Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, in the air, and on the seas. Additional topics include NATO, aid to Ukraine, refugees, internally displaced personnel, humanitarian efforts, cyber, and information operations.
Image / Photo: Destroyed Russian tanks in the Sumy region, Ukraine. Photo by Irina Rybakova, press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, March 7, 2022.
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Big Picture of the Conflict
Leaked Documents. The top secret documents leaked by an Air National Guardsman have revealed a lot of the behind the scenes happenings with the Ukraine conflict. One aspect of the conflict is the likelihood of a prolonged conflict that appears to be a stalemate; but one that favors Russia over the long-term. Since Russia is a larger country with more resources, industrial capacity, and a large population base, it can afford a long war of attrition. “Leaked documents could both help and hurt Ukraine”, The Hill Defense, April 16, 2023. The U.S. Department of Defense says that the leaked documents will not hinder cooperation with NATO partners in the support for Ukraine. “Partnered Commitment to Ukraine Unlikely to be Deterred by Recent Intel Leaks”, DoD News, April 17, 2023.
Russian Recruitment. Enlistment offices across Russia are attempting to bring recruits into the military. A new campaign is underway canvassing high schools and colleges. A mobilization in September 2022 of 300,000 reservists was the spark to led to tens of thousands of military age men to flee Russia for other countries. Russia is avoiding another large-scale call up as it resulted in wide spread opposition. “New Russian campaign tries to entice men to fight Ukraine”, AP News, March 26, 2023.
News Updates. A detailed daily update of the war – a daily review – is provided by Euromaidan Press. And, of course, there is the always comprehensive daily report by the Institute for the Study of War.
Situation Maps. War in Ukraine by Scribble Maps. The Institute for the Study of War presents a map that depicts the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine as of March 6, 2023, 3:00 PM ET. View more Ukraine SITMAPs that provide updates on the disposition of Russian forces.
Fight for Bakhmut and Stalingrad. Gaelan Hanlon provides an analysis of the Battle of Bakhmut. He used the historical example of the Battle for Stalingrad during World War II as a comparison model. His analysis concludes that the time has come for the Ukrainians to cede control of this small industrial city in eastern Ukraine to the Russians. The defenders should withdraw and live to fight another day. “How Long Should Ukrainian Forces Defend Bakhmut? Lessons from Stalingrad”, Modern War Institute, April 18, 2023.
“A Wall of Armor”. The Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine has galvanized NATO countries into action. Eastern European countries are learning from the conflict in Ukraine that main battle tanks still have a role in a ground war. Part of the response to Russian aggression is sending tanks to Ukraine. This then requires the acquisition of new tanks. Many nations are looking to acquire the M1 Abrams, a U.S. made main battle tank. “The M1 Abrams is becoming the Benchmark Main Battle Tank for Eastern Europe”, Real Clear Defense, April 18, 2023.
‘Gun Trucks’ for Ukraine. In an effort to counter the wide-spread use of drones by the Russians the U.S. will soon be providing an inexpensive counter-air solution to Ukraine. 30mm guns that can be mounted on the back of trucks will be sent to the country in the coming months. Kind of like the technicals found in smaller countries – big guns on pickup trucks; but better. “US providing Ukraine with 30mm gun trucks to blast Iranian drones out of the sky”, Task & Purpose, April 5, 2023.
Fight for the Skies
More Airpower Needed. Douglas Birkey of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies argues that Kyiv needs more jets – and points to the recently leaked U.S. intelligence documents to buttress his argument. Ukraine’s stockpile of surface-to-air missiles are running low and Russia could be on the verge of gaining air superiority later this spring. This would be a disaster for Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive that may kick off in a matter of weeks. “Don’t want to lose Ukraine? Empower Kyiv with airpower”, Breaking Defense, April 17, 2023.
Finland’s Airspace. The skies of Finland are now open for NATO surveillance and intelligence missions. This will allow NATO to monitor Russian activities more closely in the region. The first surveillance flight was conducted on March 23, 2023. Both manned and unmanned aircraft will be performing these future intelligence gathering missions. Both Sweden and Finland joined NATO’s Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space (APSS) program in February 2023. Finland, currently a ‘NATO partner’, has applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other aggressive activities in the region. “Finland opens airspace for NATO surveillance and intelligence flights”, Defence Today, March 23, 2023.
Blockade of Crimea? Ukraine seems determined, if you listen to the rhetoric, to recapture Crimea from Russia. The peninsula was annexed in 2014 at the beginning of the Russian Ukraine War. Most military analysts believe that Ukraine does not have the military capability to retake Crimea. However, some suggest a Ukrainian blockade is feasible. The peninsular is susceptible to a blockade. It’s two main supply routes are over the Crimea Bridge that spans the Kerch Strait or on the land route from the Russian border, along the west coast of the Sea of Azov (close to the front lines), and across the narrow band of land that connects Crimea to Ukraine. Read more in “Why Blockading Rather Than Retaking Crimea Might Be Kyiv’s Best Option”, The Rand Blog, April 10, 2023.
