Ukraine–Day 35

The conflict has turned into a stalemate…..and both sides are trying to find a way out of this quagmire…..

Is it just me or does the public seem to be becoming indifferent to this crisis?

How does that war go today?

While the Russian offensive seems stalled, it still has significant combat power in Ukraine and it may have the capability to sustain that combat power if the logistics flow is fixed. It is refining its ‘goals’, to something more attainable; the capture of parts of eastern Ukraine along the Russian border. A senior Russian defense official said that his military planned to cut back military activity near the Ukrainian capital (Kyiv) in an effort to increase trust around the peace talks. This is likely just a move to reposition units to the eastern regions of Ukraine. The units pulled back will reorganize and resupply themselves before being committed to forward areas. There will likely be more Russian activity in the east and south of Ukraine over the future weeks.

The Russian military will continue to use mass artillery and missile strikes to compensate for its lack of forward progress on the ground. According to the commander of European Command (EUCOM), Russia has fired ‘multiple’ hypersonic missiles into Ukraine against military targets. (Defense One, Mar 29, 2022).

Fight for the Skies. The air war has not followed the usual flow that have been observed in past conflicts. Most wars start off with both sides fighting for the skies and one side finally establishing air superiority. Then the side with the advantage in the air moves on to support the ground effort with close air support. This hasn’t happened in the Ukraine War. There are too many air defense systems in the area of operations employed by both sides of the conflict.

Drones. However, drones are making an impact – especially those used by the Ukrainians. It is still cold out in Ukraine and the Russians are living in field conditions. The tank crews keep their massive steel hulks warm by running the engines. That provides a heat signature at night for the armed drones of the Ukrainian military. In addition to the armed drones wreaking havoc on Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), and fuel trucks are the surveillance drones (ISR) scouting out the terrain for Russian units, vehicles, and convoys. These ISR drones feed information into the situation overlays of the Ukrainian operations centers for planning purposes and to artillery units for targeting data.

Small SOF Drone Unit with Big Impact. A specialized force of 30 soldiers on quad bikes helped stop the 40-mile Russian convoy in its tracks. Night ambushes were carried out by a team of Ukrainian special forces and drone operators roaming up and down the Russian convoy. The unit was equipped with night vision goggles, sniper rifles, remotely detonated mines, and drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras and small 1.5kg bombs. “The drone operators who halted Russian convoy headed for Kyiv”, The Guardian, March 28, 2022.

Maritime Activities. An amphibious landing force on several ships is still positioned in the Black Sea off the coast of Odessa to land a substantial element of Russian naval infantry. The Russian blockade of Ukrainian shipping continues. There are a lot of merchant ships stranded in Ukrainian ports. The United Nations is pressing for their safe passage out of danger so that the world’s food supply is not threatened.

World’s Grain Supply. Some 30% of the world’s grain comes from Russia and Ukraine. Most of the grain departing Ukraine goes by ship via the Black Sea and on into the Mediterranean Sea. However, Russia is currently blocking 94 ships with food from leaving Ukrainian ports.

Ground Fight. The Ukrainians are on the offensive in many areas of the country. The suburban town of Irpin (northwest of Kyiv) has been taken back from the Russians. Kharkiv is still being resupplied and the city of Sumy is receiving supplies. Even Kherson in the south seems to be contested due to a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russia has been deploying banned anti-personnel mines in the Kharkiv region according to a new report by Human Rights Watch published on March 29, 2022.

Tank Division Reduced. According to Ukrainian defense officials, the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division has suffered a huge defeat just 15 miles from the Russian border. Due to a lack of fuel and food the division became less capable and was overwhelmed by Ukrainian infantry units armed with anti-armor weapons. See “Ukrainians Obliterate the Elite Russian 4th Guards Tank Division 15 Miles from Russian Border”, SOFREP, March 28, 2022.

