Today we’re diving into some operational updates from the Ukraine War. First and foremost, daytime temps this winter have rarely dropped below freezing; when they do, it has not been for long enough periods for the ground to freeze. So that means local forces will be rolling around in the pig-sty for at least a few more months.
Unfortunately for Ukraine, the only viable way to stop the Russians is to start killing more of them…and if they can’t get their tanks mobile, that won’t be happening any time soon. These muddy conditions enabled the Russians to throw wave after wave of troops at targets (like in the Battle of Bakhmut) until they could win and move on.
This is, and always has been, Russia’s war to lose. Come May (or whenever the ground decides to firm up), we will see large-scale offensives from both sides that start to shift the tides of this war.
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Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from the San Diego waterfront. I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to give you a quick update on what’s going on in Ukraine. The most important factor is that the weather continues to be warm. Actually, today, the 7th of February is the first day in a month that it’s actually going to be below freezing in Kyiv during the day. It’s going to be chilly for the next few days, but not enough to freeze the ground. And then back by the time we’re into mid-next week, it will be above freezing again. So it is still muddy. As long as it’s muddy, the Ukrainians cannot maneuver, especially with tanks out in the fields. And that’s a real problem.
Any conflict with the Russians was always going to be heavy on numbers and the Ukrainians simply don’t have the population in order to face down the Russians man for man. So they need to inflict massively out of whack casualty ratios on the folks that are fighting. And I’m not talking 2 – 3 to 1 like we’ve seen so far. Like 8 – 10 to 1 is really kind of the minimum if they are going to walk away from this. The Russians see this war as a battle for their existential survival, their right. They’re not going to stop. And so the only way for Ukraine to emerge victorious is to kill so many Russian soldiers so quickly that the Russian front collapses and the military system within the Russian Federation requires years to recover. We are nowhere close to that. And the only way that the Ukrainians can pull that off is if they can outmaneuver the Russians. And that requires fields that are not mud.
This has allowed the Russians to play to their strengths and just throw body after body after body into a few battles, most notably the battle of Bakhmut, which until now the main effort has been led by the Wagner Group for internal political reasons. But honestly, the internal political reasons don’t matter. As long as the Ukrainians can’t maneuver and as long as the Russians have superior numbers, it’s just an issue of throwing wave after wave of humans at them until the weather changes to a degree where the logistics shifts to a degree that the battles can move elsewhere. That’s unlikely to happen until May. Now, Wagner has been using almost exclusively convicts in their human wave tactics. And as to the number of people that have been lost, the estimates are in the process of being revised by everyone, because everyone is, you know, always changing these sort of things during a war. They’re starting to use more radio intercepts to guess how many Russians have been killed. The problem is, if you go with just visual confirmation, you’re going to wildly undercount because it doesn’t count people who are injured who then were taken away from the front and then die because the Russians’ triage system and medical system is beyond atrocious. And so probably for every person that is visually killed, there’s another half to a person that then wandered away and died. Anyway, we now know that the minimum deaths in the war so far on the Russian side is 120,000, and the estimates for Russian deaths in the battle of Bakhmut specifically are somewhere between ten and 40,000, just for one little strategically insignificant town.
Anyway, for the next couple of months, this is just where we are. It’s probably too late in the season at this point to hope for a really hard freeze. So we’re going to have to wait for things to dry out in May before the Ukrainians might be able to move. By the time we get to May, the Russians will really move a lot more troops into the front. They started the war with somewhere between 100 and 150,000. Today they probably have about 250,000. And with the second mobilization already deep underway, we’re probably going to be around 6 to 700,000 by the time we get to May and June. Now, they will be badly led and they will be badly equipped and will be badly supplied and they will have poor morale and they’ll be badly trained. And you know what you call troops like that, Russian. There is nothing about the conflict to this point that is atypical in Russian history. They rarely win on quality. They almost always went on numbers. And we’re almost to the point where we’re going to see just how well these new infusions of NATO equipment help the Ukrainians on the front line and just how many massive waves and assaults the Russians can sustain at the same time. And this is going to put the battle in a bit of a pickle for the Ukrainians because they’re going to be facing two or three major assaults from the Russians at different points of contact. And if they allow themselves to get bogged down, deflecting each and every one of those, they’re going to lose. They need to free this up into a war of movement and allow their tanks and artillery and the rockets to do an offensive in a place where the Russians either can’t resist or can’t maneuver or to counter them.
So by the time we get to May, we are going to be in a very fluid strategic environment, most likely with the Ukrainians just kind of backing off, putting the minimum forces they can in this or that front just to slow the Russians down. While they try to do lightning strikes and blitzkrieg style assault on some other point in the front in order to try to get behind the Russian formations, cut them off from logistical supply and then just dice them up. It’s a risky strategy, but considering the numbers of people and the volume of equipment that Ukrainians control, that’s really the only game in town at this point.
This is still, always has been Russia’s war to lose. And we’re getting close to the point where we’re going to see a strategic logjam break one way or another. And it’s just about three months away.
Okay. That’s it for me. Until next time.