ISW Ukraine Campaign Assessment, May 1 Posted by Walrus.


Herewith the latest missive from the Kagan clan.

Comment: Readers should note the Kagans extraordinary circumlocution in the first sentence in their efforts to downplay what appear to be Russian gains:

Russian forces are setting conditions to establish permanent control over the areas of southern Ukraine they currently occupy, either as nominally independent “People’s Republics” or by annexing them to Russia.

One would normally say “Russian forces are consolidating their gains” but the very idea sticks in ISW’s throat.

Of course as Col. Lang reminds us, we must assess source and content independently.

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45 Responses to ISW Ukraine Campaign Assessment, May 1 Posted by Walrus.

  1. Barbara Ann says:


    Short and right on point. You provide the perfect foil to TTG’s opinions on this subject. Where else can one read such a healthy diversity of opinions?

  2. morongobill says:

    As stated before, rephrased, neocons founded and control this ISW, take it with a grain of salt.

  3. Steve says:

    Over the weeks since this war began I’ve noticed that many of the western news agencies have relied on reporting by Ukrainian nationals to cover the story. In some ways this makes sense in terms of access to front lines, and of course the ability to speak Ukrainian.

    However the downside to this has been considerable in terms of what they will or will not report and in some cases such as the maternity hospital there have been fabrications. An AP team was caught out spinning a yarn that was very far from the truth of what occurred there. The reporter’s version of events clashed with those of civilians exiting the city and giving on-the-fly interviews to journalists when they reached safety.

    The anger and emotion displayed in the filmed interviews is raw, with no hint of stage management or even questioning from the Russian and/or foreign journalists. The stories are just spewed out in a torrent that lends almost total credibility to their testimony.

    Now I’m wondering whether at least one agency – AFP – seems to have abandoned the use of local reporters – or at least supplemented it with less chauvinistic versions of reality. I hope this will continue and enable us to get an occasional view through the fog. Here is one such.

    • Leith says:

      Steve – Regarding your Yahoo link:

      After ten weeks of heavy combat on the line, the 81st deserves a week of rest. Well deserved I’d say. To not pull them out of the line for a break would be foolish. Was it the entire brigade or just a single company or battalion?

      It does not look like a retreat when the article you link to mentions them passing “a truck loaded with long-range missiles dashing to the front”. I wonder who replaced them. Besides, Oleksandrivka where they were just pulled out of appears to be still under Ukrainian control according to maps by both Jomini of the West and Jerome at The Russians are heavily shelling nearby at Krymky, but apparently have not moved into Oleksandrivka.

      • Steve says:


        Look at the details of leadership (youth sent to lead before finishing his training), rank and file age (draftees, some over-age. Where are the young infantrymen?) , availability of medical care…

        It looks to me that this company, already undermanned by NATO standards. Is this the original unit to cobbled together? The descriptions in the article indicate not only physical exhaustion but a strong possibility of emotional breakdown after weeks and perhaps months under shellfire. This is WW1 “shellshock” country.

        We’ve seen mass surrenders and retreats these past two weeks and I’m not at all surprised. This company had already retreated from Izyum (it seems) and I doubt 1 week away from the front will be sufficient to make them battle ready.

        But our governments will continue with their cheerleading in pursuit of their highly improbable goals. The Russians seem to mostly have what they came for and it’s time for the Ukrainians to seize back their agency and come to terms.

        • Bill Roche says:

          Can you come to terms w/Putin who says Ukrainians don’t exist? If the Russians have got what they came for, Donbass and a watered Crimea, then why not stop killing Ukrainians as far away as Lv’ov? B/h all the baloney this is really a war of ethnic denial. If Ukrainians continue to insist on their separate identity Putin will kill them until those left are subdued and agree. It’s as simple as that. The Spanish govt has found a way to get along w/Basques. Finns and Stones, essentially the same people, leave each other alone. Czechs and Slovaks peacefully went separate ways, the English no longer send armies against the Gael. What is it about the “great Slavs” that prevent them from accepting their neighbors as sovereign? B/c Putin is stuck in 1914 is no reason for the rest of Europe to accept his delusion. So far the Ukrainians have not agreed to absorption into the Russian amoeba. I wish them well.

          • Steve says:


            Can you send me a link to a speech/speeches in which Putin has made such declarations?

