Armchair Warlord recently posted an interesting thread on Twitter on the current military situation in the Ukraine. I would direct you to the thread for his brief account, but, in summary, his speculation is that the Ukrainian strategy appears to be to allow RuAF (Russian Armed Forces) to attempt to establish several ‘cauldrons’ in the Donbass, pockets of trapped UAF (Ukraine Armed Forces), and once they have ‘culminated’ – that is exhausted their offensive capability – launch their own offensive operations in turn.
This strategy depends upon a number of factors. Firstly, on RuAF actually employing the greater portion of its operational reserve in the current fighting in the Donbass, and secondly, on the condition of the UAF being better than we might otherwise believe.
What do we currently now about (1) and (2)? Well, the indications are re (1) that RUS has held back a large operational reserve (at least 15 BTGs) whose location we are unaware of and can only guess.
Regarding (2), there are several indications that the morale and attrition of the UAF is waning and high, respectively. We have now the surrender of the remnants of the UAF in Mariupol. There are increasing reports of desertions, refusals to fight, and surrender by batches of troops along the Donbass front, on the grounds of poor leadership, lack of adequate supply, and constant bombardment and fighting. There is also evidence that Western munitions are not being held back to equip these new formations, rather they are being sent to the front as soon as they arrive, and being used, captured or destroyed.
What happens if the UAF strategy is correct? I wouldn’t expect to see any stunning collapse on either the southern or eastern fronts. While the RuAF will have exhausted any major offensive capacity they will still be capable of holding a coherent front. The problem, however, would be that there would be no decisive engagement that could end the war in Ukraine for Russia on favourable terms. On the other hand, if the RuAF are indeed holding back a large mobile reserve, they would simply do what the UAF is purportedly doing; namely, they would continue to make the small but important gains they are currently making, out of Popasna, west and south of Izyum, and along the Seversky Donets river between Liman and Pryvillyia, and simply wait for any UAF offensive to exhaust itself or simple attrition to sufficiently weaken parts of the current Donbass front and call their reserve into action at those points. If that were to occur, I think we would see the collapse of the entire Donbass front for the UAF.
Who knows what will eventuate. As always, events will bear out the truth of the matter either way, but if the last two days are indicative, for instance, the situation at Liman is rapidly deteriorating for UAF while the breakout from Popasna is progressing in four directions, we will in all likelihood see a collapse of the Donbass front in the next two weeks, if not the coming week, and certainly within four, and may even see breakthroughs north of Kherson that put Nikolaev in jeopardy as that front begins to move as well.
65 thoughts on “Who is ‘culminating’ in Ukraine?”
It seems to me from this far distance that Russia is not winning this war by any stretch, but Ukraine is not “winning” as such either, they have merely prevented the other side from winning.
The important action may not be happening in Ukraine at all now. The effect of Western sanctions on domestic Russian sentiment may be more impactful on the direction of the war. Also, it sounds like the German businesses who were blocking bans on Russian oil exports are being prised away from their veto, slowly but surely, which would exhaust a big funding source of the Russian war effort.
There’s a lot of misinformation flying around in a war, obviously, and only the most broad conclusions can be drawn at this stage. Things are not going well for Putin, that much is obvious.
Well, they’ll soon have some Bushmasters. A game-breaker.
Which is amazing. We have reporteers on the ground, civilian reports, reports from the governments of both Russsia and Ukraine, reports and analysis from various ‘experts’…and yet we are none the wiser.
So much information available, most of which we can safely assume is disinformation from all of the above informers.
Much of the commonly available commentary seems to be based on the assumptions of how the western world fights. Simple differences like the Russian regard for artillery over airpower are ignored or brushed over. Couple that with the lies we’ve been told so blatantly over the last couple of years and I find it hard to believe RuAF are getting clobbered the way we are being told.
I don’t know what the truth is one way or another, but I’m certain what we are being told isn’t it.
Russia is looking increasingly culminated to me. The lack of a mobilization announcement on May 9 was a tell that the politics are getting difficult.
One thing that few people have commented upon is the superiority of Ukrainian artillery, particularly software, which is more capable than any other country’s (I’m unsure of Israel, but UKR’s package is substantially better than the US’s). That was particularly evident in the river crossing disaster.
On the other hand Ukraine’s force balance is unsuited to offensive operations. Their current grand strategy has been to break the teeth of Russian attacks using classic infantry tactics, especially in built up areas, whilst probing in force the weak bits of the Russian line, like southwest of Kherson and NE of Kharkov. With the arrival of more trained reservists (believed to be up to 1 million in total) the ability of Russia to get anywhere is going to be nil. It’ll be interesting to see if Ukraine can evince offensive tactics that overcome their lack of close support air power and standoff missiles. They might, if they bleed the Russians further. Otherwise the whole thing will freeze like Donbass did after 2014.
