Friday 24 February 2023

The Fateful Anniversary

Last night, at the behest of our good friend Sackers, I watched All Quiet on the Western Front.  Impressive stuff and, being filmed before the invasion, not pointedly directed against any war in particular.  But avowedly anti-war, nonetheless, in an age when nobody seems to know much about history - the closing credits of the film state that, following the first few months of the conflict, WW1 settled down to positional warfare in which the front line never subsequently changed by much.  That's not even true of the Western Front, let alone the Eastern and Mediterranean theatres.  "Ain't gonna study war no more" ... ho, hum.

So it seems Putin can't muster a spectacular for the first anniversary, and he's settled for signaling it's to be an attritional strategy of assuming the West will lose interest.  Well, he's been making trite calculations about almost everything from the start, so why up his game now?   A rather telling symptom of just how badly the Russian army is placed, is the arrival in theatre of ... BTR-50s - considered obsolete when I started studying these things in the 1970s: as if the UK had dusted down some Humber 'pigs', the famous 1-ton Armoured.  T-34s can't be far behind.  Still, steel plate is steel plate, I suppose.

At the time of writing (12 noon, 24 Feb) the West is taking very seriously the latest story, that Russia is planning something based around Belarus: there's blanket air recce being conducted.  The Ukrainians suggest it'll be a false flag attack on Belarus by Russians disguised as Ukrainians to stir the former into joining hostilities.  Lukashenko will be trying to avoid this like the plague.  My guess would be that "pre-bunking" will do the trick here, and Putin won't get his convenient new northern front opened for him by his subservient neighbour.  So maybe it'll just be an anniversary round of attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Everyone, though, does indeed seem to be worrying about attrition and urging Ukraine to make its move.  Thus far, there has been pretty good judgement on strategic matters.  Hopefully, nothing rash results from this pressure.  One sometimes hears it argued: better freeze the conflict now rather than push Russia back to earlier (2022?  2014?  2013?) borders, because Putin or his successor will merely wait a few years, build up massively, then come pouring across the border again.  But this is empty: what treaty could Russia possibly be induced to sign tomorrow that they won't tear up when they are good and ready for Round 3?

The West has to reckon on taking unilateral measures to secure Ukraine against Round 3, whatever and whenever borders are next (temporarily) 'frozen', de facto or de jure.  Does Biden want to do this before the next election?  That maybe what will dictate the timing.

Still several hours of this anniversary day to go, and surprise is always surprise ...



Anonymous said...

Chinese Foreign Ministry on "US Hegemony and Its Perils"

I don't read the Telegraph, but my understanding was that Russia was worried about a Ukrainian attack across the border into the pro-Russian Moldovan enclave of Transnistria, where 20,000 tons of Warsaw Pact munitions are stored - that's a lot of Globemaster flights worth.

There's a lot of ruin in a nation, and America may surprise us yet, but I can't help thinking they are heading straight for Thucydides Trap.

Or, ignoring Graham Allison, go back to Paul Kennedy. "The map of the UK's overseas bases before WWI is very similar to a map of US overseas bases today".

Anonymous said...

PS - I see the Americans are currently funding Baloch separatists in Pakistan to try and bugger up Gwadar Port and the rail links thereto.

Rail links are tricky. Very easy to put a hole in a railway line, but not very hard to fix. Tunnels and bridges are the choke points.

Wildgoose said...

If you read news from around the world rather than the blatant propaganda that we're subjected to then you would realise that the rest of the world is heartily sick of the United States' constant belligerence.

Russia can't be induced to sign a treaty because, (as they have made clear), they do not see the United States as "agreement capable". Most of the rest of the world seems to agree. Countries having to tiptoe around the world bully may be forced to make careful public statements. Privately though, they are cheering on the Russians standing up to them.

Wildgoose said...

I mentioned BASF a little while back. It appears Europe is continuing to de-industrialise and the USA who provoked the war in Ukraine is getting the benefits. With "friends" like these...

BASF to cut 2,600 jobs.

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh said...

How did the USA provoke a war?
Genuinely curious.

dearieme said...

"hope once the war is over, everyone ignores the role that was played."

Well, once my father's war was over nobody made much fuss about Poland helping itself to a wee bit of Czechoslovakia in '38. Nor Hungary.

Anonymous said...

NATO was designed to keep America in, Germany down, and Russia out. It's certainly doing that. I'd have thought the US could do with some manufacturing goodness on its side, but it seems not if the German and Japanese trade figures are any indication

Anonymous said...