Kyiv. In the initial days of the invasion the capital city of Ukraine was considered the primary objective of the Russians. However, the attack was stalled by the Ukrainians. It appears that some Russian units are being withdrawn from the Kyiv region back to Belarus for a subsequent repositioning to other conflict zones in Ukraine, most likely the eastern sector. Over 2 million of its 4 million residents have fled the city.

Mariupol. The fall of this city to the Russians may happen within days. The Russians continue to advance street by street, block by block. This city had a pre-invasion population of about 430,000. There are reports that thousands of residents have been forcibly evacuated from the city by the Russians and are now headed to distant Russian cities.

Mykolayiv. This city is suffering from constant missile attacks by the Russians. It is contested and there is a lot of fighting around the perimeter of the city. Reports on social media on Tuesday (Mar 29) stated that a large column of Russian troops were headed to Mykolayiv from Kherson. Located on the west bank of the Dnieper River close to the coast of the Black Sea, Mykolayiv is a strategic objective for the Russians that is on the road to Odessa located further west along the coast of the Black Sea.

Situation Maps.  War in Ukraine by Scribble Maps. Read an assessment and view a map of the Russian offensive campaign by the Institute for the Study of War.

Negotiations. Talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials held on Tuesday (Mar 29) covered a wide range of topics. These included Crimea, the Donbas region (eastern Ukraine), and security guarantees for Ukraine. Ukraine is looking for international security guarantees to ensure another Russian attack does not occur in the future. Most observers believe that the parties are getting a little closer to an agreement. One result of the negotiations over the past few days resulted in a prisoner exchange. One group returned were the Border Guards on Snake Island who were told to surrender by a Russian warship. They responded with “Russian warship, “Go **** ********”.

“Ukrainians are not naïve, we see risks in peace talks. Of course, we see all the risks. Of course, we don’t have a reason to trust the words of representatives of a country that wages war against us.”

President Zelensky

Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. As of March 30, over 3,900,000 refugees have left Ukraine according to data provided by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). Almost seven million have been internally displaced. This means about 25% of Ukraine’s population has left their homes. About 2.3 million Ukrainians left for Poland. More than 12 million are in constant danger due to being close to conflict zones or cities under siege. A significant proportion of the population is in need of clean water, food, medicine, and shelter. Almost one million are lacking access to electricity. Read a report on the humanitarian crisis provided by ACAPS, March 29, 2022, PDF, 9 pages.

U.S. Intelligence. The United States intelligence community miscalculated on how long the Afghan army and Afghan government would hold out against the Taliban last summer – many feeling that the government would hold out until the spring of 2022. The same intel gurus also erred on their predictions about how quickly the Russians would take Kyiv – some saying that the conflict would last just a few days. Up to this past Friday, most national security observers were predicting a long fight that would grind away at the Ukrainians as the Russians pumped more tanks, artillery, and troops into Ukraine. Now, the ‘experts’ don’t seem that sure. Hopefully, the intel guys are making up for their faulty intel forecasts by passing info to the Ukrainian military that is helpful to the targeting of Russian formations in Ukraine.

WhatsApp Messages from Ukraine to Russia. Audio recordings, phone calls, and WhatsApp messages are being sent by Ukrainian telecom specialists to dissuade troops from deploying to Ukraine. “Inside Ukraine’s Psyops on Russian and Belarusian Soldiers”, New Lines Magazine, March 29, 2022.

U.S. Cyber Attack on Russia? The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the United States of “. . . waging a large-scale cyberattack against Russia.” A US spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council says that it hasn’t happened. Hmmm. (Russian Foreign Ministry, Mar 29, 2022).

Navy Growlers to Europe. The United States is sending six EA-18 Growlers to be based at Spangdahlem in Germany. They will be flying missions in support of “eastern flank deterrence and defense”. The typical mission for the EA-18 is electronic warfare and radar jamming to suppress enemy air defense. According to a DoD spokesman, the Growlers will be based in Europe to reinforce deterrence capabilities of NATO’s Eastern Flank, and will not engage Russian assets. The aircraft are from VAQ-134 based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. About 240 personnel from the unit will deploy, including air crew, aircraft maintainers, and pilots. “6 Navy ‘Growler’ Aircraft Headed to Germany to Support Deterrence Mission”, DoD News, March 28, 2022.

