UPDATE: Mark Sumner
I had seriously hoped no one would treat “Ukraine needs Western tanks” as an opportunity to clean out the barn. But this is making me worry.
Reuters is reporting that the next $2.2 billion U.S. aid package will contain unspecified “longer-range rockets.” Perhaps splitting hairs here, but ATACMS would likely be “long-range rockets,” not “longer-range.” Still, given Russia’s difficulties running logistics 25 kilometers past a rail depot, pushing those out another 70-80 kilometers would add to Russia’s supply misery.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Reports that Russia is massing forces in Kreminna for an attempted offensive in hopes of pushing Ukrainian troops back from Kuzmyne and Dibrova. Considering how many “big Russian offense coming!” warnings there have been in the last two weeks at different points of the line, it’s hard to know how seriously to take this … but the reports are out there.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Russia has made another unsuccessful, high-cost attempt at Vuhledar. It seems they are determined to turn this location into a second Bakhmut when it comes to throwing Russian forces away. Two differences: The troops being lost are high value Russian naval forces, and Vuledar actually has tactical / strategic value in its control over north-south highway and rail lines.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
As we’ve covered several times, maintaining some of the heavy equipment sent into Ukraine is a challenge — and a much bigger challenge when your repair depots are under bombardment and electrical infrastructure under constant attack. In the case of several pieces of Western equipment sent into Ukraine, that means they’re getting hauled back out of Ukraine when major repairs are needed.
The Wall Street Journal has an article up covering one such repair location in Poland, and the extraordinary efforts being made to get equipment in, fixed, and sent back to the front.
In addition to the repair work in Poland, the mechanics are in constant contact with technicians in Ukraine—many of whom were civilians before the war—teaching them over encrypted apps how to repair everything from tanks to missiles.
“That one actually arrived here in the worst condition we have seen,” says engineer Mirosław Surowaniec, pointing to the revitalized Krab, one of 10 guns repaired in recent months. “The entire gun barrel was missing, the body badly damaged.”
This is a vital and rarely covered necessity. No military in the world could keep fighting in a war of this duration and intensity without an army of repair specialists working to cycle equipment back to the fray.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
This smoking slice of Mordor was once a town of 9,000 people. Then Russian “liberated” it.
Over the last four days, Russia’s progress around the city of Bakhmut can be summed up this way: There isn’t any. Claims that they had surged past the town of Klishchiivka and were about to overrun Ivaniske on the south appear to have fizzled out along the line of a drainage canal that has proved to be an effective obstacle. The previous push on the north that saw Wagner Group forces move into Soledar appears to have not advanced in the last two weeks, and very well may have lost ground in the area east of Krasna Hora.
This isn’t to say that Russia did not gain ground over the last month in the Bahkmut area. That little town of Bakhmutske northeast of the city, now some 4km behind the line, was on the line back in November. However, the impetus that seemed to be carrying Russian forces to incremental advances on both side of Bakhmut appears to have stalled out, returning to the days of small forces being sent forward to their annihilation, followed by more of the same.
Already, there are hints that Russia is about to face another round of mobilization, so they can scrape together another mass of “mobliks” to grind down Ukrainian defenders at Bakhmut and other locations along the line. But Wagner Group appears to have another idea. Why not recruit Americans to do the job?
There’s a tagline for the original Night of the Living Dead movie that goes like this: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” The Wagner Group version of this saying appears to be, “When there’s are no more desperate men to be dragged out of Russian prisons to throw at Bakhmut … recruit some Americans.”
The video may or may not be an actual production of the Wagner Group. To quote pro-Russian bloggers when they’re pretending that Ukraine hasn’t just liberated Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Kherson … time will tell. But whoever put together this “true patriot” video did an admirable job of touching Americans right in the Q-center. From the footage of Jan. 6 “patriots” to the final scenes that crib part of the atomic blast from Terminator 2, it’s a love letter to anyone who ever thought it would be great to scream “Wolverines!” only while working for the Russia,s
Will this video actually send some Americans looking for the nearest Wagner recruiting station? Unknown. But it’s tempting to wish them success in this venture. Sending Americans to Ukraine who believe in Wagner’s idea of “the patriot” might be the best thing for both nations.
In another example of just how sympatico Russia and certain American factions are, this past week, Fox News was once again running a series on how American cities had been utterly destroyed by the violent hordes of antifa. This time, it was Atlanta that was burned to the ground in a “night of rage.” And no, they weren’t talking about Sherman. But it’s just one of many cities that have been converted into a “Mad Max Hellscape.”
From the Russian publication, It’s My City comes the story of 63-year-old Galina Antonova from the village of Tavatuy. Her apartment has no gas, and no heat. In fact, it’s so cold in her home that the contents of her refrigerator froze. There should be running water, but the cesspool filled up some time in the 1990s, and no one has ever come to pump it out.
