A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 29, 2023

Ukraine Again Targets Russian-Occupied Melitopol, 80 Km Behind Enemy Lines

You could infer from this that Melitopol is an important target for a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Or not. 

Either way, it is a crucial Russian logistics hub and worthy of long range attack so as to help degrade Russian capabilities, no matter what the offensive's direction may be. JL

Stefan Korshak reports in the Kyiv Post:

Another salvo of long-range munitions struck the Russia-occupied city Melitopol on Wednesday. Russian authorities reported between eight and ten explosions around the Melitopol rail switching station at 5:30 A.M. The strikes threw black smoke into the sky and set fires. Melitopol has become a key logistics hub for Moscow’s forces. The closest reasonable launch site for reaching Melitopol is 80 km. from the city.  Melitopol could be the offensive’s main focus because capture of the city would enable Ukrainian forces to isolate the Crimean peninsula

Ukraine Launches US 'Small Diameter' Bombs With Longer Range Than Himars

These high precision bombs have a much longer range than even the supremely effective Himars systems provided to Ukraine last year, which helped them reconquer Kharkiv and Kherson.

Using these munitions in mass could prove very disruptive for Ukraine versus Russian forces. JL 

Andrew Stanton reports in Newsweek:

GLSDB are precision bombs seen as a powerful development for Ukrainian troops. These bombs are capable of hitting targets as far as 150 kilometers (95 miles) away, thus expanding Ukraine's ability to strike behind Russia's lines. They are also capable of being fitted to rockets already part of Ukraine's arsenal. The range of these bombs is larger than that of the HIMARS previously provided to Ukraine by the U.S., which helped its military turn the tide of the war in its favor last year. "This extended range allows Ukraine to target a wider range of Russian targets, giving them more options to disrupt Russian operations,"

Russian Assault Troops Publicly Claim They're Threatened With Death If They Retreat

This is the latest in a steady stream of videos posted by Russian soldiers about the corruption and mistreatment to which they are subjected, including being forced to pay bribes to their officers for basic supplies or favorable postings away from the front. And for those sent to the front, blocking troops are placed behind them to prevent retreat. 

The question is at what point Russian troops will decide they have had enough - or whether this behavior is so deeply ingrained that they consider it acceptable. JL

Pjotr Sauer reports in The Guardian, image Adrien Vautier, Le Monde:

Members of a Russian assault unit say their commanders deployed troops to stop them from retreating and threatened them with death after they suffered “huge” losses in eastern Ukraine. The unit is made up of Russian veterans. They were being forced to give money to their commanders and those who refused were sent to the front. Blocking troops are military units positioned behind frontline forces prevent soldiers from fleeing.Their appeal is the latest in a steady stream of similar videos that have surfaced since January.  "They want to execute us as witnesses of a completely negligent criminal leadership.”

Ukraine's Strategy Now That NATO Tanks Are Arriving

The good news is that promised NATO tanks of considerably higher quality - and lethality - than anything Russia has to offer are starting to arrive in Ukraine. 

But Russia still has @2,000 tanks in Ukraine and to some degree, numbers matter. Ukraine's strategy will be to husband its resources in order to generate maximum impact, which means waiting to find weaknesses in the Russian defenses and then striking hard. Eg, "hit 'em where they ain't." JL 

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Challengers, Leopards, AMXs and Bradleys are starting to arrive. The Challenger 2 is an amazing tank. It may have the record for the longest-distance tank kill in history. It also notched a 200+ to 0 record against Iraq tanks in the Gulf War. Ukraine has also received an infusion of updated Soviet-era tanks from nations across Europe. Russia had lost  40% of its entire pre-war tank fleet and 50% of its mainstay, the T-72. (But) it still has around 2,000 functional tanks. Almost all of them are in Ukraine. (And) Ukraine can only make a company of Challenger 2s (or) a company or two of Leopard 2s. What Ukraine wants to do is to shepherd these resources to generate maximum impact.

The Reason Ukraine's Best Option vs Russia Now Is Multiple Offensives

Putin is refusing to acknowledge that his invasion has failed because doing so would likely mean the end of his Russian leadership and probably his death. 

This means that Ukraine's best option is to create a military reality on the ground through a successful spring-summer offensive that decimates Russian forces and thus deprives Russia of any alternative but to accept whatever settlement Ukraine and its allies wish to impose. JL

John Haltiwanger reports in Business Insider:

The war has gone poorly for Russia as it's suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks on the battlefield and failed to accomplish its broader aims. That said, Putin is showing no signs of giving up. Given Ukraine's choices in the face of such obstinance, immediate peace talks are not among them. The (best) option is for Ukraine to "launch successive counter-offensive operations with the twin aims of persuading Putin to accept a negotiated compromise or of creating military realities sufficiently favorable to Ukraine that Kyiv and its Western allies can then freeze the conflict on their own regardless of Putin's decisions."

Why Silicon Valley Tech and VCs Joining Pentagon To Fund New Defense Efforts

It's been a very difficult year for traditional venture tech investing. Inflation is up, the market is down, IPO's are stagnant. 

But there is one area of the economy eager - even desperate - for new investing. And that is defense and aerospace. Between the war in Ukraine sucking up NATO nation's excess capacity for smart weapons and the supply chains that deliver them on to the increasingly fraught cold war with China - also tech related - there may have never been more demand. And given that defense is largely immune to inflation and recessionary pressure thanks to Pentagon contracts, VCs and startups are rising to the opportunity. JL 

Sharon Weinberger and colleagues report in the Wall Street Journal:

A new Pentagon unit, the Office of Strategic Capital, is designed to attract venture capital into companies producing technology and products critical to the military. The Pentagon is seeking to enlist Silicon Valley startups in its effort to fund and develop new weapons technology and more-nimble suppliers. The push to tap private capital comes in the midst of concern that U.S. defense-industry consolidation has led to dependence on a few large companies that rely on government funding for research and is hampering innovation. China has pulled ahead in key technologies, from small drones to hypersonic missiles. (And) investors are turning to defense because of changes in the startup market. "There is a recession-proof category, it’s defense.”

Mar 28, 2023

How Foreign Volunteers Are Training Ukrainian Soldiers For Counteroffensive

Ukraine is relying on retired foreign soldiers to help train the new recruits it is expecting to man the counteroffensive against Russian forces this year. but

The Ukrainians are eager and determined - and time for additional training is not a luxury Ukraine's military can afford. JL 

Frank Langfitt reports in NPR:

Ukraine is conscripting thousands of new soldiers to help replenish losses on the battlefield as the war grinds into a second, bloody year. The pressure to train civilians quickly and then send them to the front is tremendous as Ukraine faces an enemy with four times the population. Most have no experience with weapons. A retired Swedish lieutenant, is teaching a group of Ukrainian conscripts how to fire an AK-47. U.S. Army boot camp lasts 10 weeks. Ukraine would like to provide at least 35 days of training.