You will not read any of this on Russiaphile sites of course. Yet the data I been tracking is persuasive.
I’m ambivalent about the outcome of this mess. Both sides have already lost the war. Anything hereafter will be a Pyrrhic booby prize.
The main things this invasion demonstrates are:
* how asymmetric warfare works
* the catalogue of the military industrial complex (who, frankly, have been very disappointed by the tilting of the money-sucking playing field in the direction of Big Pharma)
…oh, yes, and “These sick men who rule us”…
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, neither side is likely to win this war. They’ll fight to a standstill and some sort of accomodation will have to be reached or it continues as a low grade conflict as before.
This sounds like ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ level propaganda. Just saying.
Jupes – Ukraine has had full conscription since 2014. Those guys haven’t gone away. The manpower at the start was about 200,000 all services plus 900,000 trained reservists ex national service. That is just arithmetic.
The real issue is arming them. And especially ammunition. Plus appropriate training. I’ve seen comments that the refresher training for the first bunch was due be completed in June.
On the Russian side they’ve also been calling up reservists. But they went the other way, demolishing the full conscription model and building a professional army structure, at least until the then Defense Minister was ousted. Legally under Russian law this is not a war, therefore there’s difficulty calling guys up for service in Ukraine. Deserters aren’t being overtly punished because they are volunteers under the law who can resign any time. Mostly this seems to be being fudged and worked around. But there’s been a lot of signs the Russians have been having difficulty in getting replacements, and some anecdotal comments that barely trained recruits have been sent to fill up BTGs.
As with these things the propaganda is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw, so the best thing is to wait and see what eventuates. Russia does seem to have a bit of momentum out of Popansa overnight, although it still seems attritional so far.
the russian goals are to demolish the professional army of the ukes. this seems inevitable now. bunch of conscripts are not going to cut the mustard
UAF are already using their conscripts in Donbas and whatever kit they would be equipped with, and the much vaunted disastrous river still has RuAF south of the river and moving forward, even pro-UAF channels are admitting this now. I also hear RuAF artillery was superb near Kharhov and Zaporizhzhia recently. The next month will tell either way.
I guess that’s the Russian spin. NATO soon is that a third of Russian forces have been lost – killed or injured – and there are mass desertions or refusals to fight. I guess the truth will out at zone point.
lets just cut to the chase. Does anyone here honestly believe Russia will pull back.
Putin will win what ever he set out to win….. losing was never an option.
After all its the Russians that have all their skin in the game…
The Ukranians would only have to eat humble pie, remove the court jester… take Nato out of their future and totally remove forever their obnoxious troops from the Donbas/Crimea regions that have been terrorising the Russian inhabitants for years.
Its not a big ask.
Only a bloody fool (Biden) would call out Russia’s nuke bluff.
If push comes to shove its on for young and old.
Russia is far too long in the tooth to be stomaching crap from some thespian ass from a local theater.
RuAF has 200K in theatre. The idea that they have lost almost 70K is daft.
US just donated the M777s without their digital fire control systems.
Putin said he would use nukes if there is an existenital threat to Russia
If Russia loses in the Ukraine and Europe/USA’s proxy is on their border, it would probably constitute an existenital threat
EU and USA are way back from there, out of range of tactical nukes, but Ukraine is going to get minced, they are not out of range of strategic nukes though
If Russia starts lobbing nukes around, there are going to be lots of folks wondering why, given all the BS and propaganda
The EU and USA are playing a very dangerous game
the Russian people know what’s been going on for years, how they were betrayed by 2 Minsk agreements and having a war with Ukraine underwritten by the EU, USA and all her allies
btw .. the sanctions do nothing to Russia, it was cut off from the west before. Russia has a fully functioning space industry and the USA now relies on privateers. It’s not a backwater or primitive place, it’s not Afganistan or Iraq it’s a peer country and in military ways more advanced than its adversaries. Playing out in Ukraine is a manouver war of feint and deception as the Russians have always done, they are masters of it and the west is all tangled up trying to assess Russian warfare in sound bites.
Billie: Ukraine can argue that it was conned by Russia into giving up its Nukes in return for guarantee of sovereignty. In short, Russia has no leg to stand on and if it uses nukes the consequences will not fall only on nato. Putin is banking on threat. The only way to respond is to go harder.
