A Blog by Jonathan Low


May 16, 2023

The Reason Military Momentum Has Shifted In Ukraine's Favor

Russia's inability to defend Bakhmut positions it took over the winter - let alone generate any new offensive operations - suggests that the profligate waste of Russian troops there has finally reached its inevitable conclusion: there are no longer sufficient bodies left to kill. 

In addition, last night Ukraine appears to have shot down every missile fired at Kyiv, suggesting that NATO air defenses are, in fact, operationally superior to Russian munitions and tactics. The combination of land and air results is devastating. JL 

Phillips O'Brien reports in his substack:

This week, the Russian Winter Offensive of 2022-23 seemed finally to end and the initiative moved inexorably into Ukrainian hands. Instead of doing the rational thing and culminating the Russians kept feeding more forces into the fight (particularly Bakhmut) making painfully small advances. It (was) strategic insanity, wasting forces for no purpose. (Now), local Ukrainian operations ran into exhausted and demoralized Russian forces. If these Russians are indicative of general Russian morale, it holds the prospect for a far more successful Ukrainian counteroffensive. The exhaustion of Russian forces reveals the Ukrainians were right to string the battle on as long as possible.Once again the line did not move much at all this week, but even in the small changes that did occur, one thing seemed to happen. The Russian Winter Offensive of 2022-23 seemed finally to end and the initiative moved inexorably into Ukrainian hands.

For the past 5 months we have been watching one of the most peculiar offensives in modern military history. Having conscripted a new Army last fall, and allowed PMC Wagner to recruit a large force of its own, the Putin regime has used both to launch almost continual assaults on Ukrainian forces to seize a number of small cities/large towns in Donbas including Vuhledar, Avdiivka, Bakhmut and others. They took parts of a few, none of others, but they kept coming for months and months.


Looking at the Deep State map from this morning, you will see tiny little eruptions up and down the line where the Russians have been trying to take these strategically unimportant towns.

Now for a while there has been a discussion about when the Russian offensive would ‘culminate’ (reach the point where the attacks would stop because of an inability of the Russian to keep up the momentum). The assumption was that Russian command would be ‘rational’ in that it would stop its offensive when the costs incurred became all out of whack to the gains being made. It was widely known that more advanced western equipment was being shipped to Ukraine to help the Ukrainians prepare for their offensive in the Spring/Summer. Surely, therefore, it was judged that the Russians would stop at some point, and rest up and prepare for the Ukrainian assault.

They never did, which was a surprise and a welcome one for the Ukrainians. Instead of doing the rational thing and culminating they kept feeding more and more forces into the fight (particularly Bakhmut) and making painfully small advances. Frankly it looked like strategic insanity from the Russian point of view, wasting forces for no purpose when you know the Ukrainians are preparing their own offensive.

Well, this week we might have witnessed the Putin-2023 version of a culmination. That would be the point where you have weakened your own forces to such a degree that they simply cant go forward any more. We saw that around Bakhmut. Having painfully taken about 90% of the city, Russian forces have been struggling to take the last bits. As Russian impetus became faltering, however, the Ukrainians started some local counterattacks to the North and South of the city—and Russian resistance seemed in small pockets to crumble. The map changes show clear but small Ukrainian advances.


With the Ukrainians re-taking some land from the Russians, the head of Wagner, Evgenii Prigozhin to go into hyper-rant mode against the Russian army (and remarkably against Putin himself).


Overall we can therefore draw two probable conclusions from the fighting around Bakhmut this week.

  1. The momentum is now shifting inevitably into Ukraine’s hands and it will stay there through the launching of the Ukrainian counter offensive. Its maybe not a rational culmination of Russian operations, but culmination is being forced on them by their losses and ways of fighting.

  2. What we saw around Bakhmut was not the Ukrainian counteroffensive. This seems to have been smaller, local Ukrainian operations that ran into exhausted and demoralized Russian forces. If these Russian forces are indicative of general Russian morale, it holds out the prospect for a far more successful Ukrainian counteroffensive than some are saying is possible—but this is not part of the counteroffensive itself. That will start almost certainly with much larger, coordinated, operations.

Final note on this. The evidence now looks stronger and stronger that the Ukrainians have pursued the proper strategy around Bakhmut. The exhaustion of Russian forces reveals that they were exactly right to string the battle on as long as possible, and not to withdraw and allow Russian forces to rest. Its fascinating to see how the reporting and analysis are changing as people try to cover their tracks.

The Washington Post, which was always one of the more pessimistic reporting places on Ukrainian strategy, did a turn of face this week and admitted, that maybe, just maybe, the Ukrainians knew what they were doing.


This war and before Feb 24 has revealed massive problems with how the analytical community and press assesses military power and judges the effect of military operations. These problems are deep and have layers, and one of the greatest is the reliance on what might be called the deceptive granular. For instance, much of the reporting and analysis that argued Ukraine needed to pull back from Bakhmut seemed to emerge from the talking with local commanders/soldiers. These brave fighters were undoubtedly exhausted and even traumatized by what they had experienced. Not surprisingly what they had seen led many to believe Ukraine should pull out.

