Update for today- mostly links to background and current reports, all of which I consider pertinent for developing a solid view of the war in Ukraine, of Russia’s capabilities, tactics, and probable courses of action, and an understanding of Russia’s overall threat against freedom and democracy worldwide.

There is hope in Belarus, where they are still not following Putin’s doctrine to the letter, and may well act to thwart his plans- from 29 January, 2023, from the RFERL website, “Amid Worries Over Russian Forces In Belarus, Former Security Officer Says Belarusian Conscripts Won’t Fight.”

From the RAND website, from March, 2017, see the testimony to the House Armed Services Committee: Understanding Russian “Hybrid Warfare” And What Can Be Done About It  by Christopher S. Chivvis. This testimony, though it is from 2017 and as such its predictions and warnings have become history, is worth the time to read.

The testimony notes Russia’s goals in their hybrid war as creating division in and weakening NATO, subversion of pro-western and democratic governments, the creation of pretexts for war, and to justify the annexation of territory as a few of those goals. It covers briefly the development of Russia’s hybrid, non-military toolbox, growing out of the “traditional” espionage and subversion used by the USSR. It stresses the importance of countering Russia’s threats in the information realm- specifically in the media and news, on social media, and the internet in general, along with strengthening of governments’ cyber security and enhancing collection and sharing of intelligence among European, EU, and allied nations as key in the fight against the Russian threat.

Continuing in that realm, from the Army University Press website, September-October 2020, see “Russian New Generation Warfare Deterring and Winning the Tactical  Fight” by James Derleth, PhD.

For a quick, two-page introduction to Russian Military Doctrine from August, 2020, see “Russian Armed Forces: Military Doctrine and Strategy” from the Congressional Research Service website. Key points of note include hybrid and new generation warfare, non-kinetic strategies such as the use of the information sphere (control of media, social media, information creation and delivery, etc.), Russia’s historical and continued emphasis on offensive doctrine and targeting of infrastructure, and lack of concern for mass casualties due to lack of training, morale, and poor command and control.

This RAND page, “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Insights from RAND” has pages of resources- background, testimony, and commentary. It covers strategies and positions of all the players, and has sections dedicated to capabilities, humanitarian concerns, diplomatic and political aspects of the war, and more.

More background, from the United Sates Army War College Press, June 2011, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War: Lessons and Implications”  assesses Russia’s performance in Georgia and how it forced doctrinal changes in the Russian military.

Updates directly from Ukraine are available at the Ukrinform website.

For an update on the current situation on the ground in Ukraine, see the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War.

Finally, as always an update of Russian combat losses to date, totaling 131,290- an increase of 700 from the previous day. I read that a New York Times report puts the total number of dead and wounded Russian soldiers at about 200,000 so far. The number will only increase, with daily numbers increasing, until Russia comes to its senses, abandons the Tsar’s mania for conquest, and leaves all Ukrainian territory.

Russian combat losses as of 05 February, 2023

Russian combat losses as of 05 February, 2023

While I do my best to only scan the daily news, and not let it consume me, the events on the Poland- Belarus border are hard to gloss over. First, the intent behind it all is quite clear, as reported even by U.S. news agencies- essentially regional destabilisation and distraction of the European Union and its allies.  The BBC and Aljazeera give good background on the crisis, and yesterday I began hearing how the term “hybrid warfare” best describes what is now playing out in the region. Hybrid warfare, in case you are unfamiliar, encompasses all possible forms of confrontation- asymmetric warfare, cyber warfare, “lawfare”, economic warfare, regular and irregular warfare including psychological operations and the extensive use of propaganda. The final items in the list are some of the easiest to use in our day and age, with the “democratic” internet and social media at everyone’s fingertips, especially governments, and more important to most people than the oxygen they breathe. What we are seeing currently goes well beyond that, using living humans as fodder, battering rams, and Trojan horses on a new kind of front line.

Now a word about background. First we have a resurgent-minded Russia- Vladimir Putin’s clearly expressed goal in life is to reclaim and rebuild greater Russia. His ally is Belarus and its dictator Alexander Lukashenko (a reminder to A.L. in case he should read this- be careful! If Putin succeeds your country will no longer be an ally, but a satellite, and you will become expendable.) Their aim again, or I should say Putin’s, is disruption and distraction of Europe, the European Union, and its allies. I am sure Putin would be perfectly happy if bullets started flying; proxy warfare is one of the best kind- why use your own troops when you can use those of others to die for your cause? All very straight-forward.

Finally, something that seems to be forgotten by most observers and news reports is the fact that Syria is also an ally of Russia, and that with Russia’s support, the pathological, megalomaniacal, murdering dictator, Bashar al-Assad is largely behind the crisis.  Remember where many of these migrants have come from- Syria, as well as other, similarly dysfunctional countries (if we can still call them countries… when does a country just become a battleground? ) throughout the region.

What to do about it all? Good question. One of the most important things we can do for the entire world is to address climate change. Which is clearly not at the top of Putin’s agenda. Why? If we were really serious about stopping global warming, fossil fuels would have to become obsolete, and soon. This would put Russia in a very precarious position- the power behind its riches in oil and gas would fall away, and its would-be super-power status would be at risk. That is not going to happen! The world will continue to heat up, we will become a world full of refugees, and sic transit gloria mundi.

End of Monday afternoon rant.