As Day 134 of the planned 3-4 excursion to Kiev comes to an end, let’s take a look at how things are going. For a quick look back, visit Putin’s War, Week 18. Snake Island, Calculated Terror and Prisoner Exchanges are just a few of the topics covered.
Perhaps the most important takeaway of the last week was the extent to which international order is under strain.
For the first time ever, the G20 meeting in Bali (of all places) concluded without a communique.
That’s it? That’s our G20 strategy? To “avoid” Lavrov? https://t.co/Yxgt4zf1zk
— Victoria Coates (@VictoriaCoates) July 8, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war against the existing system, according to a report.
Putin spoke out yesterday to Duma members, saying that his war against the US is only the beginning of “a radical breakdown” of US-style global order and a transition from “liberal-globalist American self-centrism.” pic.twitter.com/YRuvprg0Vg
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) July 8, 2022
Inside the EU there are infighting. Lithuania refuses to let goods sanctioned by the EU cross its territory into the Russian enclave Kaliningrad. This is the background to Lithuania enforces EU sanctions on Kaliningrad, and Putin’s Toadies lose their minds. Although the Germans tried to persuade Lithuania to forget the sanctions violations they had committed, the fond memories of shoving it in both the eyes of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact parties seems to have set the tone.
Russia warns Lithuania it could take ‘harsh’ measures over Kaliningrad transit https://t.co/erweMu5h1x
— EndGameWW3 (@EndGameWW3) July 8, 2022
In the meantime, Kaliningrad’s governor is calling for a carved-out of Lithuanian territory something similar to the Danzig Corridor.
The Governor for Kaliningrad Anton Alikhanov now asks for international cooperation to reach an agreement between Russia and Lithuania to build an extraterritorial rail and highway corridor between Kaliningrad (Belarus) and Kaliningrad.
He says that Lithuania’s actions have to be taken seriously. pic.twitter.com/8NgBYoyk4F
— Visegrad 24 (@visegrad24) July 8, 2022
A parody website posted a story about Lithuania dismantling the railway tracks connecting Russia and Kaliningrad. Don’t let it fool you. This isn’t true. Yet.
This is a parody of reality. Its news do not reflect the real world.
But this news of Lithuania dismantling rail leading to Kaliningrad got way too many likes and people reacting as “way to go” https://t.co/RdDVIF4qtM
— Anton Barbashin (@ABarbashin) July 8, 2022
Perhaps the most important strategic event was Boris Johnson’s resignation (BREAKING: British Prime Minster Boris Johnson Resigns). Johnson was the European leader in Ukraine assistance (Boris Johnson pays surprise visit to Kiev and Volodymyr Zelensky, as the World Wonders where is Joe Biden), so everyone will be watching to see who becomes the next Prime Minister. The impact of losing a single leader during a coalition war is not to be underestimated. The sudden death of Tsarina Elizabeth, Frederick the Great’s implacable foe in 1762, and her replacement by the Teutonophile Tsar Peter III rescued Frederick from sure disaster.
This is a reminder of how the first 90-days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine looked.
This is today’s frontline.
The new weapons of action
HIMARS is still the main news. Nine of these systems are in Ukraine, with four others on their way. In addition, they have at least three M-270 MLRS. Furthermore, today officials announced that Ukraine will receive the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) in the next round of equipment deliveries. This missile is launched from the HIMARS/MLRS and has a range of about 190 miles. The system appears to be a winner. This system, together with electronic warfare assets and counterbattery radar, allows for artillery, command, control and logistic elements to be targeted in the entire battlespace.
For more than one month, the Russian field headquarters was out of range for a Ukrainian unit’s Soviet-era artillery batteries. It received its Himars last week.
Great story by @stephenkalin https://t.co/36AIqGMY0U
— Thomas Grove (@tggrove) July 2, 2022
A BBC map of Russian warehouses that were targeted from June 28-July 6, according to Ukrainian officials. The first footage of HIMARS being used in Ukraine was published on June 24. https://t.co/WusWwGCBDa pic.twitter.com/HrIvQr4LYE
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 7, 2022
Ukraine also receives advanced medium-altitude air defence systems. A few days ago, the first Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System units (NASAMS), arrived in Ukraine. The training of Ukrainian soldiers to use the new weapon system is required before any transfer announcements can be made. Always assume that there is a crew of trained personnel available when a weapon is approved for transfer to Ukraine.