            I’ve seen the ones where he’s said the Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” but I’ve missed the genocidal ones to which you allude, though I have seen such stuff from some Ukrainians.

          • Barbara Ann says:


            Yes, Putin has made speeches in which he describes Russians and Ukrainians as “one people”. However, it is clear he believes some people are more equal than others in this brotherhood. He let the mask slip with the following comment in his February 21st speech:

            “You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine.”

            This of course was a thinly veiled threat to return Ukraine to its status prior to 1917 within the Russian Empire – i.e. end its existence as an independent state.


          • Steve says:

            Barbara Ann,

            One could read that comment in many ways. Genocide isn’t one of them. Perhaps he’s talking about corruption or maybe his denazification comments. But the NYT and WaPo – among many others – seem to have done that job for him. They no longer exist so we can stop imaging them.

        • Leith says:

          Steve –

          You may be right about the 21-year-old Louie who had to leave the academy four months early. On the other hand that kind of thing is not unheard of here and elsewhere in the West. During Viet-Nam the Corps reduced the length of OCS and also of officer infantry training at The Basic School in order to feed the demand for platoon commanders. I believe the Army did something similar but admit to having no personal knowledge of that. Many of those butterbars did very well despite some of the exaggerated stories of incompetence. I would bet both Col Lang and TTG and many others here were damned fine 2nd Lieutenants in their youth.

          Availability of medical care? Your article clearly states they were being treated medically. And I saw nothing in that write up that suggested shellshock. Are you doing a drive by psychiatric diagnosis after reading one article?

          Undermanned by NATO standards? Of course they would be undermanned after ten weeks of combat. I saw similar manning issues over 50-plus years ago: 18-man rifle platoons, and 80 to 90 man rifle companies.

          Mass surrenders? Just one that I know of in Mariupol. Southfront tried to claim that 260 odd remnants of the 503rd Ukro Marine Brigade surrendered. But that brigade is still fighting in Azovstal Iron & Steel Works; their commander is still broadcasting from there. And wasn’t there some duplication in the video of those that surrendered, more deep fakery? The fog of war is bad enough without Putin adding smoke and mirrors.

          The Ukrainians ain’t going to lay down and say uncle no matter how much land Putin steals. If Putin takes over the entire country (doubtful) he’ll be facing a guerrilla war for decades. I suspect he’ll pull out and go home to declare victory and all his goals accomplished after the last defenders in Mariupol are too weak from hunger to resist.

          • English Outsider says:

            Leith – the Western press ignores entirely the fact that the Ukrainian war is not only a proxy war. It’s also a civil war and has been for eight years.

            I think therefore that if we look at this war as no more than “land stealing” we ignore its most important element.

            That is, that the people of the Donbas no longer wish to live under the rule of Kiev.

            After 2014 and the ATO that’s set in stone. There’s a history there that cannot be rewritten. I believe it would be very difficult even for the Russians to persuade or force them to accept rule from Kiev now.

            They have their own army, the LDNR forces that are now reckoned to be up to 50,000 strong. For eight years they have been fighting for their survival against people who regard them as Untermenschen to be killed or driven out. I’m pretty sure they have been taking by far the heaviest casualties since it was they rather than the Russian forces in the toughest fighting.

            After all that, never mind about NATO getting them back under the rule of Kiev. I doubt even the Russians could make them accept it.

            And after the final collapse of Minsk 2 on February 21st it’s obvious the Russians no longer intend to try. The Donbas is lost to Kiev for good.

            Serve Kiev right, I say. If the Texans had fallen out with Washington, and Washington had sent a horde of neonazis down to subdue them, I doubt you’d find a whole lot of Texans flying the Stars and Stripes any more.

          • Leith says:

            EO –

            Thousands of people in the Donbas back in 2014 wanted nothing to do with the Russian backed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. They were forced into it by threats, torture, and extrajudicial executions by Russia’s so-called volunteers.

            You are correct in saying “There’s a history there that cannot be rewritten.” The world knows well that Minsk 2 was sabotaged by Putin and his ethno-nationalist ideologues and neo-imperialists. They wanted all of the Donbas instead of just their tiny enclaves in the southern end of Donetsk & Luhansk Oblasts. And they wanted chunks of Kharkiv Oblast also. Hence their continuous shelling of villages on the Ukrainian side of the line of control. And then blame shifting it onto Kiev in ad hominem attacks. I believe that is called ‘projection’ by most of the world.

