Which numbers should we believe?

Russia may have lost a third of the invasion force it sent into Ukraine as its offensive continues to struggle in the face of stiff resistance, British military intelligence has said.

Not, perhaps, that one. Apparently 190,000 went in. And one third of that is 65k odd. Do we believe that’s the death number there?

Probably not. Or, we probably would believe that units amounting to 65k have been degraded sufficiently that without significant reorganisation, relief and or renewal they’re not ready to fight. That we might indeed believe.

“Russia has now likely suffered losses of one-third of the ground combat force it committed in February,” it said.

“Russian forces are increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale and reduced combat effectiveness.

“Many of these capabilities cannot be quickly replaced or reconstituted and are likely to continue to hinder Russian operations in Ukraine.

We have military types reading here, what say you? Do they mean “one third no longer effective fighting units” or do they mean 30% in coffins?

70 thoughts on “Which numbers should we believe?”

  1. Historically serious casualties were one third dead, two thirds wounded: this has been changing in favour of wounded in recent wars, but this is often predicated on the war being limited: easy access to high grade medicine and willingness and ability to “stop” while a causualty is recovered and evacuated. It’s entirely possible that casualties generally *are* around 65K with 20K dead: this is a high intensity war and it’s been going on for nearly three months 🙁

  2. Anyone got any idea of how many Ukranians are similarly degraded or dead?

    Without a comparison, the number is meaningless.

  3. Best guess is that Ukrainian casualties are about 40% of the Russian ones. They are of less importance largely because Ukraine had a large army anyway, and Russia has many percieved external enemies rather than only one and must maintain large forces elsewhere

  4. Rupert

    I’m surprised it works like that nowadays. I’d have thought that with greater precision there would be fewer overall casualtues but more dead. I guess it depends on whom one is fighting.

    Seeing as both sides seem to be using muskets and pikes in this conflict, a lot more wounded would be expected.

  5. “must maintain large forces elsewhere” to stop the Finns pinching back Karelia, the day before joining Nato.

  6. I thought that modern day thinking is that wounding your opponent is more of a drain on their overall effort than killing them. If someone is unable to move on their own or needs treatment then he may need the help of his mates.

  7. Why not judge them by their track record?
    For the same reason that Ritchie is known & judged, we can observe which bunch of Nastys were most at variance with reality.
    Note : what they actually said, not wot the forces of twatter said they said.
    Which side over the past 3 months has been closer to the what actually happened?
    The Ghost of Kiev mob or the Eeevil Wussian MOD briefings.

  8. Elsewhere they make clear that by casualties they mean unable to fight, not dead. Think the idea is that Russian dead are a higher proportion of the total than would be the case in other armies because their battlefield health care is appalling/non-existent, but it’s all educated guesswork.

    In Western armies, deaths as a proportion of total casualties has decreased hugely – less of a concern for Putin when you’re careful to only send provincials or ethnic minorities to the front line, and the more of them you feed into the meat grinder the fewer there are to cause problems in the future.

  9. Having seen pictures of the catastrophic damage done to Russian tanks by modern A-T missiles, I’d guess that the tank corps doesn’t have many wounded amongst its manpower… Just alive or dead.

  10. British military intelligence has said. is the acme of bullshit. MoD has been posting cringe every day for months now.

    Russia lost something like 7,000 men in the second Chechen war. It took about 10 years of fighting. 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan claimed about 14,000 Soviet troops and wounded 55,000. Every war is different, but not that different – if the pesky Rooshians were losing men at the rate claimed, they’d have mobilised a far bigger invasion force by now, because they can’t afford to lose this war.

    Anyone got any idea of how many Ukranians are similarly degraded or dead?

    Nobody’s in the slightest bit interested in answering that question, but you may be interested to know the war is going so amazingly well for Ukraine that their sponsor the United States demanded an immediate ceasefire two days ago.

  11. Yes. Those Russian tanks going up like space shuttles do look a bit binary. Either you had time to run like Billy-o before the missile hits or your charred remains are pushing 12G.

    The sheer volume of tanks both captured (mostly because they ran out of fuel) or destroyed by anti-tank weapons in this invasion is surreal. It seems to suggest that the end of the tank is nigh. Possibly salvageable with improved logistics and a re-read of Erwin Rommel’s guide to tank warfare.

    The Russian logistics have been piss-poor to say the least, presumably predicated on “Kiev in 3 days” type propaganda.

  12. Post all the Wuflu disinformation posted by official “experts”, why does anyone trust expert opinion if it furthers an official narrative?

  13. The quote refers to loss of one third of the ground combat force, and also to loss of ‘critical enablers’, so it reads to me that it’s a loss of one third capability, not one third actual personnel/tanks/whatevers

  14. Capability, every time. It would be immensely difficult to inflict that number of deaths on the battlefield short of one side providing masses of co-operative targets and the other having the firepower to take advantage.

  15. One interesting thing is that the number of Russian vehicles confirmed by OSINT to have been lost is so huge that they can’t have been properly manned (or in the cases of troop transports, can’t have had that many troops in them) – which means that this was always a bit of a Potemkin army, designed to trick Ukraine into surrendering in the face of seemingly overwhelming force, but also to fool Putin into thinking that the army he’s been paying for actually exists. All armies do this to some extent, but it seems that the Russian army has pushed this to an extraordinary degree.

    Which is what you’d expect from a deeply corrupt system run by a dictator who likes to poison people who tell inconvenient truths, and an army that never really expected to have to fight on a major scale due to Russia’s nuclear deterrent, I suppose. Ukrainian army still has to fight and win, and was still given no chance by almost everybody. I believe that in general Ukraine is also very corrupt, so the miracle is that Ukraine’s army isn’t affected by the same issues to nearly the same extent. The effect of Ukrainians having had for a number of years a clear picture of the threat Putin posed to the existence of their country, and the consequences if the Russian army rolled in, I suppose.

