Ukraine Update: 28 November, 2022

Nine months into the war finds Ukraine’s allies struggling to keep Ukraine supplied with arms and ammunition. As a rule, expenditure of ammunition and material in a war will exceed pre-war estimates. Ukraine is a classic example of this, requiring an almost constant resupply from the West to keep its armies fighting. Both Russia and Ukraine are burning through ammo and material at a pace not seen in Europe since World War II.  This incessant demand for weapons, ammunition and other material is starting to wear down European, and even US supplies and war stocks. Armories in many NATO nations have been stripped of artillery, anti-tank missiles, ammunition and air defense missiles for Ukraine. There is dangerously little remaining in NATO stockpiles. Now, the West scrambles to continue supplying Ukraine while simultaneously replenishing its own stockpiles.

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As Russian missile attacks against Ukraine’s power facilities increases, the Ukrainian government is considering a limited evacuation of Kiev residents to other areas where services have not been disrupted. The Russian attacks have brought on power outages and the water supply in much of Kiev has been disrupted. Kiev’s mayor, former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko told the British Broadcasting Company, “This is a temporary relocation of certain categories of people to the suburbs, where there may be services.”

With damage caused by Russian attacks and winter weather setting in, the national power grid is going to be taxed immeasurably between December and late February in many areas of Ukraine. Emergency cut-offs of electricity will become more common as the days go by. It is almost assured that Ukraine will need assistance from abroad to prevent a collapse of its electrical grid.

Author’s Note: I apologize for the longer-than-expected delay. That bug was a little more resilient than expected. It would seem the end of 2022 is shaping up to be busy so I’m getting on the ball. China update tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.

Missile That Landed In Poland Was A Ukrainian SAM

After yesterday afternoon’s mass rush to judgment by many in the media regarding the missile that landed in Poland, this morning they are being forced to walk back their initial claims. As have a number of politicians and government officials in Ukraine, Poland and across Europe. The reason for this because the preliminary investigation has revealed the missile was not fired by the Russian military. It seems the missile was likely launched by Ukrainian air defense forces likely during a Russian cruise missile attack. Components of the missile, an SA-10 Grumble, came down near the Polish village of Przewodów and killed two Poles.

Both NATO and the Polish government said earlier there is no indication of a deliberate Russian attack. In Ukraine, the government in Kiev has amended its position on the matter. After vociferously blaming Russia for the act, government officials have become rather quiet and are requesting access to the site of the blast. In Brussels NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said there will be no Article 4 meeting until the investigations have been completed.

Yesterday’s incident caused anxiety and concern around the Western world. Since the start of the war in Ukraine the possibility of the fighting spilling across the border into the territory of a NATO member-state and widening the conflict has been a major concern from Washington to Brussels. The first reports from Poland made it appear as if NATO’s  greatest fear was coming to life. Luckily, as time went on it became clear this was not the case.

No Confirmation That Russian Missile Landed in Poland

It’s been a tension-filled afternoon and evening on NATO’s Eastern Flank after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, a short distance away from the Ukrainian frontier. It did not take long for the media to assume the missile belonged to the Russian military. In the absence of facts, the media speculated, and soon the Polish government called an emergency meeting. Social media reports took over from here and it was not very long before World War III was trending on Twitter and other platforms this afternoon.

As it stands now, there has been no confirmation that the missiles were Russian, in spite of supposed remarks by a US ‘intelligence official’ that they were. The US government, as well as other Western allies are investigating but have not been able to confirm the cause of the explosion. Two Polish citizens were killed in the blast, however little beyond this is known for certain. Consultations are taking place across Europe this evening. Poland has invoked Article 4 and tomorrow NATO ambassadors will meet to discuss the matter in detail.

Russia has denied that any of its missiles had been targeted at any points in proximity to the Polish border. The incident did occur around the same time a heavy wave of Russian missiles struck power infrastructure targets around Ukraine, causing considerable damage.

As the night goes on, hopefully more solid information will become known. We’ll follow up with an update here late tomorrow morning.  