China is the one behaving like a grown-up with its peace plan. I remember a time when it was the US (and UK) that pushed for pointless regional wars to end, instead of screeching for more blood, more corpses, more poverty, more despair.

Anonymous said...

@Bill Quango, Russia does not appear to have any problems manufacturing weapons and munitions.

Bill Quango MP said...

I’m not saying that they do. Though they actually do have a problem replacing the best of their kit.

What I was suggesting is that the Soviet built Warsaw pact power of Russia, was retained. Even after the collapse of the post soviet era and the internal collapse of the Yeltsin Russia. The Russia Federation still retained, in various states of readiness and service, thousands and thousands of vehicles. A semi working navy. A capable airforce. A solid artillery and a huge missile force.

Having squandered those legacy ‘gifts’ from the ghosts of Russias Past kn the Ukraine snow, they cannot be rebuilt. Because to build 5,000 brand new T90 or T2023 invincible tanks, is not within even the pre Ukraine war capabilities of the Russian federation. And even if it were demanded, it could occur, but only at the expense of another arm.

The rebuilding of the huge army means the airforce, already at a disadvantage Vs almost all NATO aircraft, becomes weaker. The tech gap becomes ever larger. In every other area too. The communications and logistics, both sorely deficient in Ukraine have to be addressed. As do the infantry fighting vehicles. The artillery that is a generation behind the Himars. The radar coverage that the west uses to not only peer over the hill, but to listen in to the briefings in the tent on the other side of the hill.. All need modernisation. Russia’s drones come from overseas. Where are their drones?

Putin’s military power was in Russia’s traditional strength of great numbers of everything. It might not be as good as the NATO, but even if it was only half as good, it would prevail on sheer numbers. The equipment was fast. Easy to maintain. Easy to acclimatise to. Easy to use. Easy to mobilise and good enough to do the job.

But it has been found not to be half as good. Not ready. Not quick to mobilise. The T-72 turrets that littered Libya were thought to be a result of poorly trained tankers, in the less impressive export models. Turns out, the T72, even upgraded, is no longer a match.
Sheer numbers would suffice. Even If correctly used.

In the future they won’t even have those numbers as a scare factor.

Sobers said...

"I mentioned BASF a little while back. It appears Europe is continuing to de-industrialise and the USA who provoked the war in Ukraine is getting the benefits. With "friends" like these..."

I've said for ages that this war suits the USA down to the ground, they all but created it, and are doing their best to ensure it continues indefinitely, as everything that flows from it benefits them. When it no longer benefits them, they will end it. Either by giving the Ukrainians what they really need to defeat the Russians, or by telling Zelensky 'Time's up chum, this is the peace deal, sign here'.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E-K said...

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh said...
How did the USA provoke a war?
Genuinely curious.

Making overtures to Ukraine in 2008 to join Nato/EU. Staging a coup in 2014 in Maidan Sq and then getting caught out deciding who Ukraine's new President was going to be during a telephone conversation. Arming and training Ukrainians since 2014. Electing President Biden who'd been so instrumental in Maidan Square, having had his utterly unsuitable son installed high up as an executive in Ukrainian gas in all that turmoil. (Attacking a fellow Nato member in the ensuing war.)

Imagine Scotland having recently gained independence then making an alliance with Russia and having Russian military involvement up to Hadrian's wall. What would we have done ?

Yes yes yes, Anon. Call me a Putin lover (I'm not.) I guess when the zeitgeist was against the negro you'd be the one calling me a 'nigger lover' too.

I'm happy for you to have Victoria Nuland's face. I'll have Martin Luther King's.

E-K said...

Another fateful anniversary should be the overthrow of Trump and the inauguration of Biden.

The bloodshed restarted then and it hasn't stopped since.

Anonymous said...

@Bill Quango. Are you seriously trying to suggest Russian artillery is inferior to NATO's? I would take practicality over prima donna any day.

Russia sees this as existential. Total War.

Anonymous said...

@ EK

Trump overthrew himself.

E-K said...

Anonymous @ 9.57 - And it's been bloodshed in the world ever since. From Afghanistan (worse than Saigon but already memory holed - we see more footage of Saigon !!!) to Ukraine.

From a term of office that should have been known for its record levels of peace we have come to one of instant global violence and tension.

Jon Sopel is strangely quiet these days. There was a time when you couldn't hear anything but his (and the general MSM) ranting. Seems everything's OK now.