            This is not a civil war. Ukraine is not a fief of the Russian Federation. Why does Putin want more territory? Russia is already the largest country in the world, with 12.5% of the Earth’s landmass.

    • fredw says:


      I don’t see anything in the article that seems surprising or alarming. These guys have been on the line for a month. What do we expect them to look like? This is not a game or an exercise they are conducting. Routines and procedures get preempted by life and death and exhaustion. Emotions are bound to be raw. If the US were invaded, would we expect soldiers in training to say “Sorry. Can’t help. Not qualified until I graduate.”? On this one point Rumsfeld got it right. You go to war with the leaders you have and they do the best they can. Which seems to have been a pretty good best. Ordinary standards of neatness don’t apply.

      My own Vietnam warzone experience never reached this intensity. Thank God. But the descriptions are consistent with my experience of war. I am having trouble expressing the attitudes that people develop, but the soldiers’ behavior seems normal to me.

      • Steve says:


        The point of my posting the AFP article – written by a French journalist – wasn’t because I was surprised by it. Having worked at the sharp end of 10 wars, most way below this level of intensity, I’m fully aware of the toll combat takes on the individual and the units involved.

        What is important about the piece is just how much at odds it is with the narrative maintained in the heavily controlled western media. This war isn’t being fought by grandma or pretty Ukrainian models, it’s young inexperienced officers leading men well beyond the age and fitness levels that would constitute an effective fighting force but still dragooned into frontline service while so many of those more suitable did a runner into Poland.

        Meanwhile the propaganda being pumped into the western press by unscrupulous politicians and their enablers is encouraging the support of our populations for their criminally insane policies of continuing to pour obsolete weaponry into the country, in what is nothing but a “forlorn hope” that the Ukrainians will somehow become an effective battering ram in the US’ proxy war. This is sick and it’s sickening.

  4. downtownhaiku says:

    Very interesting to compare Hird, Barros, Kagan with views of Andrei Martyanos.
    Martyanos thinks it’s all over in eastern Ukraine, just Russia mopping up surrounded Ukraine forces.
    Also some speculation about Odesa.
    Martyanos was USSR navy/coast guard, born in Baku.
    Latest video interview here:

    • Always write says:

      You do realise that the Soviet coast guard was part of the KGB

      just as the current Russian coast guard is part of the FSB

      your man Martyanov has zero credibility

      He’s blinded by his own pro Kremlin propaganda, can’t wait to read his blog once it’s apparent that Russia war is lost

      • zmajcek says:

        Martyanov has lost it in my opinion. His every other sentence is how Russian army is great and the West has no idea what war is etc etc.
        He is not alone in this. Several US analysts are doing exactly the same thing. Rather than deal with cognitive dissonance, they just ignore every information that goes against their dogmas.

        I remember before this war started Andrei was even playing with the idea that just a part of the Belorussian army might be sent in and “deal” with “poor” Ukrainian armed forces.

        The saker is similar.

        The saker on the other hand was “reading” the pre war situation as an indication that Kermlin just wants to make the population of the Donbass “republics” migrate to Russia. Once it was obvious that Russia intends to invade, take and keep the territory, he changed his tune completely, and now it all about the glorious Russian army and how victory is a done deal.

        • Stadist says:

          Saker and Martyanov have lost about all the credibility they might have had. No information that’s coming actually from the ground supports what they have been saying for weeks. If everything or most what they said was true, Russia should have taken everything east of Dniepr/Dnipro several weeks ago. Most definitely there is outright propaganda among the western reporting, but the russophile media and people make far more extreme claims (and yes, lies) than the western ones, and this isn’t actually even debatable, it’s just plain obvious.

          And currently the russophiles are painting themselves to corner by building up excuses how this spezialna operatsija is actually conflict with NATO, on ukrainian soil. And NATO, naturally, is the aggressor. War is Peace, and Freedom is Slavery. Remember even in Winter War with Finland, it was Finland that decided to invade the Soviet Union, according to the soviets – how convenient for all the soviet forces mustered for attack. Russians and russophiles are so deep in their own lies it’s hard to figure out what they themselves consider lies and reality any more. Something something yadda yadda NATO enemy.

          • Philip Owen says:

            Saker’s credibility in 2014 was earned by translating Girkin for English speakers. Since then he has published drivel.