Being kettled and then waiting for your enemy to exhaust themselves sounds like one of Baldrick’s “cunning plans”
Here you go:
https://twitter.com/TrentTelenko/status/1523791050313433088 (10 May, 41 tweet thread)
Here’s the threaderapp version in case you have Twitter access trouble.
I suspect this is also why the M777s don’t have their fire control boxes. They wouldn’t be compatible with the Ukrainian distributed fire control software. But so long as they are locally targetable the Ukrainian package would call up the gun commander and deliver the fire task data. Wouldn’t be as quick but would be more survivable because the Ukrainian artillery fights as a distributed system of individual gun tubes, not as vulnerable batteries.
Billie sounds like a Russian bot. I suppose it’s not surprising that the Cat would host such people, but Billie is not making much sense.
Russia is turning itself into a Chinese client state. Begging Xi for food rations (and not getting them) is just embarrassing. Ukraine might not be in a good spot, but Russia is much worse.
Hubris: Minsk Agreements involved Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France as major players, which is why Macron keeps showing up I guess
Ukraine can argue what it likes as a western puppet government, it’s irrelevent, Russia has stopped listening because they know the Ukraine does not decide what the Ukraine does
Russia is looking at the reality of what it happening on its borders and western propaganda is not going to stop them defending what they are seeing as an existenital threat, they keep saying it and when it goes pear shaped, they can honestly say, “we told you so!” the Russian people get it and are onside with their leader, at least they know who is doing what on their side of the fence
freedom of the Russian people is at stake from a neighbouring country that is quite obviously a proxy for a war hungry west, observe weapons pouring in to prop them up
USA will either step in and escalate to nuclear level, or to let the Ukraine sink and find another proxy
defeating Russia will mean nuclear war in my opinion
just who is running the USA campaign here, and who has been running it since 2014 and even earlier?
It’s not President Biden that’s for sure
In GDP terms, Russia is a peer country of… Australia. We are both economic backwaters, primarily shipping our resources to China.
Anyone who thinks this ends soon is a bit deluded. Unless Putin gets assassinated, this is going to drag on and on, and benefit only those who are not involved… like China.
That point about the distributed system of gun tubes is about counterbattery responses. If you have a dozen assorted pieces of artillery and mortars targeting a particular set of coordinates they can be spread over a thousand square kilometres of area, and individually displace every two or three rounds. Which makes them a really tough counterbattery target.
That argument didn’t cut it eighty years ago, it’s not going to go anywhere now.
We lived through four years of Trump, we know all about gaslighting and projection in diplomacy. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.
Putin started this war, he doesn’t know how to end it even if he wanted to, so it will be ended for him.
I think this is why, despite now sharing a long and effectively undefended border with Russia from north of Kiev to Kharkov, that the Ukrainians aren’t going over that border into Russian territory.
They want to keep the arms flowing from NATO countries. So they dare not produce a lot of footage of Ukrainian artillery shelling villages in Russia to sour the relations they now have going so well for them. Even though that would be a powerful tactical and strategic military benefit.
Likewise the recovering of lost Ukrainian territory (even Crimea) can be spun as a noble cause, especially in the Western MSM.
So yes Ukraine is a puppet of the West but the strings are being pulled in both directions, somewhat.
The other risk is that Russia might just regard an invasion as a trigger for a defensive nuclear strike, since that has been their policy for a long time. A warhead landing on Kiev is well worth avoiding, even if highly unlikely.
I think people are mistaking Putin progressing slowly with Putin losing.
His slow progress is the result of conserving resources, while he is essentially waiting. He fully intends to exploit the West’s weakness of becoming bored easily.
He has time on his side. Elections for the Duma only happened last year, and presidential elections aren’t due until 2024.
His first deadline is actually the Ukrainian elections late 2023, by which time he needs to hold all Ukraine so he can run them under Russian control.
Before then, there are beneficial events scheduled. The first is the US mid-terms, where he hopes a Republican majority will cut funding to the supply of Ukrainian arms. He would be very happy with Rand Paul at the moment.
Beyond this point, he will be looking to escalate. Note that nuclear is the final escalation step, but it is nowhere near the next escalation step. Earlier escalation steps include sanctions, sanction busting, and terrorism.
These will likely come into play during the European winter. Europe has demonstrated their need for Russian fuel; Russia will continue to feed this until it is most needed – during the middle of winter, when Russia will cut off the supply. Possible terrorism against the European, and possibly even US, power grid will add to suffering. Note the goal here is suffering that Western governments will be seen as having the power to alleviate. Whether they alleviate that suffering or not, Western governments will end up carrying a heavy cost.
TL/DR; he has plenty of time, so he’s taking advantage of that.