Marines from Norway to the Eastern Flank. U.S. Marine air assets participating in the Cold Response 22 exercise in Norway will be deploying to Lithuania. The deployment includes ten FA-18s as well as C-130s. See “400 Marines deploy in Eastern Europe as part of US response to Ukraine War”, Marine Times, March 29, 2022.

UK’s Starstreak Missiles. The Ukrainians are now ready to use the Starstreak high velocity missiles against the Russians. The missiles are now in the hands of the Ukrainians and they have received training on their operation. The MANPADs can be launched from the shoulder or when mounted on a vehicle. Learn more in “All You Need to Know About the Starstreak Missiles Now in the Hands of Ukrainian Troops”, The War Zone, March 28, 2022.

Canadian Veterans Assist Former Interpreters. Some former Ukrainian interpreters (numbering around 25) who assisted Canadian forces deployed to Ukraine over the past several years are getting help. A small group of Canadian veterans are now in southeast Poland assisting in the evacuation and support of these former interpreters. “Veterans who rescued Afghan interpreters bring Canadian Forces interpreters out of Ukraine”, Global News (CA),

Red Line Needed. The Russians can’t achieve success on the battlefield with its armor and infantry. But they can level Ukrainian cities and force them to submit with their artillery and missiles. Perhaps a ‘no atrocities’ red line is needed; meaning the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in Ukrainian cities will not be tolerated by the West. Air strikes using air-launched stand-off weapons against Russian artillery and missile launch positions in Ukraine would result in crossing the red line. Kevin R. James goes into detail on this topic in “The West must draw a red line for Russian in Ukraine”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 30, 2022.

More Weapons Needed. The Russians may have been ‘stalled’ in their offensive to take Kyiv and other major cities in eastern Ukraine; but they are still on the offensive. They will concentrate their forces in the east and south of Ukraine and continue with their missile, propaganda, and cyber attacks. The Russians will also be bringing in more troops from the far east, Georgia, and mobilized reserve forces. The Ukrainians can prevail but need more weapons at a faster pace. Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at FPRI’s Eurasia Program and a book author. He provides his thoughts in “What Ukraine Needs Now”, Real Clear Defense, March 29, 2022.

And the saga goes on……

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I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Will There Be Peace?

The war in Ukraine has dragged on for over 30 days…..there have been meetings to try and find a diplomatic settlement of hostilities…..that is where I would like to write about and the games being played in the name of peace.

Ukraine and Russia have been meeting in Turkey to discuss the possibilities for an end to this conflict….

Zelensky has signaled that he is willing to ‘compromise’…..

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country was willing to “compromise” over the country’s Donbas region. A core Russian demand has been that Ukraine gives up its territorial claim to the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, Zelensky then appeared to contradict himself saying he would prioritize the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine.

The earlier statement was first time Zelensky has signaled a willingness to negotiate about giving up territory. Last week, he told CNN, “There are compromises for which we cannot be ready as an independent state. Any compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty.”

(antiwar.com)

After an offering from Zelensky…..

Russia’s military announced Tuesday that it would “drastically” reduce operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv as talks between the warring sides in Istanbul made progress towards a peace deal.

Speaking to reporters following the talks, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that “a decision was made to drastically … reduce the military activity on the approaches to Kyiv and Chernihiv.” He said Russia expects “relevant key decisions will be taken in Kyiv and the conditions for further normal work will be created.”

Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s head negotiator, described the Istanbul talks as “constructive” and said the Ukrainians delivered an outline for a peace proposal that will be relayed to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under the potential deal, Ukraine would vow not to join NATO or any other military alliance and vow not to host foreign military bases or develop nuclear weapons.