        • English Outsider says:

          zmajcek – I have a fondness for “The Saker” dating from eight years ago. Before I discovered SST, and Professor Robinson, it was the information I got there that first alerted me to the fact that what I was reading in the press wasn’t always what was actually happening.

          The site was different then. I’m not sure where it’s gone since but those early bulletins from not long after the coup I still remember. They turned out to be accurate by the way.

          Mr Martyanov’s site I came across only recently, though I think he’d submitted comments to the Colonel’s site a while back.

          The Combined Arms Operations he talks of were first successfully used by the British army at the end of the First World War. So one is familiar with the term though not the practice. Open to correction but I’m pretty sure that’s much the same as the Multi Domain Operations TTG writes about.

          The amateur need know little more about such things than that. It’s enough to know that armies directed in such a way, and with the equipment to allow them to operate in such a way, have little chance of failing if put up against armies not so directed and equipped.

          That’s why what we’ve done with our proxies in Ukraine is criminal. We’ve trained up and equipped the Kiev forces but not to that level. We’ve deliberately put them up against forces that do operate on that level. We’ve sent a boy to do a man’s job. While making sure we ourselves don’t have to fight.

          That’s also why the Kiev forces are so thoroughly disillusioned. You can hear it in Zelensky’s utterances. Kiev would never have dared go up against the Russians had they not believed that NATO would come in to back them up. And NATO hasn’t.

          So the unfortunate soldiers of Kiev join a long line of neocon proxies who were encouraged to start the scrap but when it came to it, found their sponsors weren’t there for them.

          As for the predictions mentioned, I don’t know what those two sites were saying pre-February 21st but most got it wrong anyway. It renders this comment too long, I’m afraid, but how the affair was regarded our side of the Atlantic is relevant.

          I had regarded all the manoeuvres and chest beating merely as a preliminary to getting the Germans to cancel NS2. Call me a fool and you’d be right, but many others so regarded it.

          I remember a most amiable and well-informed German on an English site stating that Scholz had it all in hand. Give it a few months and it’d settle down. Scholz would tell Biden and his neocons to go jump in the lake and NS2 would come on stream.

          I wasn’t so sure. American policy since Trump/Grenell had been to get the Germans to drop NS2. Those two were forever lecturing Berlin about it. Part of the effort to wean Germany off Russian trade and get them firmly in the anti-Russian camp. I reckoned Biden might well succeed where Trump had failed. But I looked no further than that and I can assure you neither did most.

          Since then my amiable German has gone full Barbarossa. Before February 21st he was reckoning that Scholz would put Baerbock back in her box and get NS2 in use. Afterwards, he was regarding Baerbock as the best of the bunch and wanted to hammer the Russians mercilessly.

          Thing is, that blogger wasn’t just a lone voice. From contacts I’ve spoken to and from what I read in the press, Germany’s now on board with the neocon agenda and is going to stay that way. Most of my contacts are soft liberal, incidentally, so you can tell what a transformation that’s been!

          In fact we Europeans, to the dismay of Mrs Yellen, are now more hawkish than Washington –

          – but pre-February 21st few foresaw it would blow up like this and there’s no pretending we did.

          I think Colonel Macgregor might have been sounding the alarm beforehand, but I wasn’t reading him then. There could have been others. Around that time I was looking at what some very sharp American military analysts in the think tanks were making of the situation and there was warning enough there. But I didn’t heed it. Most of us were fixated on the NS2 issue and looked no further.

          So unless the people you mention had had a direct line to Washington and Brussels there’s no shame in them failing to predict what happened either.

  5. Degringolade says:

    I just read that Germany is “donating” 50 Leopard One tanks to the cause.

    That being said, I was wondering:

    1.) I am wondering what the training requirements will be for these. Germans aren’t really known for their simplicity of design (after all, the tanks were made by Porsche). If they are as complex as most things deadly, I am wondering if these will ever be used.

    2.) Even if they were able to be thrown into the fray quickly, the Leopard one was debuted in 1965. I think that they might be useful against T-62’s but against more modern weapons? This can also be said about the Gepard AA that Germany so politely “donated”.

    3.) I am beginning to think that the weapons donations coming from NATO countries might be “placation modules” to give them time to figure out what side their bread is buttered on.

    Who knows. I still feel that I don’t have a handle on WTF is going on there and it appears to me that the “muddying of the waters” is intensifying. But the Kagans and the Martyanovs are getting a little shrill. I still listen to both of them, but the area between the lines are almost worthless.

