Tuesday 23 May 2023

After Bakhmut: let the trolling commence

For all intents and purposes the town of Bakhmut has fallen, albeit that Ukraine has taken the opportunity afforded by the exhaustion and tactical ineptness of the invading forces, to pinch it on either flank.  For the time being there will be no Russian advance on Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, which were supposed to be the next towns down the road, last summer while Putin still enjoyed a (tiny) bit of momentum.  Informed opinion varies as to whether the 4-month street-fighting defence of Bakhmut was as advantageous to Ukraine in ratio of casualties as merited holding on for quite that long.  It certainly blunted the Russian Donbas offensive to the point of total standstill, depriving Putin of one of his stated main aims.  Further, it fixed Russian forces to an extent they would not have welcomed.  My own observation would be that Ukraine has not thus far demonstrated gratuitously bad military judgement, or overly emotional attachment to any particular piece of real estate.  (Most mistakes have, understandably, been ones of caution - always easier to identify in retrospect.)

We now await the long-heralded Ukrainian 2023 counteroffensive.  As I endlessly say, there's no such thing as strategic surprise ... so it will be interesting to see what tactical surprises they have up their sleeves.  It's imperative they have something clever in mind; otherwise, with no prospect of air superiority they are potentially in trouble against a lengthily-prepared, albeit unsubtle and static defensive plan, established in depth.  Frankly, there are no good 20th century precedents that I know of, notwithstanding that static defences have often been swept aside - with air support.  The major points in Ukraine's favour are:

  • excellent intelligence; the initiative; and many months of active planning
  • the front is huge, and Russian forces (of poor fighting quality on average) are thinly spread.  Their defensive depth looks excellent on the map, but only a small % is actively manned
  • defence in such circumstances relies upon good communications, coordination and decision-making under conditions of chaos, plus adroit deployment of highly mobile reserves: and the Russians have thus far been found badly wanting in all those regards
  • I'm not convinced Putin dares hazard his airforce, the only wholly irreplaceable asset he has
I shan't bother to list Ukraine's difficulties.  Anyhow, we may not need to speculate for long.

*   *   *   *   *

I was looking back at an excellent June 2022 article by Adam Tooze the other day, and was amused to take a peek BTL.  We've been honoured with some pretty silly trolling on C@W back in the early months of this war - who knew we merited the attention of the Russian troll factories? - but Tooze got both barrels.  Samples: 

... the [Russian] breakthrough at Popasna** and the developing envelopment of Slavyansk, as such defences tend to hold in place until they break, and then they break quite quickly. In this war the Ukrainian side has been the rigid and inflexible one (dig in, defend anything to the point of encirclement and annihilation), while the Russians moved and maneuvered over a 800km length of battlefield, changing axis of attack and intensity many times. The results are slowly becoming visible - the Ukrainians are losing the war 

Russia’s outnumbered, highly mechanized force has constantly set the rules of the engagement and Ukraine’s massive mobilized force, it seems, is fundamentally reactive.

it is very obvious that Ukraine is retreating everywhere. ... a full collapse (of Ukr) is coming

the Russians are winning in a very loss-effective manner. Once beyond the in-depth defences of the Donbass, and with much of the professional Ukrainian army under the ground, a prisoner of war, or injured beyond recovery to the field (or refusing to fight as has been shown in multiple cases), the war tempo will move much faster. Zelensky and his government have made a major strategic error in pouring in men and arms into a salient thats will inevitably collapse, a meat grinder being used by the Russians to destroy the Ukrainian army ... Zelensky throws more and more of his army into this cauldron. Once the cauldron, and much of the Ukrainian Army, is finished who will be left to defend the rest of Ukraine?

The Ukraine military has been defeated for two months already. I don't know what kind of funding you are smoking, Adam, but the only successes in Ukraine are the people cleaning up all the dead Ukrainian soldiers. It is beyond disgusting that people are pretending that those facts are not real ... They all should have surrendered long ago and every death is just another mark of American hubris.

Admit it. Russia has won, will win, will demand all sanctions removed. And Ukraine, for its efforts better remove crooked Zelenskyy and admit that their sacrifices were in vain. 

Hmm.  I think we shall see more like this with which to decorate Ukraine's counteroffensive.



** Russian "breakthrough"?  Very short-lived; subsequently routed; and Slavyansk never troubled. 


Caeser Hēméra said...

I should think it would be difficult to top Ukraine's trolling of Putin with yesterdays shenanigans in Belgorod.

Russian insurgents attacking an area of Russia that was was once part of Ukraine, and under the pretext of freeing the Russian speaking people from a corrupt government? The Ukrainian government disavowing it as an internal Russian issue, and nothing to do with them, guv!

Mr Putin should be sincerely flattered.

When he's finished mopping up the coffee, spat Jack Smethurst style, over his lovely long table anyway.

Wildgoose said...

What worries me (and my fellow "trolls") is the potential for this to go tits up very badly indeed.

NATO has promised to deliver F16 aircraft to Ukraine and is also holding "exercises" right now in Poland and the Baltic countries.

