Curated news, analysis, and commentary about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tactical situation on the ground, Ukrainian defense, and NATO. This report is currently posted every 30 days, providing curated news for the month.
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Big Picture of the Conflict
Russians Lose More Territory. Russia is continuing to suffer defeats on the ground in Ukraine. The recent retreat of over 30,000 Russian troops from the regional capital of Kherson in mid-November is its’ third major retreat since the Ukraine war began. The first was from the Kyiv region and the second from the Kharkiv region. The Russians retreated from Kherson to the east bank of the Dnieper River – a much more defensible position for the coming winter months. About 70% of the Kherson region remains under Russian control. The Russian withdrawal from the city follows a months-long offensive by Ukrainian forces in southern Ukraine.
Winter Campaign. The onset of winter in Ukraine will likely slow down the pace of battlefield operations. Both countries will use the rest from fierce fighting to fortify positions, train up reinforcements, and set the environment for further offensive action. Snow and mud will degrade the fighting ability of the individual soldier, impede some vehicle traffic, and slow the pace of logistical resupply operations.
Winter is on Its Way in Ukraine. Are Russian troops on the front lines prepared for the cold Ukrainian weather? Maybe not. “Russian Soldiers Are Freezing to Death in Eastern Ukraine”, by David Axe, Forbes, November 27, 2022.
Fight in the Skies
Missile Strikes on Civilian Infrastructure. Russian missile attacks continued to strike Ukrainian civilian infrastructure throughout the month of November. This included strikes on water supply facilities, electric power systems, and more. Scheduled and emergency blackouts have become routine over many parts of Ukraine. Western officials had predicted over the past few months that the Russian ability to launch massive missile strikes had diminished as the stockpiles had been used up in the previous months. However, the huge number of missile attacks over the past month have discounted that theory. On Tuesday (Nov 15th) over 96 missiles hit various targets in Ukraine. Its electrical infrastructure has suffered immense damage leaving millions without power – with some estimates saying that half of the energy system was out of order for an extended period of time. The United States and other nations are stepping up to provide millions of dollars to support the acquisition of critical electricity grid equipment.
- “Russian Missile Strikes Plunge Ukraine into Darkness”, by Nolan Peterson, Coffee or Die Magazine, November 23, 2022.
- “How Was Russia Able to Launch Its Biggest Aerial Attack on Ukraine?”, The New York Times, November 18, 2022. (subscription).
- “U.S., Allies Work to Supply Ukraine Air Defense Needs”, DoD News, November 29, 2022.
Iran Helps Russia with Drones. An agreement between Russia and Iran will result in Iran transferring designs and key components for armed drones for use by Russia in the Ukraine war. (The Kyiv Independent, Nov 19, 2022).
Air Defense and NASAMS. The United States has provided Ukraine with National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems. Two have been delivered and six more are on order. While Russia’s manned aircraft are having a difficult time in Ukraine’s airspace, the Russian drones and cruise missiles are having more success. The NASAMS should be helpful in countering the drones and cruise missiles.
- “NASAMS Arrive in Ukraine in US Bid to Bolster Air Defense”, Air and Space Forces, November 7, 2022.
- “As Russia Ups Air Attacks, US-built NASAMS Air Defense Missiles Arrive in Ukraine”, Coffee or Die Magazine, November 7, 2022.
Black Sea Fleet. The loss of captured territory in Ukraine is a devastating blow to the Russian military; yet, it is not without strategic options. Utilizing its Black Sea Fleet, it can still launch missile attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure – crippling its economy. And it can continue to blockade Ukraine’s ports – hurting its ability to export grain and industrial goods. Russia retains the capability to conduct an amphibious landing using several ships positioned in the Black Sea – putting a substantial element of Russian naval infantry on land to threaten vital Ukrainian targets. Read more in “Relative Dominance: Russian Naval Power in the Black Sea”, War on the Rocks, November 9, 2022.
Ukraine’s Drone Boats. One way of countering Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is the employment of unmanned tactical surface vessels. They have the capability of striking targets as far away as 500 miles. The Ukraine government is hoping to ‘crowdsource’ the funding of 100 of these drone boats. They are about 18 feet long, travel about 50 mph, and can carry a payload of up to 400 pounds. Read more in “Ukraine’s Shadowy Kamikaze Drone Boats Officially Break Cover”, The WarZone, November 11, 2022.
Ukraine to Get Riverine Patrol Boats. The United States has announced it is sending 40 armored riverine boats to Ukraine as part of a $400 million assistance package announced in November. 18 riverine boats were sent in June 2022. “Pentagon Adds 40 Armored Patrol Boats to Latest Ukraine Military Aid Package”, USNI.org, November 7, 2022.
Ukraine SOF – Walking on a River Bottom. A different type of story is told in this article about Ukrainian and International Legion divers who crossed the Dnieper River to liberate a Kherson Oblast village. The divers came from the International Legion and the Ukrainian 73rd Marine Special Operations Center. Euromaiden Press, November 19, 2022.
