A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 6, 2023

The Reason Russia's Foreign Recruits Reveal Its Growing Desperation

Nepal has just arrested people recruiting Nepalese to fight for Russia in Ukraine. Cuba has done the same. But, driven by desperate economic circumstances in their home countries, some heed the call, though many later claim to have been tricked into doing so. 

The reality is that although many Russians continue to profess support for the Kremlin's war, far fewer are willing to volunteer or even to serve if drafted. Russia has long been reliant on ethnic minorities within its borders to fill its military, but the increasing emphasis on foreign recruiting suggests that even the rural poor are no longer enticed, given the death ratios. JL 

Elizabeth Grasmeder reports in War On the Rocks:

Cubans. Nepalese. Colombians. Serbians. Libyans. Even as polls show 70% of Russians support the government’s “special operations” in Ukraine, enlistment has continued to lag far behind the numbers Moscow needs to sustain the war. Moscow’s search for foreign recruits provides useful clues about the health of Putin’s regime, his confidence, and his views on Russia’s war effort, all suggesting (its) fortunes are looking more desperate. The 6 million migrant workers in Russia are now being rounded up and pressed into service. With Putin’s narrowing confidence in mobilizing citizens, foreign recruitment indicates he does not expect conditions to improve any time soon

How Ukraine's Explosive-Rigged Attack Drones Are Increasingly Effective

Damage statistics suggest that Ukrainian drone forces have become increasingly adept at arming, targeting, flying and destroying their targets. 

This may be because of Ukraine's strong technological educational and entrepreneurial record, but also because Ukraine was the first to identify, train, supply and support separate drone units in its military. While integrated into combat brigades, these specialists focus on their skills while coordinating with artillery, infantry and armored units to optimize their impact. JL 

Chris Panella reports in Business Insider:

A Ukrainian (FPV) drone unit from the 53rd Mechanized Brigade outside Russian-occupied Donetsk has equipped a drone with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) warhead and is flying toward its target. The drones, cheap hobby-style racing drones, are often equipped with RPG warheads or plastic explosives, and the payload is sometimes attached with a simple adhesive. Ukraine has created large drone forces, and over the course of the war, operators have developed impressive skills, who have used drones to chase down tanks, trucks, and even a lone soldier on a motorcycle.

Ukraine Shoots Down Russian Su-24M, Suggesting Use of Patriot Missiles

Russia is increasingly using jet fighters to launch 'stand-off' glide-bomb missiles against Ukrainian forces. It is doing so because it fears Ukraine's air defenses and because it is running out of more accurate missiles.

If the Ukrainians used a Patriot or other missiles for this purpose, it suggests that thwarting such attacks is both doable and useful as part of its attritional strategy for depleting Russian military resources. JL  

Joseph Trevithick reports in The Drive:

The Ukrainian Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer jet over the western Black Sea near Snake Island. There is speculation that a U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missile brought the Su-24M down. That could point to an effort by Ukraine's to disrupt Russian strikes on the western portion of the country. With long-range missiles running low and Shahed-136s making up much of Russia's standoff strike capability, fixed-wing airstrikes using glide bombs or missiles against ground targets,would not be surprising. Ukraine denying them that ability and giving them a bloody nose in the process would deter future strikes.

Ukrainian 47th Brigade Avdiivka Counterattack Stops Russian Offensive

Russian forces are reportedly under pressure to deliver a 'victory' that Putin can announce in his annual holiday message to the country. 

Unfortunately for them, the seemingly heedless waste of Russian lives has yet to produce the outcome he wants, as Ukrainian units' smarter and better executed tactics continue to confound the Russian commanders in the sector. JL 

Euromaidan Press reports:

Despite the increased intensity of attacks, Russian forces failed to secure their gains and lost newly captured ground to a Ukrainian counterattack. Russian activity near Avdiivka has significantly increased over the past day because Russians are in the middle of the third wave of the offensive operation. Unfortunately for the Russians, such attacks come at a great cost. There are so many crates with bodies coming to the Rostov facilities that they have to leave them in the yard until the previous delivery is processed and frees up some space on the facilities.

Why Record Russian Troop and Armor Attacks Have Failed To Take Avdiivka

It's math. The Russians have returned to the tactics which failed them in Bakhmut and Vuhledar: trying to overwhelm Ukrainian defenders with sheer volume. But the losses continue to outweigh the defenders expenditure of ammunition. JL

Francis Farrell reports in the Kyiv Independent:

Reminiscent of the mindless columns of armor that tried to take Vuhledar last winter, Russian tanks and armored vehicles were churned up in their dozens by Ukrainian artillery, anti-tank fire, and FPV (first-person-view) drones. The endless videos of “graveyards” of Russian men and equipment in the fields around Avdiivka were reflected in Ukrainian official figures on enemy losses, with daily numbers often breaking records set during the brutal battle for Bakhmut around a year earlier.

IBM and Meta Form 50 Corp AI Alliance, But To What End, Whose Benefit?

One of venture investors chief concerns about the current state of the AI market is the relatively slow uptake by corporations who are concerned about the expense of implementation, the potentially ruinous cost of intellectual property violations leading to lawsuits and the domination of the sector by a very few big tech firms. 

While IBM and Meta's new AI Alliance makes lots of reassuring sounds about addressing access and risk and openness, the reality is that this looks a lot like a competitive gambit from a couple of big providers attempting to rope others with similar grievances into stopping the companies currently in the lead. The benefits of either approach for the venture community appear limited, if there are any at all. In investor parlance "talking your book" means making ostensibly public-spirited pronouncements which in reality are meant to lift the value of one's own investments. It is prudent to assume nothing currently being done by big tech in the name of AI is about anything other than their own benefit. Venture investors need to figure out where their own interests lie. JL

Kyle Wiggers reports in Tech Crunch:

Google, OpenAI and Microsoft, an OpenAI investor, have been among the chief critics of Meta’s open source AI approach. Those companies have a horse in the race and regulatory capture on the mind. What does IBM gain from the AI Alliance? Venture to guess more exposure for its generative AI platform. IBM has stiff competition in Microsoft and OpenAI. Nvidia, the dominant provider of AI chips, cast its lot with Microsoft, Google and the tech giants opting out of the Alliance for strategic reasons. The vast number of competing interests - from healthcare networks to insurance providers - won’t make it easy to coalesce around a united front. And for all their talk of openness, IBM and Meta aren't exactly poster children for the future that the Alliance’s release depicts.

Dec 5, 2023

Russian Troops' Families' Open Putin Letter Charges Avdiivka "Willful Extermination"

Historically the Kremlin has quieted such protests with a combination of threats and bribes. 

The problem for the Russian leadership now is that casualties have increased exponentially, leading to mutinies by troops and a growing volume of family complaints. JL 

Isabel Van Brugen reports in Newsweek:

The families of Russian soldiers sent to fight in Avdiivka have grilled Russian President  Putin in a letter over the "willful extermination of troops." They called on Putin to look into reports that military personnel are being thrown into battle as part of "meat assaults" in a push to seize Avdiivka, even if they have injuries. Last month, military commanders issued an order to send military personnel with moderate injuries to assault units. The wife of a Russian soldier said she was told that troops are "walking over corpses." The bodies of Russian troops killed in the fight for Avdiivka are "littering" the area.