagement has manifested itself in the deaths of 110,000 soldiers and counting. The situation does not change because the same leadership is still running the war. Sure, a few commanders have been replaced, but this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. If the same thing keeps happening again and again, then the blame lies with the one constant throughout the conflict. That is the Putin regime which has its fingerprints all over the war effort. The regime is rotten to the core. And that core still resides in the Kremlin.

Until Russian troops leave Ukraine, they will continue to incur thousands of casualties while engaged in dubious actions that create the conditions for disaster. This is inevitable because failures in leadership and command run throughout all levels of the Ministry of Defense and the Kremlin. No amount of distractions or obfuscations of the truth from Russian officials can keep the same calamities from happening again. By now it should be obvious even to Russians who willfully ignore the dire performance of their forces in Ukraine, that quality leadership is lacking at all levels of the regime. The Russian military is headed for ever more failures. This is not a question of if, but when.

Click here for: Half-Truths – Russia’s Most Serious Defeats in Ukraine (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #286)

Both Barrels – Macron, Scholz & Military Support for Ukraine #2 (The Russian Invasion of Ukraine #283)

The actions of France and Germany often prove decisive in European affairs. Their inaction can be just as consequential. Never has this been truer than with the schizophrenic military support offered by both countries to Ukraine. The recalcitrant decision making of Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz concerning Ukraine has threatened to undermine peace and prosperity in Europe. Fear of Russia has informed the decisions of both men. Their stances looked unlikely to change anytime soon. Then in the space of two days last week, Macron and Scholz showed a resolve that had otherwise been lacking. This could be consequential to the outcome of the Ukraine-Russia War.

Giving thanks – Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv

Self-Deterrence – Playing Into Putin’s Hands
Emmanuel Macron has the usual French habit of allowing ambition to get in the way of European unity. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. Olaf Scholz has the German habit of proceeding with extreme caution. Sometimes that is a bad thing. While Macron is ready to pounce at the first sign of an opportunity to show French leadership, Scholz is ready to withdrawal for deliberations. These diametrically opposed personalities have one thing in common since the war in Ukraine began. Both men worry about upsetting Vladimir Putin. They fear escalation of the war if Ukraine is given more than a bare minimum of armaments. This plays right into the hands of Putin. It is safe to say that anyone who starts the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War has already escalated matters to such a degree that reasoning with him is a futile task.

Nothing will deter Putin from his course of action other than defeat. Even that has not kept him from continuing with the war despite devastating losses of men and material. Macron and Scholz’s failure to give Ukraine heavy weaponry has not persuaded Putin to de-escalate. Thus, the Kremlin has continued with a range of measures to compound the misery and murder of Ukrainians.  Whether it has been occupying nuclear power plants, abducting Ukrainian children, murdering innocent civilians, mistreating prisoners of war, using rape as a weapon or targeting Ukraine’s critical electrical and water infrastructure, nothing has been able to pull Macron and Scholz away from their cautious course of action.

Leading the way – French AMX-10 RC

Coordinated Support – A Transformative Turnabout
Just when it seemed like Macron and Scholz would continue appeasing Putin, a startling about face from both men occurred last week. On January 4th, an announcement was made by Macron that France was going to be the first to send “Western designed” armored vehicles to Ukraine. These will be the AMX-10 RC which the French have been using since the 1980’s. They are being phased out by their military so sending them to Ukraine makes sense. The AMX-10 RC cannot arrive soon enough for Ukraine whose old Soviet armored vehicles have either been destroyed or are in disrepair from use on the battlefield. Macron mentioned that the AMX-10 RC would enhance Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. This is an interesting turn of phrase since the vehicles will almost certainly be used to support a Ukrainian offensive either late this winter or more likely in the spring.