    It would be lovely if we could get some decent, unbiased information.

    • TTG says:


      I don’t know how complicated those old Leopards are. They are old technology. Those Gepard AA guns are also old, but they are ideally suited to deal with Russian drones. The onboard radars are perfectly tuned for just that threat. They’ll be doubly effective if paired with modern MANPADS. I thought they’d be a waste of time until I learned this. Even those old Leopard tanks and the Polish T-72s are useful if employed as Rommel intended tanks to be employed, for breakthroughs and pursuits in rear areas against soft targets and artillery. As least the Leopards won’t be prone to decapitations.

    • Jimmy_W says:

      It appears that the “Leopard Ones” are actually the Gepard 35mm AAAs. The way people talk, it is difficult to tell what they are referring to sometimes.

    • Al says:

      From Defense One blog today:

      The U.S. military has already sent Ukraine more than 5,000 Javelins under President Biden; Washington’s allies have sent Kyiv another 500 from their own stocks. And that frenetic pace of donations—possibly as much as a third of America’s total inventory, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies—has led observers to question how soon those U.S. stockpiles can be replenished. Those observers include our colleague, Marcus Weisgerber, who addressed the issue in our latest Defense One Radio podcast and in his recent reporting.

      Other weapons assembled at Troy include Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM); Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM); Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGM); and Hellfire missiles.

      Employees at the Pike County plant cranked out close to 13,000 missiles last calendar year, according to the White House, which adds: “Currently, the facility has the capacity to produce up to 2,100 Javelin missiles, 468 JASSM and LRASM missiles, 11,000 air-to-ground missiles, and 96 THAAD missiles per year.”

  6. Tom67 says:

    I try to understand war through a Christian lens. What is a just war and what is not. If you do that you encounter many ambiguities. I believe that Pat Lang does that as well. And also understands that every person is failable. We should be humble in trying to understand what is going on. So thanks a lot for Pat Langs blog.

  7. Degringolade says:


    Russian Ruble SPOT (TOM)

    That part needs some re-thinking.

  8. blue peacock says:

    This interview of Anatol Lieven, currently a visiting professor at King’s College London and senior fellow at the Quincy Institute, is well worth a read.

    Michael Bluhm: What did Putin see in Ukraine?

    Anatol Lieven: He would agree with the late U.S. national-security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who wrote that Russia ceases to be a great power without it. As long as Russia keeps Ukraine as a satellite or a subordinate, Russia is a vital power on the world stage. Without Ukraine, Russian power is vastly reduced.

    Then there’s the fear, which you can call paranoid, that America is going to establish Ukraine as a military base, expel Russia from its naval base at Sevastopol and its remaining positions in the Caucasus, and blockade the Russian enclave in Moldova.

    There’s also an intense nationalistic feeling that you could hear continually intensifying in Putin’s statements: Ukrainians are a brotherly people who belong with Russia—though younger brothers, of course. There’s a depth of emotionality in the attitude to Ukraine that doesn’t apply to Georgia, Moldova, or the Baltic states. It’s this idea that Ukrainians are family, and Ukrainian behavior before the war was a betrayal within the family. Historically, large parts of Ukraine were conquered by Russia from the Turks, not by Ukraine. The feeling is, These areas naturally belong in Russia—and if Ukraine was going to turn against Russia, Russia was damn well going to take these areas back.

    This provides IMO the most plausible explanation for the Russian invasion. The inability to accept that Ukraine was slowly but surely moving away from Mother Russia.

    There has been much debate about what are Russian objectives among the SST correspondents. To quote Anatol Lieven – “The Russian Blob believes that Russia must be a great power and one pole of a multipolar world. Even many Russian liberals, who’ve opposed much of what Putin has done, are nonetheless wedded to this vision of Russia.” This strikes to the heart of the matter – relevance on a global stage. IMO, Putin and his military general staff miscalculated Ukrainian resolve and capability. They believed that the Zelensky government was a Potemkin Village and rushing across the border on multiple fronts would collapse the government. Whatever the outcome of the war in the months ahead, the perception of Russian military strength has been shattered in the corridors of power from Beijing to London.

    • Steve says:


      The question to ask is why did the US want Ukraine? It couldn’t have been to seize a strategic warm water port, could it? As always, the Washington blob couldn’t think beyond their imagined first order consequences, never mind the next three.

