Russia’s “Hood Moment”

The battlecruiser HMS Hood was known as ‘The Mighty Hood.’ This sobriquet was reflective not only of the immense firepower she carried, but also of her prestige. She was not only a symbol of the Royal Navy, but one of the entire British Empire and all its glory. A proud and powerful peacock, adored by Britons and feared by her enemies. Hood’s death while hunting the Bismarck in Denmark Strait on 24 May, 1941 was a devastating blow to the Royal Navy and caused deep trauma across Great Britain. In some ways the Royal Navy never fully recovered from the loss of fabled battlecruiser. Six months later, the United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor. Over the next three and a half years, the mantle of preeminent global naval power shifted to the US Navy, which continues to enjoy unmatched naval dominance on the oceans of the world to this day.

The Russian warship Moskva didn’t come close to matching HMS Hood’s prestige. An almost forty-year old Slava class cruiser, he was commissioned towards the end of the Cold War era and carried considerable firepower for a surface combatant. As flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, Moskva was a symbol of Russian naval power, though not to the degree Hood was for the British. Hood was a ship many Britons felt a deep attachment to. It’s not likely that many people aside from current sailors, naval officers and veterans of the Russian Navy were familiar with Moskva, even though he was the pride of Russia’s navy. But now that she has been gone under, Moskva will be mourned and grieved by the entire country.

Moskva’s loss, whether due to a shipboard fire or enemy action, is a significant blow to Russia at an already difficult point in the war. Morale will be negatively affected at the very least. Realistically speaking though, now Russia’s naval operations need an immediate refurbishing if Moskva was in fact the victim of a Ukrainian attack. The nation’s pride will be more difficult to repair, though Russia has already taken the first steps towards seeking reciprocity. The military factory responsible for producing Neptune anti-ship missiles was attacked last night outside Kiev.

Militarily, the effect Moskva’s sinking will have on operations remains to be seen. Long term, it will be interesting to see if the cruiser’s loss marks the imminent demise of Russian sea power, or if the disaster brings on needed changes and reform to the Russian fleet. Hood’s loss brought on a moment of truth for the Royal Navy and now eighty-one years later the Russian Navy, as well as the nation it serves, faces a similar moment.

Ukraine Update 23 March, 2022 (Evening)

  • As evidence grows concerning Russian troops digging in north of Kiev, I do not understand the knee-jerk reaction by Western media outlets in declaring this a Ukrainian victory. Earlier this week it started becoming clear Russia was shifting to a strategy of attrition and Western newspapers, TV new channels and internet outlets openly reported this. The meaning of this was also discussed by pundits and for the most part they were correct. A strategy of attrition means a halt to advances by Russian forces for the time being and a reliance on indirect and direct-fire weapons to degrade Ukrainian defenses. With this in mind, the digging in and preparation of defensive positions by Russian troops should come as no surprise at the very least, nor should it be regarded as a Ukrainian victory. I understand the media and get why they do many of the things they do. But I do not like it, and sometimes I simply have to vent. This is one of those times 😊
  • When the meeting of NATO leaders starts in Brussels on Thursday, President Biden will face increasing pressure from US allies to spearhead alliance efforts to play a more active role in the Russia-Ukraine war. Aside from the ever-present desire by some NATO leaders to implements a no-fly zone over Ukraine or parts of it, there are other methods for assisting Ukraine that nations such as Poland and Slovakia would like to implement. None of these methods will move forward without at least tacit US approval and the Biden administration has been careful not to undertake or agree to any moves that could allow Russia to label the US or a NATO country as a co-combatant. Avoiding escalation has been at the forefront of US policy since hostilities began. On the other side of the coin, the less than stellar performance of the Russian military in the war so far has made some NATO members want to push the envelope so to speak. Right now wouldn’t be an ideal time to risk possible escalation, however. Vladimir Putin’s back is against the wall and if he feels trapped, the Russian leader will lash out. Then escalation becomes almost certain, and so does the prospect of a larger war.

The Lviv Message Job

Russia’s air and missile attacks against Ukrainian airbases and other military targets in the western part of the country have come under increasing scrutiny today as Western governments attempt to decipher the purpose behind those attacks. To be fair, the target set was made up of legitimate military targets. Civilian areas were not deliberately placed in the crosshairs. The timing and location of one attack are the factors causing worry in Western circles.

