Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

BY RICHARD MARTIN

Here is my current assessment of the situation post liberation of Kherson.

See the diagram I’ve attached (map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War’s interactive map; hand drawn markings are mine).

The thick green line shows where the Russians have apparently developed extensive defensive positions on the left bank of the Dnipro. Open sources claim they have built three lines of defence, which is classic Soviet doctrine.

The thick red circle around Donetsk is where the Wagner Group has been active over the last several months, with many failed attacks against the small city of Bakhmut. The Ukrainians have successfully held them off over at least 2 months. It’s not clear to me what the Russian intent is, but I believe the aim is to fix Ukrainian forces so they can’t redeploy to other parts of the front while keeping them as far away from Donetsk as possible, and possibly even push them back. Donetsk is very important and symbolic for the Russian attempt to conquer and annex Ukraine.

The thick red oval east of Kharkiv shows a number of small scale Russian attempts at attacks and reconnaissance in force missions. I suspect the intent is also to fix Ukrainian forces while buying time to build up the defences of Svatove, a major communications hub.

The thin blue circles show the areas of major Ukrainian partisan activity. As you can see, it is extensive in the area of Melitopol with a lot also in Berdiansk and Mariupol, and also in the eastern area north of Lysichansk.

I believe the Ukrainian main effort will move to the centre, east of the Kakhovka Reservoir and into Zaporizhzhia Oblast. They might make for Melitopol and even Berdiansk and try to cut the lateral lines of communication near the coast. I don’t think they will try an assault crossing on the lower Dnipro because of the Russian defences on the left bank and the fact they have had several weeks to prepare, not to mention the fact that it would take significant bridging and amphibious capabilities by Ukrainian forces.

© Richard Martin

Source: Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/36a7f6a6f5a9448496de641cf64bd375) accessed 12 November 2022. Hand drawn additions by Richard Martin.

By Richard Martin

Many people seem to assume that democratization of Russia will solve the main problem, which is Russian imperialism and expansionism. The immediate aim is to support Ukraine in its struggle to free itself from Russian occupation and agression through military action by supplying the physical means and resources to do so. Whether Russia becomes democratic as an outcome or through the workings of these actions is irrelevant from the standpoint of the grand strategic aim of winning the war.

I don’t think there is necessarily a need for an “internal drive” toward democracy. The current mindset of the majority of Ukrainians proves the point. Ukrainians have pretty consistently sought national self-determination throughout their history, regardless of the form of government or constitution. They were resigned to live under Russian hegemony since at least the early 19th century. The turnabout started in 1991, before which there was no more a history or tradition of Ukrainian democracy than in Russia or any of the other Soviet satrapies.

If the Ukrainian people can change their mindset in the space of 30 years then, so can the Russians. But that should give us an idea of the time that is needed to effect the transition.

The Japanese, Germans and Italians adopted democracy after WWII as a result of total defeat and humiliation. The likelihood that Russia will be in such abject straights at the end of the current war is, for all intents and purposes, nil.

Russia is currently deterred from further escalation by NATO and, especially, the US nuclear umbrella and material support to Ukraine. The Ukrainians are training and preparing for a long-term struggle and, even more significant, the need to continue deterring Russia post-liberation of their country.

We in the West and NATO must accept that whatever the immediate outcome in Ukraine, Russia (and its dubious allies) will have to be contained and deterred for the foreseeable future. And that’s regardless of what happens to Putin and his henchmen.

© Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

The West is engaged in an information war. Our youth are vulnerable to cynical and nihilistic ideas about the world. This erodes their resolve and resilience in the face of withering attacks that seek to undermine their ability to apply the cardinal virtues of judgment, justice, courage, and moderation.