I can imagine those F16 aircraft being immediately used to attack Russia which, by rights, ought to make the NATO airfields they lifted off from legitimate targets.

Right in the middle of an enormous (and provocative) air and missile defence exercise right on Russia's borders.

This could all go very kinetic with very little warning.

The politicians in charge of the West are relying on continued Russian forbearance of their idiotic antics, but that can't last.

This is all stupidity writ large.

Anonymous said...

Two documents of interest.

This advert today, looking for people from "middle east and north africa" with military experience to fight in Donbass. Haven't the "moderate headchoppers", our allies against Assad, plenty of military experience?

The kicker is that they then get guaranteed UK/EU citizenship!

Participants must understand all risks and sign a waiver of claims...After the contract expires and compliance with requirements is verified, accelerated citizenship in the UK or EU is guaranteed.

Just what we need in the UK - Arabs and Africans with military experience!

Ad here


Archived here


The other doc is the RUSI report on Russian tactical warfare:


"It is typical for there to be between 25 and 50 UAVs from both sides operating over the contested area between the forward line of own troops (FLOT) and forward line of enemy troops (FLET) at any given time for each 10 km of frontage."


dearieme said...

If Putin won't hazard his air force is it really an asset?

Anonymous said...

dearieme - I imagine (and that's all) that

a) air defence is still pretty effective - unlike NDs 'trolls' I've noted since very early on that Russia is leery of getting aircraft much beyond the front line. After all, Ukraine's AF is pretty much all gone. Talking of which, where are these F16s going to be flying from? Poland? Moldova, driving headlong towards NATO against the wishes of much of their people? Unless they've fixed the air intake issue they can't fly from Soviet-era roads covered in crap.

b) they probably want to save them up for THE BIG ONE which our rulers seem to be driving us towards at a rate of knots (see above). Anyone got any potassium iodide pills?

I do wonder if the Septics are going "shit or bust" as they see China rise, realise they haven't broken Russia economically - though they've done a good job on Europe/UK - and are apparently willing to put all their (and our) chips on red.

It must be said we could teach them a thing or two about giving up power gracefully. Mind, there are still some idiots on leftie boards who think it's 1899 and Perfidious Albion is everywhere.

"The British want Odessa as a naval base" - FFS, we only just have Portsmouth as a naval base, if you can call half a d0zen frigates and a single working carrier with no planes a Navy.

Anonymous said...

Still, to be fair to the Russians, if NATO were running their military all Ukraine's power and water would have gone in the first few days/weeks. Thats what we did to Serbia and Iraq.

Russia have only hit the lower-voltage transformers, not the big 750kv and 400kv ones. And that only six months in, after the US bombed Kerch.

"excellent intelligence; the initiative; and many months of active planning"

Again to be fair, the intelligence is US/NATO, as is the planning. As for the initiative, how long before Ukraine run out of warm bodies?

Anonymous said...

Russia has already run out of warm bodies.
Unwilling Conscripts don’t make good fighters.
Unwilling prisoners released from Russian jails don’t make good fighters.

The Red-Dead Army.

Elby the Beserk said...

Trolling? Did someone mention Kaliningrad?


"Russia facing nightmare as Kaliningrad separatists vow 'break from Moscow is inevitable'"

Pst two back went up and stayed up.
Post I just made on the last article didn't even make it.
Let's see what happens with this.

Why does Blogger hate me so?

Anonymous said...

Elby - don't forget Putin is dying of five different diseases, the least of which kills horribly. And his troops are all drunk, and only kept in the front line by sharpshooters behind them...

actually the RUSI report said that the infantry weren't very enterprising, co-operation poor, but they they were staunch under fire and held their positions. Which is pretty much what the Wehrmacht said about our lot in WW2, but they still lost.

Meanwhile... Russian inflation last year was 2.3%. It felt more like 23% here.

Boris, announcing sanctions "they will have a massive impact on living standards, collapse the economy, cause widespread discontent and lead to the removal of the leadership".

He could have mentioned that he wasn't talking about Russia.

Anonymous said...

There are reports that Andreas Marlow, German general in charge of training Ukrainian troops in Germany, is unhappy about the quality of some of his trainees - not that they're poor soldiers, but that they keep boasting about atrocities - tortures, executions - committed against Russian prisoners, and showing each other the videos. Apparently he's reported them to the local prosecutor and the German MOD.

Not impossible I guess - you may remember that very early on the head of a military hospital said he'd ordered his staff to castrate all injured or captured Russians.


He unsurprisingly retracted this publicly, but who knows what happens there? They know they have a pass from Western media.

"I have always been a great humanist and said that if a man is wounded, he is no longer an enemy but a patient. But now [I gave] very strict orders to castrate all [captured Russian] men, because they are cockroaches, not people.

hovis said...

' 9.5% rates are not historically high in UK.'

Define your timeline. Meaningless comment.

The Uk environment for the last 10+ years has absolutely seen interest rates below that and that is what has informed peopled decisions.

Historically inflatiion sits 1- 2% iirc for the last 300 years on average. Of course that is also a meaningless figure, but I am not pretending it is.