A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 1, 2023

The Reason Russia Is Struggling To Replace Its Ukraine Losses

Most of Russia's trained cadres have been destroyed. Survivors are constantly being recombined with other remnants of previously operational units, but it takes time to build cohesion. 

Many of the convicts and untrained conscripts have been frittered away around Bakhmut. Some training is being done in Belarus because their army still has long serving non-coms and officers, though none have served in Ukraine. In short, Russia is trying to rebuild an army as it fights a war it is losing, complicating the attempt. JL 

Nick Walsh reports in CNN:

Russia is unlikely to see strategic success in any potential offensive in Ukraine this spring due to limited support on force ratios, equipment and logistics. There are severe constraints to their ability to really backfill the losses that they have suffered in Ukraine, "which is why you see them reach out to international partners to try to fill the gap." These limitations might not prevent Russia “from trying to launch an offensive,” but their “ability to change the course of the conflict at the moment is constrained.”

Ukrainian Forces On Alert Along All Borders For Possible Russian Attacks

Along all its border with Russia, Ukraine is subjected to random artillery fire and occasional small scale incursions. The Ukrainians are prepared and can easily rebuff such tentative advances, but such defensive preparations prevent Ukraine from sending more troops or weapons to hotter battle zones like Bakhmut. Which many believe is exactly the point. 

The benefit of such watchfulness is that Ukrainian forces are constantly training, which improves their readiness and, as recent successes reveal, their success. JL

Daniel Boffey reports in The Guardian:

The Russians were pushed out of the country by Ukrainian forces in March last year after the debacle of the 24 February assault on the north. Could they be preparing for “maximum escalation, gathering all possible forces” for a potential rerun of the 24 February from north, south and east? Perhaps. An alternative theory is the Russians are trying to convince Ukraine’s general staff that they cannot afford to move forces over to Donetsk – and particularly the city of Bakhmut – to relieve the Ukrainian efforts there. Zelenskiy has admitted the situation there is “very tough” with Russia claiming gains.

Why the Battle For Ukraine's Dnipro River Islands Near Kherson Is Important

The immediate objective is to reduce shelling of Kherson which has continued since Ukrainian troops forced Russia to retreat from it last fall.

But the longer term strategic objective is help outflank Russian troops on the Dnipro's left bank in order for Ukrainian forces to press their counter offensive to reclaim more territory. JL 

Howard Altman reports in The Drive:

For the past two months, as larger and deadlier clashes take place to the east, Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought for control of islands in the Dnipro River near the city of Kherson. Russia has been lobbying artillery and mortar fire on Kherson ever since evacuating. In response, Ukrainian forces have been attempting “small naval operations”  to “establish control and push back Russian 122mm and 152mm artillery from the left bank. ”Ukraine will continue trying to wrest control of the Dnipro River islands, to reduce fire and fix Russian forces ahead of any wider maneuver operations by either further to the east.

Where Men Are Meat: Ukrainian Troops Appalled By Russian Human Wave Tactics

Ukraine and Russia are using divergent means in their efforts to prevail over each other. 

While Ukraine is employing technology and intelligence to optimize the impact of its resources, Russia is content to throw bodies - almost literally - at the Ukrainian defenses in order to try to win. So far, the Ukrainians have held their ground - and the only question is how many bodies the Russians have since their willingness to waste them seems limitless. JL 

Debora Patta and colleagues report in CBS News:

Ukraine's fight to hold Bakhmut is being waged from high-tech underground command centers. A small army of volunteer tech warriors - many of them gamers and IT nerds in pre-war life - carefully monitored screens showing video being live-streamed straight from the front line. A fleet of inexpensive drones revealed the landscape in astounding detail. The videos paint a stark picture: Men dying in World War I-style trenches as they come up against 21st-century electronic warfare. The Russian men are treated like meat. "They are forced to advance over the bodies of their fallen soldiers. One group is destroyed, new ones come… over and over. At night they collect the bodies."

Ukrainian Resistance At Bakhmut and Vuhledar Stifles Russian Attacks

Ukrainian forces' resistance at multiple points along the front line, but especially at Bakhmut and Vuhledar has stifled Russian attempts to advance.

The Russians are short of armor so have been using human wave tactics reminiscent of the Chinese army during the Korean War or the Iranians in their war with Iraq. The Russians are having about as much success as their predecessors, which is to say, not much. JL  

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Over the last four days, Russia’s progress around the city of Bakhmut can be summed up this way: There isn’t any. Claims that they had surged past the town of Klishchiivka and were about to overrun Ivaniske on the south appear to have fizzled out along the line of a drainage canal that has proved to be an effective obstacle. The previous push on the north that saw Wagner Group forces move into Soledar appears to have not advanced in the last two weeks, and very well may have lost ground. The impetus carrying Russian forces to incremental advances on both side of Bakhmut appears to have stalled, returning to the days of small forces being sent forward to their annihilation

Why Investors Are Driving Valuation Declines of Consumer Discretionary Startups

From Peloton to Carvana to DoorDash - and on to meal kits, instant delivery and streaming - valuations are declining as consumers find prices and fragmentation insupportable just as venture investors are realizing that such companies are unlikely to generate tech company margins and growth. 

The result is that much of the promise has faded of  companies using tech platforms to sell consumer discretionary services and products popular during the pandemic are now facing the harsh reality of an economic reversion to the mean in both consumer behavior and financial prospects.  JL

Christopher Mims reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Amid the longest boom in tech, investors subsidized the losses of startups delivering conveniences - and subsidized consumption of their products - on the logic they would grow into their oversize valuations. What enabled these startups is technology, which (is) why they were valued at earnings multiples of high-growth tech companies with high margins. What’s apparent to investors now is these companies - many of which have high fixed costs in low-margin industries - aren’t going to generate the growth and profits tech companies do. Food delivery, meal-kits, instant delivery and streaming are experiencing slowdowns. Companies have been hammered by investors' prioritization of profitability over growth.

Jan 31, 2023

50 Percent of Russian Airborne Forces Lost In Ukraine War's First 6 Months

Russia's best troops, its airborne forces, led the invasion and fought in other tough battles through the summer. 

But they were never properly supported or led and by early autumn had been decimated by deaths and wounds, with some units rendered inoperative due to losses. JL 

Isabel Van Brugen reports in Newsweek:

A former Kremlin official has said that prior to  September 2022, Russia's Airborne Forces had lost up to half of their personnel. Russia's airborne forces led the country's military in the initial advance into Ukraine from Belarusian territory in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. "This is the objective reality, our airborne forces lost 40-50 percent of staff. Out of the old and tested formations with designated equipment, not that many are remaining."