  16. Theophrastus (2066)

    Ukrainian civilians: 3,573 killed, 3,816 wounded (UN)
    Ukrainian Forces: 500–3,000 killed, 10,000 wounded (Ukrainian government estimate)
    Ukrainian Forces: 500–11,000 killed, 18,000+ wounded (US estimate)

    Source: Wikipedia, Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  17. JG – It seems to suggest that the end of the tank is nigh.

    Idk why the tank hasn’t joined the war chariot and the half-track in the museum yet. If you can reliably kill them by spamming comparatively cheap drones the tank’s done. Economically obsolescenced. They don’t even need to be the Turkish models if 3D printers can churn out consumer grade models that get the job done, preferably using ML to swarm through forest and along urban canyons.

    Ljh – why does anyone trust expert opinion if it furthers an official narrative?

    People don’t mind being lied to as long as it’s the lies they want to hear. We saw with Coughageddon that the majority quite enjoyed the thrill of being bossed around, told to wear silly masks, fed stories about how they were menaced by the worst virus in all of history, sacramentalised the magic jabs, etc. It’s a minor miracle we’re even permitted the modest freedoms we now enjoy, the dumb, bovine mass of humanity would gladly exchange them for Good Boy Points and turnip rations.

    Casting Russia as evil, yet incompetent, baddies being foiled – foiled, I say! – by democracy-loving nazis patriotic underdogs who are forever twirling towards freedom is a popular meme template and has been forever. It’s the basic plot to the wildly successful Marvel movie franchise, and has an added frisson of pleasure for our politicians because all of them including Jim Hacker want to be Winston Churchill instead of Lobby Slave #267

  18. Post all the Wuflu disinformation posted by official “experts”, why does anyone trust expert opinion if it furthers an official narrative?

    Mainly because the alternative is to either

    a) turn into a dribbling tinfoil hat wearer who shouts “MSM lies” at the news when they announce the time and date, or

    b) end up shilling, at length, online for a cryptofascist kleptocrat and being unable to see the contradiction in claiming that the war was caused by the plots of the WEF, Boris, pixies etc while also claiming that the pudgy mentalist in the Kremlin is a 3D chess player who has both the West and Ukraine exactly where he wants them

  19. Nick – the Russian armed forces are hilariously corrupt at all levels. Ukraine is also one of the least trustworthy societies outside Africa but it’s probably easier to detect blatant misappropriation when your budget was smaller to begin with, there’s Western “advisors” swarming all over your military, and you’re already in the eighth year of a civil war.

    We’re not immune either, see the sad tale of the £5Bn Ajax disaster and the uniformed twats who took plum jobs with General Dynamics after screwing both taxpayers and squaddies (don’t worry, they’re still getting their pensions). But we are still a comparatively high trust society and it’s unlikely junior officers and NCO’s in the British Army are selling military equipment for cash or conspiring to bumrape conscripts.

    Zhukov wept.

  20. MC: “cryptofascist”. Very Dave Lister.

    As someone who did believe what they were told by ‘experts’ up until about the age of 45, I do not have a problem now shouting at the cunts on the telly who have been sucked into a cult (climate change nutters, all of them) or are spouting uneducated, economic policy (politicians, all of them plus honourable mention for R. Murphy, natch).

    And you don’t need a tin foil conspiracy hat – the WEF, Gates, WHO post everything they intend for us on their websites.

  21. MC

    Post all the Wuflu disinformation posted by official “experts”, why does anyone trust expert opinion if it furthers an official narrative?

    Mainly because the alternative is to either

    It’s not binary. One can easily be very healthily sceptical at whatever an “official” line is without either of those. And the evidence is often on the side of those being sceptical. Wrt Ukraine, there is obviously more to what’s going than either simply the US view #OR# the Russian view.

    Whatever else one might want to call it, it’s also not tinfoil hat stuff to say “slavs scrapping in a local regional conflict, not my fight.” even if, as a result of it being bigged up, it’s in every headline. Far more have died (for example) in Yemen, some 300K+ including 200K kids, and no one gives a shit. I believe both the US and UK continue to provide one side with the weapons to perpetuate that conflict? Meh.

  22. Re mask wearing. I’m quite prepared to believe that the typical mask is useless, but then I’m not convinced that the size of a virus versus the pore size in a mask is the critical factor. The pore size in a mask is definitely smaller than the tiny gobs of spittle that come out when you breathe or especially when you talk (and Welsh seems to engender more spittle than English from my experience – Scots Nats speaking with spittle-flecked language when they refer to us English for our cash subsidy). Evidence of the spittle comes from a typical computer screen that needs frequent cleaning – Yuck! I’m prepared to wear a mask in a supermarket so as to be nice to the people who believe in it, same as I close the door gently to Jehovah’s Witnesses instead of telling them to Foxtrot Oscar – at least the first time.
    Re Eurovision, and Ukraine’s win, well the UK won the music prize by being second. Ukraine won the public’s political fervour. Odd, because I would have bet on the juries being political in the first place. I did see examples of that, but nowhere as much as in previous years. Perhaps because the entire output was crap, with the UK’s entry noticeably less crap than the rest! (But still crap – the difference between say rat droppings and hippopotamus shite).
    Regarding Russia v. Ukraine, there’s some sense in the Russian posture even though my gut feeling is to support the Ukrainians. The place was under USSR control for a long time. Many of the Ukrainians speak Russian. And didn’t we fight Russians in the Crimean War (in Crimea?)
    It’s a bit like the UK taking over the Republic of (part of) Ireland. After all, the connection goes back a millennium, and they’ve only been independent for a century. They even speak (a sort of) English. The Russians could have learnt from us. We know that there’s nothing we want from the seceded part, in fact the less of the blighters (travellers?) we have to deal with the better.
    What are the casualties on each side? Who knows? I suspect that no-one will know until long after. As for the damage to ghastly Soviet-era apartment blocks? Perhaps that will turn out to be a win for the Ukrainians in the long run.

