The Sobering Continues: Russian Invasion of Ukraine

"This problem is somewhat unsurprising. The Russian mil was built around the concept of active defense, eschewing strategic ground offensives. It lacks the logistics, and manpower, to sustain this kind of fight in the largest country in Europe."  - Michael Kofman. Director, Russia Studies at CNA.

Indeed we have never taken the position that modern Russia could defeat NATO in an offensive operation pushing westward. We have always held that Russian could play defense effectively against a NATO (and NATO tactical aviation) push eastward into Russia and Russian air space.

This war is being reported and analyzed (in English) from a Western perspective. So Western assumptions on warfighting are applied to events in this war. This is a mistake. The Russian army today is not the Red Army of the WWII/post-WWII period. Russian doctrine is different and is structured for defense.

[Below] As we predicted - it was only a matter of time before US-Western heavy weapons would be photographed chewed up in Ukraine. Indeed below is an image of the remains of a US-built M777 howitzer supplied to Ukraine by the United States. When video first appeared of M777s being attacked in Ukraine they were labeled "fake" by fanboys. They were not fakes. You've been warned.

Destroyed US-made M777 towed-howitzer outside the city of Lysychansk 08-Jun 2022. Towed artillery (regardless of national origin) will not survive long in a modern European war against an opponent like the Russians. This is because they cannot fire and move quickly enough to avoid the counter-battery fire mission.
More video here.

M777 file photo. Yup, that's a knockout M777 in the top photo alright.

The Russians have effectively knocked out Ukraine's air assets. Some Ukr sorties are being conducted but god knows the disposition of UkrAF aircraft being operated at dispersed locations. Some Ukr air defenses are likely operating but it's the old tactic of keeping AD off, then switching on to try and get a quick assessment of the air situation, and then turning back off and moving.

When the infamous "traffic jam" outside of Kyiv was not attacked by the Ukr Air Force - that was probably the big tell on the disposition of the UKrAF.

Russian doctrine (is not Soviet doctrine):

  • Defensive in nature. Deter or impede an opponent's air force's ability to interfere with Russian military and civilian operations.
  • Deprive the opponent's air force of offensive capability and support of its own troops.
  • Air superiority is important but not key. Russia/the Soviets have been training to fight without their own air superiority since the 1960s.
  • Air superiority is not a prerequisite for doing anything else.

US/NATO doctrine:

  • First, establish air superiority. "Counter aviation."
  • Then project air power onto ground targets and other centers of gravity - to shape the battlefield.

[Editors note: This author played at a charity event on April 09, 2022, that included humanitarian aid for Ukraine. We are deeply saddened by this war.] 

"Illegal wars and naked aggression that kills very large numbers of other people in other countries are not restricted to autocracies - as the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq attests. Concerning militarism, autocracies can mimic democracies and vice versa. So liberal democracy versus autocracy is not the delineator."

The Russo-Ukrainian War is acting as a massive Threat Reduction Program. As Russian capability is observed and analyzed the threat from Russia is effectively reduced to NATO. Obviously, the opposite is also true. As Western weapons and capability enter the war, the Russians too receive a windfall of intelligence as US/Western hardware is shipped back to Russia for analysis. For the Pentagon, shifting priorities and much smaller defense budgets should be the natural result. This is because a Threat Deduction Program is the opposite of conjecture, so your old threat assessment(s) typically no longer apply.

The crown jewel of Russian/Soviet design aviation, the Su-35S 'Flanker-E' lies pancaked in a Ukrainian field after being shot down. The pilot is POW. The aircraft appears to have been on a SEAD mission. The culprit might be our old friend, the Soviet-designed S-125 Buk M2E, the same class that shot down a US F-117 and severely damaged a second F-117 over Serbia in 1999. We assess ~ 50 percent of Russian aircraft losses are victims of fratricide based on what we saw in Georgia in 2008.