One attack came against a military installation near the western city of Lviv, a short distance from the Ukraine-Polish border, and a major crossing point for Ukrainian refugees over the past three weeks. The area is also a transit point for convoys carrying Western arms. Earlier last week, Russia issued a stern warning to the United States and its allies that the Russian military will regard the convoys as legitimate targets of war. The warning was largely ignored or minimized by the US and NATO, at least on the surface. Last night’s attacks on targets in western Ukraine can’t be disregarded so easily, seeing how they too contained a more overt message for the West to cease the overt resupply and rearming efforts in Ukraine. Call it a shot across NATO’s bow or a warning. I prefer to view it as a message job where the meaning was anything but hidden or minimized.

It remains to be seen whether the United States and its allies get the message. If Russia believes its efforts have failed, expect to see a convoy carrying arms and supplies east from Poland to Ukraine attacked in the coming days.

Author’s Note: I’ve been out of the loop for much of the weekend catching up on work and enjoying some college basketball since this is Selection Sunday. 😊 Some additional news is coming out concerning the Lviv strike and Russia’s reasoning for it. I’ll talk about that either tonight, or tomorrow morning in a Ukraine Update. –Mike

Ukraine Update 25 February, 2022 (Evening)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is preparing his fellow countrymen for the coming defense of Kiev. Zelenskiy, in a video broadcast earlier today, laid out the situation. Russian forces continue advancing on Kiev and he expects the Russians to storm the capital city in the early morning hours. “This night will be very difficult, and the enemy will use all available forces to break the resistance of Ukrainians,” he said, later adding, “The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.” The president intends to remain in Kiev and not evacuate. There’s no doubting his courage, but at this time it may be better for Ukraine’s leader to leave Kiev and travel west safety. The time might soon arrive when a government-in-exile must be formed. Zelenskiy is the most high-profile Ukrainian politician and he’ll carry considerable clout.

It is just after 3 AM in Kiev and explosions can now be heard in the distance. If a Russian ground attack does materialize, it will likely come before dawn and be supported by heavy amounts of artillery and air support. The Ukrainian Air Force has lost air superiority over the eastern half of the country, as mentioned earlier, so Kiev’s defenders will be forced to fight beneath a very hostile sky.

Author’s Note: I’ll try and get another update out as the situation develops closer to the morning in Kiev.

Ukraine Update: 25 February, 2022 (AM)

We are at a point now where Kiev’s life expectancy is being measured in hours instead of days or weeks. A second Russian effort to gain control of Hostomel Airport northwest of the capital city has been successful, 24 hours after the initial assault was defeated. This morning, a larger airmobile force struck the airport and seized it. The move, in conjunction with progress made by the Russian effort to the north out of Belarus, has effectively flanked Kiev from the west. Kiev’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city is now entering a ‘defensive phase.’ A number of Russian saboteurs and special operations troops have been attempting to infiltrate the city in order to create havoc.

In the early morning hours, the capital city was struck by several Russian missiles and air attacks. Explosions rocked the darkness and an aircraft crashed into a residential area of the city. Unfortunately, the aircraft was a Ukrainian Su-27 fighter.  By all accounts, the Ukrainian Air Force has lost control of the air. Fantasy tales about the ‘Ghost of Kiev’ aside, the Ukrainian Air Force is in a difficult spot right now and its leaders really need to think about sending its surviving combat aircraft out of the country while the time remains to do so.

News from the east and south is little better. Minutes ago, it was learned that Russian forces have broken through the Ukrainian defenses at Kherson and are now moving to exploit the success before the Ukrainians can try to seal off the penetration.

A Russian amphibious landing is underway west of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Details on the situation are few. It is not clear if the Russians or Ukrainians are in control of the city proper and surrounding area, despite a number of videos making the rounds on social media that suggest Russian troops control at least part of the city. The arrival of the Russian force from the sea could very well prove to be the final nail in the coffin of any Ukrainian forces remaining in the city.

Things are happening much faster now. As a result, for the next 24 hours or so the Ukraine Update posts are only going to be able to provide glimpses of what’s taking place.