However, we must ask how willing people are to stand up for their values and beliefs. Gallup conducted a worldwide poll in 2015, which found “that 61% of those polled across 64 countries would be willing to fight for their country, while 27% would not. However, there are significant differences by region. Willingness to fight is highest in the M.E.N.A. region (83%) while it is lowest in Western Europe (25%). A history of those countries in recent conflict provides an interesting comparison. The Japanese (11%) are the least likely of 64 countries polled to be willing to fight for their country. Results from Germany are similar – 18% willing to fight. By comparison these numbers more than double in the UK (27%) and France (29%).”[1]

Figure 1 – Source Gallup. The darker the shade of red, the higher the willingness to fight for one’s country.
Figure 3 – Source Gallup

The New York Times set up an online forum after the war in Ukraine (February 2022) started to garner comments from young people around the world. The following comment by a 15-year-old from B.C. is indicative: “When I first heard about the invasion, I thought it was a not going to be a big deal. Like what happened in 2020 with Iran shooting down a Ukrainian plane. I thought it was going to be talked about once then over with. But seeing the damage and tragedy that has taken place in Ukraine. I now know that this is extremely serious. My heart breaks for the people in Ukraine. This isn’t something you can just protest about or raise money for. This is real, and people are dying, I sincerely hope that the people in Ukraine are safe, I am 15 years old, and I don’t think my peers understand how terrifying it would be for someone to just take over your home and country by force.”[2]

Another high school student, this time from North Carolina: “There is so much uncertainty surrounding this. Before spiraling into anxious thoughts and endless worries, I had to think this through. As a Christian, I have hope. I know that worrying will not get me anywhere, and my beliefs help me to cope with this situation. There has been so much suffering in the world, but we have survived. This attack has put into perspective how lucky I am. It hurts to see people being so ungrateful to live in a country where we do not have to constantly worry about war, and death. I pray that we can do our part to help Ukraine, and I grieve with those who have lost their lives, family members, their homes, their security. My dad has brought up to me that my grandfather still has nightmares from hiding in bunkers during the Cold War, as a young child. The fact that more children are going through this hurts me. I stand with Ukraine.”[3]

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Ukrainian boys are leaving university and volunteering for military duty and are being deployed to the front lines with as little as 3 days of training.[4] Through the work of the International Forum for Peace, Security, and Prosperity (IFPSP), as well as personal experience, we know that there are young people willing to sign up for military service in NATO and EU countries. We also know that there are idealistic young people who volunteer for military academies to become the next generation of officers. However, even these motivated youths come to military college with preconceived notions about history, politics, economics, and society. Even in a military academy it can be an uphill struggle to convince officer cadets of the values of our nations and what we are trying to build, grow, and defend.[5]

How should we focus our efforts and resources to equip our youth against the nihilistic, cynical disinformation that seeks to undermine our society’s support for Peace, Security, and Prosperity?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resistance of the Ukrainian people, government and armed forces have provided the world and especially NATO countries with the focus and resolve to assist Ukraine in defending its independence and security in alignment with the fundamental NATO values of freedom, democracy, law, and rights. 

Russia is seeking to undermine these values by dominating Ukraine and its people while attacking the same values in other countries, and specifically within NATO and the EU. Russia has been consistently employing “hybrid” warfare techniques to undermine the resolve and morale of the peoples and nations that oppose Russian ways and means of achieving its aggressive ends.

To this end, Russia has been conducting information warfare and psychological operations against NATO and EU nations. The main approach involves using disinformation and other hostile information activities. There are two main goals. The first is to present the Russian point of view, to convince citizens, decision-makers, and influencers in NATO and EU countries to either support Russia’s war aims in Ukraine, or to undermine their support for their own nations’ commitment to supporting Ukraine and countering Russia. The second goal is to sow chaos, confusion, discord, and conflict within and between NATO/EU countries.

The first of these goals is familiar and is traditionally called propaganda. Although it is not pleasant, it is relatively easy to counter with facts and rational argument. The second goal is less familiar and resembles in many ways classic disinformation, misdirection, and active measures adopted by the Soviet Union and other Communist powers during the Cold War. It is much more insidious, as it aims at nothing less than eroding the ability of free-thinking individuals and groups to act effectively and efficiently in the face of threats to peace, security, and prosperity. In a nutshell, disinformation and active measures are forms of epistemological warfare.

Young people are probably the most vulnerable to epistemological warfare, as their ideas and habits of mind are still in development. They are highly vulnerable to disinformation, ideologies, and nihilistic questioning of the values and structures that uphold the values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Young people are idealistic, with many hopes and dreams about the future, both collective and personal, but these ideals are not tempered by the experience of living and the knowledge of history, values, and goals of our societies.