The Ukrainians have been urgently asking for western tanks which they need to break through Russian lines. All along the front lines, the Russians have been digging in and reinforcing their defenses with thousands of conscripts from mobilization. Though the AMX-10 RC is not regarded as a tank, it is the next best thing. The vehicles will be used to support infantry attacks. The donation of AMX-10 RC’s can be interrupted as a transformative turn in French support for Ukraine. Macron made the announcement after a phone call. Thankfully, it was not one of his usual plaintive chats with Putin. Instead, Macron had been talking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Macron should continue such productive phone calls with Zelensky in the future. He might want to keep Putin on hold until either Russian troops leave Ukraine, or the regime comes to an end.

We do not know what was said in the conversation between Macron and Zelensky, but this is a definitive case where actions are speaking louder than words. Macron may finally be seeing the light, rather than the mushroom clouds Putin likes to plant in the minds of Europe’s most powerful leaders.  Whatever the case, Macron’s announcement may have been the spur for Olaf Scholz’s action the next day. That is because on January 5th, Scholz spoke with President Biden. After their conversation, Scholz announced that Germany was sending Marders, another armored fighting vehicle to Ukraine. Whereas Macron did not say how many AMX-10 RC’s France was sending to Ukraine, Scholz said Germany would be supplying Ukraine with 40 Marders. President Biden also announced that the United States would be sending 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine. This was a show of coordinated military support the likes of which has been rarely seen in the past several months.

No laughing matter – Emmanuel Macron & Vladimir Putin

Breaking Through – Lines of Attack
The United States, France and Germany are three of Ukraine’s four most powerful military allies (Great Britain is the other). The unified support for armored infantry fighting vehicles did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin, which warned that this was another escalation. Words were all the Kremlin could muster because they do not have the allies or actions to match this show of support. Ukraine getting three types of armored vehicles is not just a game changer on the field of battle. It also alters what support Ukraine might expect from their most powerful allies in the coming months. Each of the vehicles has been compared favorably to tanks. This is the type of heavily armored weaponry Ukraine will need if they are to avoid getting bogged down in trench style warfare. The Kremlin hopes to turn the frontlines into a World War One style slog. 

Ukrainian forces hope to punch through the Russian lines and then have their troops pour through those gaps. Breakthroughs can lead to lightning-fast pushes deep into the Russian rear. This is what happened in the Kharkiv sector when the Ukrainians routed Russian troops and took back 3,000 kilometers of their territory. The Russians cannot let this happen again, another defeat of that scale in either southern Ukraine or the Donbas would be catastrophic to any Russian hope of a successful outcome in the war. The military support from France and Germany could help lead to a Ukrainian breakthrough on the battlefield. Whether or not that happens, another breakthrough has already been made as France and Germany provide the type of military support that Ukraine will need to achieve greater success.

Click here for: Explosive Effects – The Attack on Makiivka Barracks #1 (The Ukraine-Russia War #284)

Explosive Effects – The Attack on Makiivka Barracks #1 (The Ukraine-Russia War #284)

A missile attack announces itself with ear splitting screams followed by sudden fury. First there is an explosion, then a fire, and finally smoke. The explosion lasts a microsecond, the fire for hours, and the smoke hangs in the air for days. These byproducts of battle can also act as a metaphor for truth in a single act of war. Facts are akin to explosions. They burst on the scene and provide the first points of reference. Ramifications are like fires that continue to burn long after an explosion. Smoke acts as a form of spin, serves as damage control, and obscures the reality of any situation. Because officials know that hiding an explosion is impossible, they must douse the forthcoming fires with fabrications. If that does not work and the truth threatens to surface, then they have no other option except to blow smoke.

Smoke rising – Ukrainian soldiers look at a sign of attack

Blowing Smoke – Obscuring Reality
Smoke is the real fog of war. As vague and elusive as the truth it obscures. Smoke rises from the ruins in the aftermath of an attack. This makes it difficult, if not impossible to reconstruct exactly what happened. In the absence of an accepted narrative, those seeking the truth are often unable to get a clearer picture of what occurred until days, weeks or months after the attack. Sometimes a clear picture of what happened on the battlefield takes years to emerge. In many cases, the truth will never come to light or falsehoods masquerading as the truth will become part of the historical record. At other times, the ugly truth eventually leaks out, providing a window into just how awful war can be. It is mind boggling to think how this cycle starts with a single attack, much like the one that Russian forces sustained at a barracks in the town of Makiivka on New Year’s Day.