  23. There’s a difference between raw casualty counts (numbers of troops killed/wounded), equipment losses, and unit effectiveness; and the statement our host cites, does look like it’s referring to the third of those.

    As a rough rule of thumb, a formed unit (a Battalion Tactical Group, for example) that takes ~30% casualties (manpower and/or kit) will be so knocked about as to be unable to conduct much active operation: if their discipline holds they can dig in and hold on in place, but their ability to conduct any sort of active role is pretty much gone until they get replacements and reconstitution (remembering that battlefield casualties tend to disproportionately hit junior commanders, and the Russians don’t have the experienced NCOs to hold a unit together when Rupertski gets slotted).

    So of a 190k starting force, one-third of which is now non-effective, you’d handwave twenty thousand casualties (with an unknown split between killed and wounded: rations of 1:3 to 1:5 KIA/WIA are typical, but the Russian medical system doesn’t inspire confidence) in those units described as “lost”.

    And, remember that’s total casualties, which would include DNBI (disease and non-battle injuries) – anything from traffic accidents to dysentery outbreaks – as well as direct enemy action. Good discipline can keep those down, but it’s a surprisingly recent phenomenon that armies lose more troops to the enemy than to disease (offhand I think it was World War 1 before combat losses were higher than DNBI) – that’s a number that won’t be easily pulled out of the Russian side.

  24. MC – True. I started to wonder if George Floyd maybe wasn’t a saintly martyr who is now beatifically robbing convenience stores in heaven, and thinking perhaps maybe the world wouldn’t end unless we obeyed the insane dictates of Sweden’s ugliest child actress. Big mistake.

    I soon found myself metamorphosising, Kafka-like, into an unholy hybrid of David Icke and Russell Brand, all beard and teeth and turquoise shell suits. You can imagine my chagrin, which is both voluminous and girthy. Candidly, I am also listening to Russian numbers stations on shortwave radio in the hopes of deciphering what Comrade-President Putin wants me to think next.

    The lesson here is always believe official narratives from the people who’ve reliably misinformed us before, and like and subscribe my YouTube channel on vegan meditation and tantric lizard sex.

    Witchie – I still see maskies in shops, and sometimes outdoors, and I feel sorry for them. It’s like the Hare Krishnas got reincarnated into the gayest cult imaginable.

  25. @PF

    Spot on. I continue to be amazed by the fervency of the support for the Ukraine and the utter indifference to the vastly bigger death count in the Yemen, or indeed China in its camps. Genuinely do not get it. (It goes without saying that I’m against the war and think that Putin is a wanker and feel very sorry for the people of the Ukraine.)

    @Witchie

    Re masks, it’s not spittle you need to be concerned about – spittle falls to the floor or other surfaces and multiple studies have shown that the virus does not spread by fomites. The issue is aerosolised virus which hangs about in the air for quite some time and gets breathed in. I’ve also read recent papers which suggest both that rebreathing cultured virus from the inside of your own mask may not be very good for you, and also that plastics found in the most common types of masks have turned up deep in lung tissue. None of it really matters to me as I have never worn a mask.

    A chap called Ian Miller has been on this for quite some time and does a very good podcast called Unmasked which is available on Apple and I dare say elsewhere.

  26. I once knew a Kiwi who was appalled at the death rates on British roads. He’d misunderstood “casualties” to mean fatalities.

    I did wonder: what sort of indoctrination do little Kiwis get about Gallipoli? If the wee buggers are taught on the assumption that casualty = fatality then even that bad business would sound much worse than it was.

    In my amateur experience of reading about war I’m pretty sure that the historians used “casualty” = fatality + seriously wounded + missing in action + prisoner of war. There “seriously” would mean rendered unfit for action pro tem.

    It may be different in the US forces: didn’t John Kerry get a medal for being wounded at the level, roughly, of getting a spelk in his finger? He is a bit of a fantasist: he talked about his commanding a boat in Cambodia but the dates are all wrong – Cambodia was attacked much later – so his claim was undoubtedly a lie. He later amended it to commanding a boat between Vietnam and Cambodia. Scrutiny of the map reveals that there is no territory “between” Vietnam and Cambodia. Are all senior Democrat politicians fantasists?

  27. Jason reminds me that my historians (presumably) included in casualties those who were unfit through disease. In the Good Old Days that might well be a large proportion of the casualties.

  28. There are no Russian war casualties because Russia is not at war.
    They are conducting a town planning exercise with artillery. After all, would you like to live in those Soviet era apartment blocks?
    And the Moskva didn’t sink, she is conducting amphibious operations.

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    Russian tanks don’t have a separate compartment for ammunition which is why they brew up so fast and the death rate amongst crews is quite high.

    We haven’t seen a war like this for some time, if ever, so its hard to judge wounded:dead ratios, but the way Russians keep throwing poorly trained troops in to battle it wouldn’t surprise me if they were that high. As more artillery and modern tanks arrive and on the Ukrainian side and Russia starts feeding in even worse trained and equipped conscripts as battlefield replacements and the current forces get further battle fatigue the casualty rate is only going to increase.

    And have you seen the aftermath of that failed river crossing? I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of that battle and there can’t have been many survivors.