      Here are the French MoD maps for April. I think they somewhat belie the Ukrainian/Washington narrative.

    • Worth Pointing Out says:

      “There has been much debate about what are Russian objectives among the SST correspondents.”

      The best source of that information is…. the Russians.

      “Anatol Lieven:”….

      Who is not a Russian.

      …. “He would agree with the late U.S. national-security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski,”….

      Who, obviously, was also not a Russian.

      So you are divining what Putin – who is Russian – is thinking by listening to the babblings of a Briton who claims that Putin thinks like a Polish-born American.

      And that seems a sensible thing to do because….. because.

      He’s another idea: look at what Putin says, and look at what Putin does, and deduce from that what Putin is thinking.

      Because I’m pretty certain that he isn’t thinking “I wonder what Zbigniew would do in my shoes?”

      • Sam says:

        “…look at what Putin says, and look at what Putin does,..“

        Putin invaded Ukraine.

        As of now it doesn’t really matter what his motives or goals were in ordering his military into Ukraine. The Ukrainians now also have a say. And they’re resisting the Russian military. And the west is supporting them.

        In many ways the game is just beginning. They’re only some 70 days into it. Let’s see what Putin and Zelensky do in the next 70 days. And the 70 days after that.

        • Worth Pointing Out says:

          “Putin invaded Ukraine.”


          “As of now it doesn’t really matter what his motives or goals were in ordering his military into Ukraine.”

          It does w.r.t. other countries and their estimation of what they should – or should not – be doing in support either Russia or Ukraine.

          “The Ukrainians now also have a say.”

          Indeed they do, and I would not deny that.

          But I repeat: I am talking about how other countries that aren’t called “Ukraine” should react to this armed conflict.

          And, once more, yet again: how they “should react” (which is not at all the same as how they “will react”) should be informed by their understanding of why Russia did what it did.

          To do otherwise is simply to knee-jerk a reaction, which is never a good look and usually ends badly.

          And this is an undeniable truth: not every country is seeing this armed conflict through the same lens as “the West”.

  9. Tidewater says:

    I see the possibility of an envelopment forming.

    There has been a lot of fighting as Russia pushes columns south in the area of Lyman and Yampil. Lyman is a small red-brick railroad hub in a bend on the north side of the Donets River. A passenger traveling down from Izium would have a stopover at Lyman, then cross the river and arrive at Kramatorsk after about a two-hour trip. This means that Lyman could be reinforced by rail down from Russia. It would not matter that bridges are down all along the river, including a railroad bridge. Distances are not great in this region. If an artillery firebase was established at Lyman, for example, it would put Slovyansk, within range. A large arc of the open country east of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk towards what I would call the ‘fortress cities’ of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk could be brought under heavy artillery bombardment if a desperate decision was forced upon Ukrainian forces for a breakout west because a successful siege finally made staying put in the deep bunkers impossible.

    Twitter has shown that there has been intense fighting in Popasna. There are reports of an unusually strong concentration of Russian forces in this area. There are videos of close combat by Wagner Group and others in suburban house-to- house fighting. It seems evident to me that Russia has been making steady grinding progress through this well-defended urban area which has taken weeks of combat, and I surmise that Russia intends to push west.

    If there were a breakout by a thin column from Popasna west that swerved north to join up with a column coming down from the Lyman, Zarichne, Yampil area and deliberately avoided and bypassed another Festung city, this one being Kramatorsk, the trap could be closed. This would present a deadly invitation to the Ukrainian army to come out from cities both to the east and west of the thin siege columns into the artillery kill zones in an attempt to destroy them. For to remain in the deep bunkers would mean defeat.

    How long would such a siege take? I don’t know. But I do see a cauldron that could form. I don’t think things look good for the important fortress city of Severodonetsk.

  10. Mishkilji says:

    Walrus is too hard on ISW in this specific case. The ISW paragraph links the results of Russia’s military action to the political aims of asserting sovereinty over economic exchanges in newly acquired territory. It is Clausewitz distilled. The statement implies the Ukranian military will be unable to challenge this emerging reality.

