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

The people of Russia, if they want to be free from the tyranny they now suffer…

must arm themselves as best they can (rifles, revolvers, bombs, knives, knuckle-dusters, sticks, rags soaked in kerosene for starting fires, ropes or rope ladders, shovels for building barricades, pyroxylin cartridges, barbed wire, nails [against cavalry], etc., etc.)…. Select leaders or officers… work out signals… calls or whistles so that the comrades recognise one another in a crowd; previously arranged signals in the event of meetings at night, etc., etc…. Get weapons by attacking… a policemen, stray Cossacks… and seizing their arms… fight by getting on to the roofs or upper storeys of houses, etc., and showering stones or pouring boiling water on the troops, etc.

There is more, much more. Curious about the source?  A bit of irony here- it is from Lenin’s Tasks of Revolutionary Army Contingents, written in 1905.  I suppose it applies just as much today, to try and get out of this mess, as it did when Russians used the tactics to get themselves into it!

On to NATO:
Turkey on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, from the Telegram channel ….

The President of Turkey discussed with the leaders of Finland and Sweden their accession to NATO.

Erdogan demanded from Sweden to take action against organizations that Ankara considers terrorist, in particular regarding the PKK. And also to lift the embargo on the export of weapons imposed on Turkey due to the military operation against the Kurds.

Finnish President Niinistö called the conversation with Erdogan “open and direct”: “As NATO allies, Finland and Turkey will assume obligations to ensure each other’s security, and therefore our relations will become stronger. Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The close dialogue continues.”

Sounds better than last week when the “news” would have us believe that Turkey was set against their joining.

If you are so inclined, Brookings hosted an event with the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to the US this week, which is available to watch online- Finland, Sweden, and the future of NATO. The event was very informative, reinforcing for me a lot of what I already understood about the capabilities of both countries. I would stress that both countries are highly prepared to join NATO. Their spending levels meet or exceed the NATO member country requirements. Their armaments, preparedness, and ability to integrate with NATO cannot to be questioned.

One reason for their defensive capabilities is that both countries have a security posture called “total defense.” This means that they are prepared on all levels to defend their countries-  from maintaining a strong posture in order to deter any threats, to fighting in defense if necessary, to the creation of resistance movements if areas of the country are occupied.  This posture is visible throughout all levels of society- the entire population, business, infrastructure- everyone and everything is a part of the nations’ defenses. Look to Ukraine’s current posture, and success, and you will see total defense in action. Point of note, the Baltic countries and Poland also practice a total defense posture.

Here is an article at Overtdefense.com from June, 2021 outlining Ukraine’s total defense policy, and explaining why it can be so effective.

For more on the current status of NATO in general, and its decline in defensive ability since the end of the Cold War, see the paper by Anthony W. Cordesman and Grace Hwang, The Ukraine War: Preparing for the Longer-term Outcome. It is another very informative piece, which stresses the need for immediate and massive upgrades in NATO as a whole if it is to be a capable force. My takeaway from it: the Ukraine war has given NATO the best reference point it is going to get in relation to accuracy in planning for future threats from Russia. The Ukraine war is a wake-up call for NATO to asses its capabilities and implement changes across the board, immediatley.

Finally, Putin continues to murder his own citizens:

russian combat losses as of 24 May, 2022

Russian combat losses as of 24 May, 2022