    These guys do a very good job of document equipment losses from both sides and as its only documented losses it is a good idea of the differences in scale between losses of the 2 sides. Although it should be noted that Ukraine is very good a hiding some of their losses for more purposes.

    https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/02/attack-on-europe-documenting-ukrainian.html

    This video gives a good idea of the moral on the Ukrainian side, these guys (speaking Russian) of iced blood in their veins.

    https://twitter.com/IAPonomarenko/status/1525556432959070208

  30. It could be that the Ukrainians have killed 65,000. I can certainly beleive they have killed or wounded 65,000. But there’s some tricky accounting here.

    All the BTGs sent in to Kiev and the rest of the north from Kiev around to Kharkiv are now effectively no longer combat effective and we know they have also suffered many deaths and wounded but even the survivors are probably not deployable elsewhere. That was c. 1/4 of the total official order of battle. If you add in the losses elsewhere (ships, Mariupol area etc.) then yes that’s a plausible number. Now not all of them have been killed or injured but the casualty levels in the Kiev forces have been credibly documented to be in the 20-30% range

    But the Russians have been playing tricks with the numbers and have failed to mention all the Private Military contrctors and others that were also involved. For example In the East the Russians appear to have sneakily forced others (mainly forcibly conscripted Donbas natives) to be the ablative meat shields against well dug in Ukrainian positions. These poor sods have been dying or wounded in job lots and aren’t being accounted for. Add them in and it is quite quite possible that 65,000 people figthing for the Russians have been killed or wounded in Ukraine.

  31. Re the Ukraine/Russia they’re all corrupt thing. So what? Corruption’s just incentivising people to get done what you want done. A facet of people seek to maximise what they perceive as their own personal advantage. All societies have to be to some degree corrupt. How else do you motivate the individual? Altruism doesn’t do it. We all know that a discrete backhander or a favour for a favour can achieve what a polite request doesn’t. Just nobody wants to admit it.
    I can find it quite conceivable that corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine see a free independent Ukraine as a far better place to be a corrupt oligarch in than under Russian domination under Russian oligarchs. And that corrupt Russian oligarchs might have entirely different priorities. And the same right the way down the power ladder on both sides.

  32. Bloke in North Dorset

    This is quite a good thread on numbers lost, complete with photo’s of the captured documents. (T save them the time I’ll just note that Putinverstehers will claim they’re forged.)

    Ukraine published documents reportedly from Russia’s 1st Tank Army showing its losses through March 15. It lists: 61 KIA, 209 WIA, 44 MIA, and 96 taken POW.
    Incredibly, the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division’s 1st Tank Regiment allegedly lost 45 T-72B3M tanks.

    The 1st Tank Regiment reportedly had 93 tanks, so this would mean it lost almost half of them in the first three weeks of the war. The regiment’s commander Col Lapin is the son of the commander of the Central Military District and he received an award. 2/

    (So Central Military District Commander Colonel-General Alexander Lapin gave his son an award during a previous awards ceremony in Ukraine. His son is the commander of the 1st Tank Regiment, but it doesn’t appear that regiment has performed that well.)

    Regarding the 4th Tank Division, it says the 12th Tank Regiment lost 18 T-80U and 13th Tank Regiment lost 47 T-80UE tanks, and 423rd Motorized Rifle Regiment lost 6 T-80BV. The T-80U/UE numbers track with
    @oryxspioenkop
    ‘s numbers. 3/

    (to last tweet)

    If these figures are accurate, the 1st Tank Army lost 131 tanks in the first 3 weeks of this war, which is one regiment plus another battalion worth of tanks. 7/

    https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1526166084746891266

    As someone points out in the comments, this is from one of their elite formations, how have the lesser formations performed?

  33. If the numbers of Russian casualties, failures in battle, poor morale of cannon fodder ‘Elite Special Forces’, crap logistical support, losses of men, Generals, tanks, BTR’s and the odd capital ship etc. etc. (not forgetting the planes downed by the Ghost of Keev figment of someones imagination), are correct, why the fuck have NATO been scaring us for for the last 60 years? (I remember my ex wife getting really upset when I was reading ‘The Third World War’ by General Sir John Hackett back in the late seventies…..).

  34. BiS – Re the Ukraine/Russia they’re all corrupt thing. So what?

    So you end up with military vehicles that apparently haven’t been maintained since the Soviet era (Russia) or cancer wards full of people in agony with no cancer drugs because all the budget was stolen (Ukraine). Or cops kidnapping and torturing people because they don’t like the look of them (Ukraine again but probably also Russia). Or an alarmingly high number of unsolved murders the authorities show no interest in solving.

    Corruption is like a cancer, which is why civilisations have been trying to root it out thru harsh punishments since the dawn of literacy.

    I can find it quite conceivable that corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine see a free independent Ukraine

    It’s like a “free and independent Scotland”, but more tragical. A tautological nonstarter. They’ll either be a corrupt shithole kicking back 10% for the Biden crime family and fellating EU gauleiters who see them as a source of cheap migrant labour, or a corrupt shithole dominated by Russia. Or – even more depressing but a very real possibility now – a failed state, shorn of its remaining industrial regions and hollowed out by millions of people fleeing West.

    The reason the EU is genuinely popular in Ukraine – and I don’t blame them in the slightest – is that a very large percentage of Ukranians wanted to get out of Ukraine and never look back even before their current unhappiness.

  35. I continue to be amazed by the fervency of the support for the Ukraine and the utter indifference to the vastly bigger death count in the Yemen, or indeed China in its camps

    Closer to home.
    Closer culturally.
    Closer in appearance.

    The first one is probably the big one.
    Far more likely that someone makes a booboo/does something stupid and suddenly NATO gets involved.
    Then we’ll all be playing dodge the mushroom cloud.

  36. Dennis, Pointing Out The Obvious

    I continue to be amazed by the fervency of the support for the Ukraine and the utter indifference to the vastly bigger death count in the Yemen, or indeed China in its camps

    Really? Why?

