This is good an update of Bakhmut situation as any:
Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin bragged that it had “legally” captured Bakhmut by capturing some administrative buildings. Still, that’s not where Ukraine’s next line of defenses are set up, and no one cares what Wagner lawyers think about the situation.
The flanks, manned by Russian troops, are still sitting quietly. All the action is in central Bakhmut, leading to speculation that the Russian army is allowing Ukraine to resupply the city in order to rid themselves of Wagner once and for all.
Damn, Russia still can’t use the rail part of the Crimean bridge!
That operation proved gold. Rail is far more efficient than trucks for ferrying war supplies to the front.
Oh, this is cool, using technology to help find land mines.
There are new conspiracy theories that this is all staged. Because nothing can happen in today’s world without conspiracies, and especially not when rightwing wackos are concerned.
Today, let us count the ways that Vladimir Putin has screwed himself and Russia.
Finland joins NATO
Putin pretended to invade Ukraine because it might one day join NATO. The problem, of course, wasn’t that he felt threatened by NATO. It was that NATO would prevent the kind of invasion he launched last year.
Now, thanks to Putin’s stupidity, NATO has enlarged for real, and now includes a country that shares a long border with Russia.
Sweden will soon join the alliance (likely after the Turkish elections mid-May). But already, Lake NATO is a thing. Russia’s naval access to the Atlantic was always restricted by NATO countries Norway and Denmark, but the noose has tightened further.
Today, Russia threatened to beef up its military presence on the Finnish border, and everyone had a good laugh. We’ve seen Russia’s arctic equipment, formerly based around St. Petersburg near the Finnish border, burning in Ukraine. They’ve emptied the area. Finland could waltz into St. Petersburg, reclaiming all the land it lost in the Winter War of 1938 if it so wanted. (It doesn’t.)
What it means is that Finland’s significant intelligence-gathering operation, designed to protect itself against Russia, is now at NATO’s disposal and will soon be plugged into the alliance’s overall intelligence machine. It took less than a year for Finland to abandon its traditional neutrality to join an alliance now clearly designed to contain Russian aggression. Great job, Vlad.
NATO is energized
The last American president was ready to pull the United States out of the transatlantic alliance. Few alliance members were spending 2% of the GDP on defense, as required by the treaty. France was talking about starting its own European army, while everyone else ignored them. Germany had let its armed forces fall into disrepair.
With Europe getting most of its energy supplies from Russia, and with France and Germany particularly eager to boost their relationship with Russia, there seemed little need for the alliance.
A few more years of this and the alliance may have ended up ineffective out of sheer neglect. No one is questioning the need for NATO anymore.
Germany and Japan rearm
World War II’s biggest losers spent the last 90 years or so limiting both the size of their militaries and their engagement in foreign conflicts. The weight of their historical crimes weighed heavily on any actions that might be deemed militaristic by their neighbors—many of which suffered greatly during WWII. Those days are over.
Both Japan and Germany are now in the process of rethinking their roles in the world. Germany is slowly but surely committing to rebuilding its neglected military and, even more importantly, using its significant financial, economic, and latent military power to engage in the Ukraine War—something it resisted at the start of the war, when it was still desperately trying to talk sense into Putin.
Japan is moving forward more confidently, not just growing its military (to Russia and China’s great alarm), but in more aggressively posturing a joint defense of Taiwan against Chinese aggression. (A more in-depth look at that phenomenon can be seen here. That article was written before Russia’s invasion. Events have only sped up since then.)
Poland is becoming a global military power
Poland is in the midst of a massive military buildup, one that will feature more than 1,000 modern battle tanks, F-35 fighter jets (the most advanced in the world), hundreds of pieces of artillery, and a mind-boggling 486 HIMARS rocket artillery launchers. They are doubling the size of their army from its current 180,000.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia’s answer to NATO, is all but dead
The “alliance” of central Asian states included Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Armenia is all but out, given the lack of help it has received dealing with military tensions with Azerbaijan. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are literally shooting each other across their border, with Russia’s absence creating a power vacuum in the region. And Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan signed a new security agreement with China, which has been happily horning in on Russia’s old stomping grounds. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all. I’ve written more extensively about the collapse of Russian influence in Central Asia here. Relations between Russia and Kazakhstan have become openly hostile.
At least Putin still has Belarus. For now.
China keeps its distance
Days before the war broke out, Russia and China signed an alliance proclaiming a “friendship without limits.” Then the war happened, blindsiding China, and we’ve since learned of many limits to their friendship.
Despite offering Putin a diplomatic boost, the recent visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping was a bust. China continues to deny Russia access to much-needed munitions, particularly artillery shells, and China continues to take advantage of Russia’s economic woes by purchasing its fossil fuels at below-market values.
They may talk about bolstering their alliance and friendship, but it’s increasingly clear that Russia is fast becoming a Chinese vassal state. Russia has zero leverage to exert in their relationship. China doesn’t need anything Russia offers.