Wednesday, September 7, 2022

"Counter-Offensive" - You Keep Using That Word


Battle of the Bulge - December 1944

One thing few seem to appreciate is that what Ukraine has done over the past several days near Kherson and Kharkov does not even come close to what constitutes a "counter-offensive". They've done nothing but launch highly localized severely under-powered probes which, sooner than later, become nothing but cramped kill zones for massed Russian artillery and air strikes.


The leaders of the Armed Forces of Ukraine now command: effectively zero air power, sparse artillery with acute ammo shortages, limited UAV capability – and, to add insult to injury, Russian “battlefield hackers” are now proving able to commandeer many of their precious quadcopter surveillance drones, thereby blinding them completely in the midst of a battle.


Worst of all, the overwhelming majority of the soldiers are battle-naïve conscripts.


Their tanks are few and far between; their troop carriers are obsolete and highly vulnerable; many if not most are compelled to march into battle on foot – and these are not Seal Team 6 physical specimens who do 20k runs on their day off. They’re just the ones not rich enough, clever enough, or fast enough to elude the conscription gangs.


The AFU’s sole apparent advantage is that there are substantially more of them that can be brought to bear on a narrow front than there are Russians defending it.


And yet all of these attacks so far have been tentative affairs with relatively small concentrations of force and firepower.


In the lexicon of battle, a “counter-offensive” is an entirely different animal.


The German Ardennes counter-offensive in December 1944 consisted of:


~400,000 troops

~500 tanks

~700 mobile artillery

~1300 troop carriers

4000+ artillery pieces

1000+ aircraft


THAT was a counter-offensive.


The Tet Offensive in Vietnam consisted of 300,ooo+ troops attacking more or less simultaneously.


What we are witnessing in Ukraine is categorically NOT a “counter-offensive”. Ukrainian operations over the past several days are, to the contrary, strongly indicative of the extremely limited mobility and firepower capacity of a severely depleted army whose combat-effectiveness is a fraction of the Russian and allied defenders whom they face on the field.


Oh, to be sure, their numerical superiority in troops can achieve a temporary advance within a narrow salient, and inflict some serious harm on isolated groups of Russian defenders in the process. That should come as no surprise to anyone – particularly the abundant Russian “doomers’ on Telegram who descend into inexplicable despair whenever the Ukrainians achieve any tactical success, however meagre and strategically meaningless.


However, if you zoom out the map to reveal the entire front line of this war, you can readily see that we’re talking about a handful of teeny-weeny pimples protruding into the Russian-held side: territory in which the Russians have numerous highly mobile operational reserve units – infantry and artillery – that can be dispatched with relative alacrity to any quadrant of the battle map, utilizing the always significant advantage of interior lines of communication.


When faced with one of these sorts of attacks, an outmanned and outgunned defending force is trained to lay down some suppressing fire, secure an orderly retreat, and exact a cost on the attacker in the form of pre-planned ambuscades and pre-registered long-range artillery fires.


Meanwhile reinforcements will have already been summoned by the time they arrive at the second line of defense.


Now, make no mistake, even this species of limited counter-attack can result in extremely heated battles, numerous casualties on both sides, and the ceding of real estate from the defender to the attacker.


But in the case of the current war in Ukraine, the attacker has effectively zero capacity to follow up any temporary gains with the kind of strength sufficient to counter the reinforcements and concentrations of artillery and air power the Russians can swiftly bring to bear against them.


The outcome of these sorts of attacks, in the context of this battlefield at this stage of this war is, plain and simple, a mathematical and military certainty.


And the physical vulnerabilities of the Ukrainian forces consequent to their numerous deficiencies listed above are such that they, as the exposed attacker, are suffering horrific losses for every village and town they claim to “liberate” from the Russians.


In the Kherson region, the casualty ratio has been at least 5 to 1 in favor of the Russians – this according to interviews with wounded Ukrainian troops in a recent Washington Post report. And there is mounting evidence suggesting that the butcher’s bill is no less favorable to the Ukrainians in the Kharkov region.


If the Ukrainians want to go on the "offensive" – attacking established Russian defensive positions – Russian commanders will enthusiastically receive them at any point along their lines.


Nothing will end this war faster than continuing Ukrainian "counter-offensives" of the type we have seen over the last few days.



Tip Jar 




Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Moment of Greatest Danger


The Writing on the Wall

With the incomprehensibly bloody and understandably merciless repulse of the hapless Ukrainian “Kherson counter-offensive”, and now the almost comical debacle of the bungled “commando raid” of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the decisive military operations of the Ukraine War have taken a giant step towards their long-foregone conclusion.


Russia will fully achieve the three objectives of its “special military operation” as explicitly stated by Vladimir Putin in his address to the world delivered on the opening day of the war: liberating the Donbass; excising the Nazi influence from the region, and demilitarizing Ukraine.


The demilitarization of Ukraine has assumed particularly gruesome proportions. What was the largest, best-trained, and best-equipped land force in Europe at the beginning of 2022 has been reduced to a pitiful shell of its former glory – close to 100,000 dead and twice that many permanently maimed. The troops now manning the front lines are a rag-tag assembly of mostly untrained conscripts, frequently forced at the point of their own officers’ rifles to face the massive artillery barrages of an enemy they will likely never see and at whom they will never even get a chance to shoot back before the shell with their name on it tears them to shreds at the bottom of a feces-littered foxhole.


To be sure, the Armed Forces of Ukraine still retain some dangerous long-range striking power in the form of a handful of surviving NATO-provided M-777 howitzers and whatever few rockets they have left for their dozen or so remaining HIMARS launchers.