"After serving only nine months of his sentence, Hitler left prison in December 1924. He continued to build his party and waited for a crisis that would rock the republic and make his movement a force in national politics. The Great Depression, which began in the United States at the end of 1929, provided that crisis. Desperate and demoralized people lined up in front of government unemployment offices. Street peddlers, beggars, youth gangs proliferated; suicides increased, particularly among middle-class people shamed by their descent into poverty, illness, and uselessness. As Germany's economic plight worsened, the German people became more amenable to Hitler’s radicalism. His propaganda techniques worked. The Nazi Party went from 810,000 votes in 1928 to 6,400,000 in 1930, and its representation in the Reichstag soared from 12 to 107” (475). Perry, Marvin. Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume II, 7th Edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning, 2011, 2008. Print.

We are going to be very clear here. The 2008-09 Wall Street collapse destabilizes Ukraine by pounding Ukraine's economy like a sledgehammer. Just as the 1929 Crash and resulting Great Depression helps propel the Nazis into power in Germany in the 1930s, so too does the 2008-09 crash and resulting depression help propel Ukraine into civil war by 2014. As Ukrainians in the Donbas are laid off in 2009 and humiliated by their descent into poverty - they become angry: 

"[April 7, 2009] Small wonder, then, that Sergei Yeryomin is looking for someplace to vent his rage and despair. Mr. Yeryomin, his wife, Tatyana, and thousands of others lost their jobs at the giant Kirov Metallurgical Factory..." "This part of eastern Ukraine has always felt more attached to Russia than to western Ukraine and neighboring Poland. For many here, the fraying economy is accompanied by a sense that officials in Kiev, where the government is paralyzed by political infighting, have abandoned Ukrainians to their fate." Source

Su-25SM in action. 

This reckless impulse for repeated US financial regulatory malfeasance (read: no New Deal reforms) - is so grievous it sets economic and therefore the political conditions - to produce massive wars. This clear causality signal has been ignored by Western analysis and academia. This habitual American impulse was captured and identified here back in 2014.

Indeed we write: 

"With a destroyed economy brought on by the combined weight of insufficient internal history of/with democratic institutions, a systemic Kleptocracy, a 2008 Wall Street Crash and toxic-housing bubble in Ukraine including a run on Ukrainian banks in Oct 2008, and finally, an I.M.F. Neoliberal stipulated austerity program (directed against pensions, social spending, and fuel prices) – the suffering is too much - economic desperation too great – the resulting nationalistic/xenophobic surge too strong. Times up - Ukraine implodes."

The United States within 80 years of refusal to properly maintain regulation on its banking system (1933 Glass Steagall Act is removed in 1999) has played a central role in propelling Europe into yet a second major land war. No one operates in a vacuum.

Now the arsonists (the Americans) are racing in with firemen hats on to "save" Ukraine.

And engage in a proxy war with Russia. This could result in nuclear weapons use by Russia in Ukraine - for which the Americans will have no answer. Ukraine is not in NATO. US and Russia are not at war.

As the Russian Invasion of Ukraine grinds on it has become more apparent that we are seeing a repeat of the Second Chechen War. Its also become apparent that the mightly Red Army that emerged from WWII appears no longer capable of prosecuting a large-scale offensive ground operation that can take and hold territory. But this may change if reconstituted Russian forces reenter Ukraine. We shall see.

[Above/Below] More sobering images of TB2s down. Too many TB2 fanboys are trying to explain these images away as fakes. The lower TB2 appears to have been moved and cobbled together and rephotographed (to show the tail number of a complete aircraft) downed earlier on April 2. The tail is being held up by bricks.

Both images show the drone faceup with its starboard tail boom broken at the fuselage and the port boom intact broken off at the tail. This is consistent with similar manufacturing failure modes. Images are going to be loaded onto open source only after being found. No reason for the Ukrainian military to document and load up these TB2 images. 
[Below] Another TB2 was downed on April 27th in Belgorod Oblast and was manufactured in March 2022. This wrecked TB2 had Ukrainian-made internals. 
[Below] Yet another TB2 wreck was found on May1 number S51T. The location is unknown.

[Below] Romanian images of a Ukrainian Navy Bayraktar TB2 UAV (75 Blue) pulled out of the water near Sulina, Romania. The aircraft came down near Romanian waters around May 11th but was recovered around the 23rd. Note manufacturing failure mode of the tail boom(s) is the same as in other TB2 crash images. Note port-side boom.

