First published on on 26th January, 2024

For most of 2022, and until the great counter-offensive broke on the Russian defence lines of Zaporozhzhia on mid-2023, it seemed that the greatest priority of the Biden administration, and most of Congress, was promoting and resourcing Ukraine’s proxy war against Russia. The problems were mounting up even before the June-July catastrophe. The NATO countries discovered that the demilitarisation of Western economies came at a price. Even though the US had been carrying the NATO defence budget, not even the home of the military-industrial complex was all that industrially productive. The NATO nations realised that, combined, they could not match Russia’s production of artillery shells to serve the god of war. Even so, Russia could not produce enough to match its usage, and purchased shells from Belarus, North Korea, and perhaps, Iran. NATO scoured the former Warsaw Pact countries for ammunition for Ukrainian legacy artillery, and then Bulgaria and South Korea for NATO standard shells and Japan for TNT. As the supply became more and more critical, the US went to its magazines in Israel, where it maintained ammunition to supply Israel at short notice.

Then came October 7, and suddenly the flow of ammunition changed direction. The Ukrainians, facing one of the most powerful armed forces in the world, looked on in dismay as ammunition on which they had been counting was diverted to Israel. Priorities. When the US’ commitment to Ukraine is weighed against its commitment to Israel, Ukraine is left high and dry in the scales.

And that would be that, except for the curious situation in the US Congress about ongoing aid packages to Israel and Ukraine. The Republican majority in the House, under its new Speaker, is demanding action to close the southern border to the flood of illegal immigrants – 2.4 million “encounters” at the SouthWest border in FY 2023 – and they are using the aid packages as collateral to force such action, so far without success. The House had earlier passed a Bill for aid to Israel but not for Ukraine, predicated on matching budget cuts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which neither the Senate nor the White House will approve. So all attention in negotiations is now focussed on the border issue. The Biden Administration is not budging on tightening border controls.

Is this indicative of the actual priorities of the Biden Administration? Is keeping the border flood going actually a higher priority than arming Israel? In recent weeks the IDF has withdrawn one of four divisions from Gaza for training and R&R, claiming that it was the success of IDF operations that brought this about. Coincidentally, Israel has been under pressure from the US to lower the intensity of the campaign in Gaza, particularly in respect of attacks on civilians and Gaza infrastructure. The stalling on funding may be more a tool to remind Israel of who is paying the military piper than a reflection of the open border fanaticism that has become a staple of the thinking of elites in the sad and decaying West. Watch this space.

BUK + flechettes = contradiction

First published at New Catallaxy blog 23rd September, 2023

In CL’s report on the NYT’s unusual scraps of integrity in reporting on the Kostiantynivka (aka Kostyantynovka) market-place attack, the new standard story is revealed.

But evidence collected and analyzed by The New York Times, including missile fragments, satellite imagery, witness accounts and social media posts, strongly suggests the catastrophic strike was the result of an errant Ukrainian air defense missile fired by a Buk launch system.

The attack appears to have been a tragic mishap.

Readers will recall that a BUK missile is purported to have downed MH17. In this case, a BUK missile was fired from North-West of Kostiantynivka, presumably at an incoming Russian ground-to-ground missile or Lancet-like drone. The problem with this story is the flechettes.

One of the earliest rounds employed by the US is the Beehive, developed in 1957, apparently developed from lessons learned in the Korean War as a counter to massed infantry attacks on artillery positions, and used in this capacity during the Vietnam War. The designation of the round is APERS-T – anti-personnel-tracer. In a brief search, I have seen no reference to flechettes in any other capacity than anti-personnel.

The Ukraine’s legacy Air Defence missile systems included the S-200, S-300 and early model BUK systems. The range of the BUK is less than that of the S-200/300. It operates in ranges between these and the point defence Pantsir. The Russian Air Force knows comprehensively the capability of these systems, especially the S-300 and the BUK, and fears them. Because of these systems, all high altitude airborne attacks on Ukrainian facilities have been conducted with stand-off missiles.

There have been a number of reports of Ukraine using modified S-200 systems in ground-attack roles. The S-200 is less effective in AD than the S-300, and Ukraine presumably has stocks of the older missiles. Their range makes them preferable to the BUK for adapting to ground-attack roles.

Searches for such information will turn up a number of references to Russia’s purported use of S-300s in ground-attack. These are dubious. Russia still deploys S-300 systems in AD roles in Donbas, and Ukrainian drone operators are constantly hunting for them. But Ukraine fires S-300s at incoming Russian missiles, a considerable proportion of which evade the S-300s, and we have the memorable example of the AD miss which killed the Polish farmers.

What such searches do not turn up are references to the use of BUK systems in ground-attack.

The missile that struck the Kostiantynivka market carried an anti-personnel warhead. The missile was fired from North-West of the city. Ukraine regularly attacks civilian areas in Donetsk city with artillery and missiles, sometimes carrying clusters of small anti-personnel mines known as Petals, but Donetsk city is pretty much south of Kostiantynivka. Horlivka, a city under Russian control, is more or less to the south-east, as is the town of Niu (or New) York, around which fighting is taking place. On the front lines, Russian positions are being accurately peppered with cluster munitions from nearby artillery. A 152mm anti-personnel round would be more precisely targeted and have greater effect against Russian troops, one might reasonably suppose.

So, which “personnel” were being targeted? Was it a terror attack against Donbas civilians in, say, Horlivka, one which would have gone unreported in the West? One which turned into a “tragic mishap”? Or was it a terror attack that was precisely on target?

This story popped up in searches for information about flechettes. Many of the bodies found in graves outside Bucha had been killed by flechettes. Someone was using such rounds at that early stages of the conflict. Despite the loud protestations of The Week, bodies with flechette wounds do not testify as to who fired them. The only ones now known to have employed them are the Ukrainians.

No such thing as Russia…

First published at New Catallaxy blog on 25 February, 2023

The backroom conversations and classified files of Foreign Ministries and Departments of State must be a wonderland of speculations and conditionals, of grand schemes and short-term crises. But, judging by the utterances of two former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Poland’s Ministry is up there with the best of them.

Take Radoslaw (Radek) Sikorski, Minister from 2007 to 2014. Before that he was Minister of Defence, and for a year afterwards, Speaker of Parliament. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies,

[H]e negotiated and signed the Poland-Russia regional visa-free regime, Poland-U.S. missile defense agreement, and—together with foreign ministers of Germany and France—the accord between the pro-EU opposition and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2013.

Continue reading “No such thing as Russia…”

A Small Price (for us) To Pay

First published at NewCatallaxy blog, 23 December, 2022.

On 25th of March, 2022 (keep the date in mind) Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defence Minister, released figures for Russian army casualties in the month-long war, or “special military operation,” in Ukraine. 1,351 Russian servicemen had been killed, and another 3,825 wounded. NATO sources put the number killed at between 7,000 and 15,000.

On 22nd of September, Shoigu updated the figures to 5,937 Russian servicemen killed. Neither of these numbers included Donbas militiamen, or the Chechen forces, or mercenaries of the Wagner Group. Up to that time, much of the fighting in northern Donetsk and in Luhansk had been conducted by the Donbas militias, who had been carrying the main burden of the fighting with the Ukrainian army since 2014, by the mercenary Wagner Group, and by forces comprised primarily of Chechens under a Chechen leader. Both of the latter were engaged in the fighting around the city of Bakhmut, a vital supply link for Ukrainian forces which had been shelling the city of Donetsk since the war broke out in 2014.

At the same time, Shoigu put the Ukrainian losses at 61,207 dead and 49,368 wounded. The precision with which the Ukrainian losses are given is clearly spurious. Aside from the necessary inaccuracy of the sum of multiple estimates, they present of ratio of dead to wounded of 6:5, where a very rough rule of thumb would be more like 1:3 or 1:4.

Mediazona is a dissenting Russian media outlet founded by two members of Pussy Riot, so there is no question as to their dissent. Their services are sought out by, for example, the BBC, especially for anything detrimental to the Russian government. For the BBC, Mediazona did research on Russian casualties from information on funerals and various other notifications of deaths. On the 3rd of September, they claimed to have identified 6,024 Russian servicemen killed. By the 16th, the BBC was reporting 6,476 killed. The most remarkable thing about this is how close it is to the official Defence Ministry number. To give this some context, the CIA, Estonian Foreign Intelligence and MI6 were asserting that 15,000 Russian troops had been killed. Such estimates were dwarfed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, which was claiming to have “liquidated” 55,100 Russian fighters. The take-away here is that the official Russian figures on their own casualties are reasonable, and that the Ukrainian figures are one of those forms of propaganda which consists in looking through whichever end of the telescope best fits the pre-determined story.

Continue reading “A Small Price (for us) To Pay”

Peace-Mongering, Ukraine style

First published at NewCatallaxy blog, December 10, 2022.

News Reports and Analysis

Daily Mail, 30th November, 2021

The Daily Mail reported that three gatherings of some Downing Street staff had taken place during November and December of 2020. This was the lifting of the lid on the cesspool of cynicism that characterised the political response to Covid-19 all over the Western world, with the notable exception of Sweden.

In January and February of 2022, the lid was completely unseated. Up to twenty events involving Government staffers, most frequently Downing Street staffers, were investigated. These included two parties in Downing Street on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip.

24th February, 2022

Russian commences “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.

The White House 16th March, 2022

President Biden today announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine to $1 billion in just the past week, and a total of $2 billion since the start of the Biden Administration.

Reuters, 30th March, 2022

In the most tangible sign yet of progress towards ending the war, Russia emerged from the talks promising to scale down military operations around Kyiv and the country’s north, and Ukraine proposed adopting a neutral status.

Continue reading “Peace-Mongering, Ukraine style”