But this war has reached the stage equivalent to Nazi Germany in mid-January 1945: the war is lost; everyone knows it is lost, and all that remains is the positioning in advance of the inevitable surrender, the unrestrained looting, and the occasional harassment of the never-say-die snipers who will fight to their last round of ammo and last drop of blood.


In other words, we’ve finally arrived at the most dangerous juncture of this conflict.


You see, as I have frequently observed, this war, at its deepest root, has always been an existential struggle between Russia and the rapidly declining fortunes and dominion of the long-since irredeemably corrupted American Empire.


Beginning with the fall of the Soviet Union, and continuing throughout the 1990s, the western vulture capitalists raced to divide, conquer, and despoil the unfathomable natural resource wealth of the former USSR. And indeed, in ten short years, they managed to extract a massive pile of treasure at Russia’s expense, only to be prematurely thwarted by the unforeseen rise of the previously obscure Vladimir Putin.


At first, the finely accoutered locusts believed they could manipulate Putin as easily as they had his immediate predecessors. But they were soon disabused of that fallacy. So then they began to pressure Putin and Russia by methodically assimilating into their “defensive alliance” all the previously unaligned nations that stood between NATO’s 1997 borders and the Russian frontier.


This, of course, awakened in Russia a sober sense of their increasingly precarious position, and in 2007, at the Munich Security Conference, Putin delivered a landmark speech wherein he put the Empire on notice that Russia was drawing a line in the sand beyond which it would not permit further NATO expansion. That line extended from eastern Poland to northern Armenia.


Predictably, Putin’s declarations were first mocked and then summarily dismissed.


I suspect this was the point at which Russia came to see that war was very likely inevitable in order to retain its sovereignty and security.


Nevertheless, Putin exhibited extraordinary patience. While initiating an aggressive military upgrade and expansion program, he bided his time for the next several years.


But with the threat to Russia’s strategic naval base in Syria and the US-orchestrated coup d’etat in Ukraine, he was compelled to act, albeit with considerable restraint, to alter the trajectory of events. He dispatched an expeditionary force to Syria to prevent the fall of the Assad regime at the hands of US-supported “moderate rebels”; he moved to reclaim historically Russian Crimea, and to much more aggressively support the ethnic Russian separatists in the Donbass region of Ukraine who were waging a tenuously balanced civil war against the US-installed regime in Kiev.


American designs in Syria were foiled. But the ongoing de facto NATO assimilation of Ukraine continued, as the US and its NATO allies set out to methodically construct what would eventually become the most formidable proxy army in history, with ambitions to lure Putin into a Slavic civil war that would sap Russian strength, mortally wound its still-fragile economy, and induce social unrest within Russia and discontent among its various loci of domestic power, and ultimately effect “regime change” in the Kremlin.


But, at every juncture, Putin out-maneuvered them.


Meanwhile, the decades-long superiority of Russian missile technology produced for Putin several trump cards in the form of long-range stand-off weapons capable of threatening prime US military assets virtually anywhere on the planet.


Armed with this “ace in the hole”, Putin’s negotiation posture was significantly fortified, and from 2018 onward he began to articulate much more forcefully that Russia would not abide any further NATO expansion towards its borders – most explicitly in the case of Ukraine, where the ambitious training and outfitting of a NATO proxy army continued apace.


Yet again, Putin’s warnings were mocked and dismissed.


Finally, when the overly confident Zelensky government in Kiev moved, in late 2021, to position its most experienced, best-armed, and best-trained forces in the Ukrainian-held western Donbass and in Mariupol, at the gate of the Crimean land-bridge – clearly preparatory to an attempt to subjugate the separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine and to eventually retake Crimea – well, Putin knew the moment of truth had finally arrived.


In late December 2021 the Russians crafted and forwarded to the US and its NATO vassals a document articulating in exhaustive detail Russia’s explicit demands for the roll-back of NATO to its 1997 borders.


Yet again Russia’s demands and warnings elicited scoffing summary dismissals from the United States and its submissive European colonies.


And so, the long-inevitable war began on February 24, 2022 and continues to this day.


Now, it must be clearly understood that the war in Ukraine is about far more than simply Russia reestablishing strategic depth on its western border and the re-assimilation of ethnic Russian populations into the motherland.


No, it is, as all the great powers of the planet very clearly recognize, about putting an end to unrestrained American hegemony – economically, politically, and militarily. At some level, there can be no question that this is now widely recognized as the second-order consequence of this war.


It is unquestionably recognized as such at the highest levels of imperial power in Washington, New York, and London.


The decisive defeat of its Mother of All Proxy Armies in Ukraine, and that defeat’s indelible demarcation of the high-water mark of imperial expansion, will accelerate the already commenced transition of the planet to a multipolar, balance-of-powers paradigm such as characterized the world prior to the advent of American global dominance in the post-World War II era.


Simply put, it marks the end of the American empire.


And, as such, we are now at the most dangerous moment humanity has faced in the previous three-quarters of a century – very possibly in its entire history.


Now we will find out what the self-anointed Masters of Empire will do when faced with the impending loss of their dominion over the earth.


Something tells me they are highly unlikely to shrug their shoulders, wax philosophical about the whole thing, gather up all their military toys, and go home. To do so would signal to all their colonies and vassals that the jig is well and truly up; NATO will effectively cease as a meaningful and credible alliance; the European Union as presently constituted will quickly dissolve.


