And not just the fighting bit.
Thank you for writing so clearly about the hopeless quagmire that the West has created using Ukraine. Our leaders are children who beg for a pony.
What drives me though, why Russia is held with such antipathy? I am an elderly man who still has even more elderly in-laws in their late 90s. It seems that reflexively Russia is deemed bad across the span of generations alive in the West.
Simply put, I think our elites have simply tried to put a lid on the development of any competitor to corporate capitalism. The anti-Marxist propaganda has been incessant for over a century.
"We came, we saw, he died." Simple!
In preparing a podcast episode featuring the lovely romantic movie from Niger "Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai" I educated myself a little about the tremendous complexities surrounding and sadly following following from Clinton's regime change in its northern neighbor.
In the age of politics as theater for the news media, there is no foreign policy except that which is covert. Any overt foreign policy is actually made for the domestic market. And domestic political theater has to be simple.
the f-16 is slated to be replaced with f-35a. that aircraft will not be a capability until dod finds an engine that does not overheat trying to deliver range and payload demands of the specifications that 'sold' it.
while f-35a languishes, but is selling off bc lockheed needs the $$, f-16 has failed to maintain budgeted readiness for 11 years running per gao.
for usaf to donate f-16's it would degrade the f-16 already scant capability!
good thing there are no runways in ukraine close enough to any front that are safe for f-16!
zelensky seems enthralled by errol flinn in 'dawn patrol' thinking flinn and niven flyingf-16 can clear the skies; come back be rearmed for air to mud and run the rf army out of donbas.....
Sorry to be pedantic, but I'm not sure I'd call Janissaries mercenaries. They were, at least originally, a special caste created by recruiting Christian boys as a tax. They were permanent state-employed troops. Of course, the Ottomans did use mercenaries as well (virtually everyone did), but Janissaries seem to me to be just about the opposite of that approach.
That aside, I agree that "the West" appears to be hoping for a miracle. I'd argue that the Western leadership probably can afford to keep that as a strategy, though. Its members are hardly in any personal risk. Politically, they might not lose much from the worst case outcome in Ukraine. After all, it is pretty far, and failures can always be blamed on someone else. If they cared about their national security, and actually feared Russia as much as they pretend, this may have been different. But I think they do not, or they probably would have put more thought into this by now. It is different for Ukraine, but Ukraine does not make those calls.
A long time ago, I visited an arms souk in Yemen. It was located somewhere on, or near, the road to Marib, which is an historical flashpoint for tribal violence.
One of the items that I saw for sale at the Souk was a weaponised Toyota pick-up truck - the kind that seem to have replaced camels. You will encounter them all over this part of the world. Mounted on a pivot behind the cab was some kind of light machine-gun. I assume the idea was that the machine-gun operator would stand on the flat-bed and then either brace the front part of the gun on a bi-pod over the cab, or fire the gun in an unsupported arc.
It was impressive to look at, like something that you might see in an episode of The A-Team. It was also, as far as I could tell, completely impractical: Firing the gun while stationary would present a large unarmoured target for the enemy to return fire on. Firing the gun while moving, over what would very likely be uneven ground, would be an effective way to waste ammunition. You would get better odds playing roulette. The operator would also run the risk of shooting the vehicle, another occupant, or themselves, by accident. I am not a soldier, or a weapons expert, but I think the machine gun was actually devalued in terms of its usefulness in battle by being mounted on the Toyota. It would have served better in a semi-mobile capacity, being moved on foot from position to position..
If you were taking your cow to market to trade, and had been instructed in no uncertain terms not to return with magic beans, then the better deal would be some well-maintained Kalashnikovs and ammunition. They are practical, and easy to use and maintain. If their owner is killed, or badly injured, they can be picked up and used by someone else. The weaponised Toyota truck was an expensive piece of smouldering wreckage in waiting, unfit for purpose.
I hope these observations will positively inform your next weapons purchase.
The Ethiopians learned, first-hand, the mistake of deploying battlefield technology that they were not properly trained to use, during the Eritrean War of Independence. In fact, an early turning point in the war occurred when trained personnel (mostly pooled from countries who supported Ethiopia) were placed in charge of this equipment. It must have been one hell of a shock for the Eritreans who seemed be only a few days away from victory at that point.