And then things get much worse. There is clear evidence that war crimes have been committed by both sides The images are too graphic to be shown. Reports now of Chechens involved on the Russian side. Neither Russia nor the United States recognizes the ICC (International Criminal Court).

If you detect some cynicism in this writing you would be right. We have become thoroughly disgusted with both superpowers. Neither are members of ICC. And their reason is clear. Both Russia and the United States simply do as they please; lie, invade who they please, and kill people in large numbers. The death toll in Iraq as a result of the illegal US invasion is simply staggering and could be upwards of 2.4 million Iraqi dead:

"Taking ORB’s estimate of 1.033 million killed by June 2007, then applying a variation of Just Foreign Policy’s methodology from July 2007 to the present using revised figures from Iraq Body Count, we estimate that 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 as a result of our country’s illegal invasion, with a minimum of 1.5 million and a maximum of 3.4 million."

The United States lost 129 helicopters and 24 fixed-wing aircraft in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and February 2009. 

This link can be used to track material losses of the Russo-Ukraine war of both belligerents (for all reasons). Remember assertions of shootdowns and by whom - are largely unverified - so you are really only viewing a list of the wreckage by type. Based on what occurred in Georgia in 2008, we assess roughly 50 percent of Russian aircraft losses (from contact with an antiaircraft weapon) are due to fratricide (friendly fire) in this war. 

There is little historical data on the Ukrainian IFF combat record to assess. However, sending untrained troops into combat is a recipe for a whole array of blue-on-blue events.

Some good analysis here and here. Something that to date has been in very short supply in this war. Very good read here


25-Jun 2022: Large Tu-22M3 airstrike. "Around 5 a.m. [4 a.m., in Paris], the Chernihiv region came under massive missile bombardment. Twenty rockets targeted the village of Desna, fired from the territory of Belarus [and also] from the air" It could be an interdiction attempt of Western supplied heavy weapons, like US-supplied M142 HIMARS MRLs.

M142 max effective range for systems supplied to Ukraine should be ~ 52 miles

22-Jun 2022: Americans may offer "Gray Eagle" UCAVs drones to Ukraine. As we summarized long ago, traditional armed drones like MQ-1 Predator and Bayraktar TB2 UCAV drones have little to no utility against modern integrated air defenses. And the Ukrainians know it. Ukrainian TB2 ops have effectively evaporated after being neutralized by Russian air defenses.

21-Jun 2022: More bad news for towed artillery. This time it's Russian drones over American-supplied M777 towed howitzers. Two US-made M777 guns are destroyed. Likely from laser-guided artillery designated by drone(s).

What it is like in the middle of a massive artillery bombardment:

20-Jun 2022: Russia is making (slow) progress in the Donbas. Good article on the artillery battle in Ukraine here. Towed artillery (regardless of national origin) will not survive long against an opponent like the Russians.

Excellent report from SkyNews:

16-Jun 2022: Proof of what we already have discussed at length. If you employ expendables countermeasure (chaff/flares) - opponent missile shots will miss. Here the first Russian helo using countermeasure defeats a MANPAD over the water coming in at about the 7 o'clock position. The second helo does not employ countermeasures egressing at ultra ow altitude and appears to be hit from the rear by a MANPAD. Hopefully, higher quality video will appear soon.

As we predicted a Russian Su-25 does down after hitting powerlines.

American solder almost buys it. Shots hit the stairwell just behind him.

Washington touts another $1 billion dollars of weapons to Ukraine. The effect will be negligible.    

02-Jun, 2022: The current US administration said it will provide US-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Ukraine. We give US-made HIMARS about 4 days after entering Ukrainian territory before they find themselves in the viewscreen(s) of Russian drones.

23-May 2022: Russian forces are slowly starting to collapse the Ukrainian pocket in the Donbas. Their forces broke out at Popasna and Myronivskyi.