Epistemological warfare throws contradictory and inflammatory statements, observations, and opinions into the infosphere, especially social media, and sees what will stick. There is not necessarily an ideological standpoint that is upheld. The aim is not to say one side or opinion is better than another, but instead to sow doubt about what is real, and whether anyone in authority or with expertise is to be trusted. Disinformation about COVID-19, the actions of powerful and/or wealthy people, conspiracy theories, etc., are all grist for the mill.

© Richard Martin


[1] https://www.gallup-international.bg/en/33483/win-gallup-internationals-global-survey-shows-three-in-five-willing-to-fight-for-their-country/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/learning/what-students-are-saying-about-russias-invasion-of-ukraine.html

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/learning/what-students-are-saying-about-russias-invasion-of-ukraine.html (emphasis added)

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60724560

[5] Conversation with Dr. Sean M. Maloney, Professor of History, RMC of Canada

Neither side seems to have much of an advantage right now, but that could just indicate a build up for a major offensive. The Ukrainian MOD has recently announced that they now have 1 million under arms.

I remain of the opinion that UA is assembling forces and conducting artillery strikes preliminary to an offensive in the south, to recapture Kherson as an immediate objective, with the aim of cutting off Crimea and rolling up the RU flank from the west to the east. That would achieve a number of things, most notably threaten Crimea, which gives RU control over the northern Black Sea, which would then force RU to reassign forces to meet that threat, thus relieving pressure in the east and southeast. That could possibly then allow the UA to launch a supporting offensive to recapture Severodonestk, etc.

Well, that’s my arm chair assessment anyway.

© Richard Martin

by Richard Martin

I’m tired at the moral equivalence and hand-wringing. Horror at atrocities is one thing. Everyone can agree on that. In fact, it’s nothing but hand-wringing. “Give peace a chance.” “Why can’t we all just get along?” “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Wars are fought on the moral as well as the physical plane. Everything I have learned in a 26-year military career as a combat arms officer, including peacekeeping duty in the Balkans, where many of the same type of genocidal and ethnic cleansing campaigns were undertaken, and 40 plus years of studying warfare, military history, strategy and tactics, confirms that belief.

The real issue is whether Western/NATO governments are willing to do what is necessary to ensure Russia is defeated and Ukraine is secure within its borders. Russian disinformation and information warfare is nothing but a continuation of Soviet-style active measures used extensively during the Cold War. The primary audience is the Russian people, followed closely by Western populations and politicians. Russian propaganda and information warfare are deep operations, aiming at undermining morale, resistance, and defence.

Messages are all over the place, including ridiculous conspiracy theories, in order to see what sticks and gets picked up and spread by mainstream media, social media and various movements and organizations. The hunger for strange beliefs is fed by Russian propaganda. The disinformation campaigns tap into fringe views and aim to exacerbate existing conflicts and divisions, on the left and the right, including anti-immigration fears, nationalism, fascist movements, extreme environmentalism and anti-business rhetoric.

Out of 100 ridiculous and unrealistic claims, maybe only 5 or 10 get picked up and shared. But then Russian state controlled agencies and influenced agents reinforce the narratives. The aim is to create doubt, sow discord, undermine support for Ukraine (or other threatened nations and countries), and weaken the resolve to resist aggression.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

Some people are questioning whether Moskva is the biggest sinking since WW2. Wikipedia claims Belgrano displaced 12,242 tons full up and Moskva 12,490 (but without specifying if that is dry or full up).

The loss figures I’ve seen are 14 crew recovered and brought to Sevastopol, with 496 still missing. The Belgrano had way over 1,000 crew.

The Moskva fulfilled a different role to the Belgrano, especially in this conflict, similar in some ways to an Arleigh Burke class DDG, although much less capable of course. According to what I’ve been reading, it was patrolling in a fixed pattern off shore to provide area air defence cover in the area of Kherson (and Crimea?).

There’s currently a lot of poopoo-ing of the Ukrainian claim that they hit the Moskva with 2 home-grown Neptun anti-ship missiles, but I think it is realistic. ASM are designed to penetrate the hull of a warship and detonate the main charge after penetration. Also, remember the Sheffield. It was sunk by an Exocet missile, if memory serves.

On the other hand, maybe the Ukrainians are only claiming they hit it with Neptuns but actually used Harpoons provided by the UK. Would be cool.

As with the “experts” claiming the death of the tank, this does not show the death of the area air defence ship, even in coastal waters. Like all weapons systems, ships are part of a tactical and operational system.We must also factor in that the Moskva was obsolete and likely in poor repair. Those sixteen impressive-looking tubes housed jet powered cruise missiles. That means liquid fuel. So, basically a floating fuel depot. Add to that low standards of training and survivability, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is my estimate that the Ukrainians did deliberately target the Moskva with the intent of at minimum incapacitating it. The aim was to eliminate or degrading the air defence cover it provided over Kherson and the Crimean Peninsula in preparation for an attack on Kherson.

In fact, if I were the Ukrainians, I’d be looking to outflank Kherson on the W, head for the narrow isthmus that links the mainland to the Crimea, and then roll up the Russian flank toward Melitopol. I would also try to damage or even drop the bridge over the Kerch strait to prevent Russia from maintaining lines of communication with Crimea from the E.

See maps. Part 1 (UK MoD) shows UA forces south of Dniepr W of Kherson. If that’s accurate, could be a jumping off point. Depending on the terrain (it looks pretty marshy), it may require a lot of engineer support and amphibious, perhaps even further to the E to be feasible. Part 2 shows the intent to cut off the isthmus at its narrowest point. Part 3 shows also the need to destroy or deny the bridge further east linking Crimea to the mainland, and also the Kerch narrows bridge, which would represent a complete Sickelschnitt.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part, based on some conversations (you know who you are) and a very quick and dirty map estimate. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I can always dream, especially on Good Friday.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

Care of UK MoD
Care of Google Maps
Care of Google Maps

by Richard Martin

Everybody is predicting a battle royale in the E, SE, & S. I think not. There will still be a lot of needless destruction and death, especially of Ukrainian civilians, but I think that Russia has shot its bolt. See ISW’s analysis of Russia’s manpower situation for deeper context: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-9

I think the Ukrainian forces will degrade the remaining Russian forces as they did in the N while avoiding major offensive operations against prepared positions. Infiltration will be the main focus. Ukrainian forces will only launch major attacks with combined arms if there is a chance of success for minimal casualties on the Ukrainian side. This will occur at the tactical level and then the operational level, as in the N.

Subsequent to this, the main challenge will be to neutralize continued Russian air and missile attacks from within Russia. It is only once Russia has completely vacated Ukrainian territory, including the Donbas, that Putin can be truly forced to negotiate. The vital ground in that regard will be the Crimean peninsula, specifically Sevastopol. I think it would be a good pain point for Russia.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

War is an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will. If a ceasefire will help us achieve our end — i.e., to impose our will on the enemy, either to buy time for renewed military action or to freeze the situation in the hope of creating a fait accompli on the ground — then it may be a useful temporary measure. If not, then it is to be avoided unless compelled by force of arms.

Russia invaded Ukraine to eliminate the existing government and replace it with a compliant one that would allow Russian suzerainty over Ukraine. The main effort at the beginning was to seize Kyiv and force that change of government, while applying simultaneous pressure in the east, southeast and south. With the failure of the overthrow of the legitimate Ukrainian government and the decision by Zelensky to stay in Kyiv, Russia has moved to its secondary objective, the establishment of a secure land corridor from the east of to just west of the Crimean peninsula. There are geopolitical, strategic and economic reasons for doing so which I won’t get into here.

Ukraine’s main war aim is clear: stop the invasion, reverse Russian gains, and possibly recapture terrain lost in 2014. Longer term, Ukraine needs security guarantees against Russia trying the same thing in the future, either as open warfare or grey-zone warfare. Ukraine must destroy the Russian invasion force and force Russia to give up its war aims.

If there is a ceasefire, then the Russians would have an opportunity to reconstitute their forces, solidify their hold on conquered areas, and proceed with ethnic cleansing by allowing emigration of refugees, internal population displacement, and forced population engineering through eviction of Ukrainians and settlement of Kremlin loyalists in their place. That is what happened in the Balkans in the 90s. While that is happening, Russia could use the full panoply of dirty tricks just like in the 2014-2021 period to solidify its hold on the coastal areas along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Ukraine has nothing to gain by a ceasefire, for exactly the opposite reasons that such would benefit Russia. Ukraine has everything to gain by continuing to fight, even if it’s an insurgency using guerrilla tactics. With that said, with sustained Western/NATO support and the right kinds of weapons and equipment, Ukraine can continue to resist pretty much indefinitely, in my estimation. The problem for Ukraine is to muster the combat power to go onto the operational offensive. This is the real crux of the issue.