Worth keeping in mind when client state claims arise, among other things.
No. He’s an old man in a hurry. We don’t know what ails him but he does ail.
Putin rumored to have undergone new surgery amid health woes (NY Post, 17 May)
Interestingly specific. He hasn’t been looking good in recent videos either, with obvious tremors and other visible issues. As always guessing whether the report is true or not is a lottery.
Russia had a you beaut decapitation and “ thunder road” plan in place at the start, all over in 2 weeks.
They forgot in war the enemy gets a vote.
Since then they have scrambled back as their supply situation didn’t support their plans after some of their original targets didn’t fall.
They are now engaged in much slower grinding down of areas.
As for the” I’m tricking you into surrounding me” I think that is fantasy. As the Vietnam era French about that approach.
At least it’s shown the Russians as largely paper tigers as far as offensive tactics and training go
Putin is controlled by the United Russia party. If the man himself dies, United Russia’s policy position will continue. His health is not relevant.
I doubt we can wait for the old bastard to die of natural causes. Dictators tend to last long after they should.
Russian resources are not limitless. In particular, they will run out of well-trained and loyal troops – and of mercenaries. They can’t introduce conscription in a non-war situation unless Putin shucks off the mask and goes full fash domestically.
Once Europe figures out how to divest itself of Russian integration with its economy – with oil supply being the most prominent but by no means only aspect of that – then Russia is going to slowly turn into North Korea.
Russia needs Europe more than Europe needs Russia. In the long term, Europe has the upper hand economically, which is nine-tenths of the battlefield.
Kamil Gazeev often points to the similarity with the Czech 1968 takeover plan. It’s a persuasive argument why the first week of this campaign went like it did. Not, in this case, as the Russians expected. There’s been a lot of relict Soviet-think in policies and tactical doctrines in this engagement.
There was an article by a Lt. Col. Tom Kratman on a website unfortunately gone now, talking about playing the part of the soviet union and how completely unprepared just about every western army was to deal with how he understood their doctrine.
From what I remember it was more or less hammering positions with artillery until the armored punch got very close, then infantry would close with huge volumes of automatic fire supported by direct fire from tanks and apc’s. He found it rare that opposing units would put up much resistance because of the sheer volume of fire incoming.
That said, I understand both sides were quite prepared to escalate to nukes very quickly, so I’m pretty happy nothing ever kicked off. Doubtless things have changed since the 80’s.
Russia can likely forego Europe. It will look to Africa, Middle East, South and East Asia, and Central and South America. I’ve seen a report that Germany just failed to organize a gas contract with Qatar.
Bruce of Newcastlesays:
May 19, 2022 at 7:29 pm
He has time on his side.
No. He’s an old man in a hurry. We don’t know what ails him but he does ail.
A bit of pop culture. A few years ago, the bloke who took over writing the Vince Flynn novels had one in which a Russian leader (with a habit of riding around shirtless, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) had a terminal brain cancer, and was determined to win a final war.
An invasion of Ukraine was set up as a diversion from his real target, one of the Baltic states. Mitch Rapp, of course, saved the day.
Billie etc: whichever way you look Putin isn’t getting a win. At best he draws a line and squats. He ends up with two more NATO neighbours and big chance that Ukraine finally is allowed in.
We don’t know how much damage Russian military have taken but it seems likely that it was at least embarrassing.
A bully with no fire power often is a great risk.
No Ukraine in NATO but Finland and Sweden in is a win for Russia and that is assuming Turkey or any other member doesn’t exercise its veto. Finland and Sweden have their own caveats re membership and their armed forces are far smaller than Ukraine, less than a tenth of what the latter could field. And the geographic position of Ukraine for Russia is far more strategically significant than Sweden’s or Finland’s.
Golly, if that’s winning what does losing look like?
The irony is that Sweden and Finland will pretty much carry the rest of NATO, who are useless.
I hope the current move to evict Turkey from the alliance works. They’re snakes in the grass.
Not holding out any real hopes though.
May 19, 2022 at 7:54 pm
Remind me not to take economic or strategic advice from you, should I be silly enough to ask.
Every single link Twitter. Very convincing. Although I guess OK from Old Cat’s most self-righteous professional catholic whining over Hiroshima to New Cat’s putinist whore gloating over Mariopol.
May 20, 2022 at 2:34 am
Bit harsh there aren’t you?
Lots of twitter links posted here why not complain about them?
Are you serious? Sweden has 2 brigades, Finland 6. Ukraine had 51 brigades. Sweden and Finland have several caveats about what they are prepared to do as a member, whether hosting bases or missile facilities, and Turkey has a geographic position far more important than the Nordics. And it’s not even close.