19-May, 2022: It appears the party is over for US-supplied M777 towed artillery. Below shows the  Russians finding and attacking US-made M777s.  It was only a matter of time before Western-supplied hardware is also chewed-up in this war. Western analysts have been either silent or claiming it is fake - which reveals their confirmation bias and incapacity for objective analysis. Consider yourself warned.

18-May, 2022:  Indeed - former President George W. Bush make a Freudian slip while giving a speech criticizing Russia and referred to the “unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” rather than Ukraine. We agree. You can not make this up.

Russia is continuing to move its shipping traffic through the Turkish straights using commercial shipping after the Turks closed military traffic through the straights in February.

16-May, 2022: The rumor mill is that a Russian MiG-31 may have shot down a Ukr Su-24. There is no confirmation.

Lots and lots of aircraft and combat footage from the Donbas here.

Turkey's President is opposing the membership of Finland/Sweden in NATO due to their support for Kurds. 

08-May, 2022: Both belligerents claim they hit the other Mi-8/17 "Hip" helo on Snake Island in this video. Again IFF conditions are so extreme in this war - that either claim can be true. This also means it can just as easily be friendly fire. Again the poster has no way to verify the nationality of the helicopter.

07-May 2022: New TB2 video from Snake Island confirms in OSINT that 1) new TB2 video is loaded almost immediately and 2) TB2 ops have been pushed out to peripheral areas. 

05-May 2022: First-hand account of the "hell" of fighting:

03-May, 2022: Video of VKS Su-25,
Donetsk, and Su-24 (likely Donbas). Su-24 accuracy will be very high with low altitude release. This could be one reason the Russian have PGMs in short supply - they simply aren't needed for tree-top release altitudes. 

28-Apr, 2022: Gasprom cutting off gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria for non-payment in either gold or Rubles.

VKS Su-25Ms making themselves extremely difficult (almost impossible) MANPAD targets. Note interweaving flight paths and expendable release. At these altitudes, the biggest danger could be high voltage transmission lines. We wonder how many aircraft "downed" may have flown into them instead.

26-Apr, 2022: Germany decides to send 50 "Flakpanzers" to Ukraine. How they will be armed with ammunition and transported to the war in the eastern part of Ukraine is the question.

As the proxy war in Ukraine heats up (West vs Russia), Germany says it will send 50 of its Gepard Flakpanzers into the fighting. We shall see how this develops. My guess is as images of destroyed Western weapons appear on OSINT, Western politicians will hesitate to send more. The Turkish German Lepaords knockout in northern Syria comes to mind.

[Above] Russia is starting to concentrate its airpower in the east. Here Ka-52, Mi-28N, and Su-25 over the battlefield. These images are from Donbas.

22-Apr 2022: Finally some sanity from the Germans. Current German Chancellor Scholz knows his history and knows that both Eshehower and LBJ did not try and provoke World War III when Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

20-Apr 2022: A pair of Russian Su-25SM3 attack aircraft over the Donbas. Again we see little evidence that Western-supplied "stingers" are having any strategic effects in Ukraine. Whatever successful engagement could easily be by Ukraine's own-made stocks, Soviet origin Eastern-Bloc stocks. There has been almost no video of successful MANPAD employment.

19-Apr 2022: A video appears of the downing of a Su-25 on the 15th of April.

16-Apr, 2022: According to TASS the Russians shot down a transport aircraft near Odesa supplying Western weapons to Ukraine. No evidence has been produced to date. 

15-Apr, 2022: According to Ukraine: "Russians have carpet-bombed Azovstal with Tu-22M3." Ukr air defense?

13-Apr, 2022: Reportedly the Russian cruiser 'Moskva' has sunk in the Black Sea. Details of this report remain murky. Whether it was enemy action, a sea mine, or an accident remains unclear. Previous Ukrainian claims they sank a Russian amphibious ship was inconsistent with video evidence and did not support hostile action - but simply a handling accident. 

Moskva. No damage on radars. No stormy sea. Evidence of missile hit(s) remains unclear.


