A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 3, 2023

Ukraine Is Forming Assault Brigades To Take Back Crimea

This is the first official Ukrainian acknowledgement of concrete plans to re-take Crimea, among other territories occupied by Russia since 2014. 

That dedicated units are being formed and trained to take Crimea specifically poses a warning to Russian military planners trying to anticipate the next Ukrainian offensive. Some of their attacks around Bakhmut and Vuhledar are seen as efforts to offset Ukrainian initiatives, but the emphasis on Crimea, generally considered a difficult target because of its isolation and because of Russia's emotional attachment to it suggests that Ukraine has no intention of bargaining away any of its land. JL

Isabel Van Brugen reports in Newsweek:

Ukraine is preparing "assault brigades" to take back its occupied territories, which include part of the eastern Donbas region as well as Crimea. The decision to create the assault brigades was made "by our fighters, who have enough rage to beat the enemy. Many servicemen who have defended and are defending our country came up with the initiative to recruit people to such units. These are people who went through the crucible of 2014-2015, some of whom have fought in 2022. Some were wounded. The units will consist exclusively of volunteers driven by patriotism, and there are a lot of such people in our country."

Ukrainian Troops In Bakhmut Say Fighting Russians Is Like "Being In A Zombie Movie"

Ukrainian soldiers compare fighting the Russians to fighting zombies in a movie. They just keep coming, despite being shot and wounded. 

Some Ukrainians believe the Russians have been given drugs before attacking. Or they may be more afraid of what Putin will do to them than they are of facing Ukrainian bullets. JL 

Tim Lister and colleagues report in CNN:

Ukrainian soldiers compare the battle to a scene out of a zombie movie. “They’re climbing above the corpses of their friends, stepping on them.” Their AK-47 rifles became so hot from constant firing, they had to keep changing them. “Our machine gunner was getting crazy, because he was shooting them. And he said, I know I shot him, but he doesn’t fall. And then after he maybe bleeds out, he just falls down. It looks very likely they are getting drugs before attack.” Most of my the Ukrainians "had (a) good job, they had a good salary, but they came to fight for their homeland. And it makes a great difference."

The Reason China's Xi Doesn't Want To Be On the Losing Side In Ukraine

Russia's failure in Ukraine reflects poorly on China, given its own imperial ambitions. And as the world's largest trading platform, it cannot afford to become a pariah as has Russia. Furthermore, China has had pre-invasion, a robust economic relationship with Ukraine, relying on it for both imports and exports. 

As a result, China is going to be careful about how much it encourages Putin's descent into madness, especially as there is little evidence that Russia can or will perform better. JL

Max Boot reports in the Washington Post:

In practice, there are sharp limits to the “no limits” friendship that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping proclaimed.  “Putin has become an embarrassment to Xi, if not yet a net liability.” A defeated Russia might not be a very useful future ally for China, a country that has few friends. And China, as the world’s largest trading nation, cannot afford to become as isolated as Russia has. Xi is trying to balance between the West and Russia. China also had a robust economic relationship with Ukraine before the invasion. “China replaced Russia as Ukraine’s largest trading partner, becoming the top importer of Ukrainian barley and iron ore, while Ukraine overtook the US as China’s largest corn supplier.”

Ukrainians Hold In Bakhmut and Vuhledar Against Russia's Suicidal Human Waves

The Russians continue to throw their - by definition - less valuable conscripts against Bakhmut and Vuhledar on the theory that they can afford to lose militarily and socio-economically people whereas the Ukrainians can less afford to lose their better educated, more committed and productive citizens. 

The problem with that theory, aside from its medieval brutality, is that most of Russia's educated elite have fled, leaving the country a relatively worthless peasantry whose numbers are being depleted. JL 

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Bakhmut holds, Ukrainian forces still seem to be in similar positions to those held for weeks, and there are other reports of fighting in Soledar. That would be the same Soledar Russia reportedly captured back in mid-January. To the south, Russia has called off more assaults on Vuhledar because of … bad weather. That’s the actual report. Probably nothing to do with Russian forces there suffering two enormous defeats in the space of three days.

US and NATO Now Estimate Russia Has Lost 200,000 Killed, Wounded In Ukraine

Russia's troop losses killed and wounded are now in the 200,000 range, exacerbated by suicidal tactics around Bakhmut and Soledar. 

This rate of loss is not expected to abate both because Russia has run short of munitions and weapons - and because the Russian people show no sign of publicly objecting to the Putin-mandated slaughter. JL 

Helene Cooper and colleagues report in the New York Times, image The Telegraph:

The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is approaching 200,000, a stark symbol of just how badly President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion has gone. The slaughter from fighting in and around Bakhmut and Soledar has ballooned what was already a heavy toll. The Russian military has been following the Wagner playbook and deliberately using poorly trained troops to draw, and deplete, Ukrainian fire. “They’re running low on artillery. They’re running low on standoff munitions, and they are substituting by sending in human waves."

Why the Most Successful Americans Are Reducing the Number of Hours They Work

Data reveal that the most successful, best educated economically wealthiest and socially conventional (eg, married, with children) are working fewer hours per week since the beginning of the pandemic - and continue to do so. 

There may be economics factors - such as they are making so much money they don't need to - but the impact of inflation suggests that is probably not the primary cause. The larger reason may be that workaholism has begun to recede as technology and the experience of options such as remote and hybrid work - seemingly without negative career consequences to the workforce - are having an impact on attitudes and behavior. JL 

Derek Thompson reports in The Atlantic:

Since 2019, rich Americans have worked less. And less, and less. In a full reversal of the past 50 years, the highest-educated, highest-earning, and longest-working men reduced their working hours the most during the pandemic. The highest-earning 10% of men worked 77 fewer hours in 2022 than in 2019, or 1.5 hours less each week. The top-earning women cut back by 29 hours. According to separate data, from 2019 to 2021, married men reduced their workweek by  more than an hour. "The pandemic has clearly reduced workaholism." If rich American men are beginning to ease up on the idea that careerism is the tentpole of identity, the benefits could be immense for generations to come. 

Feb 2, 2023

Why Air Power and Long Range Artillery Help Ukraine More Than Tanks

Ukraine's greatest successes against Russia have come from its ability to degrade Russian offensive capability before and during their attacks. It is that attritional capability rather than the old blitzkrieg model that will give Ukrainian forces the wherewithal to defeat Russia. 

Which is why recent delivery of accurate long range artillery from France and Sweden are so important. JL

Phillips O'Brien reports in his substack:

People focusing on the coming ‘offensives’, I would argue, have an episodic and only partial understanding of the process of war. It’s the continuous struggle for force generation and deployment that will determine the course of the war. Tanks are used only in the battle stage, when the forces directly engage. What matters far more is how those battles are shaped (actually determined) ahead of time. That is done through logistics control and attrition. So tanks will help—range weapons and air power will determine.