Her building is collapsing, with cracks that run through the walls, and a roof that sags down to allow patches of the sky to peek through. What heat the whole building occasionally gets comes from an aging coal stove that belches black smoke and fumes, and that’s on the rare occasions they manage to get coal. She can’t get anything repaired, because she’s told everyone who can fix things has been called up by the mobilization. In fact, her son and grandson are both being recruited by Wagner, even as the dead are being shipped back to the village from the Ukrainian frontlines. Galina is okay with this.
There’s no school in the village, no internet, and only spotty cell phone service. But they do have electricity and Galina does have a television set. A television set on which she watches Russian state media, and that has given her a firm idea of
”It's good that Putin still started the military action in Ukraine,” she said. “Otherwise, we would now be running and hiding. Of course, there are also many dead among our people, but what to do ... As they said in the movies: ‘There is such a profession - to defend the Motherland.’”
Her neighbor, a 62-year-old retired railroad worker, agrees. He spends his time watching the programs “Who is against” and “Time will tell” on Russia Channel One—programs dedicated to showing how Russia will ultimately be the only power remaining when Western nations fail. And he agrees with them. About everything. “Well, why, everyone is right,” he says.
There’s been a tendency to flip between the idea that the illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is Vladimir Putin’s crime, and the idea that this is a war in which all of Russia is to blame. Both things can be true at once. Putin’s hand is on the tiller, but don’t expect anyone to complain about the direction of the ship.
Another day, another confusing and almost certainly temporary line when it comes to what weapons the West is willing to provide to Ukraine.
Now that the barrier on Western-made tanks has been broken, Ukraine has made no secret of what else it wants to win the fight against Russia: Aircraft and longer-range missiles. A squadron of modern multipurpose fighter jets would help Ukraine add a taste of air superiority into its combat along the front, as well as act as a platform to strike down Russian aircraft and launch missiles into Russian-occupied areas. Surveying the available craft, there seems to be a general agreement that the American F-16, introduced to service in 1978 but vastly upgraded over the years, would be the best fit for Ukraine’s needs.
As with the German Leopard 2 tanks, there seem to be several nations indicating that they would be happy to lend Ukraine some of their F-16s. There have also been reports that analysts at the Pentagon believe sending F-16 jets to Ukraine would be a good move, and there have been reports about the U.S. training Ukrainian pilots to operate the “Fighting Falcon.”
So it had to be extremely frustrating for Ukraine when President Joe Biden told a reporter at a news conference on Monday evening that the U.S. would not be sending F-16 fighters to Ukraine. Biden’s answer on whether the U.S. intended to send the planes was simple: “No.”
Also on Monday, the U.K. stated that it would not be sending any planes, with the Ministry of Defense falling back on the idea that Western jets are “very sophisticated” and require “months of training.” To which Ukrainian pilots would likely reply … nothing that can be accurately translated.
Now even some of the nations that appeared to be on the edge of handing over the keys on their F-16s seem to be making “not right now noises.” Meaning that, once again, Ukraine is stuck behind one of those artificial lines separating them from the weapons necessary to efficiently end this war.
But don’t worry. Biden and other Western leaders will probably change their minds and the jets will eventually go to Ukraine … after the next huge Russian war crime leaves enough broken bodies on the ground to make them realize just how ridiculous this particular line in the metaphorical sand happens to be. Then they’ll draw another one.
These guns are impressive both in the speed with which they can set up, their accuracy of fire, and the way the loading system lets them pop off six rounds in under two minutes. This could be a very handy weapon in counterbattery fire, where Ukraine can bring them in, get off enough fire to suppress Russian artillery, and get out of there before drones or fire control computers are able to locate the Caesars.
When it comes to Russian artillery, for weeks the number of areas targeted and the number of shells being used was dropping day over day. Many reports associated this with a series of Ukrainian strikes against ammunition depots in Russian-occupied areas and increased difficulty for Russia in bringing in new materiel.
However, around the first of the year, things started to ramp back up again. Not only did Russia fire profligate numbers of shells both in the area around Bakhmut and to the south at Vuhledar, the number of reported sites struck overnight ticked up to 111 towns and villages—the highest number since before Russia was forced to surrender Kherson. However, in the last week, the number has dropped steeply again, with 80 settlements struck on Monday.
On a trendline, the total number of artillery strikes from Russia continues to decline. Does this mean that Russia is running short of shells, or that it has decided that expending these shells in areas where it has no hope of advancing is pointless? Either way, the decline has to be welcomed by both Ukrainian forces and the civilians still living in these settlements.
It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these. Crank up the beat!
Markos and Kerry are joined by University of St. Andrews Professor of Strategic Studies, Phillips P. O’Brien. O’Brien, an expert in military history, explains how we got to where we are right now, what is unique about the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the parallels between the conservative movement’s isolationism in World War II and now.