Tactical Ground Situation
Russian Advances – Minimal Gains. A lot of effort and Russian lives are being spent to gain very little territory along the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Untrained ad-hoc Russian units are being pressed into service to gain minimal amounts of territory.
Artillery – Older Models Employed by Ukrainians. The 105-millimeter M101 was a standard light howitzer for the United States during World War II. The Ukrainians have acquired more than 50 of these artillery pieces twenty years ago and they are still being used on the frontlines very effectively. “Ukraine’s World War II- vintage Howitzers Still Work Just Fine”, Forbes.com, November 28, 2022.
Interactive Map – Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
Negotiations. The prospect for a negotiated settlement is slim. Russia in no longer able to negotiate from a position of strength and President Putin is very unlikely to admit defeat. He is willing to expend more Russian lives in attempt to keep the territory his military forces have gained – most importantly, a land corridor from the Russian border, along the west coastline of the Sea of Azov, going to Crimea. The Ukrainians won’t stop fighting until most of that territory is regained.
Refugees, IDPs, and Humanitarian Crisis. View the UNHCR Operational Data Portal – Ukraine Refugee Situation (Updated daily), https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine.
The Cost of the War. The long-running ‘three day special military operation’ is having a tremendous cost for Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world. For Ukraine especially, its economy has been severely impacted, the standard of living has dropped, and thousands and thousands of Ukrainians have been injured, wounded, or killed. For Russia, the economic cost has been high – although not as much as Ukraine’s. The human cost for Russia – wounded and killed – has been equal, if not more, to the human cost for Ukraine. “The ballooning costs of the Ukraine War”, The Strategist, by David Uren, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), November 24, 2022.
NAFO and Meme Warfare. The information space is a battleground for the Ukraine Russian conflict. There are many aspects to the IO fight; one of the is the use of memes. “The Fellas” (NAFO) is one group that specializes in the use of memes. “Seizing the memes of advantage in the Ukraine war and beyond”, by Callum Harvey, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, November 15, 2022.
World Response and Military Aid
U.S. Military Equipment – Another $400 Million. In mid-November the United States announced it was providing another $400 million in arms, munitions, and equipment. This material will be drawn down from U.S. Department of Defense inventories. This latest supply will bring the total of military aid to over $19 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration. The latest aid package contains missiles for the HAWK air defense system, ammunition for the HIMARS, artillery rounds, mortar rounds, HMMWVs, grenade launchers, and more. “$400 Million in Additional Assistance for Ukraine”, DoD News, November 10, 2022.
Iran – Providing Weapons to Russia. A Congressional Research Service ‘fact sheet’ describes some of the weapons deliveries to Russia made by Iran. The Shahed-131 and 136 drones have ranges of over 900 kilometers and can carry munitions. The Iranians may also be contemplating the transfer of short-range ballistic missiles to Russia as well. “Iran’s Transfer of Weaponry to Russia for Use in Ukraine”, CRS, November 4, 2022, PDF, 4 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12042
SF Veterans Help in Ukraine. Two former Green Berets traveled to Ukraine to teach medical classes to the Ukrainian military. Read about it in “Why a Cumberland County Special Forces veteran went to Ukraine”, The Fayetteville Observer, November 9, 2022.
Canadian Engineers to Poland. More than forty combat engineers from Canada will be supporting Polish efforts to train Ukrainian military forces. The training provided will be on the topics of engineer reconnaissance, explosives, mining, and de-mining. Canadian forces have been assisting in supporting refugee reception centers and helping British-based training programs. “Canada to send 40 combat engineers to Poland to train Ukraine soldiers”, CBC.CA News, October 11, 2022.
Surrender? Not Likely. Yurij Holowinsky tells us why the Ukrainians are unlikely to negotiate and even less likely to surrender. “Why Ukraine Won’t Quit”, Small Wars Journal, November 26, 2022.
“Dad, what does it mean to ‘surrender’?” “I don’t know my son. We are Ukrainians!”
Lessons Learned. The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine was supposed to last three days and result in the capture of Kyiv, toppling of the Ukraine government, and installation of a ‘puppet’ regime. Instead, Russia finds itself in a long, attritional battle. For national security observers, the conflict has provided updated ‘lessons learned’ about modern conflict. Over twenty lessons learned are described in this article. Among them are 1) Ukrainians can be trusted, 2) Russians cannot be trusted, 3) equipment doesn’t win wars, people do, 4) sanctions work but are messy, 5) influence operations are important, and more. “What the world has learned from Russia’s war in Ukraine“, Atlantic Council, November 2022.
Maps and Other Resources
Maps of Ukraine
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.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – American Legionaire. Veteran’s Day sees the ‘G Base’ host an American veteran, Jack Herra, who volunteered to serve in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion and shares his story and unique perspective with listeners. Pinelander Podcast, November 11, 2022, one hour.
Podcast – Surviving a Winter War. As Ukraine gears up for a winter conflict with Russia it might look back into history to a time when Finland fended of the larger Soviet Union army for many months during its ‘winter war’. The Finnish soldiers, using snow caves and skis to push back against Stalin’s forces. “What it Takes to Survive a Winter War”, Outside Podcast, November 16, 2022.