That said, I have no capacity to predict what the imperial powers-that-be will do at this pivotal moment in human history, nor can I confidently anticipate what the consequences of their actions will be.


All I know is that the moment of greatest danger in all our lives is now bearing down upon us. At some point – likely sooner than later – those who wield the power and control the levers of empire will make a move to preserve its dominion.


I am personally convinced they will fail – and abysmally so – but almost certainly not without leaving oceans of blood and mountains of ashes in their wake.


Prepare yourselves accordingly …



 Tip Jar

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

In War, Losers Lie The Most


Russian Ministry of Defense Spokesman, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov


Over the course of the Ukraine War – or the “Special Military Operation”, as Russia is careful to term it – I have confidently concluded that one of the essential sources for reasonably accurate information regarding the far-flung combat operations in the theater is … The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense daily briefing.


Of course, those inclined to support Ukrainian perspectives on this war immediately rise up in arms at such a suggestion. “How could you possibly believe anything the Russians have to say? They lie about everything!


Well, I’m not typing out this brief missive in an attempt to disabuse the Russia-haters of the world of their fondest prejudices. That would be a fool’s errand, at best. But I will briefly explain the rationale I have employed to reach the conclusion that, in fact, the most accurate picture of ongoing Ukraine War combat operations available to the general public is, indeed, coming from the daily Russian MoD briefings.


First of all, I want to freely acknowledge that there is no way they can always be correct. The very nature of battle is fraught with inherent challenges to accuracy. Squad, company, and battalion commanders naturally inflate their successes and downplay their failures. Air defense crews and fighter pilots observe a clear hit on an aircraft, watch it fall to the full extent of their perspective, but sometimes fail to see that it somehow managed to recover before crashing into the ground, and then miraculously limped back to its base. These sorts of things are an unavoidable and not all that uncommon reality, and contribute substantially to the pervasive “fog of war” in any conflict.


Fully accurate data for a war takes years to emerge, and even then can be corrupted by inaccuracies that are never detected and corrected. So the best one can hope for in the midst of a war is a reasonably accurate “rough sketch” of what is really happening at any given time, as well as a constantly coalescing picture of what has really been happening over the course of time.


To achieve the latter, one must also examine the positional maps, taking into account which strategic locations are being won and lost, and what the general trajectory of operations suggests as reflected in the way the lines of contact move and evolve.


But the one thing, above all, that should be kept in mind is that, as a general rule, the side that is really winning is much more likely to tell the truth, and the side that is losing is, far more often than not, lying through its teeth.


Of course, this hardly means that the winning side always tells the truth. They may have very good reasons for lying, obfuscating, or simply having inaccurately ascertained what the truth really is.


On the other hand, the losing side, at the first realization they’re in over their heads, starts lying some of the time, and as their prospects deteriorate further, they quickly resort to lying nearly all the time.


Indeed, it becomes imperative to do so, both to shield troop morale from the full truth, and (as attested very notably in this particular war) also to reassure allies and benefactors that, despite a few “minor setbacks”, everything is actually going “according to plan”, and glorious victory is “just around the corner”, if only you keep helping us out with more weapons, guns, ammo, victuals, and coin to pay our ever-dwindling numbers of soldiers.


Also, it must be appreciated that, in any war, even a lopsided one, the dominating power is bound to make stupid mistakes on occasion, and incur an embarrassing setback that he will desire to deny, spin, or otherwise downplay. Similarly, if the weaker army pulls off a rare triumph, he will exaggerate its magnitude and relative significance, and will predictably forecast “much more of the same” going forward.


For these reasons, the determination of “things as they really are” in wartime can be a complex calculus – but nevertheless not outside the capability of the experienced observer/analyst to ascertain to a reasonably accurate degree.


And make no mistake, to any reasonably objective and knowledgeable observer/analyst not intellectually crippled by mindless bigotry or riven with ulterior motives, the Russians are winning this war, and winning it big. And therefore their natural inclination will be to tell the truth in order to lend weight to that perception in the public mind.


The mountains of propaganda that have dominated western media reports and the “expert analysis” of its stable of arms-manufacturer-funded think-tank monkeys and talking-head “retired generals-for-hire” have, unfortunately, irredeemably tainted the perceptions of those for whom these voices constitute their only sources of information.


I wish there were a way to scrape the scales of darkness from their eyes, but alas, I have concluded it is more or less futile at this juncture. For most, not even “settled history” many years down the road will dissuade them from resolutely clinging to their most cherished delusions.


In any case, as pertains to the regular daily briefings of the Russian Ministry of Defense, those who follow them closely, as I do, will observe that they are typically detailed, not apparently prone to exaggeration, and delivered in a totally matter-of-fact fashion – no superfluous commentary about “glorious victories” or “trampling the enemy under our feet”, etc. “Just the facts, ma’am.”


Furthermore, it must be understood that the Russians are also in a far superior position to know what has actually occurred on the battlefield. They have access not only to high-resolution satellite-based imagery, but more importantly to the countless hours of video shot every single day from their hundreds (thousands?) of loitering observation drones that are a constant fixture over almost every engagement of appreciable size.


That said, it is important to understand that, for obvious reasons, they’re absolutely not going to permit the general public and the OSINT practitioners of the world to have access to imagery as they see it. Instead, they consistently downgrade the resolution of shared video and still photos, and employ edits to remove any video footage they deem to be “privileged information” – such as what weapon is being used for an airstrike, or the angle from which it came.


As for the Ukrainians, it is apparent they no longer have a significant drone capability over the battlefield, and are therefore “flying blind” in a great many instances.


In conclusion, all perceptions of battle are distorted to some degree. Some things which are claimed to have happened may, on occasion, be substantiated with incontrovertible evidence of some kind: conclusive imagery, multiple credible witnesses, or the frank admission of the other side to an effectively undeniable loss or setback.


I would roughly estimate that the perception of truth of any given event, under the best of conditions – even for the respective combatants armed with far superior intelligence and imagery – probably never exceeds 90% accuracy. The general public, using open-source intelligence and reasonably reliable on-the-ground reporting, can optimistically hope for maybe 60% - 70% accuracy.


For these reasons, the acquisition of a knowledge of "things as they really are” in war is never an exact science. But it is an art that can consistently produce conclusions highly consonant with the objective facts of the matter.

Tip Jar 




Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The US Is Making Russia Incredibly Powerful


Russian Soldier in Ukraine

In one of my earliest posts on this fledgling blog (Why the US Could Not Win and Will Not Fight A War Against Russia – July 8, 2022) I wrote the following:


“… it bears repeating what I have argued multiple times in recent weeks: this war has seen the Russian military quickly evolve into a battle-hardened and quick-to-adapt fighting force. The US has not faced such a force since World War II.


“Many believe the US is a 'battle-hardened' force. This is utter nonsense. Of the many thousands of troops currently manning US combat units, only a minute fraction has experienced ANY battle whatsoever, and NONE have experienced high-intensity conflict such as is taking place in Ukraine.


“Indeed, I submit that one of the inadvertent and unforeseen byproducts of this war is that, even as the NATO-trained and equipped Ukrainian army has been devastated, the Russian army has been transformed into the single most experienced army on the planet.”


I continue to stand by that assessment. Indeed, I think it is even more strongly attested now than it was then.


Consistent with, but meaningfully elaborating on my thoughts, below I have taken the liberty to cite, in its entirety, a Telegram post from ASB Military News, dated August 29, 2022. It is reproduced with zero alteration, and I offer it without further comment.


ASB Military News is most definitely a friend to Russia, but in my estimation, its biases are almost always kept in check, its analysis is appropriately critical, and its conclusions consistently based on what most honest observers would admit is solid intelligence and empirical evidence – and when it is not, it is appropriately qualified.


I don’t know for certain, but my sense is that the channel is the product of a single individual, whose identity I do not know.


But given the maelstrom of falsehood and nonsense in which the thin strands of truth swirl these days, I want to recommend ASB Military News as a source offering an important viewpoint to consider.


The post below contains a unique specimen of that viewpoint:


There were miscalculations with the whole Ukraine situation.


Russia miscalculated. They miscalculated based on an outcome which worked for them 2x. It worked in Georgia and it worked in Crimea. Why would it not work in Ukraine? Of course they chose a tested strategy.


It failed — they pulled back and readjusted. Exactly as a professional army should.


Russian Armed Forces Adapt and overcome. You can catch them by surprise — but you better capitalize on it because it will not last long. They’ll always adapt and overcome. That’s what a professional army does, that is the whole point of military training, especially Russian training.


But do we know who miscalculated the most? — not Europe, not NATO, but the US. The US has failed spectacularly. American economists, think-tanks and analysts have completely fallen for their own propaganda. They really believed the story of Russia being a “gas station masquerading as a country”. That was a derogatory piece of propaganda that came out from the US years ago, it stuck with them and they eventually believed it.


They expected the Russian economy to fold; completely collapse and implode. This situation has showed how bad US intelligence is inside of Russia. They truly had no idea about the sophistication of the Russian economic model. Their own country slipped into recession and their allies overseas have been pushed into what is going to be one of the biggest economic and humanitarian disasters Europe has ever seen. — all thanks to the White House and its incompetence. The Russian Ruble is doing great.

Russian Manufacturing and service sectors are now generating bigger profits than before the sanctions and before the Ukrainian war.


Russia was not confident before. They always believed that they low-key need the west. They didn’t think they’re good enough. — now they found out that they are. They found out their economy is self-sufficient and that they can rely on themselves and their industrial power & economic influence in the world.


This is the wake up call Russia needed to move forward — And it will do so. Russia now knows that it can, that it is able and that it is strong. It knows it has some of the most competent politicians in the world — not driven by emotion, but by wisdom and analytical leadership.


No matter how you feel about politics, nobody can deny that Lavrov and Putin are today’s sharpest minds. There’s absolutely nobody that could fold either one of them in a discussion/negotiation — and again, Russia now knows that.


In conclusion, the US is making Russia incredibly powerful— from within: which is exactly where it was missing all these years.

Tip Jar

Friday, August 26, 2022

Proud of My Humility

An Excerpt from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin


My list of virtues contained at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list, giving an extensive meaning to the word.


I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.  I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own.  I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appeared or seemed to me some difference, etc.  I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly.  The modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.


And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me.  And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points.


In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride.  Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Tip Jar 


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

No-Fly Zone


Russian S-400 Long-range Air Defense System

I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the fact that western military analysts – even among those not burdened with the epidemic strain of virulent antipathy towards Russia – have not spoken much (if at all) about what I consider to be quite arguably the most impressive revelation of the war in Ukraine.


In addition to imposing a virtual “you fly, you die” rule against the Ukrainian Air Force and the various drones they employ, the Russians are, with a formidable array of air defense systems of varying capacities, routinely shooting down: ballistic missiles, MLRS rockets, HARMS anti-radiation missiles, and even artillery shells.

Russian Pantsir Short-range Air Defense System

They are also effectively employing a variety of electronic counter measures to: block signals to GPS-equipped ordnance; spoof the targeting radars of both satellites and radar-equipped missiles, and otherwise confuse the variety of targeting technologies employed in both older Soviet and American weapons being fielded by Ukrainian forces.


This is an absolutely unprecedented achievement on the battlefield.


Neither Israeli nor American systems have ever demonstrated the capability to routinely shoot down advanced missiles or rockets of any type.


Iraqi Scud missiles defeated the American Patriot missile defense system, as have much cruder missiles fielded by the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi targets ostensibly protected by American-provided US air defense systems.


More relevantly, Iranian missiles have proven to be much more formidable than was previously believed. And although it remains uncertain (or purposely unacknowledged) that US air defense systems were in the vicinity at the time, Iran dropped a couple dozen of their home-made ballistic missiles with 1000 lb. warheads within 5-meter circles at the US air base at Ayn al-Asad in Iraq during their “Vengeance for Soleimani” strike in January 2020. (Impressive drone video of the strike at that link.)


This is particularly embarrassing for the US, because they had prior warning, hours in advance, that a missile strike would be launched against Ayn al-Asad.


Even in strictly controlled tests against advanced ballistic missiles, the successful interception rate for US Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) systems falls far short of impressive.


And yet, after a handful of successful early strikes by Ukrainian forces, the Russians have now shot down the overwhelming majority of the Soviet-era Tochka-U ground-to-ground missiles Ukraine has fired over the course of the past six months.


The Tochka-U is a reasonably formidable weapon. Mach 5.3; 150 meter accuracy; variable warhead.


But other than a single ammo dump strike, there have been no successful Tochka-U hits on Russian targets since the third week of March 2022.


Dozens have been shot down.


By comparison, the US ATACMS missile is almost twice as large as the Tochka-U, with a longer range, but considerably slower speed (Mach 3+).


There is little reason to suppose the ATACMS can succeed where the Tochka-U has failed – at least if it is used against targets covered by Russian air defenses.


But, of course, it’s not just the ballistic missiles Russia is shooting down. They have been shooting down Ukrainian artillery rockets from the beginning of the war. And most recently, they are shooting down an impressive percentage of the HIMARS GPS-guided GMLRS rockets when they challenge air defense coverage areas.


And just in the past week, as yet unconfirmed evidence has emerged of a US HARMS (high-velocity anti-radar missile system) missile shot down by Russian air defenses. I suspect we’ll see additional evidences of that capability in weeks to come.


But what must be understood is that no military on the planet had, previous to the war in Ukraine, consistently demonstrated the capability to do what Russia has been doing routinely for the past six months: imposing from the ground what amounts to a reasonable facsimile of a no-fly zone over those areas of the battlefield where it has chosen to mass its air defenses.


To be sure, there have been missile and rocket strikes that have hit their marks elsewhere. And there have even been missiles/rockets that, when fired in large salvos, have, to varying degrees, successfully penetrated concentrated Russian air defenses, such as the batteries attempting to provide protection for the Antonovsky Bridge near Kherson. But even in these salvo attacks, the Russian Ministry of Defense consistently claims an interception rate of 50% or more.


The undeniable fact is that Russia is doing something that has never previously been done with any degree of regularity: shooting down incoming missiles and high velocity rockets.


I don’t understand why a bigger deal is not being made about this.


I am confident that Pentagon war planners are shaken to the casters on their fat leather chairs when they contemplate the significance of what they are seeing play out in Ukraine on an almost daily basis.


It is, in my estimation, a revolutionary development on the battlefield.


And it is a capability that no other nation has yet demonstrated.


Yes, yes, I know … there are some who will start shouting Iron Dome from the back of the room. But seriously … if anyone believes Israel’s Iron Dome is a proven system against advanced missiles or rockets, I'm sorry, but I've seen no evidence to support such faith. They have been used primarily to intercept the rather crude “bottle rockets on steroids” launched from the hapless Palestinians in Gaza – not hardly a glowing resumé.


It remains to be seen if Iron Dome can even stop the now-formidable arsenal possessed by Hezbollah in Lebanon.


As for Iranian missiles? I do not believe Iron Dome could intercept more than a minute fraction of them should a massed strike ever take place.


The bottom line is that Russia has now incontrovertibly demonstrated a reliable capability to intercept a large percentage of advanced missiles and rockets.


There is also very good reason to suppose they have not revealed their full capabilities in Ukraine, for fear of tipping off the US/NATO in advance of a potential confrontation against them.


In any case, the capabilities already manifest at this juncture appear to me to represent a likely war-winning advantage accruing to Russia in the event of a future conflict against the United States.




  Tip Jar



Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Former US Marine Corps Officer's Analysis of the Ukraine War

Russian TOS-1A Thermobaric Rocket Attack on Ukrainian Trench Lines



This article originally appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette August 2022 issue. Authored by an apparently frequent anonymous contributor ("Marinus") to the Gazette, it has since raised quite a ruckus among the United States military community in various online debates.


There has been much speculation – by no means definitively confirmed – that “Marinus” is none other that USMC Lt. Gen. (ret) Paul K. Van Riper, a long-revered champion of many Marines, and a prominent proponent of the so-called “Maneuverists” – a school of military thought strongly influenced by the work of the incomparable military strategist John R. Boyd.


Van Riper was also the iconoclastic Red team commander for the infamous 2002 Millennium Challenge war games, during which his forces (patterned after Iranian capabilities of the time) sunk the entire US naval fleet in the Persian Gulf by employing methods and capabilities the war game planners failed to consider in their rigid calculations. (I wrote about the Millennium Challenge 2002 debacle here: Lessons Never Learned.)


Whether Marinus is Van Riper, or a collaboration of Van Riper with his son (as some have conjectured, given that General Van Riper is now 84-years-old), or simply some other insightful former Marine officer is, in the final analysis, probably not all that important. What is important is that his observations and perceptions of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine are lucid, enlightening, and unsullied by the rampant anti-Russian prejudice that has blinded most in the west to both the underlying causes and now the prosecution of the war in Ukraine.


I highly recommend it, partly because it so strongly parallels my own analysis as originally posted in a Twitter thread on July 3, 2022, and subsequently expanded upon in a formal blog post on July 8, 2022: Destroying the Mother of All Proxy Armies in Ukraine.


I freely confess that I am posting the Gazette article without permission, and therefore it may not remain long if one of their representatives requests me to take it down. After all, they have it behind a paywall, and it only appears here because I just spent most of this morning carefully transcribing it in its entirety from a series of images widely circulating online.


In any case, I am strongly persuaded that the observations of Marinus contained therein ought to be shared far and wide. They serve the public interest in this unprecedented era of oppressive state-controlled social media and imperial propaganda.


If the anonymous author(s) or representatives of the Gazette desire to request that I take it down, I encourage them to contact me via my Twitter account: @imetatronink


- William Schryver, August 18, 2022



The Russian Invasion of Ukraine


Maneuverist Paper No. 22:


Part II: The mental and moral realms


by Marinus


When considered as purely physical phenomena, the operations conducted by Russian ground forces in Ukraine in 2022 present a puzzling picture. In the north of Ukraine, Russian battalion tactical groups overran a great deal of territory but made no attempts to convert temporary occupation into permanent possession. Indeed, after spending five weeks in that region, they left as rapidly as they had arrived. In the south, the similarly rapid entry of Russian ground forces led to the establishment of Russian garrisons and the planting of Russian political, economic, and cultural institutions. In the third theater of the war, rapid movements of the type that characterized Russian operations on the northern and southern fronts rarely occurred. Instead, Russian formations in eastern Ukraine conducted artillery-intensive assaults to capture relatively small pieces of ground.


One way to shed a little light upon this conundrum is to treat Russian operations on each of the three major fronts of the war as a distinct campaign. Further illumination is provided by the realization that each of these campaigns followed a model that had been part of the Russian operational repertoire for a very long time. Such a scheme, however, fails to explain why the Russian leadership applied particular models to particular sets of operations. Resolving that question requires an examination of the mental and moral purposes served by each of these three campaigns.


Raids in the North

American Marines have long used the term “raid” to describe an enterprise in which a small force moves swiftly to a particular location, completes a discrete mission, and withdraws as quickly as it can. [1]  To Russian soldiers, however, the linguistic cousin of that word (reyd) carries a somewhat different meaning. Where the travel performed by the team conducting a raid is nothing more than a means of reaching particular points on the map, the movement of the frequently larger forces conducting a reyd creates significant operational effects. That is, in the course of moving along various highways and byways, they confuse enemy commanders, disrupt enemy logistics, and deprive enemy governments of the legitimacy that comes from uncontested control of their own territory. Similarly, where each phase of a present-day American raid necessarily follows a detailed script, a reyd is a more open-ended enterprise that can be adjusted to exploit new opportunities, avoid new dangers, or serve new purposes.

The term reyd found its way into the Russian military lexicon in the late 19th century by theorists who noted the similarities between the independent cavalry operations of the American Civil War and the already well-established Russian practice of sending mobile columns, often composed of Cossacks, on extended excursions through enemy territory. [2]  An early example of such excursions is provided by the exploits of the column led by Alexander Chernyshev during the Napoleonic Wars. In September of 1813, this force of some 2,300 horsemen and two light field guns made a 400-mile circuit through enemy territory. At the middle point of this bold enterprise, this column occupied, for two days, the city of Kassel, then serving as the capital of one of the satellite states of the French Empire. Fear of a repetition of this embarrassment convinced Napoleon to detail two army corps to garrison Dresden, then the seat of government of another one of his dependencies. [3]  As a result, when Napoleon encountered the combined forces of his enemies at the Battle of Leipzig, his already outnumbered Grande Armée was much smaller than it would otherwise have been.

In 2022, the many battalion tactical groups that moved deeply into northern Ukraine during the first few days of the Russian invasion made no attempt to re-enact the occupation of Leipzig. Rather, they bypassed all of the larger cities in their path and, on the rare occasions when they found themselves in a smaller city, occupation rarely lasted for more than a few hours. Nonetheless, the fast-moving Russian columns created, on a much a larger scale, an effect similar to the one that resulted from Chernyshev’s raid of 1813. That is, they convinced the Ukrainians to weaken their main field army, then fighting in the Donbass region, to bolster the defenses of distant cities.

Rapid Occupation in the South

In terms of speed and distance traveled, Russian operations in the area between the southern seacoast of Ukraine and the Dnipro River resembled the raids conducted in the north. They differed, however, in the handling of cities. Where Russian columns on either side of Kyiv avoided large urban areas whenever they could, their counterparts in the south took permanent possession of comparable cities. In some instances, such as the ship-to-objective maneuver that began in the Sea of Azov and ended in Melitopol, the conquest of cities took place during the first few days of the Russian invasion. In others, such as the town of Skadovsk, the Russians waited several weeks before seizing areas and engaging local defense forces they had ignored during their initial advance.

In the immediate aftermath of their arrival, the Russian commanders who took charge of urban areas in the south followed the same policy as their counterparts in the north. That is, they allowed the local representatives of the Ukrainian state to perform their duties and, in many instances, to continue to fly the flag of their country on public buildings. [4]  It was not long, however, before Russian civil servants took control of the local government, replaced the flags on buildings, and set in motion the replacement of Ukrainian institutions, whether banks or cell phone companies, with Russian ones. [5]

Like the model of the reyd, the paradigm of campaigns that combined rapid military occupation with thoroughgoing political transformation, had been part of the Russian military culture for quite some time. Thus, when explaining the concept for operations on the southern front, Russian commanders were able to point to any one of a number of similar enterprises conducted by the Soviet state in the four decades that followed Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in 1939. (These included the conquest of the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1940; the suppression of reformist governments in Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, and the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.) [6]

While some Russian formations in the south consolidated control over conquered territory, others conducted raids in the vicinity of the city of Mykolaiv. Like their larger counter-parts on the northern front, these encouraged the Ukrainian leadership to devote to the defense of cities forces that might otherwise have been used in the fight for the Donbass region. (In this instance, the cities in question included the ports of Mykolaiv and Odessa.) At the same time, the raids in the northern portion of the southern front created a broad “no man’s land” between areas that had been occupied by Russian forces and those entirely under the control of the Ukrainian government.

Stalingrad in the East

Russian operations in the north and south of Ukraine made very little use of field artillery. This was partially a matter of logistics. (Whether raiding in the north or rapidly occupying in the south, the Russian columns lacked the means to bring up large numbers of shells and rockets.) The absence of cannonades in those campaigns, however, had more to do with ends than means. In the north, Russian reluctance to conduct bombardments stemmed from a desire to avoid antagonizing the local people, nearly all of whom, for reasons of language and ethnicity, tended to support the Ukrainian state. In the south, the Russian policy of avoiding the use of field artillery served a similarly political purpose of preserving the lives and property of communities in which many people identified as “Russian” and many more spoke Russian as their native language.

In the east, however, the Russians conducted bombardments that, in terms of both duration and intensity, rivaled those of the great artillery contests of the world wars of the twentieth century. Made possible by short, secure, and extraordinarily redundant supply lines, these bombardments served three purposes. First, they confined Ukrainian troops into their fortifications, depriving them of the ability to do anything other than remain in place. Second, they inflicted a large number of casualties, whether physical or caused by the psychological effects of imprisonment, impotence, and proximity to large numbers of earth-shaking explosions. Third, when conducted for a sufficient period of time, which was often measured in weeks, the bombardment of a given fortification invariably resulted in either the withdrawal of its defenders or their surrender.

We can glean some sense of the scale of the Russian bombardments in the east of Ukraine by comparing the struggle for the town of Popasna (18 March – 7 May 2022) with the battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945.) At Iwo Jima, American Marines fought for five weeks to annihilate the defenders of eight square miles of skillfully fortified ground. At Popasna, Russian gunners bombarded trench systems built into the ridges and ravines of a comparable area for eight weeks before the Ukrainian leadership decided to withdraw its forces from the town.

The capture of real estate by artillery, in turn, contributed to the creation of the encirclements that Russians call “cauldrons” (kotly). Like so much in Russian military theory, this concept builds upon an idea borrowed from the German tradition of maneuver warfare: the “battle cauldron” (Schlachtkessel). However, where the Germans sought to create and exploit their cauldrons as quickly as possible, Russian cauldrons could be either rapid and surprising or slow and seemingly inevitable. Indeed, the successful Soviet offensives of the Second World War, such as the one that resulted in the destruction of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, made extensive use of cauldrons of both types.

Freedom from the desire to create cauldrons as quickly as possible relieved the Russians fighting in eastern Ukraine from the need to hold any particular piece of ground. Thus, when faced with a determined Ukrainian attack, the Russians often withdrew their tank and infantry units from the contested terrain. In this way, they both reduced danger to their own troops and created situations, however brief, in which the Ukrainian attackers faced Russian shells and rockets without the benefit of shelter. To put things another way, the Russians viewed such “encore bombardments” not merely as an acceptable use of ordnance but also as opportunities to inflict additional casualties while engaging in “conspicuous consumption” of artillery ammunition.

In the spring of 1917, German forces on the Western Front used comparable tactics to create situations in which French troops advancing down the rear slopes of recently captured ridges were caught in the open by the fire of field artillery and machine guns. The effect of this experience on French morale was such that infantrymen in fifty French divisions engaged in acts of “collective indiscipline,” the motto for which was, “we will hold, but we refuse to attack.” [7]  (In May of 2022, several videos appeared on the internet in which people claiming to be Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the Donbass region explained that, while they were willing to defend their positions, they had resolved to disobey any orders that called for them to advance.)

Resolving the Paradox

In the early days of the maneuver warfare debate, maneuverists often presented their preferred philosophy as the logical opposite of “firepower/attrition warfare.” Indeed, as late as 2013, the anonymous authors of the “Attritionist Letters” used this dichotomy as a framework for their critique of practices at odds with the spirit of maneuver warfare. In the Russian campaigns in Ukraine, however, a set of operations made mostly of movement complemented one composed chiefly of cannonades.

One way to resolve this apparent paradox is to characterize the raids of the first five weeks of the war as a grand deception that, while working little in the way of direct destruction, made possible the subsequent attrition of the Ukrainian armed forces. In particular, the threat posed by the raids delayed the movement of Ukrainian forces in the main theater of the war until the Russians had deployed the artillery units, secured the transporting network, and accumulated the stocks of ammunition needed to conduct a long series of big bombardments. This delay also ensured that, when the Ukrainians did deploy additional formations to the Donbass region, the movement of such forces, and the supplies needed to sustain them, had been rendered much more difficult by the ruin wrought upon the Ukrainian rail network by long-range guided missiles. In other words, the Russians conducted a brief campaign of maneuver in the north in order to set the stage for a longer, and, ultimately, more important campaign of attrition in the east.

The stark contrast between the types of warfare waged by Russian forces in different parts of Ukraine reinforced the message at the heart of Russian information operations. From the start, Russian propaganda insisted that the “special military operation” in Ukraine served three purposes: the protection of the two pro-Russian proto-states, “demilitarization,” and “denazification.” All three of these goals required the infliction of heavy losses upon Ukrainian formations fighting in the Donbass. None, however, depended upon the occupation of parts of Ukraine where the vast majority of people spoke the Ukrainian language, embraced a Ukrainian ethnic identity, and supported the Ukrainian state. Indeed, the sustained occupation of such places by Russian forces would have supported the proposition that Russia was trying to conquer all of Ukraine.

The Russian campaign in the south served direct political aims. That is, it served to incorporate territories inhabited by a large number of ethnic Russians into the “Russian World.” At the same time, the rapid occupation of cities like Kherson and Melitopol enhanced the deceptive power of operations conducted in the north by suggesting the possibility that the columns on either side of Kyiv might attempt to do the same to cities like Chernihiv and Zhytomyr. Similarly, the raids conducted north of Kherson raised the possibility that the Russians might attempt the occupation of additional cities, the most important of which was Odessa. [8]

Guided Missiles

The Russian program of guided missile strikes, conducted in parallel to the three ground campaigns, created a number of moral effects favorable to the Russian war effort. The most important of these resulted from the avoidance of collateral damage that resulted, not only from the extraordinary precision of the weapons used, but also from the judicious choice of targets. Thus, Russia’s enemies found it hard to characterize strikes against fuel and ammunition depots, which were necessarily located at some distance from places where civilians lived and worked, as anything other than attacks on military installations.

Likewise, the Russian effort to disrupt traffic on the Ukrainian rail system could have included attacks against the power generating stations that provide electricity to both civilian communities and trains. Such attacks, however, would have resulted in much loss of life among the people working in those plants as well as a great deal of suffering in places deprived of power. Instead, the Russians chose to direct their missiles at traction substations, the remotely located transformers that converted electricity from the general grid into forms used to move trains. [9]

There were times, however, when missile strikes against “dual use” facilities gave the impression that the Russians had, in fact, targeted purely civilian facilities. The most egregious example of such a mistake was the attack, carried out on 1 March 2022, upon the main television tower in Kyiv. Whether or not there was any truth in the Russian claim that the tower had been used for military purposes, the attack on an iconic structure that had long been associated with a purely civilian purpose did much to reduce the advantages achieved by the overall Russian policy of limiting missile strikes to obvious military targets.

The Challenge

The three ground campaigns conducted by the Russians in Ukraine in 2022 owed much to traditional models. At the same time, the program of missile strikes exploited a capability that was nothing short of revolutionary. Whether new or old, however, these component efforts were conducted in a way that demonstrated profound appreciation of all three realms in which wars are waged. That is, the Russians rarely forgot that, in addition to being a physical struggle, war is both a mental contest and a moral argument.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine may mark the start of a new cold war, a “long twilight struggle” comparable to the one that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Empire more than three decades ago. If that is the case, then we will face an adversary who, while drawing much of value from the Soviet military tradition, has been liberated from both the brutality inherent in the legacy of Lenin and the blinders imposed by Marxism. What would be even worse, we may find ourselves fighting disciples of John R. Boyd.



[1] Headquarters Marine Corps, MCWP 3-43.1, Raid Operations (Washington, DC: 1993).

[2] For the adoption of the concept of the “raid” by the Russian Army of the late nineteenth century, see Karl Kraft von Hohenlobe-Ingelfingem (Neville Lloyd Walford, translator), Letters on Cavalry, (London: E. Stanford, 1893); and Frederick Chenevix Trench, Cavalry in Modern Wars, (London: Keegan, Paul, Trench, and Company, 1884).

[3] For a brief account of the reyd, which was led by Alexander Chernyshev, see Michael Adams, Napoleon and Russia, (London: Bloomsbury, 2006).

[4] John Reed and Polina Ivanova, “Residents of Ukraine’s Fallen Cities Regroup under Russian Occupation,” The Financial Times, (March 2022), available at

[5] David M. Glantz, “Excerpts on Soviet 1938-40 Operations from The History of Warfare, Military Art, and Military Science, a 1977 Textbook of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces,” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, (Milton Park: Routledge, March 1993).

[6] The classic work on the French mutinies of 1917 is Richard M. Watt, Dare Call It Treason, (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1963).

[7] Michael Schwirtz, “Anxiety Grows in Odessa as Russians Advance in Southern Ukraine,” The New York Times, (March 2022), available at

[8] Staff, “Russia Bombs Five Railway Stations in Central and Western Ukraine,” The Guardian, (April 2022), available at

[9] For an example of the many stories that characterized the 1 March 2022 television tower strike as an attack on civilian infrastructure, see Abraham Mashie, ”US Air Force Discusses Tactics with Ukrainian Air Force as Russian Advance Stalls,” Air Force Magazine, (March 2022), available at

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