    The reason is obvious and it has nothing to do with location, culture or ethnicity. The reason is money. The West has a ton of money tied up in China, far less in Russia, and absolutely none in Yemen. China is the largest source of cheap labor on Earth. China is also (potentially) the largest consumer market on Earth. Russia is neither, and never will be. Yemen simply occupies space.

    Europe and the USA have very good economic reasons for ignoring CCP crimes against humanity. If you don’t believe me, just ask Zuckerberg, Bezos, Cook or Musk.

  37. cancer wards full of people in agony with no cancer drugs
    Steve. The NHS manages that without even letting them get as far as the wards. Or even diagnosed.

  38. Dennis: Oppressor, Warmonger, Capitalist and Consumer of Petroleum Products

    To me the only question of interest regarding the actual fighting is the one nobody has asked:

    Where’s the Russian air force?

    This conflict has been raging for months and Russia still doesn’t have air superiority (much less air supremacy), which is a fundamental precondition for a large-scale invasion to be successful.

    You wouldn’t be seeing videos of Ukrainian artillery wiping out Russian tanks if Russia had air superiority.

    As an aside, it seems clear that nobody in the Russian army knows how to properly conduct reconnaissance or properly reconnoiter. That is of great interest as well.

  39. The proportion of wounded who eventually recover vs. fatalities in modern war has increased mostly because of practices that get aid to wounded faster, as well as better care.
    As an example, there’s the American general (Franks) who ended up commanding one of the Corps in Desert Storm. He had been wounded earlier, resulting in a leg being amputated (below the knee). But between better prosthetics and better care, he managed to stay in the Army on active duty.

  40. Bloke in North Dorset

    Dennis,

    The question about Russian air force question has been asked many times and has baffled many experts:

    (Mar 10)

    Yet, this assumption was wrong. From the start of the air war, the Russian Air Force not only was unable to consistently knock out Ukrainian anti-air, it SEEMS it could not effectively operate large numbers of aircraft at the same time.

    What this points out is that the Russians might have individual pieces of excellent equipment, but have real problems operating the complex systems needed to make them effective.
    https://twitter.com/PhillipsPOBrien/status/1501910720673366016?s=20&t=FAeIjw0cKfugVTN6p8LZ0Q

    He’s referring to a prospect magazine article:

    Is the Russian Air Force actually incapable of complex operations?
    The signs point to an institutional inability to plan, brief and fly complex missions at scale

    https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/is-the-russian-air-force-actually-incapable-of-complex-operations

    As the war has gone on its become obvious that the Russians don’t even practice inter-unit joint operations let alone inter-service joint operations and haven’t developed the C3 needed for those ops. Clearing airspace of your own artillery and missiles while you call in air strikes on targets that are holding up advances is a fairly complex task. I also suspect Russian pilots don’t trust their own side not to shoot them down they’re so scared and badly trained.

    Being shot down by your own side is nothing new, especially when they are poorly trained and fed, cold, wet and miserable. This is from a Twitter account doing a day by day retelling of the Falkland’s War, with some great pictures:

    May 12th 1982: Four Argentine Skyhawk jets swoop in towards HMS Glasgow & Brilliant, just as Sea Harrier CAP changes over, leaving them with no air cover. They attack too low for Glasgow’s Sea Dart, but Brilliant’s Sea Wolf locks on and for the first time in combat, it fires….

    Sea Wolf scores two hits on Argentine A-4B Skyhawks which crash in flames. The third, hit by debris, crashes into the sea. The final one drops 1,000lb bombs which hit the sea and bounce right over HMS Glasgow. It returns back over Goose Green and is shot down by its own side.
    https://twitter.com/FirstFalklands/status/1524635439310721024?s=20&t=FAeIjw0cKfugVTN6p8LZ0Q

  41. “It’s like a “free and independent Scotland”, but more tragical. A tautological nonstarter.”

    Ukraine is the largest country by area that’s located entirely in Europe, with a population comparable to Spain or Poland. Not to say it’s got problems, but it’s not an inherent non-starter. Places like Italy, Spain (and the UK!) have regional/cultural/linguistic differences too, doesn’t mean they’re all failed states. And yes we can laugh at Italy for all their failed governance and organised criminality, and the fact they’ve stagnated economically for 20 years, but they’re still per capita one of the richest states in Europe. Poland, even Romania and Bulgaria, were complete dumps when the Soviets had finished exploiting and repressing them, and still have serious problems with political stability and corruption now, but they’ve experienced really significant economic growth and surprising quality of life improvements. Purchasing power parity GDP per capita and life expectancy in some parts of Craphole Eastern Europe is looking better than it does in parts of Scotland. Ukraine has already managed to reorient its trade from mostly-with-Russia to mostly-with-EU, which is a better deal for it given that the EU is the bigger and richer economy. They’ve got a very impressive IT industry. Provided they can maintain some kind of territorial integrity and continue to integrate with European and global markets, rather than get trapped into the role of obedient purveyor of raw materials to Russia, their medium-term peacetime prospects would look pretty good.

  42. Anon – it’s the free and independent bit they’re not going to get. You could theoretically make a prosperous, decent, reasonably high functioning country out of Ukraine, and hopefully they will. Poland managed it, so there’s always hope.

    It’ll still be a buffer state though. They’re caught between more powerful blocs. The smart play would have been to take advantage of that situation and get what they could from Russia and the West without picking a fight with either side. Instead they’ve very foolishly allowed themselves to be taken on Uncle Sam’s wild ride of turning their country into a NATO FOB that exists to wind up Russia, while stupidly and brutally repressing their own (very sizable) ethnic Russian and Greek population to the point they’ve been murdering each other for 8 years. Zelensky should have marked a turning point, but like Trump (who he resembles in many ways), Zelensky is in office but not in power. What ordinary Ukrainians want is of no more importance to TPTB in Kiev than it is in London or Washington.

