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Ukraine: Ongoing…


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Yeah, to be clear there are some countries that putin wants to stomp (the baltics) because he views their leaving the ussr as a massive mistake. There are some he wants to stomp because they are not behaving like satellites (ukraine, Belarus if that ever went that way). And there are some that Russia would love to kill if they could get away with it (Poland, the us). Most everything else is fine so long as they remain Russian loyal allies or vassals.

 

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There is an archetype of Russian leader called the "gatherer of the Russian peoples," whose job is to integrate all of the Russians living outside the country itself back into the Russian homeland. If you speak Russian or your ancestors lived on lands that were Russian at the time before a roll-back, then you remain Russian, you are just temporarily living somewhere else. In Putin's view, those who successfully bring Russians back under the protection of the motherland are the greatest of all Russian leaders, and he saw himself regaining Ukraine and possibly other areas as continuing that tradition.

Of course, that is a rather nebulous concept, and that is something Putin likes: a grey, vague area he can operate in with some freedom of movement and declare victory or success whenever he likes, with whatever retroactive definition of victory he can come up with (Putin does not spell out publicly his victory conditions prior to launching an initiative to retain maximum flexibility, and remarkably has still not done so with Ukraine, with the annexation announcement of the four oblasts probably coming closest).

From that context, that is why Putin went after Ukraine first. Inarguably - to his mind and the minds of many Russians - Ukraine is a province of Russia that has been temporarily mislaid. It's harder to make that argument about even the Baltic States (which enjoyed much longer periods of independence, and Lithuania in various formats was even a peer power of Russia at various times). There's also the strategic advantage of not being in NATO. Putin may feel that he - or Russia - eventually has no choice but to directly challenge NATO to rebuild its strength in Eastern Europe, but he also wants to put that off for as long as possible, especially whilst Russia is not capable of beating them conventionally. The problem is that Putin probably does want to see those things unfold himself, and in his mind time is increasingly running out for him to achieve that (he'll be 71 this year). Taking Ukraine is also a springboard to greater strategic options in Eastern Europe: he could use troops in western Ukraine to pin down the Poles whilst invading the Baltic States, for example, if he wanted to go in that direction (now he has to consider do that via Belarus instead, with the possibility that if Ukraine endures, western Ukraine could be used to outflank and attack forces in Belarus; possibly a reason to install tactical nuclear weapons there).

Of course, things unfolding as they have has completely screwed up a lot of these ideas. It's also why the Russian media and politicians may have pivoted to identifying Kazakhstan as a new target, because they feel they can invade the borderlands and annex the Russian-speaking areas of Kazakhstan far more easily than an invasion of Ukraine or a potential clash with NATO, despite Kazakhstan being far larger than Ukraine and resupply infrastructure being potentially harder.

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This series of Tweets and links from Phillips P. OBrien on the battle for Bakhmut is very interesting.

 

And this one on the loss of Russia's future by the Dean of Economics at the Moscow State University is very sad.

 

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The situation in Bakhmut seems pretty chaotic, with limited Ukrainian "spoiler" attacks preventing Russian flanking maneuvers and some very heavy exchanges of artillery fire, a fair bit of it Ukrainian.

What is interesting is the reports of some Russian units pulled out of the line at Bakhmut and rapidly transferred to the area around Lyman, with the Russians keen to recapture the town and reverse some of the gains of last year's counter-offensive, but it appears the Ukrainians are very heavily dug in around Lyman and that nut is not cracking yet. Instead, weakening the line at Bakhmut may have given Ukrainian forces an edge in some sectors to hold areas that previously seemed weak, or even make limited advances.

It does appear that Ukrainian psyops and information warfare is being conducted with its usual effectiveness. I've seen some sources (some of them Ukrainian) saying that some Ukrainian operations in this war have been tactically masterminded and some others have been total ad hoc Hail Marys that paid off and the Ukrainians afterwards made them look like excellent, well-planned operations.