However such intensely local reporting often does miss the overall impact of a campaign. Its also intensely emotional. It does seem that many reporters and analysts were led to believe from such local encounters that things were going far worse overall in the Bakhmut campaign than they were—or, and this is important—that a few bad days represented the course of the campaign. Actually, the Ukrainian military continues to exhibit far greater strategic understanding than the Russian and part of this is that is has the ability to recover from a few bad days.

There way of fighting now seems vindicated.

Russian Aircraft Fall From the Skies

Why do I think what is happening around Bakhmut is not the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive—partly because of this event yesterday.

Around 24 hours ago reports starting coming in of Russian helicopters and advanced fixed wing-aircraft being shot down while flying over Russia itself. At this point, and we still dont exactly know, it seems like two of Russia’s MI8 helicopters and one SU-35 and one SU-35 were shot down in relatively rapid succession.


There were even reports (unconfirmed) that the two helicopters were actually some of the most advanced in the Russian armed forces, specially modified Mi8’s for Electronic Warfare.

When the first reports coming in, there were some guesses that this might have been friendly fire—twitchy fingered Russian anti-air units somehow bringing down their own forces. However that might have been possible were it one or even two, but the more aircraft reportedly brought down, the more this points towards some kind of Ukrainian operation. The targets were so high value and the destruction so limited to a specific day, that a mistake becomes less plausible.

Ive seen different hypotheses on what the Ukrainians might have done—infiltrating SF with Manpads is one, or maneuvering their own ground-based systems very close to the Russian border is another. I have no idea—but the balance of probability is that this was a Ukrainian operation, and an extremely successful one.

If thats right, it shows one of the great and growing advantages that the Ukrainians have over the Russians. They can plan and execute advanced complex operations. When you think of it, their counteroffensive is the most difficult complex operation that they have had to plan to this time. It wont start by accident—it will start exactly when they feel it is ready.

Zaluzhny Interview

I tweeted out the link to this interview with General Zaluzhny yesterday. It is the most fascinating one that I have seen him give (and the English subtitles on this version are excellent.

It covers much of the war from a strategic perspective, reveals some of his human emotions, and also gives a glimpse into the methodical ways in which the Ukrainian have planned this war (starting before Feb 24, 2022). They knew it was coming, and they did everything possible (even with the limited weapons that they had at their disposal) to come up with the best possible way to fight the Russians.

As I said in this tweet thread—it gave a fascinating glimpse into how the Ukrainians fought the initial full-scale invasion off (though the interview covers far more than that).


Its really one you should watch all the way through.

PS F-16s

You might have seen this article that Edward Stringer and I had published in The Atlantic.


It was part of an attempt to try and bring a little clarity to the arguments that are being made against supplying F-16s to Ukraine—arguments that we find rather unpersuasive. This issue is just going to ratchet up in the coming months—for the basic reason that Ukraine will need better fixed wing aircraft (they cant be expected to keep fighting with old MiG-29s—there just isn’t the supply) and the Ukrainians want the F-16. As such its really a question of when they get them.

Its already too late to get them to Ukraine to help with the counteroffensive, but hopefully it wont be too late to get just a small number of Ukraine to help this winter when the Russians return (as they probably will) to bombard Ukrainian infrastructure.

F-16s for the winter!


pragmatic play said...

pragmatic play เกมสล็อตออนไลน์ ที่ได้รับความนิยมมากที่สุดในนาทีนี้ เกมสล็อต PG ถือได้ว่าเป็นเกมสล็อตรูปแบบใหม่ สล็อตออนไลน์ โทรศัพท์มือถือแตกง่าย รับประกันยอดคนเล่นมากที่สุด

Pgslot แหล่งรวมสล็อตสุดฮิต said...

รีวิวเกมสล็อต pgslot ยอดนิยมที่มีผู้เล่นเยอะมาก ปี2021 ที่สามารถทำเงินได้จริงจากการเล่นเกม pg slot เล่นได้บนมือถือ

เกมส์ สล็อต PG said...

สูตรการเล่น ezybet789 เป็นเกมส์ที่มีความนิยมมากในปัจจุบัน โดยเป็นเกมส์ออนไลน์ที่ให้ผู้เล่นได้เล่นกันแบบเรียลไทม์ โดยสามารถเล่นได้ผ่านทางเว็บไซต์ PGSLOT

1688 slot said...

ทดลองเล่นบาคาร่าฟรี รวมทุกค่าย ทดสอบเล่นบาคาร่าฟรี รวมทุกค่ายเกมดัง PGSLOT ผู้ให้บริการเว็บไซต์บาคาร่าออนไลน์ ด้วยระบบฝาก-ถอนออโต้ที่รองรับผู้เล่นได้เยอะมากๆเล้นได้ทุกที่

pgslot said...

Avengers168 เป็นกลุ่มบริษัทที่มีการดำเนินธุรกิจในด้านการพนันออนไลน์และ PG SLOTออนไลน์ เป็นที่รู้จักกันดีในวงการพนันออนไลน์ของไทยและต่างประเทศ

Post a Comment