    The danger of becoming a failed state is real. Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe and demographically in deep shit before the invasion. Now, something like 6 million, predominantly women of childbearing age, have fled the country, much of their infrastructure no longer exists, and they’re dependent on Uncle Sam spending tens of billions of dollars a pop to keep the show going. That’s a horrible situation to be in, it gives them zero room to act independently in their own interests, and it means they’re going to struggle badly with serious structural problems for years to come even if the most outrageously optimistic of pro-Ukranian forecasts come true.

    The US and EU are also in deep shit. The bills from lockdowns and Net Zero are just starting to arrive, and anybody banking on indefinite amounts of largesse from them forever is a numpty.

    I don’t think the most optimistic forecasts will come to pass before we see Jesus again. Realistically, I think they – and we – are looking at partition and a frozen conflict, with all signs pointing towards a sequel war in fewer than 10 years. That’s assuming we don’t accidentally bumble into WW3 in the interim, which still seems unlikely but is a lot less unlikely now than anybody who doesn’t aspire to being a post-apocalypso punk rock Australian warlord should be comfortable with. The Poles – who are lovely people but rarely accused of being a nation of geniuses – are now shrieking about attacking Kaliningrad. Overall the European political situation looks a lot like it did pre-1914, only we have considerably dumber people crewing the ship of state and few evince the peaceful decency of Kaiser Wilhelm.

    St. Brendan, pray for us.

  43. Are Finland, Poland, Estonia, South Korea doomed because they are border states caught up in a struggle between power blocs? They picked the side they best aligned with, and whose level of interference with their domestic politics was deemed more tolerable, and thereby got out of the buffer state trap. Obviously a harder task for Ukraine since attempting to switch to an explicitly pro-Western stance is what triggered Russian intervention in the first place, but the majority of both their population, their economy and their oligarch class is now European-oriented rather than Western-oriented, so even if they suffer territorial losses it seems unlikely Russia is ever going to truly “get Ukraine back”. Russia has historical territorial claims over Finland, the Baltics and Poland, but isn’t getting them back either. Russia can also argue about an extensive minority of Russian-speakers and Russian-identifying people (not the same thing) across the Baltics. Ditto. Too many bad takes claiming Ukraine simply can’t escape Russia’s clutches because of historic ties and language minorities but those factors on their own do not determine a country’s destiny.

    Similarly, being impoverished isn’t something countries are locked into, as S Korea shows – though having your economy tied up as a resource provider to a militarily powerful but economically weak neighbour is one way to set yourself on a path to perpetual immiseration. At independence, Ukraine was about as poor as neighbours like Poland and Romania. They integrated with wider markets in a way that Ukraine didn’t, or wasn’t allowed to, and they’re now several times richer than Ukraine. This is one reason the Ukrainian business classes are now determined to push the country in a Western direction – they know they’ll get richer out of it. (Another reason is they’ve seen Putin largely neutralise the power of his own oligarchs, sidelining them in favour of securocrats and managerial appointees at state-controlled enterprises… as well as backstabbing those local political and business leaders whose defections in 2014 allowed much of the Russian landgrab in Ukraine. Now when Russia sounds out local elites about helping take over their Russian-speaking areas too, they’ve been getting cold-shouldered – one of the reasons they’ve found gaining territory unexpectedly harder-going this time round.)

    https://www.wolframalpha.com/input?i=gdp+per+capita+ppp+romania%2Fukraine

    https://www.wolframalpha.com/input?i=gdp+per+capita+ppp+poland%2Fukraine

    Easy enough to play around with the country comparisons but you get similar results for most Central/East European states formerly under Soviet control bar Moldova, which is another place that’s been caught between pro-European and pro-Russian economic policies. So an exception that proves the rule.

  44. We English won the battle of Agincourt with 70% of the army ‘hors de combat’ because of dysentery. Mind you they had a commander with some stirring rhetoric (h/t Shakespeare). Perhaps if Putin made a visit to the front to rally the troops? Before October 25th I suggest.

  45. “The reason is obvious and it has nothing to do with location, culture or ethnicity. The reason is money. The West has a ton of money tied up in China, far less in Russia, and absolutely none in Yemen. China is the largest source of cheap labor on Earth. China is also (potentially) the largest consumer market on Earth. Russia is neither, and never will be. Yemen simply occupies space.”

    Well precisely. Which is why I take the Western Establishment crocodile tears about Ukraine as just that. The WE care nothing for Ukraine, its entirely their own self interest that they are considering. Morality has nothing to do with it.

  46. @ steve
    FYI both Moldova and Kosovo are in Europe.
    If you mean that the Russian invasion has reduced the economy of southern and eastern Ukraine into tatters, well duh! but it *wasn’t* the poorest country in Europe last year

  47. “few evince the peaceful decency of Kaiser Wilhelm.”

    How I snorted. The little shit spent decades planning on war and then at the last moment got cold feet. (Or maybe even that was for show?)

  48. Chernyy, Dennis

    Yes, but that’s realpolitik, and I was more on about people on this very blog who do seem to care about one but not the others.

    There’s also the non trivial risk of actual nuclear war associated with backing a nuclear armed and apparently moribund lunatic into a corner.

    And people are fucking cheering for that.

  49. We can’t know the figures for Russian deaths and casualties for some time, if ever. There are some things that we know, not via the media or government channels though. (I barely read the MSM, so I don’t actually know what they are saying.)