As I mentioned in my last update, Russia appears to have taken the tactic of bombardment against population centers. The Black Sea is regularly the target of cruise missiles and strategic bombers from Russian naval units. These strikes do not appear to have been directed at any particular target. This is likely to be NASAMS’s action video because it is known that NASAMS arrived on the scene and there has never been anything like it before.
Russian invaders attacked Dnipropetrovsk on Tuesday, July 5. Seven missiles were launched, six of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defence.
Video by @KpsZSU pic.twitter.com/G4TC6FeY15
— MilitaryAviationInUa (@Ukraine_AF) July 5, 2022
Germany began training Ukrainian personnel for the Gepard, an air defense gun system that mounts on the Leopard main battle tanks chassis. The Gepard is obsolescent but has excellent radar and 35mm ammunition designed to engage aircraft. The Russian UAVs used to adjust artillery fire have been a problem for both sides. Therefore, the Gepard could be used as a way of engaging UAVs from Russia before they can spot crucial targets.
Ukraine makes small progress on this front.
All civilians are asked to flee Kherson by the Ukrainian Army before it’s attacked. This is my assessment. It’s hard to imagine Ukrainians in Kherson working in a meat grinder. Their goal is to cut the LOC (line of communication) between Kherson, Melitopol. The severing of the LOC would result in the forced evacuation of all Russian troops located to the northwest Kherson. If I was the one calling the shots I would be looking out for Nova Kakhovka. This city is located astride LOC and controls the canal that provides potable water to Crimea.
Last Week I noticed that the Russians had been forced to evacuate Snake Island by Ukrainian artillery. There is a Ukrainian flag flying there this week. Although I don’t know if the island is currently occupied, it seems likely. The island would be invulnerable to Russian attacks if it was equipped with an anti-ship missile or anti-aircraft batteries. Snake Island was made inaccessible to Russian vessels by the use of anti-ship missiles.
Ukrainian flag above the Snake Island. pic.twitter.com/RI2JVnepHX
— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) July 7, 2022
This front was largely unmoved, except for some skirmishing. This is still a war-torn area.
In the past week, Russia’s army was able to occupy the Oblast of Luhansk (the northernmost Donbas provinces)
The Russians have not claimed any new territorial gains in the last 24 hours and seem to be at an “operational pause,” having reached the Clausewitzian culminating point.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops in the capture of Lysychansk, the remainder of Ukraine’s Luhansk province to “increase [their combat abilities]” as other Russian forces continued fighting. https://t.co/kL6JflVoLM
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 4, 2022
The situation we are in now is the same as it was in March/April, when neither the Russians nor Ukraine have the fighting power to conduct large-scale operations. While some towns may change their hands, this stage of war will be a logistic race. What speed can the Russians rebuild the units they lost in Luhansk’s capture? What number of “contract” Russian soldiers are Russian recruiters capable of obtaining from Russia in order to allow them to become part the army’s military force? Is the Russian logistic arm able to support the field army while evading long-range rocket strikes? This war will end if the Russians can’t maintain an uninterrupted flow of artillery ammunition for the firing batteries. Russian armor and infantry have shown terrible incompetence; the curtain of artillery shells has kept their progress over the last month.
The Ukrainians face a similar problem. The Ukrainians need to incorporate new NATO-standard weaponry and equipment in their units. As supplies of Soviet-standard munitions fall rapidly, new depots of Western weapons and equipment will need to be created and maintained. It is necessary to bring new units into combat. Those who have served in combat for more than four months need rest. The Russian army must not be allowed to relax or refit, and they should feel under pressure. In the ideal scenario, Russian troops will race back and forth to put out fires, replace equipment, or keep them busy with attacks in Kherson and Donetsk.
There is also the role of political will. At the moment, Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky (the Ukrainian president) don’t seem to have much to discuss. America and Europe have not indicated any willingness to push Zelensky into seeking peace.
This war, like many others, started off looking simple and fast in the planning phase but was then confronted by Clausewitz’ “friction.” It is impossible to know how long it will last.