28 February 2022

Invasion insanity

The news coming out of Ukraine grows increasingly bizarre.  The Russian army, an alleged superpower military force operating just a few miles from its home territory, has so far failed to capture even one major Ukrainian city.  Russia has not completely destroyed Ukraine's air defenses or achieved full air superiority.  There are reports of Russian armored vehicles running out of fuel, of Russian soldiers looting grocery stores for food or trying to trade gasoline for food, of soldiers taken prisoner who did not even have maps or other basic supplies.  If even half these stories are true, the level of logistical incompetence revealed is astounding.  US intelligence says that the Russians didn't bring enough fuel because they didn't expect such strong resistance (not enough fuel for four days???).  This is not the Red Army that once ground the mighty Wehrmacht into the dirt, that's for sure.

There have been graphics in the media showing the huge advantage Russia's military has over Ukraine's in manpower and weapons.  Remember, though, that not everything Russia has is available for use in Ukraine.  As a huge country with global aspirations, Russia has many other places of importance -- borders, bases, etc -- which must be manned and armed.  It can't just forget everything else and send all those weapons and men to Ukraine.  The Ukrainian military, by contrast, is 100% committed to this war.  Its country is being invaded -- there is nothing else for it to do except fight back against that.  This does not create a level playing field, but the real imbalance is not so huge as comparing the total forces of the two countries would suggest.

Putin is said to be furious, having expected Ukraine's resistance to collapse almost immediately.  His frustration probably reflects deeper concerns than just Ukraine itself.  His goal is to assert Russia's strength and restore the superpower status it held in Soviet times.  His invasion of Ukraine is increasingly doing the opposite -- making Russia look weak and incompetent.

Russia's weakness is being revealed in a subtler but equally important way.  Putin's efforts to draw Ukraine back under Russian domination consisted of threats which ultimately escalated into actual military force, first in Crimea and Donbas in 2014, then with the current invasion.  When Sweden and Finland reacted to the invasion by talking about joining NATO, he threatened them with unspecified nasty consequences if they did so.  Now he's responding to the West's rapidly-escalating sanctions with vague but scary talk about putting Russia's nuclear forces on alert.  Threats are all he has.  Russia can bully, but it cannot entice.  Since the Soviet collapse, the countries of eastern Europe have been gravitating toward the West because they want to, because the West represents democracy, prosperity, freedom, pluralistic societies, and a colorful and variegated mass culture, things that people actually want.  Russia under Putin can offer only grey fascism, corruption, censorship, economic stagnation, brutality toward dissenters, and the weary migraine background noise of omnipresent propaganda that eastern Europeans remember all too well from Soviet times.  Nothing could induce anyone to choose this over fellowship with the civilization represented by London and Paris -- nothing, that is, except threats.  And even threats aren't working any more.

I'm wondering if this might be the beginning of the end of Putin's regime.  Nuclear saber-rattling in response to economic sanctions sounds unhinged, and it's not only the West that has reason for concern.  If Russia's military and its powerful oligarchs start to worry that Putin might escalate this conflict into a nuclear war that would destroy Russia itself, they're in a position to do something about it.
A few more links of interest:

Part of the reason Ukrainians hate Russian domination is that Stalin deliberately starved millions of them to death in the 1930s.

Germany is committing to a huge rise in military spending.  What decades of US pressure could not do, Putin has accomplished in four days.

Verified charities here to help Ukraine.

This is another way of understanding the Russia-Ukraine relationship.

Pictures here from pro-Ukraine demonstrations around the world.

This surreal encounter between a Ukrainian motorist and a Russian tank crew on a country road suggests how weird things are getting.  And this short clip purports to show a farmer stealing a tank.

Even PornHub is imposing sanctions on Russia.

[Image at top:  smoke after a missile hit an apartment building in Kyiv]


Blogger NickM said...

Logistics are of course the key to any war.

“You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.” – Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC

If the Russians have bollocked that up then... Well, that's it. What is dangerous is Putin has bet his own sweet ass on this one. If this all goes Pete Tong the best he can hope for is to live out the rest of his sad, embittered days in a guarded dacha. The very best. That's why he is so recklessly threatening nuclear apocalypse. He's shitting himself. Generals don't take kindly to losing men over quixotic lost causes. I can easily see Putin coming to a very sticky end here. And not an undeserved one.

