Brookings Event on “Year Two”, the Success of Ukrainian Military Modernisation, and Russian Corruption as a Vital Asset

13 February 2023

I will begin be recommending a recent Brookings event: “The Russia-Ukraine War: Year two and strategic consequences.” Please note that the recording of the event is nearly 2 1/2 hours long, but it is well worth watching. There are three separate panels, so you can break it up if you do not have time to watch it all at once. There is a full transcript of the event available as well.

A couple of striking points of note from the panelists, first Fiona Hill, reiterated by Bruce Jones, is the question about the type of war that is underway. They ask, “is this a proxy war?” and answer decidedly that it is not, that it is “more than a proxy war and less than a direct conflict.” Hill made reference here to WWII, asking if we would have labeled our support for Britain fighting against Germany, before we actively entered the war, as fighting a proxy war? No again.

Next point of note is a Hill’s characterisation of Putin, as paraphrased by Constanze Stelzenmuller as a “highly rational actor who makes a point of pretending he is not.”  Keep those two points in mind as you watch events and attempt to decipher all the data of the day on the Ukraine war.

On to commentary: I have seen reports- propagandistic, very manipulated, with selective use of quotes and mixing of messages and sources, to show that the US and the west are suffering from fatigue in their support for Ukraine. This message is false. The idea of “fatigue” is a fiction. We will continue our support, and it will only increase. Russia also continually issues “reports” on the questionable performance of Ukrainian troops. As I have said before, the best way to read such reports is to turn it around 180 degrees- substitute “Russian troops” and read on about the incompetence, unprofessionalism, and poor performance of Russia’s military. To put the level of performance and professionalism of the Ukrainian military in perspective, look at the 2014 invasion of Crimea. This was a low point for the Ukrainian military. Witness their performance today- in about 8 years they have become a disciplined, highly trained, motivated, professional military capable of taking on one of the world’s “great powers.” And they will not stop until the win. It is precisely because of this that we must offer them our support until the end.

A thought on the Russian government and its military/military industrial complex/security apparatus- in a sense they are one of our best assets in our support of Ukraine. Corruption, partisanship, nepotism, fraud, theft, cronyism, and anachronistic and bloated Soviet/Russian bureaucracy in general, not to mention fear of change in the Russian military and government structure, keep Russia slow and stumbling forward.

Russian combat losses- the number of invaders killed increased by 1,140 as of Friday, and another 900 on Saturday for a total of 6,500 invaders killed for the previous week alone. “The uptick in Russian casualties is likely due to a range of factors including lack of trained personnel, coordination, and resources across the front,” says a report from Ukrinform, quoting a British Defense Ministry intelligence update.

As of today, Monday, 13 February, Russian combat losses are as follows:

Russian combat losses as of 13 February, 2023

Russian combat losses as of 13 February, 2023

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