Changes in NATO Military Strategy. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is becoming the fighting alliance it once was during the Cold War. NATO is moving from a strategy of deterrence by retaliation to deterrence by denial. For the Baltic States, this new strategy is one they can embrace. “Russian Invasion of Ukraine Revolutionizes NATO Military Strategy”, by Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, April 17, 2023.
Guardsmen to Train with Ukrainian Troops. Members of the Arkansas National Guard are heading to Germany for a year-long mission. They will assume command of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine (JMTG-U) at Grafenwoehr where they will mentor and advise Ukrainians. “39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Work With Ukrainian Forces”, National Guard, April 6, 2023.
TS Docs on Social Media. It appears that Top Secret Pentagon documents with details about the war in Ukraine have been published on some social media sites (Telegram and Twitter). The Pentagon is reviewing the matter but has not provided many details. The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the leaks. The documents include maps of Ukraine, where troops are concentrated, and the kinds of weapons available to the Ukrainian forces. Defense analysts are picking apart the posted documents determining what is real and what is fiction. “Top-secret Pentagon documents on Ukraine war appear on social media”, NPR, April 7, 2023. See also “Pentagon probing leaked docs purporting to preview Ukraine offensive”, New York Post, April 7, 2023. And this article as well . . . “Russians Accused of Doctoring Leaked Western Documents on Ukraine War”, Voice of America, April 7, 2023.
UK SOF in Ukraine? According to some leaked U.S. intelligence documents the United Kingdom has UK special forces operating in Ukraine. One document indicates that as many as 50 UK SOF personnel had been deployed to Ukraine alongside SOF from other nations. The UK Ministry of Defence is pushing back on the claims saying:
“The widely reported leak of alleged classified US information has demonstrated a serious level of accuracy. Readers should be cautious about taking a face value allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation.”Spokesman for UK MoD, April 11, 2023, MOD @DefenceHQ Twitter
U.S. SOF In Ukraine. The CIA and U.S. Army Special Forces have some personnel based in Ukraine serving in an advisory capacity. Read more in “The Unknown Mission of American Special Ops Troops Fighting in Ukraine”, SOFREP, April 16, 2023. (subscription) See also “Ukraine Situation Report: US Troops for Embassy Support Only Pentagon Says”, The Drive, April 17, 2023.
New Ukrainian Head of SOF. Yevhenii Khmara has been appointed by President Zelenskyy as the head of the Alpha Group of the Security Service of Ukraine and head of the Special Operations Centre. Yahoo! News, April 14, 2023.
Egypt’s About Face. Apparently, according to leaked intelligence reports, Egypt was prepared to provide rockets to Russia for its use in the Ukraine conflict. But it seems that U.S. intervention has swayed the country to instead provide 152mm and 155mm artillery ammunition to Ukraine instead. Initial plans had Egypt providing up to 40,000 122mm Sakr-45 rockets to Russia. “Egypt nearly supplied rockets to Russia, agreed to arm Ukraine instead, leak shows”, The Washington Post, April 17, 2023. (subscription)
Commentary and Papers
Russia’s Frozen Billions. The economic cost of the war has been catastrophic for Ukraine. One-third of its population has been displaced and one-third of its GDP has been lost. Cities, towns, and villages have been destroyed. The civilian infrastructure will take years to rebuild. However, there is a source of funding that could assist Ukraine with the economic pain it is experiencing. Approximately $300 billion in Russian central bank assets that were frozen by Western governments could be used to counter the costs of Moscow’s destruction of Ukraine. “The moral and legal case for sending Russia’s frozen $300 billion to Ukraine”, The Washington Post, March 20, 2023. (subscription)
Moldova – In the Crosshairs? Russian aggression in Ukraine has captured the attention of this east European country. Sharing a border with Ukraine (Google Maps) and having its own bit of troubles with Russian agitators, Moldova is weathering a storm of uncertainty and unrest. Russia’s attempts to destabilize the country through disinformation, propaganda, and agitation are a very real threat. “War as a Neighbor”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 14, 2023.
Paper – The Russian General Staff. A host of authors provide an understanding of the Russian military’s decision making role in a ‘besieged fortress’. This document details the formal authorities and responsibilities of the Russian General Staff and the General Staff’s capacity to influence Russia’s national security decision making process. RAND Corporation, March 2023, PDF, 132 pages. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1233-7.html
Resources about the Ukraine Conflict
Maps of Ukraine
Weapons of the Ukraine War.
Ukraine Conflict Info. The Ukrainians have launched a new website that will provide information about the war. It is entitled Russia Invaded Ukraine and can be found at https://war.ukraine.ua/.
Ukrainian Think Tanks – Brussels. Consolidated information on how to help Ukraine from abroad and stay up to date on events.
UNCN. The Ukraine NGO Coordination Network is an organization that ties together U.S.-based 501c3 organizations and non-profit humanitarian organizations that are working to evacuate and support those in need affected by the Ukraine crisis. https://uncn.one