In this war, there is plenty of sobering news to go around. It includes:

  • The invasion itself.
  • Towed artillery cannot be used in a modern European war against an opponent like the Russians because towed artillery cannot shoot and scoot fast enough to avoid a counter-battery artillery fire mission. We expect all towed artillery to be out of action by end-of-August 2022.
  • Illegal wars and naked aggression that kills very large numbers of other people in other countries are not restricted to autocracies - as the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq attests. With respect to militarism, autocracies can mimic democracies and vice versa. So liberal democracy versus autocracy is not the delineator. 
  • Simply massive IFF (Identification Freind or Foe) issues operating on both sides. A situation compounded by opposing sides' equipment being pressed into service against their former owners. Western armies have never faced anything like this IFF environment in modern history. Observers should refrain from making parallels to any war the West has fought.  

[Above] Along with IFF issues, the other issue here is cell phone use. In the battle area, both belligerents can zero in on the cell phone use location of either side. 

  • Massive threat over-inflation of Russian ground war combat capacity at the Pentagon. The new "Bomber Gap." The MIC (Military Industrial Complex) is now frothing at the mouth because of an orgy of new military spending:

"It is not a mystery who is benefiting from this orgy of military spending. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that “the Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry's capacity to meet Ukraine's weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years.” Among those participating in this meeting about the need to increase weapons manufacturing to feed the proxy war in Ukraine is Raytheon, which is fortunate to have retired General Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary, a position to which he ascended from the Raytheon Board of Directors. It is virtually impossible to imagine an event more favorable to the weapons manufacturer industry than this war in Ukraine:

Demand for weapons has shot up after Russia's invasion on Feb. 24 spurred U.S. and allied weapons transfers to Ukraine. Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity. . ."

  • The honeymoon looks over for the Bayraktar TB2 medium-altitude long-endurance drone. 

[Above/Below] As far as the Russo-Ukrainian War goes, the honeymoon is over for the Turkish-designed TB2. No new video of TB2 ops has appeared in weeks and TB2 wrecks have to be found before they can be photographed. This one is found on April 2.

  • Indeed the Americans may offer "Gray Eagle" UCAVs drones to Ukraine. As we summarized long ago, traditional armed drones like MQ-1 Predator and Bayraktar TB2 UCAV drones have little to no utility against modern integrated air defenses. And the Ukrainians know it. Ukrainian TB2 ops have effectively evaporated after being neutralized by Russian air defenses.
  • The combat loss of a VKS Su-35S. We assess likely to fratricide because nearly 50 percent of Russian aircraft losses in Georgia in 2008 were due to friendly fire.
  • Russian cruise missiles and other missile forces are good enough that NATO cannot base inflight refueling tankers or AWACS near an East/West battle area.
  • Fratricide. Belligerent weapons are so similar that friendly fire must be an all-consuming tactical problem.
  • Laser-guided artillery has been very effective - but could be in short supply on the Ukraine side.
  • Treetop release altitudes using aircraft equipped with SVP-24 do not need PGMs. Weapon accuracy with "dumb" drag retarded munitions will be very high at low release heights. The best explanation for why the Russians do not have large numbers of PGMs? Their high cost simply isn't necessary.
  • The Buk SAM system seems to be very (more?) effective versus the S-300/400. 
  • With the war in Ukraine going back to 2014 - there is a wealth of video and other material that can be uploaded masquerading as current events. Be careful.
  • The Americans will offer a WWII-style lend-lease program to Ukraine. We assume only items that are ok falling into Russian hands and sent for analysis will be made available. Lend-lease was made available to the Soviets fighting to fight the Nazis during WWII. The irony here is anyone Google the Ukrainian National Gaurd "Azov Battalion." It appears Washington's foreign policy establishment animosity towards Bulshviks is greater than for fascists.
  • Cell phone triangulation is being used to find targets. Ukrainians should try and be dissuaded from the impulse to upload real-time video and imagery on social media - as this could trigger an artillery fire mission from the Russians. If you are using your cell phone in a combat area - you're a fool.

RB-341V Leer-3. This system can pick up more than 2,000 phones within a 3.7-mile range. This also explains why Ukrainian cell phone tower networks were left intact by the Russians.