In exchange, Ukraine wants Russia not to block its EU bid and wants security guarantees similar to NATO’s Article 5, the mutual defense clause of the military alliance that outlines “an attack on one is an attack on all.” Ukraine wants guarantees from Russia, the US, the UK, China, Turkey, France, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Israel.

(antiwar.com)

After hearing of this turn I waited for the ‘pundits’ to pee on the parade…..and they did….

“Actions speak louder than words” seems to be the quick response to Russia’s announcement during Tuesday peace talks that it would “fundamentally” cut back military operations around the capital of Kyiv, which it got within about 12 miles of, and near the northern city of Chernihiv. A roundup of caution and skepticism:

  • President Biden told reporters, “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through what they’re suggesting.”
  • An unnamed US official told the BBC, “Yes, we have seen the Russians begin to draw away from Kyiv, but we have little confidence at this stage that it marks some significant shift or a meaningful retreat. The Russians are still pounding Kyiv with airstrikes. Time will tell.”
  • The AP counts US Secretary of State Antony Blinken among those who are skeptical. “There is what Russia says and there’s what Russia does,” he said while in Morocco Tuesday, “And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine.”
  • Ditto UK PM Boris Johnson, whose office released a statement saying in part, “We must judge Putin’s regime by their actions not their words,” Johnson’s office said. “Putin is twisting the knife in the open wound of Ukraine in an attempt to force the country and its allies to capitulate,” per Radio Free Europe.
  • But the Washington Post reports a top Pentagon general told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday there were indications of “shifting dynamics” on the ground near Kyiv that seemed to lend credence to the idea of Russian troops cutting back.
  • Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of War Studies at King’s College London, reframes the offer, telling the New York Times, “De-escalation is a euphemism for retreat. Russia is adjusting its goals to reality … it’s not a ruse to say that they are concentrating on the Donbas [a mostly Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine], because in reality that’s all they can do.”
  • A French defense analyst pushes that forward, telling the Times that in order for Russia to make gains in a negotiation, it has to be in a more threatening position. “This is a chance for the Russians to consolidate, to regroup, to remove themselves from places out of reach logistically, where they have already run out of food and ammunition. … [Putin] will rebuild his army and continue.”

The one disturbing report, at least for me, was the US position…..

the State Department signaled that the US is discouraging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from making concessions to Russia in negotiations that are aimed at ending the fighting in Ukraine.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Zelensky has “made it very clear that he is open to a diplomatic solution that does not compromise the core principles at the heart of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.”

When asked to elaborate on his point, Price said that the war is “bigger” than Russia and Ukraine. “The key point is that there are principles that are at stake here that have universal applicability everywhere,” he said.

(antiwar.com)

Now why would the US be opposed to a deal that would end hostilities?

Think about it for you have the answer just bring it forward.

Without a deal then this conflict could turn into yet another endless war…..

An endless war in Ukraine is possible, but it will be dangerous and with the potential to escalate into an all-out conflict between Russia and Nato which might in turn escalate into a nuclear exchange. The likelihood of this occurring has increased for two reasons since the Russian invasion of 24 February. First, the Russian army has shown itself much weaker than anybody expected, increasing the chance of the Kremlin using tactical nuclear weapons to even the odds.

Second, Putin’s historic blunder in starting an unwinnable war in the first place shows that the Kremlin is a very poor judge of the situation on the ground in Ukraine. Equally important, the Kremlin wholly underestimated the furious reaction of the US and the rest of Europe to the invasion. The danger is that these serial misjudgments would in the future extend to the prospect of Russia using nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Ukraine Could Turn Into Another Endless War, Especially if NATO Decides More Than Just Peace is Needed

Personally, I think that if both sides can calm down and look at the bigger picture they can come to some sort of ‘peace’….but that would mean that looking forward would solve some of the problems.

I Read, I Write, You KNow

“lego ergo scribo”