The West has, since WW2, become fat, lazy and financialised. They have specialised in fighting small, "easy" wars where they can exert total dominance over a vastly inferior opponent.
Their problem now is that years of throwing their weight around has created peer level opponents and even the remaining "easy" opponents have developed a winning asymmetrical doctrine.
The West is, for the first time, without a viable convential military force able to successfully threaten and coerce others. Their reversion to mass media control, special ops and psyops isn't proving to be a viable substitute for, as so eloquently described in the article, raw military capability.
So what's left for the West now that they own most of the financialised money and the rest of the world owns most of the resources and factories? Logically they'd probably revert to strategic military options where they retain a large measure of capability, stuff like nuclear, biological and cyber warfare but they are up against peer level opponents here as well who have the potential to do the West serious harm in response.
So what's the plan, man?
Another major distorting factor - and you touched on it - is the effect the profit motive of the arms manufacturers has, not just on discussions and policies strictly related to procurement itself, but also more broadly on the formulation of national policy, in general and in specific conflicts (every problem starts to look like a nail etc.), - and also, I think, more generally on the type of military doctrine that a nation tends to favour. That effect is only magnified when top management from a nation's military-industrial complex and its political leadership swap positions so routinely. (Lloyd Austin is "formerly" of Raytheon - because he stepped down from the board???)
Great stuff. Thanks.
Ending up in your talk of mercenaries and their role in the modern world and modern wars makes me wonder what your analysis of the Wagner Group looks like. Unlike most (all?) mercenaries they appear not to be light infantry, but mechanized infantry. They have their own air support, artillery elements, anti-air, and armour. Previous to reading this I'd have thought they were somewhat similar in role and capability to the French Foreign Legion, but you know a lot more about the FFL than I likely ever will.
Further, beyond bare comparison of tables of organization and equipment, what role do you think they serve, under the (rational, I think) assumption that the Russian leadership has specific goals and plans to achieve those goals which involve cultivating capabilities, both military and political?
I don't know if you're an expert in such pol/mil analysis, but you've shown yourself to be perspicacious in understanding of politics as technical practice, so I value your views. Thank you for writing.
As today the US gave their green light for F16 delivery to Ukrain and it's all over the news, I read again this article you wrote a few weeks ago.
As always it makes a lot of sense. And whenever these F16 will actually be delivered, they might not make a big difference or even fly that long.
And still, I wonder why the Ukrainians seem to want them so bad.
Why don't they shop for something else ? Attack helicopters or A10 maybe ? Or just more missiles ?
Or is it just because these F16 happen to be available ?
My dad gave me a car battery charger for my 12th birthday.
Reality breaks through fantasy to show bright and clean, most attractive.
A corner has been turned, morally-and intellectually-speaking. A step up in order of magnitude is thrown into existence. Peskov and Patrushev finger "Washington," not Zelensky. They know where Vicki Nuland lives. And each of her minions.
Note to the ambitious, lazy, and cowardly: install yourself in office and conduct aggressive operations without proper authority from the USA electorate (Congress) and you usher yourself into a scenario wherein you potentialize being hung by your thumbs from street lights or power poles very near your home, if you are lucky.
Thank you for this ..... and I wonder what to call it - summary, outline..... it is really informative. I knew all the points you mentioned, but you put them together in a really interesting way. For me, I think, this might be the ‘summary’ of a disaster we live through. A lack of statesmen, as we still have them in WWI (and I would add WWII, as well). That was a century ago, though, in an age when even politicians were literate in the concepts of mass production and industrialisation. Now, they are literate in Powerpoint, and have been taught that, if the demand exists, the supply will automatically follow.”
As General Omar Bradley is reputed to have said: “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”
Since this covers mercenaries, it’s probably worth a mention of Wagner. In Africa it appears to function as a traditional mercenary unit. In Syria something between that and an extension of the Russian military. In Ukraine it isn’t really a traditional mercenary force anymore but a special branch of the Russian army. While the recruited prisoners get the most press, from my ability to dig into the issue the reality seems to be that it is mostly staffed with ex Russian military. Perhaps not the best of the best, but very competent and willing. Many probably prefer what appears to be a more egalitarian command structure than the formal military. Perhaps that’s a source of the friction, though I suspect the friction is mostly “stuffing” as the Russians say.