We haven’t yet reached that point where the losses to the Russians are sustainable. Replacements may be on their way to the front. They likely will not see the same troops who have until now resisted any new advances. There have been some Ukrainian counter-attacks. The Russians now settle for longer range bombardment with artillery and missiles, resulting in mass casualties of citizens. Odessa may be the next major target. The UN Security Council has an emergency meeting scheduled.
This claim may become true in a few weeks: “Russia has basically lost the war and will be unable to topple Ukraine’s government or “demilitarize” Ukraine”. Below the fold are some disinformation examples as the information war may have had its zenith with the showing of emotive atrocity images in Zelensky’s speech to the US Congress.
- First, the Pentagon assesses today that Russian warships are now shelling areas around Odessa, a major port city in southwestern Ukraine.
- Other naval activity also has increased, with Russian landing craft moving around but not going ashore, the senior defense official said.
- It’s still unclear if Russia will attempt an amphibious landing on or near Odessa. Russia launched one amphibious landing farther east early in the landing, but it was small and on an uncontested shoreline, the senior defense official said.
- For the first time, the Pentagon assesses Wednesday that Russia is discussing sending “replacement troops” to backfill for combat losses. It sees no indications yet that any have moved yet, the senior defense official said. Open-source reports suggest that some already may have.
- On weapons deliveries: The Pentagon declines to say what drones it is delivering but calls them “tactical” in nature.
- Knowing that many tactical drones (like the Switchblade) are single-use and kamikaze in nature, I asked if it’s possible more could be delivered in rolling fashion, like Javelin missiles are.
- “I wouldn’t rule it out,” the senior defense official said.
- Advance north of Kyiv is still stalled. Cities that were isolated still are. Ukraine is still in control of Brovary, a town to Kyiv’s east where fierce fighting has occurred, senior defense official says.
- More than 980 Russian missiles have been launched since the war begin, the senior defense official says. That number continues to climb by several dozen per day.
- It’s “safe to assume” that @SecDef will be asking Slovakian and Bulgarian officials this week what Soviet/Russian systems they may be willing to provide to Ukraine, the senior defense official says.
- Some countries may have concerns about giving their own systems away, he adds.
- “I know that everyone is focused on the S-300, but there are lots of different air-defense systems” that could be provided to Ukraine, senior defense official says, declining to name them.
- No appreciable change in how much Ukraine and Russia are flying in the war, senior defense official says.
- To date, Ukraine is flying a handful of sorties per day and Russia has been flying about 200, though some do not cross into Ukrainian airspace.
- Finally: Two reporters raised the lack of media access to U.S. military units deployed in eastern Europe in response to Russia’s buildup and invasion of Ukraine.
- Senior defense official says “I appreciate the question,” but that he has no change in media posture to share.
- Footnote there: A couple of journalists did briefly visit U.S. troops in eastern Europe countries recently while traveling with Gen. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nothing any longer than that in duration has materialized so far.
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— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) March 16, 2022
- The United States has seen increased Russian activity in the northern Black Sea, the official says.
- Russia has fired more than 980 missiles at Ukrainian targets since the invasion started, official adds.
- The official says there are no plans to put U.S. contractors in Ukraine.
- U.S. is not seeing a flow of fighters from Georgia going into Ukraine, official says.
- The Ukrainians are still flying 5-10 sorties a day, the official says.
- Russia still has the vast majority of its firepower it had dedicated to the invasion, available to use in the war, official says.
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— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) March 16, 2022
— Matthew Zeitlin (@MattZeitlin) March 17, 2022
A U.S. senior defense official says there are no indications that replacement troops have moved into Ukraine yet. However, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense says some have already arrived.
Putin offered Syrian military personnel monthly salaries from $200 to $300 USD for six months, including other “privileges” to join Russia’s fight against Ukraine.
Over 40,000 Syrians have enlisted to fight, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)—a Syrian non-governmental group.
“We find it noteworthy that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] believes that he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement what is a very significant commitment of combat power inside Ukraine as it is,” a DOD spokesperson said, adding that Russia is turning “frustrated by a stiff Ukrainian resistance.”
Russia’s reinforcements may be arriving sooner than later. Four Russian warships were spotted sailing through a strait in northeastern Japan Wednesday.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said the ships could possibly be transporting troops and combat vehicles to Ukraine. The vessels then entered the Tsugaru Strait, about 430 miles east of Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) March 17, 2022
For one thing, there’s no way to keep this a secret. The Soviets learned this the hard way in Afghanistan. Putin – raging about “bastards and traitors” – is going to learn it now.
Filming a bunch of Russian gym rats wearing a “Z” and chanting stuff isn’t going to fix that. /2But it also means that Putin might be getting close to his Hitlerian “The Russian people have failed me” moment. His speech today was totally crazypants; so far, he’s blaming the rich Russians who have turned against Russia. But at some point, he will see traitors everywhere. /3What happens at that point is a huge dice throw. If he has any sense of self-preservation, he’ll take a deal with Ukraine, lick his wounds, and plot revenge for the future.
That’s the best outcome.
/4I do not want to speculate on worse outcomes. But when a paranoid like VVP decides that his own army and security people are traitors, and he has priests telling him that he’s God’s chosen instrument against the drag queens and the vegans, well.
As Ukrainian American economists with close ties and expertise in the region, we want to be clear: It is extremely unlikely that Russians will get rid of Putin in the near future. We need to let go of these fantasies and think through other options instead.
Assassination attempts seldom work. We’ve heard German colleagues say: “We need a Claus von Stauffenberg in Russia right now.” Yet von Stauffenberg was just one in a long line of would-be assassins whose plots against Adolf Hitler failed. Putin is even more paranoid than Hitler, judging from his conspicuously distant seating arrangements. Placing our hopes on an assassination is not only naive, but is widely seen as immoral.
Russian masses will not rise up against Putin. Russia’s disinformation campaign is comprehensive and unrelenting. Opposition politicians are jailed or exiled, independent media has been shut down, and draconian new laws promise up to 15 years in prison to anyone who speaks the truth about the invasion of Ukraine. Bred on this propaganda, most Russians say their president is in the right, that the Russian military has not deliberately targeted civilian areas and that Ukrainians are Nazis. Even relatives of Ukrainians in Russia do not believe the accounts of their fathers, sons, daughters and best friends about the atrocities committed by the Russian army. Protesters number in the hundreds or thousands — compared with tens of thousands who came out just a year ago in response to Alexei Navalny’s jailing — and they’re immediately rounded up by police. At the same time, Putin’s approval ratings have surged since the invasion.
We can’t hold out hope that the punishing sanctions will wake people up. Recall that prior generations of Russians remained behind an iron curtain and endured shortages fordecades. With independent news sources shut down or forced into exile, Russians will continue to believe they’re fighting against a U.S.-backed enemy. Many Russians are more idealistic than materialistic and would be willing to suffer through higher prices and shortages as a matter of principle. Ukrainians’ heroic willingness to risk their lives to preserve their independence has surprised many in the West. Ironically, Russians share Ukrainians’ willingness to put up with sacrifices — except their sacrifices will be made in service of the grandiose visions of a tyrant who has manipulated their patriotism.
As for the Russian elites, they are unlikely to rein in Putin. Historically, there’s been little coordination among Russian oligarchs, who are accustomed to competing against one another. The cleansing of the Russian economic elite over the past decades means those who remain have chosen to toe the line rather than lose their wealth — or their lives. The chosen few at the very top tend to be Putin’s former KGB colleagues, who think just like him. It’s extremely risky for anyone in the inner circle to act out, and anyone who succeeds Putin is likely to remain on the same path.