5 min read

Great pieces on the war in Ukraine, April '22

Notes from a news addict.
Great pieces on the war in Ukraine, April '22

In years past I swore off daily news (headlines generally make me feel sad and powerless), but here I am again like a lapsed junkie. After absorbing so much material this last year or so about the Cold War for personal interest, particularly what it would have looked like for NATO to square off with the Soviet Union, it's unreal that we're now witnessing NATO square off with the USSR's pugilistic successor. Hell, my reading list even included Red Storm Rising of which there are some weird parallels with current events. Just look at the false flag operations staged by Moscow. In the novel, the Soviets make it look like a West German operative bombs a building in the Kremlin as a pretext to war. In real life, Putin accused the Ukrainians of terrorist attacks against Russian facilities, among other contrived grievances, to justify his invasion on February 24th. Of course, there's no direct shooting confrontation as yet between NATO forces and the Russians, but Sergey Lavrov's opinion is that there's already a war "in essence" between them.

The intense sense of injustice over the war's human costs, the constant gaslighting and jetstream of bullshit from the Russians, and the now-not-super-remote potential of a third world war get me stealing away in most of my free time to look at my phone for something new and original about the conflict.

Continuing the junkie analogy, the play-by-play daily updates from the New York Times and others are fine, but the analysis and sense-making part is the "good shit." Like, sure, Kreminna was taken by the Russians, but where does this leave us in the larger picture? Why exactly did Putin's forces withdraw from the area surrounding Kyiv and renew the offensive in the Donbas? What are they now hoping to achieve?

For anyone else who can't kick the habit, here are a few great sources and individual pieces to check out for answers to these questions:

Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Royal United Services Institute

A think-tank based in London, RUSI just published an excellent paper, Operation Z: Death Throes of an Imperial Delusion, about the whole Russian shift to the Donbas, what it means, and where it comes from. What stuck out to me:

Putin's push for Kyiv failed for numerous reasons, but chief among them: A busted plan to seize Hostomel airbase (like literally busted Cops-style because Russian personnel were talking to each other about plans on unsecured phone lines or HAM radios lol), and the Russian's army's reliance on paved roads leading south from Belarus which made their movements predictable and vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank munitions. There's also the Russian military's huge dependence on rail transport and lack of "expeditionary" capability. Their army was designed more for territorial defense. This isn't in the report but it's in a video I've linked below from Perun: The United States by contrast IS an expeditionary military. Think: The gargantuan logistics emphasis, air mobility, and naval strike group capabilities. That's what you need to steam-roll opponents abroad, far away from your own territory. Russian units didn't have even a fraction of what was required to sustain their offensive in the north.

The Operation Z report also suggests answers to many questions like: why are so many Russian generals dying near the front line? How has Russia fared in the propaganda/information war? What effect are the sanctions having on Russian war machine? Spoiler: Their precision-guided munitions rely heavily on US-manufactured chips and parts. You can't replace those things overnight. They lack the industrial base.

The report also speculates about various outcomes we may see if the conflict drags on and on into the summer, if Russia prevails over Ukraine (alarming), if Ukraine prevails over Russia.

Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Institute for the Study of War

I watch for their daily updates and excellent conflict maps. They're great.


Ukraine - bellingcat

A very interesting open source journalism project I'd never heard about until it was mentioned on the podcast below. Generally, seems like a good way to get more plugged in is to go to the same sources journalists consistently reference. Ordinary do-gooders on Bellingcat spend a ton of time here compiling war maps and documenting atrocities.

Podcast: Ukraine: The Latest

Spotify, Apple Podcasts

The folks at the Telegraph just put out reliably good analysis. I've especially become a fan of the straightforward, no-bullshit personality of Dominic Nicholls, the Telegraph's Defense and Security editor.

Podcast: War on the Rocks

Spotify, Apple Podcasts

National security geeks rejoice. The podcast, hosted by Ryan Evans, is "often recorded at bars in Washington and other world capitals, the original War on the Rocks podcast is for people who want to stay informed, with a drink in hand." It's terrific. Evans asks hard-hitting questions and doesn't let his guests, often senior government officials, get off easy. It's been a great resource for learning about the Washington insider perspective on the developments in Ukraine.

YouTube: Perun

These are lecture-style PowerPoint-driven videos but they are so well-researched and fascinating.

YouTube: Adam Something

Sometimes this guy's a bit of a loose cannon and a little grating, but I think he puts out good stuff. He was pretty much spot-on in his prediction about how the initial Russian offensive would go.

A more recent vid: