More to ignore, Book 51..........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Zelenskyy says Ukraine won't give up land; sanctions against Russia likely permanent
Hunter

In a Kyiv interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again vowed that Ukraine wouldn't be negotiating away territory in exchange for a Russian end to the war. Zelenskyy dismissed the idea not out of bluster, but for a more fundamental reason: There's no evidence that Russia would abide by any such agreement.

"I don't trust the Russian military and Russian leadership. That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv, from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction, it doesn't mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won't come further towards Kyiv."

A Russian annexation of the Donbas region might temporarily end hostilities, if Ukraine agreed to it, but Russian government figures and state media have repeatedly emphasized that all of Ukraine ought to be annexed, just part of a larger goal of reclaiming ex-Soviet lands in an attempt to return Russia to something resembling it prior superpower status. Ukraine's government has ample reason to believe that turning over eastern Ukraine lands to Russia would simply put new Russian military bases even closer to Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities. It's a deal not likely to happen unless Ukraine's defenses truly begin to collapse in the face of Russian attacks—and the latest analysis of the frontlines continues to show little evidence Russia can muster any attacks more successful than the ill-coordinated and poorly supplied Kyiv assault.

The most likely scenario continues to be either stalemate or an outright Russian loss. Regardless of battlefield conditions, however, it is now likely that economic sanctions against Russia will last indefinitely. The Biden administration and European Union officials are now moving forward to craft new long-term policies cutting Russia off from western markets permanently. Win or lose, Russia will end the war as an international pariah state, and sanctions will likely remain in place at least until Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin's retirement or death. And they will last much longer than that, if the Russian oligarchs that ransacked their own military and fired, arrested, or killed anyone who objected to their hollowing-out of the country. For Russia, world isolation will once again be the new normal.

Some of this weekend's news:
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Monday, Apr 18, 2022 · 1:36:53 AM EDT · kos
Yeah, it’s real. And internal fires blackened the ship’s exhaust portholes:



FQlUNguUYAAdo63


It was stormy when it got hit. It wasn’t so stormy when it sunk. But these pictures at least confirm that yes, the ship survived into morning before it went down. The initial strike happened around 7 pm local time.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Ukraine makes a play for Izyum salient supply lines
kos

If you’ve been seeing the words “Izyum salient” from me and Mark Sumner lately, it’s because the Russian-held city is one of two pivotal cities for Russia’s designs on the eastern Donbas front. In short, with little progress pushing out from pre-invasion rebel-held territory (in purple below), Russia is attempting to encircle entrenched Ukrainians from Mariupol in the south, and Izyum in the north. The effort looks like this:

pincer.png


That body of water you see northeast of Izyum is the Oskii river. Ukraine has blown the river crossings, forcing Russia to loop to its north to get to Izyum. Reinforcements and supplies coming in from Russia have to travel down those same roads, which are in range of Ukrainian artillery pounding them from the west.



A military salient is a projection into enemy territory, and the Izyum salient is particularly long and exposed. There are an estimated 15,000 troops around Izyum according to Ukrainian General Staff, and they’re all dependent on those long supply lines to feed a combat unit’s exhaustive ammunition, fuel, spare part, and food demands. So while Russia tries to push that salient further south, Ukraine is working to cut off those supply lines.

war.png


Kupiansk is at the crossroads of everything. The rail lines from Russia, and others from the Russian-occupied east, connect to the city, making it a natural resupply point for this entire front.



If the Ukrainians were to somehow reach the city, the Izyum salient would be fully cut off.

And they’re trying! This weekend Ukraine liberated a handful of settlements to Kharkiv’s southeast. At the same time it also made headway pushing Russians north of the city toward the Russian border. Given that there’s no real danger of a Russian offensive on the city, why expend the effort? Russian artillery can still strike Kherson from across the border in Russia, but it would now be out of range of Ukrainian artillery striking those supply lines south of Kharkiv. Additionally, Ukraine might want to avoid the creation of a “Kupiansk salient,” thus the need to secure that northern flank.

All that said, there is a Ukrainian salient forming, so why isn’t Russia raining artillery on those advancing troops? This is what the terrain looks like around those newly liberated settlements:

terrain.png


Like the rest of the region, it’s flat, mostly open farmland, punctuated by the occasional grove of trees (which are still not fully foliated). There’s no reason Russia couldn’t pound advancing Ukrainians the way Ukraine pounded that Russian supply column in the video above. Down south near Kherson, similar open terrain has hampered Ukraine’s offensive to take the city, as approaching Ukrainians face a barrage of artillery fire. It’s one major reason Ukraine has been begging for more artillery, counter-battery radar, precision-guided rounds, and suicide drones. Without artillery, Russia is nothing. Yet here, in one of the main Russian gathering spots, Russia doesn’t seem able to bring any extra guns to bear.