Bakhmut holding beyond the edge of February seemed incredibly unlikely a few weeks ago, it holding beyond the end of March was unthinkable. Whether it can hold beyond April will be interesting.

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58 minutes ago, A Horse Named Stranger said:

I am waiting and hoping for the Ukrainian counter offensive to retake more ground.

Yup, the next Ukrainian big move could be quite decisive. If Ukraine achieves a significant victory and retakes a reasonable amount of territory, I think support for Ukraine will hold strong and Russia's chances of a favourable outcome to the conflict will recede quite heavily. If Ukraine achieves only a damp squib, or, even worse, a disaster, I think it will embolden the sceptics who want Ukraine to negotiate away parts of its territory.

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11 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Putin’s dream and his rhetoric is about the Russian Empire (check out his speeches before the 2022 invasion).  He saw the Soviet Union as an extension of Imperial Russia.  That’s what Putin really is a revanchist Russian imperialist.  He wants to be remembered as “Vlad the Great” the Tsar who recreated imperial Russia.

You mean, all the speeches and writings in which he clearly states USSR and Warsaw pact were mistakes that dragged down Russia, that Warsaw Pact was massive overreach and overstretched Soviet forces, and that even USSR as such was ruinous for the most productive and wealthy parts, Russia to begin with?

There's an irredentist streak which is obvious. He'd like to re-assimilate all Eastern Slavs in his new Russia - so Belarus, Ukraine and either vassalize Kazakhstan and Baltic States or annex parts of them maybe. He's not going to annex farther than that. Extending the "sphere of influence" to make sure former Warsaw Pact countries stay basically neutral is clearly not the same as annexing them, though it's already a big imperialist move.

 

6 hours ago, Padraig said:

the Baltics will never not be at risk from Russia.  If they go down the Belarus path, they will be interfered with.  If they continue to maintain their independence, they will be at risk of being interfered with.  Naturally, they see the best approach to reducing that risk is by trying to ensure that Russia really regrets its military misadventures.  They will still not be completely safe but it does seem to be its best option.

So far, I still consider the Baltics deciding to ship some of their very own weaponry to Ukraine to be the craziest decision of the war (only topped by launching the initial invasion, obviously). Czechia or Romania doing it, I can understand, but countries who are the most at risk, are neighbours and pretty much targets of the bear, and whose only defenses are NATO membership and a modest amount of military stuff as deterrence and actual defense, that's really out there for me.

I might be too gloomy because I'm still pissed off - in the first days of 2022, touring the Baltics was basically my plan for summer vacation that year...

 

3 hours ago, Werthead said:

some others have been total ad hoc Hail Marys that paid off and the Ukrainians afterwards made them look like excellent, well-planned operations.

It indeed looks like the whole NE offensive (Kupyansk-Lyman) was supposed to be a mere distraction from major operations in Kherson, yet it turned out the whole area had been hollowed out and only had 3rd rate garrisons, with far less troops compared to the Donbas frontline, which enabled Ukraine to take back the towns and even to push the offensive beyond several rivers.

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1 hour ago, Clueless Northman said:

So far, I still consider the Baltics deciding to ship some of their very own weaponry to Ukraine to be the craziest decision of the war (only topped by launching the initial invasion, obviously). Czechia or Romania doing it, I can understand, but countries who are the most at risk, are neighbours and pretty much targets of the bear, and whose only defenses are NATO membership and a modest amount of military stuff as deterrence and actual defense, that's really out there for me.

It is the closest that the Baltics can do to actually shoot Russians in the face. And they know every one that gets killed in Ukraine is one fewer invading their doorstep, all without a single Baltic citizen dying. It's a pretty good move.

Plus, honestly, the Baltic armed forces are small enough that they have two options - they get overrun because NATO doesn't help, or they have NATO help and can fight back. Giving their arms away is a great sign of solidarity that has almost no strategic effect. 