    • Philip Owen says:

      The Ukrainian reserves are assembling. 600,000 of them potentially although I doubt that many will get to the starting line. Their experience and training will not, mostly, be so recent as the regulars but they will be mush better equipped than the present army. Supplying such a jumble of equipment will be troublesome but numbers will tell too. There will be a Ukrainian offense. Russian realities on the ground will change negatively unless they do a deal, very favourable to Ukraine, soon. Seems unlikely.

      Russia has fewer facilities for mobilization. Most were closed during the Serduykov reforms. Also, even if Putin mobilizes on 9 May, it will be the Epiphany Frosts (January) before any can be used effectively.

    • English Outsider says:

      Mishkilji – ” … the political aims of asserting sovereingty over economic exchanges in newly acquired territory. It is Clausewitz distilled.” That’s a beautiful definition of the aims of a war of conquest.

      I’m not sure, however, that that’s the sort of war we’re seeing at the moment.

      The reality we’re looking at in the Donbas is a partial encirclement near the old line of control. In this area the Ukrainians have their best troops. They might also be feeding into this area further troops and equipment.

      This serves the aims of the Russians. Their aims are demilitarisation and denazification. The partially encircled troops in this area will either be killed, and thus the Azov elements with them. Or they will surrender, the POW’s either disarmed and sent home or, if Azov, detained and presumably tried and imprisoned. Either way both Russian aims get met.

      If the Kiev forces attempt to escape they’ll have to cross open country somewhere and will thus be vulnerable to air, rocket and artillery attack.

      The only protection the Kiev forces have against that is the protection afforded by the presence of civilians and civilian infrastructure. In this respect the terrain is difficult. That area of western Donbas is a straggle of small settlements interspersed with larger settlements. Some open country in between. The videos I’ve seen show trenches in that open country.

      Where it’s open country the problem is relatively simple. The trenches and the surrounding country are shelled or otherwise attacked, and the equipment also. The Kiev forces there are either destroyed or they surrender. As long as Kiev keeps sending forces into such open areas the process of demilitarisation and denazification can proceed.

      The LDNR forces in particular, however, will be reluctant to shell or otherwise attack the smaller settlements in which the Kiev forces are positioned. The people living there are their fellows and it’s their houses getting destroyed.

      When it comes to the larger settlements that problem becomes worse. Shell tanks or artillery parked next to a block of apartments and it’s likely you’ll damage the apartments as well. Hit ammunition stores in a residential area and you get the same problem. Shell snipers firing from the apartment windows and you could well kill the civilians hiding in the basements.

      I don’t know if Clausewitz discusses this technique of protecting one’s forces from bombardment by putting them in among civilians. It’s in fact a more effective protection than six foot of concrete. If the civilians are shot at when attempting to get out of the way, as we saw Azov do in Mariupol or the Jihadis in East Aleppo, then that protection is kept in place. .

      So coping with that is the main problem the Russian and LDNR forces face. Presumably they’ll get over it somehow, as they did in Mariupol. If they don’t they’ll be unable to demilitarise and denazify and the venture will have to be abandoned.

      Few of the military experts I’ve seen examining the operation in the Donbas take account of these factors. That is why their analyses are frequently wrong. They’re thinking in terms of wars like WWII, where much of the fighting was done in open country or, if not, the dead civilians were regarded as regrettable but inevitable collateral damage.

      How Clausewitz would have handled this technique of using civilians as cover I don’t know. His were tougher times so he’d probably have ignored it.

      On the question of getting control of the economic exchanges, if that’s the ultimate purpose of Clausewitzian war, that isn’t something either NATO or the Russians are that interested in in this case. The country as a whole is bust or derelict – has been going that way since 2014 – so there’s little profit for either side there.

      In fact I’d be very surprised if the Russians occupied all the Ukraine permanently. They’d have to spend a fortune just keeping it going and I’m not sure they have the resources for that. As long as they get their security concerns met, and can safeguard the areas where Azov is likely to go on the rampage again, they’d do well to leave it at that.

      Time Biden and UvdL and the rest of them saw it that way too. Before too many more people get killed.

      • Pat Lang says:

        Have you actually read “On War?” It is not a manual. It is a philosophic work. Clausewitz does not address such questions as you ask.

        • English Outsider says:

          Colonel – no I haven’t. I’m aware he’s a strong influence on your own thinking but that’s as far as I go. I do have to agree with both Walrus and Mishkilji – that is, if I’m reading the latter correctly.

          The Kiev war aims were given by Danilov recently in an interview on Radio Sloboda on April 29th –

          “There will be more battles ahead, which our army will definitely win.