  • Little hard evidence that Western-supplied weapons like ATGMs and MANPADs are having any strategic effect. Footage of successful kills by western supplied portable systems are remarkably few in number. The Ukrainians appear to be using their own portable weapons stocks that they themselves manufactured.
  • As we predicted NATO is showing signs of - fracture - because various member states are now being deemed as "individually contributing" weapons to Ukraine - and not as collective NATO action or policy. Finland appears poised to apply to join. But there are a lot of moving parts here. We shall see what the Greeks (and the Turks) have to say about any new NATO membership.
  • The war in Ukraine does not even register in the top 10 as a concern that America needs to address. However, the Washington establishment would rather fight a proxy war in Ukraine.
  • Liberal Democracies are equally capable of lying, illegal war, and premeditated naked aggression that kills very large numbers of other people in other countries. This is not just the behavior of autocrats - as the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq attests.

VKS Su-25SM3 w/Talisman ECM pods

Again we turn to Andrew J Bacevich to clarify and contextualize the Russo-Ukraine War. Here is an expert from Tom Dispatch published April 14, 2022

Andrew J. Bacevich is Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins.

"Reloading for the Next War

For those proponents of the status quo intent on sustaining an American proclivity for materialism and militarism, the Russo-Ukraine War could not have happened at a better time. Indeed, it comes as if a gift from the gods.

In terms of immediate impact, that war has affected the American polity in two ways. First, it is diverting attention from Washington's manifest inability to deal effectively with an accumulation of problems to which our profligate conception of freedom has given rise, preeminently the climate crisis.  The horrifying news out of Kharkiv or Mariupol buried the latest report warning that ongoing climate mitigation efforts are almost certain to fall short, with catastrophic consequences.

Meanwhile, naked Russian aggression in Ukraine has also offered an excuse for Washington to treat as old news or no news the embarrassing debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul in August 2021.  The Pentagon thereby effectively shrugs off a humiliating episode that capped 20 years of misguided and mismanaged military efforts in Afghanistan.  Among the proponents of American militarism, few things are more important than forgetting—no, obliterating—those two decades of dismal failure and disappointment.  In essence, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has enabled Washington to do just that.  As if by magic, Putin has changed the subject.

As an illustration of how this works consider a recent essay in Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the foreign-policy establishment. It carries the title "The Return of the Pax Americana?"

The question mark is misleading. An exclamation point would more accurately have captured the aims of its authors.  Michael Beckley and Hal Brands teach at Tufts and Johns Hopkins, respectively.  Both are also senior fellows at the hawkish American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.  And both welcome the Ukraine War as the medium that will reignite an American commitment to the sort of assertive and muscular approach to global policy favored in militaristic quarters. Russian President Vladimir Putin, they write, has handed the United States "a historic opportunity to regroup and reload for an era of intense competition"—with not only Russia but also China meant to be in our crosshairs.  
The call to reload is central to their message.

The authors blame a "prevailing public apathy" and "strategic lethargy" for reducing the U.S. to a position of weakness. Notably, their essay contains only a single passing reference to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and no mention whatsoever of what two decades of post-9/11 U.S. war-making yielded and at what cost.  At least implicitly, Beckley and Brands deem such conflicts irrelevant.

Considered from this perspective, the war in Ukraine could hardly have come at a better moment.  According to Beckley and Brands, it opens "a window of strategic opportunity" to deal with "the coming wave of autocratic aggression" the authors see lurking just over the horizon.  Seizing that opportunity will require the United States—its military budget already far and away the world's largest—to undertake "massive investments in military forces geared for high-intensity combat," while displaying a "willingness to confront adversaries and even risk war" in the process.  That prospect is one they welcome.

From any perspective, in my judgment, the Ukraine War is proving to be a disaster for all parties involved (weapons manufacturers excluded).  Whenever and however that conflict finally ends, there will be no victors, just victims.  Even so, Beckley and Brands celebrate the war as the occasion for a great awakening in Washington—the moment when policymakers rediscovered "the value of hard power."

[Editors note: This writing is still in progress. Check back]

- All media found here is for scholarly and research purposes and protected under U.S. Internet ‘Fair Use’ Law -


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