In conclusion, Russia has a lot to gain from a ceasefire. Ukraine has almost nothing to gain from a ceasefire. If the West/NATO wants Ukraine to win, i.e., to impose its will on Russia and therefore continue to exist as an independent state in its prior borders, then it has to create that reality on the ground. No amount of negotiations with Russia will achieve that aim.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

This question was asked by an acquaintance of mine this morning. This is my answer.

Not in the least. For the following reasons.

1. The West as a whole, and particularly the EU, NATO, and the US, invited post-Soviet Russia with open arms into the international community of nations after the end of the Cold War. There was a Russia-NATO joint commission. Russia was first invited and accepted into the G7 — becoming the G8 — and G20 groups as well as the WTO. Western companies poured hundreds of billions into Russia in investment, only to see their operations hijacked and expropriated to the benefit of Moscow’s minions.

2. NATO countries made great efforts to secure and destroy Soviet nuclear weapons and materials, all at the cost of the countries doing the hard work of conversion and transformation. There were disarmament treaties and attempts at military cooperation and confidence building measures. NATO and other Western nations actively engaged with former Soviet republics to increase military professionalism and assist in converting their armed forces to a more defensive posture under civilian control.

NATO Exercise in West Germany in the 1970s

3. At the end of the 80s, just before the end of the Cold War, NATO forces in Europe were well-armed, integrated, and operationally exercised and trained to a very high standard of readiness and capability. I know, I served as an infantry platoon commander in Germany and then brigade and division staff officer from 1988-91. I participated in the largest peacetime deployment of troops as part of the REFORGER exercises in Germany in September 1988, with the US V and VII Corps and the entire German army, plus all the other countries in the Central Region of NATO. Before that, I was a platoon commander in the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. We deployed on exercise by sea and air to northern Norway in August-October 1986 for the largest peacetime deployment on Exercise Brave Lion, to train with the Norwegian Armed Forces as well as the Royal, Dutch, and US Marines. This was to demonstrate and test the capabilities of the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable Brigade to NATO’s northern flank. The US protected Western Europe with its nuclear arsenal, especially at the level of theatre nuclear forces (Pershing II, Lance, and cruise missiles). Meanwhile, the US was developing and deploying the initial elements of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).

4. NATO countries, mostly in Europe and Canada, paid out the “peace dividend” and proceeded to slowly disarm and degrade their military capabilities. Eventually, the Baltic republics, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Albania, Slovenia, and Croatia formally asked to join NATO and were accepted into the collective security organization. These countries had to meet stringent requirements in terms of military professionalism, civilian control of the armed forces, respect for the rule of law, and the explicit renunciation of expansionism and irredentism.

5. Western nations only started to change their tack with Russia after it became clear that the Kremlin had no intention of honouring its commitments to respect the borders of the former Soviet republics, recognized by the international community of nations and integrated into the UN. The Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 was only the first move by Russia, followed by the annexation of Crimea and the Donbass separatist “people’s republics” in 2014. That’s when the West finally woke up to the Russian threat and imposed economic and political sanctions. But nowhere near to the same level as what is being imposed since 24 February 2022.

6. Russia NEEDS to be cancelled. The West must isolate the Russian economy, punish those who are responsible for this war of aggression, support Ukraine with as much military, technical, economic, financial, diplomatic, and political means as needed to defeat and reverse the invasion and to restore the borders of Ukraine to the internationally recognized — including by Russia in 1994 — borders of post-Soviet breakup. That means that the so-called “peoples’ republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Crimean peninsula must be reconquered by Ukraine.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

As a former infantry officer, nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to follow the chorus and declare the end of the tank.

But no. It’s not the end of the tank. It’s just the 483rd confirmation that proper application of distributed leadership and initiative, combined arms tactics, OPSEC, and secure logistics are what maximize the chances of success.

Technology is only a means to an end, and those are the ways of combining the means effectively and efficiently.

Dude, where’s my chassis?!?

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.