North of Izyum, some pro-Ukrainian sources are claiming Ukraine is counterattacking east of Izyum, up the eastern bank of the Oskil. Careful with those claims, as it is
Russia attacking south along that bank:

FQla-dyXoAAGMe3-2.png


Ukraine general staff claims they repelled an attack on Lozove on Sunday. Note how strategic that little hamlet is. If Russia takes it, they will be one step closer to securing an east-west connection between the Russian-occupied east and Izyum. Russia knows full well how tenuous and exposed its supply lines currently are, and is actively working to establish a more direct, more secure route.

Yet cracks are starting to appear in Russia’s war efforts. For one, separatist forces have been moved to the Izyum area. While Russia might prefer using proxy forces to avoid death notices back in the Motherland, fact is, they are next to useless. Untrained, unmotivated, and fully aware that they are nothing more than cannon fodder to the Russians. Where are all those supposedly elite troops pulled out of the Kyiv and Sumy axes? They don’t seem to be making their way back into Ukraine in the expected numbers.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian General Staff announced that “In the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk [Donbas] regions, ten enemy attacks have been repelled, fifteen tanks have been destroyed, twenty-four units of armored and ten units of automobile equipment, as well as three enemy artillery systems.” As usual, the claimed equipment losses are less interesting than the daily confirmation that Russia continues its piecemeal drip-drip-drip attack strategy. Rather than gather its forces for one major overwhelming assault, it spreads out its combat power along numerous under-resourced attacks with little chance of success.

Yesterday’s 10 attacks are more than the five to six daily attacks we’ve been seeing the last few weeks, so tempo might be increasing. But if a major offensive were genuinely in the wings, why waste men and equipment on these doomed strikes? I maintain that Russia is incapable of fully opening the spigot.

For its part, Ukraine continues its consistently successful rope-a-dope strategy of trading land for blood any time it is dislodged from its prepared defenses (like the city of Izyum). Look at this video of a Russian armored vehicle heading south of Izyum toward the front lines:



As it drives, look at the armored vehicle graveyard it’s passing, and then take a look at the direction of the cannons: all pointing south. These are almost all Russian vehicles, destroyed on their southern approach. Every meter costs Russia equipment and troops it can no longer easily replace, while extending frail supply lines they struggle to protect and maintain. And while that terrain is mostly flat and open, there are also trees growing their spring leaves, and destroyed houses perfect for future ambushes. In this salient, Russia only controls the roads, and even so, only tenuously.

The Izyum weather forecast is fantastic:

w.png


General Mud will be around for a while. Plenty of time for Ukrainian artillery to keep pounding cold, wet, miserable Russians and separatists waiting to die. Also time for new Ukrainian artillery to arrive, adding to the pressure.

Russia’s pipe-dream pincer maneuver ain’t happening. And at this point, neither is any major offensive.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine Update: There's no 'off ramp' for Putin as Russia's weaknesses are laid bare to all
kos

The Economist:

This unexpected weakness of Russia in military matters arises from four concurring causes, of which three are inherent in her system, and, if not absolutely incurable, are at best little likely to be cured ...
The Russian armies are often armies on paper only. Not only are their numbers far fewer than are stated in official returns & paid for out of the official purse, but they are notoriously ill-provided w everything necessary to the effective action of a soldier ...
The colonels of regiments & officers of the commissariat have a direct interest in having as large a number on the books and as small a number in the field as possible, inasmuch as they pocket the pay and rations of the difference between these figure ...
[E]very pair of shoes or great coat intercepted from the wretched soldier is a bottle of champagne for the ensignor major; every ammunition wagon which is paid for by Government, but not provided, is a handsome addition to the salary of the captain or the contractor …
This horrible and fatal system originates in ... Russian autocracy ... Then the power of the Autocrat, absolute as it is and vigorously as it is exercised, is utterly insufficient to meet the evil. What can a despot do who has no instruments that can be trusted? ...

[T]ill a free Press be permitted in Russia & encouraged to unveil and denounce abuses; till the rights & feelings of annexed territories be habitually respected, we do not think that Russia need henceforth be considered as formidable for aggression. She has been unmasked.

That pretty much sums up Russia’s problems … in 1854. The more things change, the more Russia remains awful in how it treats its neighbors, how it treats its people, and how it manages to maintain its vast empire despite repeatedly shooting itself in the face with rank incompetence and grift. Well, some things change: Champagne has been displaced by vodka. Likely cheaper, quantity over quality.

Although Russia suffered a number of defeats, Emperor Nicholas II remained convinced that Russia could still win if it fought on...As hope of victory dissipated, he continued the war to preserve the dignity of Russia by averting a "humiliating peace"."

Oh boy, things really don’t change, do they? As of now, Vladimir Putin is still projecting confidence. After meeting with Putin face to face, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the Russian dictator “believes he’s winning the war.” But can he really be believing that? It’s kind of like Donald Trump, right? Does he really think he won in 2020, or is he full of shit? We’ve reentered a zone in which logic is severely lacking.

But at some point, that reality will have to kick in. What if May 9 rolls around and there’s no major Donbas victory to trumpet in Putin’s precious World War II parade? What if all he has to show for his folly is the remaining husk of Mariupol, along with the deaths of tens of thousands of his soldiers, tens of thousands more injured and maimed, the humiliating retreat from Kyiv, the even more devastating loss of the Moskva, and international pariah status? Boy, that FIFA World Cup will sure be fun without Russia’s participation, and yeah, Russian fixation with McDonald’s is weird, but they can’t even indulge in that.

Among its war rationales, Russia claims it needed to prevent a NATO country on its border.

surrounded.jpeg


Prior to the invasion, there was one NATO nation bordering mainland Russia (as opposed to the Kaliningrad outpost on the Baltic Sea): Norway, with a 121-mile strip in the Arctic. Russia also shares a maritime border with the United States. Neither of those are near Russia’s most important region for its ruling elite: that around Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Now Finland and Sweden are both enroute to becoming NATO members by summer. Finland has a 1,335-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, and just as terrifying for Russia, that border is just 400 kilometers (250 miles) from St. Petersburg. In fact, Russia’s Winter War with Finland was fought, in part, to push the Finnish border further away from that key Russian city—something Stalin got at the cessation of hostilities with the annexation of the Karelian Isthmus. Rather than prevent the encirclement of Russia by NATO nations, Russia has actively encouraged it.

The United States can hardly believe its luck. The combination of a resurgent European commitment to its collective defense in the number of nations joining the alliance, the commitment to increased defense spending, and the movement toward a European Union military force all mean that in the mid- and long-term, the United States can shoulder less of the European burden as it seeks to counter China’s increased aggression out east.

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have formalized their Aukus alliance, and Japan might be next. Everyone is currently denying it but it seems logical, particularly as Japan debates whether to ask the United States to host nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China. South Korea begged off joining but a new, more militarily hardline government won recent election, so who knows. Taiwan would join in a heartbeat, desperate as it is for explicit security guarantees, but the situation mirrors Ukraine’s. No one wants to dare China to attack. As is, the anglophile-only alliance has a severe colonial bent, reflecting the United States’ longstanding challenges in formalizing any “Asian NATO” analog. But that’s a discussion for another day.


Back to Russia: How does Putin save face and salvage any sort of real victory in Ukraine? How does he avoid the 2022 version of Nicholas’ “humiliating peace?” Pre-invasion, there was a great deal of diplomatic effort expended on giving Putin an “off ramp,” and he could’ve gotten something out of it, like a NATO promise to avoid permanent bases in the Baltic nations and Poland and information sharing during military exercises. Russia could’ve maybe gotten Ukraine to refrain from NATO membership for X number of years. But now? No one is feeling charitable toward a war criminal, and Russia’s battlefield performance isn’t scaring anyone anymore. Ukraine is certainly in no mood to compromise on anything. They’ve been too busy burying their murdered civilians to give Putin any charitable “off ramp.”

So the war will continue until the Russian government and military establishment finally do something about Putin, and then we hope nuclear weapons remain tightly buttoned up in the chaos that ensues.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy formally submitted a completed questionnaire on European Union membership to an envoy on Monday and said he believed this step would lead to his country gaining candidate status within weeks.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen handed the questionnaire to Zelenskiy during a visit to Kyiv on April 8, pledging a speedier start to Ukraine's bid to become a member of the EU following Russia's invasion of the country. read more

[…] The deputy head of Zelenskiy's office said earlier on Monday that he expected Ukraine would be granted candidate status in June during a scheduled meeting of the European Council, which comprises leaders of EU member states........
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Why the Battle for Donbas will be very different: While the world nervously awaits the opening salvo of the Battle of Donbas, many in the West are optimistic. Others believe that the exceptional military performance demonstrated by the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) in repelling – and then driving out – Russian forces around Kyiv, will reprise their effort and again blunt Russia’s offensive in the Donbas and eventually outright win the war.

A careful – and honest – assessment of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, however, should dispel such notions.

The longer Kyiv and its Western backers persist in maintaining the belief that Ukraine can win the Battle of Donbas and eventually the war, the more bitter the result if the UAF eventually proves incapable of driving the Russians from the field.

It should be said right upfront, however, that the task for Kyiv isn’t wholly impossible, but it is exceedingly difficult. There is a chance that the Ukrainian troops and civilian defenders could exact such a high price in blood and iron on Russia’s Donbas attack that after some extended amount of time, Russian troops withdraw on their own.........