Sweden and Finland have been neutral up to now. One would suspect that NATO membership would entail a strengthening of their military capabilities in coming years, especially given their geography. Might even get a proper US base or two, after negotiations.
If Russia was stupid enough to invade Finland or Sweden, it would not end well for them, even without NATO membership. Seem to remember someone else invading Denmark second and Norway third, and things didn’t quite work out for that esteemed gentleman.
When the MSM is describing the surrender of UAF forces in Mariupol as an ‘evacuation’, it is, indeed, very convincing.
They haven’t been ‘neutral’ in the practical sense.
I daresay Sweden and Finland will kit up a lot more brigades in coming years if they get into NATO, given that they border the country that is the reason for NATO’s existence. Their current military weakness means nothing. Sure, Putin could roll the tanks in tomorrow, but then he is literally Hitler and NATO’s gloves are off.
Stop dreaming. The costs will be prohibitive.
Lurx says “lets just cut to the chase. Does anyone here honestly believe Russia will pull back.
Putin will win what ever he set out to win….. losing was never an option.
After all its the Russians that have all their skin in the game…”
Could not agree with your statement anymore than absolutely so. Forget all the propaganda from either side, if you do then you are being led by the nose. Putin has shown he is a shrewd strategist making Biden look like, well Biden. If someone were running a book I’d be putting my money on Putin. In the meantime simply look at the Rouble vs USD chart https://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=RUB&to=USD
and see the markets are voting their money on Putin.
Sweden is extremely rich. Finland not as much, but NATO will tip in a lot of euros.
Russia should be much more worried about funding its military adventures, given how isolated it is becoming economically.
May 20, 2022 at 8:59 am
Sweden and Finland have been neutral up to now. One would suspect that NATO membership would entail a strengthening of their military capabilities in coming years
You would hope so… but…
Nato members, particularly Germany have underspent since the end of the cold war.
They started to uptick again after Vlads first swing at Ukraine and Im pretty sure a lot of minds are focused on this now.
A sensible chuckle.
Not really. Russia’s exports are basically weapons and commodities.
It has lost no armaments customers.
On the commodities side, the sanctions don’t really work. While some countries won’t buy from them, they buy somewhere else, which means those sellers don’t sell elsewhere, and those countries become Russia’s customers. All that really matters is the world commodity prices, and overall they haven’t moved much, and some which have actually gone up substantially.
Sweden isn’t going to pour money into arms, which is why it has even fewer brigades than Finland, and NATO simply doesn’t have the cash to splash around given the state of the military of its major ‘partners’, excluding USA.
It’s yearly military budget is about the size of the current US gift to Ukraine in the offing. They’ll be fine.
Germany and Japan weren’t either, and now look at them. Putin is changing the world, but not for his benefit. They weren’t ganging up on him before he started the war, but they are now.
If you think Western sanctions will have no effect, ask Iran and NK. Hell, ask Germany in the 1930s.
Why would one ask a country with a very different economy?
Now look at what? The Germans might be talking big but their economic situation isn’t going to allow the size of that military investment. They couldn’t even afford it in the good times.
LOL. You said the quiet part out loud in a previous comment.
What 2dogs said, and you’re already conceding a lot of ground by arguing that the thesis is ‘no effect’. No one is arguing that it will have ‘no effect’.
Germany’s military budget is already level with Russia’s, and their GDP is 70% larger.
Whatever stat you use, Russia is dwarfed by the size of its new alliance of enemies. Who is standing with Russia in the new Axis? India and China are not exactly joining the fight.
I haven’t followed the thread of your fully nuanced position on Russia in previous Newcat threads, db, but is your contention that Russia started the war to defend itself from NATO aggression?
Russia’s problem now is that it has raised the threat level across NATO and among some of its neighbours in the south. They are all exercised and motivated by what they see in Ukraine. They have every incentive to stop Putin now rather than wait for their turn. That is his problem. He will find a settlement on his terms very hard to achieve.
We had four years of Trump.
What happened over that period?
could be that Finland and Sweden are just saying they will join NATO, to intensify the west’s bargaining position to negotiate
the US is keen to negotiate, Russia is not and doubltess wouldn’t trust the west again since previous agreements have been reneged on
this has a lot more moving parts than simple epithets on twitter can describe
China is winning this war. Its also a bonanza for the various corps in the MIC, and their government supporters picking up the odd 10% commissions.
And that budget can only support about 12 brigades at the moment without considerable readjustment of an already stressed economy.
This is a bit too long but well worth reading: