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Ukraine’s Planned Counteroffensive – force readiness, leaks, politics & expectations

Yet another very interesting presentation from Perun…

Donbass Devushka and me

In the beginning there was Perun. He referred to there being Russian “mil-bloggers” on Telegram. For those who don’t know Telegram is essentially Twitter without “community guidelines”. Seeing as I was on Telegram following Ukrainian “mil-bloggers” it didn’t seem such a great leap to include a few of their Russian counterparts. Coz balance is really good isn’t it?

I eventually found 3 Russian mil-bloggers to follow. The first I found was Donbass Devushka. This was maybe a couple of months ago.

And now she’s hit the headlines.

It is claimed that she claimed to be a Russian living in Luhansk when in fact she is an ex-US Navy sailor living in Washington state. I never saw this claim; at least not on the Donbass Devushka – DD as I shall now refer to her – channel. Jake Broe has a good video about this.

It is claimed that she solicits donations ostensibly for Russians affected by the war and the donations have not reached any Russians, affected by the war or otherwise. I cannot recall seeing any such solicitation. If solicitation there be it certainly isn’t a regular occurrence. And anyway, where would you prefer money donated by gullible pro-Russians to end up?

It is claimed that she was the first person to publish images – doctored images no less – of the US intelligence documents which have been such a big story in the last couple of weeks. I don’t recall seeing any such post. If it were posted and I didn’t see it there are good reasons why I might not have done. DD has a bad case of blogorrhea. Every day she – I say “she”, she claims the channel has multiple authors – posts something like 170 entries. Getting through that takes time. It is not helped by a bug in Telegram for Mac which means that page down doesn’t work. Fortunately it is helped by another bug in Telegram for Mac which from time to time will skip 50-100 entries.

Not that it matters much. Even if I had seen it I wouldn’t have paid a great deal of attention. The published images don’t look like an intelligence assessment to me. Colour! Flashy fonts! Large pieces of paper! In an intelligence document! Get away! And, anyway, I wouldn’t have had the skills to make sense of it.

So, if I managed to miss the big story what did I learn from following DD? A few things. I should point out that from the very beginning I was very sceptical about the things she said. I rapidly came to the conclusion that the channel was pure Kremlin propaganda. There was at no point any departure from the Kremlin line or criticism of Russia or Russian performance in the war. I was more interested in what sorts of stories she was promoting and what arguments she was making. Anything unverifiable – like a headling-grabbing intelligence report – I mostly ignored. So, a list:

  1. The “Ukrainians are Nazis” is an incredibly important line for the Russians.
  2. Syria – for some reason – is a big deal to the Russians
  3. …as is the idea of a “multi-polar” world
  4. Russia uses drones. Fewer than Ukraine but the best quality footage I have seen is Russian.
  5. While Ukrainians refer to their enemy as “orcs”; the Russians refer to their enemy as “Khokhols”
  6. There are occasional claims of Ukrainian brutality

How’s about that for an anti-climax?

Discussion point: Jack Teixeira

I don’t know where to start. How much will the leaked information help the Russians and harm the Ukrainians? How much of it was not already common knowledge? How did Teixeira come to have access to information that neither his relatively low rank nor his role as an IT person justified him seeing? What about the role of the media? The New York Times tracked the leaker down then told the US government. Very 1950s.

If this were happening in the UK, I would not dare to ask the following for fear of prosecution, but since it is happening in the US and my tiny rivulet of speculation cannot possibly make any difference to the tsunami already crossing the world: which was he, or which was he more, a leaker, a whistleblower, a patsy for someone higher up, a braggart wanting to impress people online, a hero exposing US government lies, a traitor sending Ukrainians and fellow US servicemen to their deaths?

Samizdata quote of the day – imperialism is good ackshually

I would agree that Ukraine also has the corruption but nowadays it’s much lower compared to what it was before because our Western allies are controlling us and it’s great. Honestly I am so tired of Ukrainian corruption that I would be glad to have the external control over our country – as what Vladimir Putin says – just temporary to provide reforms and institutions and to make our society better but you know we have what we have. I am OK with the President Zelenskyy but not OK with the current Ukrainian Parliament. OK it seems like I am deviating from the topic.

Denys Davydov. Crimean-born, former commercial pilot turned war blogger.

One year on…

I posted this on the day of the invasion and I think it aged pretty well.

Russia is not attacking Ukraine in response to actions of the USA since then, that’s an Americocentric delusion. This is not happening because Ukraine wanted to join NATO, it’s happening because they are outside NATO, which is not the same thing at all. Russia is not driven by fear of NATO strength, it is driven by perceptions of western weakness. Russia believes the cultural, military and geopolitical balance has tipped in their favour, expecting the west will respond to their invasion of Ukraine today with nothing more than official grimaces. I hope they are not correct about that but we will soon see.

Putin is motivated by oft stated imperial ambitions to Make Russia Great Again, to ‘restore’ Russia to its imperial boundaries with Moscow as the New Rome (yes, they really say that); Ukrainian rejection of that notion and assertion of their own identity is therefore intolerable. But reject ‘the Russian world’ they did, because Ukrainians do not wish to be ruled from the Kremlin even indirectly. That is why they overthrew Russia’s favoured oligarch and sought to chart their own course in the world.

That is what this war is about.

I still see things much the same and am delighted my fears about a lack of meaningful support for Ukraine were misplaced.