PornHub* you say... Well, I've bought a Ukraine T-Shirt. I think Putin in his bunker has so internalised the idea that Ukraine is Russia that he is genuinely shocked at the almost universal international outrage over this misadventure. Even the Chinese are blowing hot and cold over this now.

Let's just hope Zelensky holds firm because a Putin-less Russia would be a very good ending to this nightmare. That is assuming we don't get someone worse of course and this being Russia...

*Note I'm in serious mode so I've refrained from making a joke about wankers...

28 February, 2022 03:51  
Blogger bluzdude said...

The thing that concerns me is that Putin will do anything to avoid looking weak. Who knows what kind of devastation he'll unleash just to save face? Maybe not nukes, but blowing up everything that still stands.

28 February, 2022 04:51  
Blogger NickM said...

Yes, that is a massive issue. If they can't win it they'll just break it out of sheer spite.

28 February, 2022 06:05  
Blogger One Fly said...

I always said that if the loon we had as president became a real nuclear threat someone would take him out.

It would be nice to see someone take Putin out.

28 February, 2022 06:16  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

NickM: Logistics are an area where incompetence quickly reveals itself. Dictators tend to give it short shrift because they believe everything is about determination and charisma.

If Putin is brought down, it's hard to know what would follow him. Most likely a military regime, which might or might not abandon his personal crusade and pull out of Ukraine, but would almost certainly be more reality-based.

Bluzdude: There's no sign of that yet. Towards the end, Hitler ordered mass destruction of Germany's infrastructure in a spirit of dragging everything down with himself, but his underlings mostly disobeyed his orders. I suspect Putin would run into the same problem. A dictator clearly about to fall loses his power to intimidate, and soldiers on the losing side know they'll be held accountable by the winners.

28 February, 2022 06:19  
Blogger NickM said...

I dunno... Hitler's scorched earth policy was done on his own ground so to speak. This is different. This is shitting in next-doors back yard not one's own. Fucking Ukraine over is not the same as Hitler's Götterdämmerung.

I cannot imagine a Russian military dictatorship being cool like The Fonze but, yes, it would almost certainly be more based in reality. Moreover they can put this fiasco entirely down to Putin so a new broom in The Kremlin wouldn't have to worry about loss of face because it was the last guy who fucked-up. Not great but better than what we have right now.

28 February, 2022 06:57  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Putin seems unhinged and I don't know he's going to react if he doesn't get his way. It would be good for some of his people to just take him out at this point.

28 February, 2022 10:23  
Blogger Mike said...

"I'm wondering if this might be the beginning of the end of Putin's regime."
One can only hope.

28 February, 2022 12:23  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

The West has always bought into the mercilessness and capacity to attack of Vlad and its minions. I bet he thought it was a slam-dunk procedure and that people would run scared.
I just read that Russia used a thermobaric bomb on Monday. Those weapons are horrible. Vlad is desperate.


28 February, 2022 15:22  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

One Fly: In the case of Russia it's a lot more likely. The regime over there is more of a mafia than a government as we understand it.

NickM: Most Russians consider Ukraine a very similar culture even though it's a separate country (think of how British people perceive Ireland). There'd be some degree of inhibition there, just as a lot of Russians already are uncomfortable with the idea of fighting Ukraine.

Mike: He's probably at more risk of being overthrown that at any previous time during his reign. The military over there signed up to defend Russia, not to let it get blasted to hell in an unnecessary nuclear exchange because of one guy being a megalomaniac.

Sixpence: It's like with China, or with the USSR in the years before 1989. Gangster states always look formidable from the outside. It takes a closer look to see the corruption, the cynicism, the crap technology and building standards, and all the other weaknesses they actually have.

01 March, 2022 02:43  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

wouldn't it be wonderful if Putin got taken out by one of his rich buddies?

01 March, 2022 04:49  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

A fitting end for him. Rule as a gangster, end as a gangster.

01 March, 2022 05:10  

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