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10 minutes ago, DMC said:

Ah, missed this.  Definitely one of the most amusing threads to read.  It's like watching cable news except the people completely talking out of their ass have avatars.

And I think I missed you most of all, Scarecrow :P 

When I'm running for President in five years I'll cite this comment for why, when I go on the MSNBCs and FOX and CNN, I'll only appear from behind a Scooby Doo shower curtain. 

I'm gonna be the "Do It for the Vine" candidate, you'll all see ^_^

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49 minutes ago, Secretary of Eumenes said:

When I'm running for President in five years I'll cite this comment for why

When you ask me to bail you out in five years I'll cite this comment for why you finally need to learn to stop pissing people off.

Edited by DMC
Dumb and/or uninformed people are gonna take "learn your lesson" the wrong way.
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23 minutes ago, DMC said:

When you ask me to bail you out in five years I'll cite this comment for why you finally need to learn to stop pissing people off.

So I'm penciling you in for VEEP? :cheers:

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1 minute ago, DMC said:

I will only take CoS then die of a heart attack when you naively try to fix the I-P conflict.

I actually -was- thinking Chief of Staff, but then I thought you were promising to pardon me :crying:

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1 minute ago, Secretary of Eumenes said:

I actually -was- thinking Chief of Staff, but then I thought you were promising to pardon me :crying:

America needs a lot of help...

 

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2 minutes ago, House Balstroko said:

If Russia were to make a move on Kazakhstan, what role would China play. Ukraine is far away from Asia, but given that China has its own set of interests in Kazakhstan, would it feel threatened by a Russian move to annex territory over there?

Invading a friendly country on China's border would be a major issue for China. But it's not going to happen China has already moved to prevent that. Xi Jinping's first trip abroad was to support Kazakhstan and he publicly stated that Kazakhstan's territorial integrity is an issue for China, and with Russia more and more dependent on trade with China I'm sure it has been communicated privately that this a red line and Russia can not afford to cross China nor do they have the military power to do it even if they wanted to. 

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Also, China and Russia have no reason not to be friends. 

Russia needs a daddy

China is literally next door. 

Putin's not an idiot. Xi isn't gonna make him grovel. 

Tanks? I don't know. I don't know if China's gonna give those up. But bullets and shells? Why not? The same rationale y'all are making for the supply of Ukraine applies in reverse. 

7.62mm is cheap

Shells are cheap

Russian lives cost China nothing

What's the next Ukraine aid package gonna cost? Or the next one? 

Sleep tight. :kiss:

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5 hours ago, Clueless Northman said:

So far, I still consider the Baltics deciding to ship some of their very own weaponry to Ukraine to be the craziest decision of the war (only topped by launching the initial invasion, obviously). Czechia or Romania doing it, I can understand, but countries who are the most at risk, are neighbours and pretty much targets of the bear, and whose only defenses are NATO membership and a modest amount of military stuff as deterrence and actual defense, that's really out there for me.

Their main defence is the presence of troops from other NATO countries. Any attack on the Baltic states is an attack on all of NATO because the Russians would be fighting a multinational force.

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_136388.htm

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18 minutes ago, Secretary of Eumenes said:

 

Tanks? I don't know. I don't know if China's gonna give those up. But bullets and shells? Why not? The same rationale y'all are making for the supply of Ukraine applies in reverse. 

7.62mm is cheap

Shells are cheap

Russian lives cost China nothing

 

Well firstly because I'm not sure that China is secure enough in its economy to just eat the sanctions that would come its way, and secondly because a weakened Russia is a useful piece for China but a strong Russia, that's just eaten a hugely valuable piece of grain-producing land etc, might not be so controllable. I'm not an expert, I can't say it would definitely never happen, but it just doesn't seem likely. As soon as China is comfortable taking on that kind of hit, they'd be looking to their own aims, not Russias. 

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