          “As for the political settlement of the situation – it depends on Putin, he can end the war at any time by signing a capitulation, laying down his weapons, taking his military, so that our army does not send them in black plastic bags to their relatives and friends.”

          I don’t believe Kiev has anything like the means to accomplish those aims. I don’t believe NATO will come in or be able to come in to back Kiev up. If I’m right there then Kiev has lost and should be saving what it can from the wreckage.

          That’s a conclusion directly contrary to most of what I’m hearing at the moment but it’s the only one I think realistic.

          • Philip Owen says:

            Starting September the Russian economy will have run out of production inventory and spare parts for machines. Tank and anti aircraft system factories are already shut. Not just electronics. The very accurate metallurgy and maching for tank gun barrels was done by Ukraine. Russia doesn’t do it. All can be replaced over a decade. Some can be smuggled via China and Iran but those routes are at capacity already. So the first requirement is new roads and railways. A decade of construction.

            Also, the reproductive material for the big new factory farms is already not getting through. Chickens will show up first (6 months to production). Then eggs, then salad crops, then dairy, then pork. All of these need breeding stock from Europe. Other breeds don’t fit the production cycle. At best efficiency will drop massively. The economic war is a slow burn but it will dent Russia’s ability to mobilize its reserves.

            If Ukraine can defeat the 2nd phase, which is looking more likely than before (Russia’s small gains of the moment in the Donbas seem entirely due to Wagner), Russia’s ability to mount a third phase without nuclear will be a decade away.

            Airwar might do it but Russia has 350 strike jets. There will be no more without electronics. Those are all it has for the next 10-15 years. To lose half of them to Ukraine’s AA would leave Russia helpless. China, Japan, Georgia, Moldova, Finland, just to name a few, could all coming looking for their lost territories. ISIS could have a great time in North Caucusus.

  11. Poul says:

    A view from Jomini of the West why the going is slow for the Russians in Donbass. That doesn’t mean they are not achieving their goals. Food for thought.

  12. Philip Owen says:

    The US howitzers are now in action. With the push east of Kharkiv by Ukraine, the supply routes from Belogorod to Izyum (the only supply routes) are in range. There are reputedly 26,000 Russian soldiers in Izyum. The functional remnants of the East and Central military districts, 70,000 strong, who invaded at Kiev. The column shrank from 40 miles at Kiev to 8 at Izyum. Maybe another 10,000 were east of Kharkiv. How will they react to losing their supply line?

    • Leith says:

      Philip –

      Is Putin’s Izyum pincer going to become the encircled one? Or will the Ukrainians let it die on the vine?

      • Philip Owen says:

        Izyum is protected on one side by a river, so not a classical encirclement. This did not stop Von Manstein in 1943 at the battle of Kursk. The Soviets tried to encircle the reserve Panzer armies in the Donbass, roughly where the Ukrainians are now from a salient at Izyum. Von Manstein crossed the river anyway and encircled and destroyed the Soviets at Izyum. Kursk was lost by the Germans but not in the Donbass theatre. The Russians have been been fighting hard to occupy Von Manstein’s manouvering area but not successfully. It is disputed.

        Higher up the road to Belogorod the new Ukrainian advance does threaten to cut off the Russian forces simply by extending the advance to the river, Izyum being on the Ukrainian side miles further down.

        So yes, they are in danger of encirclement although not quite classic in either case. (unless Von Manstein counts as classic).

        Why did Russia repeat the failed move of 1943? Maybe they thought they weren’t facing Von Manstein? Maybe there are no other good options for launching an attempt on encicling the Donbass?

        • Leith says:

          Philip O – Thanks for the insight on von Manstein.

          Nathan Ruser, an Aussie researcher and mapmaker is reporting the Ukrainians put a pontoon bridge over the Donets river last week. It’s about 15 miles west of Izyum. No reports of a serious bridgehead. The Russians hit it with an airstrike but no indication of BDA. Ruser got it from @DefMon3 who originally thought it was a Russian bridge. Coordinates are 49.245, 36.938.

          It appears from some mapping sites that east of Izyum the Ukrainians may hold a small bit of ground on the left bank of the Donets. And are possibly across the lower Oskol river also. But it is hard to judge without knowing where the info originated from. Supposed to be some swamps there after the spring floods which just ended.

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