Samizdata quote of the day – sometimes one is right, the other is wrong

As for Ukraine itself — yes, it’s complicated. History always is. It’s true that ever since independence, the country’s politics have been horrendously corrupt, as evidenced by Zelenskyy’s recent crackdown on venal ministers and officials. It’s also true, by the way, that its politics have long had an unpleasantly nationalistic, indeed openly neo-Nazi fringe. But I don’t think this is the devastating trump card that professional contrarians and Putin apologists think it is. If we were to withdraw our sympathy from every European country with unpleasant far-Right political elements, then we wouldn’t have any friends left. On that basis, would we still have supported Poland in 1939? Would we intervene to help Italy today, or France, or even the United States? Presumably not.

The really striking thing about the war in Ukraine, it seems to me, is that at a fundamental level it actually isn’t complicated. And for all the cheap and tawdry attractions of contrarianism, the right conclusion is the obvious conclusion. Ukraine didn’t attack Russia; Russia attacked Ukraine. Zelenskyy isn’t perfect and Putin isn’t Hitler; but one really is on the side of the angels, and the other will surely rank alongside the villains of history. One appeals to European solidarity and common humanity; the other to xenophobia and national chauvinism. One defends his own territory; the other seeks to seize somebody else’s. One is right, the other is wrong.

Dominic Sandbrook

Russia’s Grand Strategy and Ukraine

Perun has made one of his most ambitious presentations.


Samizdata quote of the day – There is still nothing ‘realistic’ about ‘Russia realism’

The Ukraine conflict has merely demonstrated that Mearsheimer’s realism is as ineffective at understanding the present as it has been at predicting the future or explaining the past. Fitting Putin’s misbegotten imperial adventure into a realist framework requires a conception of international relations that awards Western democracies the power of choice but reduces their enemies to victims of circumstances. And it demands an understanding of Russian aggression so indulgent that it is indistinguishable from appeasement.

Matt Johnson

Challenger tanks are no panacea

Like many Brits the fact that we were the first to promise to supply Ukraine with modern main battle tanks was a source of tremendous pride. And Jingoism. Let Putin eat British lead, depleted uranium, HESH etc,. Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the steppes etc,.

Luckily, the YouTuber Matsimus has come along to pour a bucket of cold water – mixed in with a few unpleasant substances that one wouldn’t want to mention on a family blog – over any triumphalism that might be in the air. Sure, the Challenger 2 can be a very capable tank, but it is not invulnerable – especially in the configuration that the Ukrainians will receive – and keeping it in the field will be no cakewalk.

Introducing the Samizdata Awards!

It’s that time of year. Everything slows down and between the overeating, disappointing presents and family rows we have the opportunity to take stock and reflect on the year that has (almost) been.

And that means an opportunity to give a thought to those who have done the most in the fight against evil and communism. To this end I am introducing – on no one’s authority other than my own – the Samizdata Awards.

I propose the following categories. But please feel free to propose your own. We are libertarians after all. We believe that growing the awards pie is more important than how that pie is distributed. So:

  • Second-best Man of the Year
  • Post of the Year
  • Meme of the Year
  • Comment of the Year
  • Fascist of the Year

I was going to have a “Man of the Year” but I think that one’s has been taken. “I need ammunition not a ride” may not have the poetry of “We’ll fight them on the beaches” but its galvanising effect was – and is – identical. But I am expecting some keen competition to be runner-up. My nomination is Toby Young. He does Daily Sceptic. He does the Free Speech Union. He does a podcast with James Delingpole. Indeed, he is still on speaking terms with Delingpole which shows unusual fortitude or possibly unusual greed.

Come to think of it I think “Fascist of the Year” is also spoken for. But who is the Reichsmarshall to Putin’s Führer? Nominations include Nadine Dorries, the FBI, anyone fired by Elon Musk and the University of Cambridge. But I am sure you can think of some of your own.

In the Post of the Year – and I apologize for the lack of levity – I propose this. It changed my mind on something and at my age that is a rare pleasure.

I think it only fair to point out that there will be no glitzy awards ceremony. There will be no tacky, gold-plated statuettes. There will be no expensive clothes, hairdos or coke habits. There will be very little vapidity or hypocrisy – deaths due to nuclear power little. At best we’ll have some recognition for those who’ve done some good; at worst an ever more fractious comment thread involving Paul Marks on some completely unrelated subject – probably Bitcoin.

Samizdata quote of the day – Росію необхідно перемогти edition

Putin’s insecurity might start with anxiety about his personal future, but he has extended this into a vision for Russia that involves a permanent struggle with the West and its liberalism. There is little NATO can do about this vision except to ensure Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. Trenin’s bleak logic works both ways. There is no turning back for either side. Putin’s future and that of his inner circle is a matter for the Russian elite. The fragmentation of the Russian Federation is not, despite allegations, desired by Western governments in that this would be a source of yet more upset and instability. By and large they would prefer that Russia held together – but again this is not up to them. Moscow’s decision to use outlying regions as a source of military recruits to pursue a catastrophic war means that it will have to cope with the consequences. Whether or not an alternative liberal and democratic vision for Russia can develop in the future, upon which any more stable European security order depends, will also be up to Russians. The West can help if there is something to work with for the consequences of continued chaos and anger will be dire, but the first requirement will be a different sort of leader in the Kremlin, with a strong enough political base to confront the harsh reality of Russia’s situation. In the end the biggest threats to Russian security do not lie outside its borders but inside its capital.

Lawrence Freedman

A soldier returns Part I

Lindybeige (1.2m YouTube subscribers) hardly needs our endorsement but this interview with a British member of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion is excellent. Organisation, disorganisation, treachery, office politics, death, Walter Mittys, mess tins, big bangy things, tea; it’s got it all, apart from Part II.