Since that attack, the Russians have been trying to tamp down explosive allegations that their military’s own mistakes led to the deaths of hundreds of their soldiers. Dousing the flames of their failures with fabrications has only served to highlight the misconduct and mismanagement that has plagued the Russian military throughout the war. Their Defense Ministry, as well as other Russian officials, have been blowing smoke to obscure the reality of what really happened that day. Ironically, the more they try to alter the truth, the clearer it becomes that the Russian war effort has suffered another in a long line of avoidable disasters. The attack at Makiivka is the latest example that the Russians continue to repeat the same mistakes they have been making throughout the war. Woeful leadership, lack of training, failure to enforce discipline, and a willful disregard of their soldier’s lives led to another Russian debacle in a war full of them.

Plan of attack – HIMARS

Sending Signals – Messages & Missiles
The Russian military’s standard operating procedure to deal with setbacks on the battlefield has been to launch a retaliatory attack. Anytime Ukraine achieves a notable success, there is a likelihood that the Russians will retaliate against Ukrainian targets to inflict maximum pain, preferably on the civilian population. There are numerous examples of this. For instance, when the Battle of Kyiv was lost, Russian forces took it upon themselves to execute civilians on the streets of Bucha. After being forced to abandon Kherson, Russian artillery indiscriminately shelled the city center and apartment blocks where much of the population resides. They continue to do so today. When a Ukrainian attack damaged the Kerch Bridge which links Crimea to the Russian mainland, the Kremlin ordered wave after wave of missile attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. With each of these attacks, the Russians have been trying to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they had best be careful or the full fury of the Russian military might be unleashed upon them.

These not-so-subtle threats backed up by military action did nothing to deter Ukrainian attacks. If anything, it led the Ukrainians to carry out their own retaliatory strikes. Unlike those of the Russians, the Ukrainians have focused on military targets. This is the main difference between Ukrainian and Russian retaliatory strikes. The Ukrainians aim to destroy the Russian capacity to wage war, while the Russians aim to break the Ukrainian peoples’ will. The Ukrainians have been somewhat successful, but the Russians are still able to wage war on a large scale and that looks unlikely to end anytime soon. On the other hand, the Russian strategy of retaliating against civilians has solidified the Ukrainian population’s resistance. Judging by several objective surveys that show on average 90% of the Ukrainian people believe they will win the war, Russia’s targeting of civilians has produced the opposite of their attacks intended results. What the Russians did not expect was for the Ukrainians to target military assets that would not only devastate their war making capacity in Ukraine, but also lead to friction on the home front. The attack on the barracks at Makiivka has done just that.

Targeted – Barracks in Makiivka

Barracks Buster – Target Rich Environment
On New Year’s Day, Ukraine was suffering from yet another series of Russian missile strikes targeting civilian areas. These began the day before and continued into the morning. There was to be no rest for the terrorized. Survival was a substitute for celebration. The promise of a new year did not last long. If anyone held out hopes of a respite from the war, they were disavowed of these immediately. The new year was starting off much like how the old one ended. Most of the population was helpless to do much about being left in the dark, hovering in shelters, and seeking warmth. Few Ukrainians had any idea that their military was going to strike back. Their chosen target combined two key Russian military assets conveniently located in the same location. In their sites was a barracks housing conscripts from the recent mobilization. The Russians had placed hundreds of them in the same spot where they were also storing ammunition. Makiivka was located on Ukrainian territory that the Russians occupied in Donetsk province. This meant that the Ukrainians could use the American HIMARS to target it with a pinpoint accuracy. That is just what they did.

Click here for: Getting Closer To The Truth – The Attack on Makiivka Barracks #2 (The Ukraine-Russia War #285)