    The Russian armed forces are definitely running out of men. They have started calling up reservists, even those in their forties. The slips are being posted all over the Russian internet. Currently it is voluntary, but it does indicate serious losses, because the military worth of a man who hasn’t been in the army for 20 years is pretty low. The loss of face for Putin needing to call up reservists would have constrained his willingness to allow it unless really necessary.

    We also know from Russian bloggers that several serious defeats claimed by the Ukrainians are true. Men who are clearly 100% pro-Russian, down to calling all Ukrainian forces “Nazis”, are talking about the incompetence of their commanders in public. When your cheerleaders are losing faith in you, then you can be pretty sure that the average squaddie lost it long ago.

    It seems highly likely at the moment that the Kharkiv area has been reclaimed by the Ukrainians. You don’t have to take the MSM’s word for that, you only have to know that it is no longer being shelled.

    That only leaves Kherson and Mariupol as big cities in Russian control. And the Ukrainians *may* be making headway towards Kherson too.

    The US spend $650 billion a year on defence. The amount they are “pouring” into the Ukraine is chump change to them.

  50. The big difference between Ukraine and Yemen is that Yemen is a civil war. You have Saudi Arabia backing one side and Iran backing the other. There is no reason for the West to be involved.

    In Ukraine you have one nation invading another. Unless you believe in the Greater Soviet Coprosperity Sphere, they are very different situations.

  51. @Interested

    +1 on uselessness and danger of masks

    Good:
    The Foegen Effect:
    Why Face Masks Increase the Death Rate of COVID-19
    https://dailysceptic.org/2022/05/02/the-foegen-effect-why-face-masks-increase-the-death-rate-of-covid-19/

    Knew they were useless, never complied anywhere.

    At GP on Monday I was the only mask free. While there I removed “2M distancing Law” poster and many “Do Not Sit Here” signs on seats

    .
    @Witchie, feel free to believe fantasies and myths. Soon you’ll be the conspiracy theorist as the zealots increasingly row back and re-write what they said. Congrats to Chris Snowden for being one of first on reverse gear outrage bus – still waiting for repentance and apology

  52. Also there is no solution to Yemen that the West can impose and support long term. They actively reject any support we give. They do not want to be our allies. It’s not like Iraq or Afghanistan were any different.

    Ukraine wants to be allied and economically linked with the West. There is a victory there that suits us and them.

    The “not poking the nuclear bear” argument fails at the first hurdle, because Putin’s Russia is not interested in peaceful co-existence. The West does not go around poking China militarily, because China keeps to areas that are marginally contested. It’s expansion is basically limited to the South China Sea, and is economic and defensive (at least from its point of view).

    If Russia is allowed to annex Ukraine, because to oppose them is provoking a nuclear power, then you can be sure that Belarus is next. Then Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, etc. Then Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Then the Baltics. Putin has said as much.

    Meanwhile China invades Taiwan. India sorts out Kashmir etc.

    If you just wave the white flag every time a nuclear power invades, then it is all on for everyone. No-one dare oppose you. That actually risks nuclear war more in the long term, when someone seriously oversteps the mark.

  53. For all the criticism of Saudi intervention in Yemen, and Western support for it, the alternative of letting Iran get a free hand there isn’t terribly attractive either. It’s hardly as if Iran and its proxies in Yemen have a brilliant human rights record either. At some points it looked like they might manage a complete military/political takeover of the country, and they seem pretty comfortable with letting their proxies attack Saudi oil facilities with Iranian-supplied missiles. If the Saudi intervention stopped, presumably the missiles would stop flying in that direction for now, but there’d still be a sword of Damocles hanging over oil production (and the global economy). Particularly if relief from Saudi pressure let Houthis consolidate their quasi-state and its army, and with control over ports or even the nominal government, Iran shipped even heavier gear in.

    Obviously Western “peace activists” will moan more about the Saudi side of the intervention because Western governments are backing the Saudis up, but they also ought to impotently scream at the Iranians to give up and go home while they’re at it. The Iranian play is pure overseas power politics; the Saudi play is to stop their arch-enemy getting its hands on their border territory and using it to chuck missiles at them. And unlike Putin’s fear of NATO missile bases in Ukraine being used to reach Moscow in minutes – which the Americans are quite capable of doing in other ways yet have shown no inclination of putting into practice bar the outbreak of WWIII – a foothold in Yemen genuinely does hand Iran the capability of precision strike on strategic targets inside Saudi that they can’t achieve either from home or via their proxies in Iraq/Syria/Lebanon, and it is a capability that’s been repeatedly made use of.

    The reality of that threat doesn’t necessarily make the Saudi policy sound either morally or strategically, nor does it justify the use of nastier means to achieve their ends, but it does mean Saudi would suffer severe consequences from reversing course. Western attempts to force Saudi to pull out, or at least to show far more restraint, would therefore be a very delicate matter. If Western governments do what protestors want by just cutting off ammunition shipments for the very expensive Western hardware the Saudis have bought, that would be seen as a grave betrayal of the alliance given the risks we would be expecting Saudi to allow itself to be exposed to indefinitely. Not a great look commercially or diplomatically for other arms customers/allies. If the West tried pulling that trick on them, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Saudis started importing arms from elsewhere instead. They’ve got zero incentive to just sit back and let their oil fields be held hostage by the Houthis/Iranians.

  54. There’s also the delicate balance at play with the Saudis and Israel.

    One way we keep the Saudis off Israel’s back is to give them what they want elsewhere.

  55. CD/Anon

    So, to be clear, you guys are mostly just adding to what Dennis said (and which I agree with completely)? Ie, little to do with morality, more the usual “goodies versus baddies”/politics/money/western interests etc?

    And which, in passing, reminds me of this excellent clip:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn1VxaMEjRU

  56. CD/Anon

    So, to be clear, you guys are mostly just adding to what Dennis said (and which I agree with completely)? Ie, little to do with morality, more the usual “goodies versus baddies”/politics/money/western interests etc?

    I did post before Dennis, so I suppose technically he is adding to what I said… lol

    But yes, Dennis made a good point about the money – that is why politicians support anything.

    I was thinking more about why Joe Bloggs in the street might be supporting the Ukrainians.

  57. I’d argue that there’s also the huge amounts of the Western taxpayer’s money that the non-profits give to the Houthis as well as the rest of the Yemenis. That’s why I liked Trump’s decision to stop the US taxpayer supporting the enemies of his Saudi and UAE allies.

    Of course Biden immediately began subsidising them again.

  58. @PF

    I’m more pointing out that the “anti-war” crowd who claim this is goodies and baddies, and that we are arming the baddies, are being very naive. They haven’t looked at the wider cast list and noticed how bad some of the people on the receiving end of the Saudi ammunition are. Moreover, Saudi war aims are more defensive and Iranian war aims are essentially expansionist. And protestors seem to think that if Western countries did what they want, Yemen would return to peace and tranquility. Perhaps they’re right and some kind of peace negotiations would happen that the current Saudi intervention is preventing. But rather more likely that the civil conflict would continue even if the Saudis pull out, with Iran expanding its power there. And quite possible that Saudi would find ways to keep fighting, or at least interfering in other ways via proxies of its own b, even if the West tried twisting Saudi arms.

    As Chester says, there are good reasons for the West to try to keep Saudi on-side. If you hate Saudi domestic policy, odds are you (and your wallet) are going to hate the foreign policy Saudi would adopt if it were untied from its current alliances by what it saw as a grave Western betrayal.

  59. Chernyy

    Apologies: two CDs, I meant Chester (and Anon) directly above my post! And – with all the earlier posts – I had missed yours in that context….

    Anon

    Understood, I wasn’t (personally) taking sides wrt my response, simply trying to be clear on what it is we’re describing, that was all.

  60. I’m sure the caravan has moved on, but yes – I obviously understand the geopolitical differences, and I understand that the arms companies just want to flog arms, and I understand that the media are bought and paid for – it’s the silly cunts led by the nose to fly Ukrainian flags from their upstairs windows, as though there was some special quality attaching to Ukrainian civilians killed by war that doesn’t apply elsewhere, that I don’t understand.

    I get that Yemeni rebels were never going to be involved in Eurovision, for various reasons, but I don’t get why everyone (or at least a lot of people) gives a shit that Ukraine wins it.

  61. @Anon
    +1 Yet our MSM, esp BBC, C4 etc ignore Iran threat and portray Yemen rebels and palestinians (the arabian pikeys) as the good guys

    @Chester Draws
    Saudis and Israel are working together. Thank Mr Trump

    This is hilarious, not worth reading full articile:

    Russian propaganda has reached new depths of insanity
    .
    The Russian media is not just a mouthpiece but an actor within the regime, and currently it is normalising talk of nuclear annihilation
    .
    Jade McGlynn, 16 May 2022 • 2:02pm
    .
    To watch Russian television is like entering a mirror world, where panellists compete to devise the most outrageous insults and most reckless threats towards Russia’s unending list enemies. In this frenzy, the propagandists are losing any sense of proportion and all sight of the consequences of their hysteria
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/16/russian-propaganda-has-reached-new-depths-insanity/

    And that differs from UK & US media, organisations, music, sport etc in what way?

    At least Russian msm isn’t constantly denigrating the public for being Russian rather than feeling guilty & woke

    Oh, almost forgot, C4 News Tuesday finally reluctantly admitted Azov are Nazis (but, but, but they’re Good Nazis) after months of denial

  62. I’d argue that the surge of national socialism after WW2, and the adoption of its basic principles by most of the world, means that the Nazis have long since won.

    The only real present day disagreement with Adolf’s doctrine appears to be that the whites not the Jews are the untermensch.

    Thus the fact that some of the Ukrainians tend to identify with the ‘heroes’ who tried to save them from Stalin’s rule is quite trivial.

  63. Pcar

    As you point out, no sense of irony from the Torygraph. It happily admits that

    “where panellists compete to devise the most outrageous insults and most reckless threats towards Russia’s unending list enemies. In this frenzy, the propagandists are losing any sense of proportion and all sight of the consequences of their hysteria”

    is simply

    “a mirror”

    of itself!

    🙂

  64. “And that differs from UK & US media, organisations, music, sport etc in what way?”

    Case in point the reaction to the final surrender of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol – it was universally described in the Western media as ‘Ukrainian forces evacuated from Mariupol’, as if somehow they’d been spirited away to fight another day. When in reality they’d surrendered to the Russians, who had bussed them away. to a fate unknown.

    I saw the headlines, and the pictures of the busses being loaded, and wondered ‘What sort of war zone is it when you can evacuate your troops from a completely surrounded position in busses?’ Of course not realising that the MSM was utterly lying about what was happening. I mean, who could have predicted that?

  65. I noticed that one myself Jim. I thought the nonsense was so obvious that they were really undermining the plausibility of their tales.

  66. @Jim

    Well observed. Noah agrees:

    Western Audiences Have a Right to Be Accurately Informed About this War
    .
    Yesterday, Ukrainian fighters besieged in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered to Russian forces, after a battle lasting almost three months. There’s no doubt this was a surrender: the Ukrainian fighters – who belong to the Azov regiment – were taken in buses to Russian-held territory in Eastern Ukraine (as shown above).
    .
    However, that’s not the impression you’d get scanning Western media outlets like the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. These outlets described what happened as an “evacuation” marking an “end to the combat mission”. Here are the headlines:…
    .
    https://dailysceptic.org/2022/05/18/western-audiences-have-a-right-to-be-accurately-informed-about-this-war/

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