Ukraine Invasion Day 24: “a man who is his own intelligence analyst has a fool for a consumer.”

The military situation is not without progress as bombardment continues with little appreciable changes in position. Unfortunately civilians remain in the line of fire. Politics continues to be extended by war, and unfortunately, ​Putin is no Yuri Andropov, one of many who facilitated the violent suppressions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Russia’s advances are largely still stalled. One exception: Pentagon assesses Thursday for the first time that the Russians have seized Izyum, a town southeast of Kharkiv and north of Mariupol.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There really hasn’t been a lot of changes to talk about. The only thing that I would highlight — more than 1,000 missile launches now. We have observed some, I wouldn’t call it increased, but continued naval activity in the north Black Sea off the coast of Odessa, but no shelling over the course of the last 24 hours that no imminent signs of an amphibious assault on Odessa. That’s really it in terms of changes from yesterday.  We’ll start going with questions.


Q: OK, hi, (omitted). Actually, on the very point you started off with, that there hasn’t been a lot of change over the three weeks, and with regard to Kyiv, just wondering whether the thinking is now that the Russians have either have been stalled or whatever word you want to use outside the city, does it seem that they are either satisfied or stuck attacking the outer areas of the city, and perhaps attacking into the city from that position, rather than trying to go into the city at some point?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I’m not sure I understood.

Q: Are they sort of stopped there? I think of it, you know, attack the city from — from a (inaudible)…?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: From a different direction?

Q: Yeah.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, we haven’t that. Again, Bob, what — what we’ve seen is them approaching from the same avenues or axes as they have been trying to, from the north and northwest. And again, we still assess that they’re 15 kilometers away from city center; basically, no change. Now also approaching it from the — from the east. Again, those same sort of two lines that we’ve been talking about now for several days. We still hold them about 30 kilometers outside of city center. We still believe the Ukrainians are in control of that town called Brovary. No movement south of Chernihiv. Chernihiv is still what we consider isolated, but we’re not seeing any new line axis of attack on Kyiv, other than the fact that they continue the long-range fires into Kyiv, trying to wear the city down. But in terms of ground movement, they’re basically where they ‘ve been.

Q: You don’t conclude from that that they’re sort of stuck, and they’re — a breakthrough is just not in the offing for them, or are you awaiting them to resupply and that sort of thing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It’s unclear what they’re going to do, what their next step is. It’s hard for us to know with certainty. They’re just basically where they were before. And again, the Ukrainians are putting a lot of effort into defending Kyiv, as you would expect them to do. And so it — it’s easy when we talk about them being stalled or being frustrated in that moving that — I don’t want to convey the error that this is some sort of static environment. There’s a lot of fighting going on. The Ukrainians are — they are the reason why they haven’t been able to move forward and it’s because they are very actively resisting any movement by the Russians. So it’s not like a stall mate, where both sides are just kind of camped out. They are actively resisting any movement by the Russians.

But again, the Russians have advantages in terms of the long-range fires, and they are continuing to use that in Kyiv.


SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think all we’ve seen reported out are one-sided versions of what these discussions have been. I don’t the Russians have put out, you know, what they want to interpret it. I don’t think we’ve seen anything official from Ukraine on this. And so we want to be careful not to get ahead of that process and this is — this is a negotiation between — or these are talks between Russia and Ukraine that we’re not a party to, so I just don’t think we’re going to start speculating about any proposal; certainly not going to speak to it until there’s some sort of resolution by the two sides.

That good?

Q: I guess just as a follow-up, would the U.S. be willing to (inaudible)…?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I’m not going hypothesize on that. I mean, you’ve seen one side report what they — how they want to characterize it. I think we need to let this process play out. We certainly want to give the Ukrainians a chance to characterize it, as well, when they — if and when they feel it’s appropriate. I’m not going to get ahead of that process and I’m not going to speculate about any involvement — potential involvement by the United States.…

Russia used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday to destroy a weapons storage site in the country’s west, the defence ministry said.

“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition” in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region,” the Russian defence ministry said Saturday.

State news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in pro-Western Ukraine.…

From Putin’s point of view, he had been on a roll. He was able to crush Chechnya, invade Georgia, seize Crimea, intimidate and murder journalists and political rivals at home, poison perceived enemies abroad and prop up rogue states without penalty. He managed to change the Russian constitution to keep himself in power and reportedly built himself a billion-plus dollar retirement home with some of his apparently ill-gotten financial gains. Then came the Ukraine invasion — his first major strategic error and potentially his last (if Russian elites or his security services tire of him). It was a decision that hinged on having solid intelligence about Ukraine as well as a realistic military plan to achieve his conception of victory. How did he get it so wrong?


Putin’s analysts also appear to have failed to predict what has turned into the Kremlin’s worst-case scenario from an international perspective — that Russia would become an international pariah. This may be more excusable given the relatively mild way the West has responded to other Putin aggressions (in Georgia and Crimea, say). And it may have taken a crystal ball for his analysts to predict that a “brain dead” NATO would come to life to support the defense of Ukraine. It was hardly the most likely occurrence, after all, that Germany would wake from its slumber to take on a more central role in European security, that Britain would get serious about dirty money in London or that the Swiss would finally mix morality and banking.


To be fair, Putin was an average counterintelligence officer, never selected to join the elite that served in the West; nor was he trained as an intelligence analyst. If he had been, he might have been more acutely aware that forecasting in the intelligence business isn’t clear cut, and that careful analysts should strive to find ways of representing probabilities while expressing uncertainty to their political masters. That doesn’t seem to have happened. Today, Putin is reportedly furious with senior officers in his security service for misleading him about the probabilities of success. Two officers of the FSB, Russia’s domestic security service, are said to be under house arrest for their misreading of Ukraine, but Putin is also guilty of deceiving himself. To modify the old lawyer’s saw, a man who is his own intelligence analyst has a fool for a consumer.…

2/ The #Kremlin posted their propaganda self-own to Facebook & Twitter.
Russia blocks both.
The most they could manage to censor the rest of us? Disabling replies.

3/ A #Ukrainian tractor showing up in the distance is the only thing missing in this failed propaganda.
4/ If your best propaganda is plucky #Ukrainians scoring a hit on your helicopter…
And ends with the pilot in the mud…
Consider changing the guard at your Ministry of Lies.
5/ The replies are amazing.
Fun detail: the extended propaganda narrative claims that the pilot…intended to get shot at.
Does that make getting forced down… a bigger win?

• • •

Yuri Andropov, “a throwback to a tradition of Leninist asceticism”,[71] was appalled by the corruption during Brezhnev’s regime, and ordered investigations and arrests of the most flagrant abusers. The investigations were so frightening that several members of Leonid Brezhnev’s circle “shot, gassed or otherwise did away with themselves.”[71]

  • March 19, 2022
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