Russia-Ukraine War Military and Geopolitical Lessons Transferred To China/Western Pacific: Introduction

In the last few months as the Western Pacific has heated up and fighting in Ukraine continues, a number of prominent Western geopolitical and defense analysts, along with an equal number of their less-than-prominent OSINT counterparts have attempted to take a number of lessons learned in the Russia-Ukraine War and transfer them to the deteriorating situation in the Western Pacific. More precisely, onto China’s rise and recent shift to aggressive posturing as well as onto a hypothetical China-Taiwan conflict in the near future.

Geopolitically speaking, China in the Western Pacific and Russia/Ukraine are two completely different animals that share few similar parts. This is clear from the first comparison and has been discussed to death here, in academic IR journals and in government reports from around the world. There’s no point beating a dead horse, so to speak. However, there are other geopolitical aspects where the similarities and difference between the Western Pacific and Ukraine are not as clear, leaving them open to interpretation and theory from professionals and amateurs alike. This is the area that the geopolitical crowd has identified as best suited to take Russia/Ukraine lessons and transfer them to China/WestPac. A practice that’s become akin to fitting a round peg in a square hole.

On the military side of the equation the game is similar. Analysts and OSINT ‘experts’ are trying desperately to evaluate the lessons being learned in the Russia-Ukraine War and break them down to fit a hypothetical China-Taiwan conflict or China-US Great Power conflict taking place at some point in the next twelve months. In this area the differences between amateur and professional is unequivocal. On one hand, the professionals have a dearth of knowledge as well as experience to draw from when putting together a plausible model to support their theories. The amateurs (OSINT) are starved for experience and formal education of military matters. Most of these folks are veterans and knowledgeable in their respective fields, such as infantry or cyberwarfare. Their inability or reluctance to contextualize tactical lessons and apply their value to the strategic picture ends up being their undoing in many instances.  

In spite of the disparities between professional defense analysts and their OSINT counterparts, they share a common quirk. A startling number of people from each group have found themselves caught up in the moment, so to speak, and issuing bold prognostications about the future of warfare with conclusions reliant almost entirely upon the latest news releases from the Ukrainian battlefield. Irresponsible behavior at best, simple laziness at worst. Especially when one remembers that in the first months of the war, Western media outlets were receiving their information directly from the Ukrainian government and military and often reporting it word for word. The kill numbers being reported, in both men and material, were significantly inflated, as initial numbers usually are. Fog of war and all of that.

I intend to delve into some of the geopolitical and military lessons from Ukraine that are being translated both properly and improperly for use in the Western Pacific in the coming month. I’d give a more accurate timeline for when these posts will be published, but as many readers are aware, this act usually backfires on me. This time I’ll play it safe 😊 Besides, with the unstable and uncertain world we’re dealing with at present it’s probably best not to commit to a firm schedule. Lord only knows what crisis will pop up next, or where.

Russia Launches Heaviest Missile Strikes Against Targets Across Ukraine

Russia wasted little time in responding to Ukraine’s “terrorist attack” against the Kerch Strait Bridge. Early this morning Russian forces executed a well-coordinated and massive missile strike against targets across Ukraine. “This morning, a massive high-precision strike was conducted on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, military command, and communications,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a video address to his security advisors. “In case Ukrainian terrorist attacks continue on Russian territory, our response will be tough and proportional.” Infrastructure and military targets were struck from Kiev (Kyiv) to Lvov. Over fifteen Ukrainian cities were struck this morning.

Despite Putin’s claims that the targets were military and infrastructure, the Ukrainian government says otherwise. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy said in a video posted to social media that the Russians are “Choosing targets to harm as many people as possible.”

There could be some truth to this. However, Zelenskiy has a well-known penchant for exaggeration. Civilian infrastructure and communications nodes are legitimate targets of war. Ukraine’s own attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge took place at a moment when there appeared to be civilian traffic going across the span. This did not make the bridge any less of a legitimate target.

The attacks, mostly carried out by cruise missiles, have resulted in large-scale power and communications outages around Ukraine. Air raid warnings went off through the day, sending Ukrainian citizens to basements and bomb shelters in scenes reminiscent of the war’s first days. It is not clear if today’s strikes will be followed up by further attacks in the coming days and hours. Putin promises proportionate responses to future attacks on Russian soil, so at first look these missile attacks look to be a one-day affair. Yet if Russia senses real success building as a result of today’s action, expect to see similar strikes in the near future.