Once, I would have predicted that Ukraine was going to be crushed


Even now, I don’t know — at a guess, I’d assume the eastern Ukraine is going to get bloodily chewed up by the blundering Russian war machine. But then I see this map of recent fires and explosions at important Russian military facilities.

Look at those sites north of Moscow. Are Ukrainians that fierce and bold that they’re carrying out a counter-invasion? Not likely. Here’s a better explanation or two.

The fact that so many fires have broken out at key locations in such a short period is “quite suspicious,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank in Washington. However, he added, it is “really impossible to tell at this stage.”

There are explanations other than sabotage, Alperovitch said. Accidental fires are not unusual in Russia, which has a reputation for poor maintenance, and Western sanctions are making it harder to secure spare parts for vital machinery.

Arestovych doubts Ukraine was involved in the fires at the defense-related facilities and suggested that Russian officials are setting fires to cover up evidence of corruption.

Oh. Russia might manage to eke out some pyrrhic victory in the east, but wow, one thing they’ve just lost forever is any reputation as a formidable fighting force. More like a gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It’s too bad Don Knotts has died, he would have been perfect playing Putin in the bio-pic to come.

Comments

  1. says

    suggested that Russian officials are setting fires to cover up evidence of corruption.

    Plausible. If you’ve been skimming funds for years, a quick fire might get rid of a lot of incriminating documents.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Sailors that should have been manning the point-defense system having a smoke break in the ammo locker is a pretty good excuse for losing a major ship also, too.

    Maybe Ukraine should send their “brothers” in Russia a large shipment of cigarettes.

    They don’t even need to lace them with poison or explosives to do the job!

  3. says

    I think it’s safe to say that all of our fears of Russia being highly formidable with nukes and all have all been for nothing and what we believe about Russia is now to be regarded as the stuff of Cold War Hollywood Fiction.

  4. calgor says

    Doubt that the Ukrainians would target military bases in Russia. Difficult to locate and approach in any combative way and limited propaganda opportunities since the Russia government could quickly coverup.

    Ukraine would do better to trash significant economic targets like gas & oil infrastructure (like “red storm rising”), Putin is already weaponising energy supplies to the west, it would really squeeze the Russian economy since no country will pay unless Putin supplies.

  5. microraptor says

    When Putin’s forces couldn’t take Kiev quickly and easily, Putin lost. At that point it made him look foolish and weak.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    Recent news suggests that Russia has it eye on the
    Transnistria region of Moldova next. To make that contiguous, they would have to take the entire southern coast of Ukraine, turning Ukraine into the land-locked state that Russia resented being (seasonally) before they took Crimea.

  7. raven says

    … turning Ukraine into the land-locked state that Russia resented being (seasonally) before they took Crimea.

    No they weren’t.

    Even before Russia seized Crimea, they had a long coastline on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea itself.
    Just look at the map on the top of the OP.

    Russia just wants to take all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline to economically cripple them forever. This is part of the genocide plan.
    As a beach person myself, I consider stealing their beaches to be yet again, another crime against humanity. It’s cold enough in the winter anyway, you really need the sun and summer at the beach.

    You can see why Russia wants to invade and occupy Moldova. Moldova has 2.8 million people and not much of an army. They wouldn’t last more than a few days against the Russians.
    Russia is a bully and they really like to beat up on countries much smaller than themselves. Chechnya had around 1 million people and Georgia is 3.7 million. Estonia is 1.3 million.

  8. says

    I’ve seen a suggestion someplace that some of the fires and such in Russia might be expat Ukrainians taking matters into their own hands. But that seems pretty unlikely to me. With all the propaganda being thrown around in Russia I would image more than a few Ukrainians are being watched by their employers etc.in case they’re “Nazis.” And we know that people in Ukraine have said relatives in Russia don’t believe them when they recount what the Russia military is doing in Ukraine.

    Apparently Russian military conscription offices have been set on fire for years. A number have been burned in recent weeks, but this was supposedly happening before the war started.

  9. steve oberski says

    The Ukrainians are being cagey and and attributing the explosions to “Divine intervention”.

    Mykhailo Podoliak, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, called the explosions in the Belgorod, Voronezh, and Kursk Regions of the Russian Federation part of an “entirely natural process” and “divine intervention into the sinners’ affairs.”

    https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2022/04/27/7342386/

    He went on to say:

    Podoliak said that the Belgorod, Voronezh, and Kursk Regions of Russia are “beginning to actively learn the meaning of ‘demilitarisation’.”

    Podoliak also noted that large fuel and ammunition depots in the Russian Federation explode and catch fire for various reasons.

    “Including…divine intervention into the affairs of the sinners who murdered people in Ukraine’s Mariupol during Holy week,” Advisor to the President’s Office said.

  10. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    I see that the Russians are complaining that it’s ‘not fair’ that the Ukrainians might be attacking targets in Russia. Apparently invading another country’s land to do damage is bad…

  11. PaulBC says

    The problem is that when the clock stops, Russia is still likely to control more territory than they did beforehand. Unless there is some downside (OK, like the price in lives and material and turning into a global pariah, which you’d think might bother someone) it may still seem like something worth repeating.

    I have trouble coming up with any optimistic take on this nightmare. I agree that Ukraine’s resistance has been impressive. Unless the outcome is a change in Russian leadership and a disavowal of the invasion, the world is still worse off than it was.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Even during the Soviet era, it was not unusual for stuff burning up just before there was to be an inspection of how much there was in the inventory. I recall a Soviet-era Estonian satirical cartoon on the subject.

  13. PaulBC says

    Ariaflame@13 If you explain your invasion as “denazification” then any counterattack is “an invasion by Nazis.” I don’t agree, needless to say, but I’m sure it’s not hard for Russian propagandists to spin.

  14. raven says

    I have trouble coming up with any optimistic take on this nightmare.

    Yeah,
    It is a negative sum game.

    Ukraine and the Ukrainians will be doing well if they survive as a nation and people. The Russians have been openly talking about their genocide for years now.

    NBCnews February 22, 2022

    Putin’s ‘surreal’ version of Ukrainian history alarms experts
    Analysis: Saying “another nation doesn’t exist is something we need to pay attention to because it usually precedes atrocious actions,” one historian said.

    When you claim that Ukraine doesn’t really exist and the Ukrainian language doesn’t exist either, atrocities will follow. In fact, the list of atrocities since Russia invaded is long and getting longer every day.

    The latest headline.

    The Russians are actively taking out grain by hundreds of trucks from the occupied territories. One of these z-marked convoys was filmed in Melitopol. They are being escorted by the Russian military”

    Ukraine is a major world grain producer.
    The Russians are stealing all their grain.
    Which brings up the question of, what are the Ukrainians going to eat after the Russians steal all their food.
    I suspect this is part of ethnic cleansing. Just steal all of their food and the population will either starve to death or move somewhere else, either into Russian or Ukrainian refugee camps.

    They’ve been there before.
    During Stalin’s famine of the 1930s, around 4 million Ukrainians died of starvation, the Holodomor.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    The exact number is difficult to calculate, as census results were forged to conceal the mass death. If you include those who were starved to death in other Soviet republics at the time you get millions more.

  16. says

    It would not surprise me if Ukrainians have a little list of high-value targets, the destruction of which would seriously harm the war effort.

    Russia is a big country. Its borders are bound to be somewhat porous. How hard would it really be for small groups of Ukrainian special forces to move around undetected in Russia?

  17. birgerjohansson says

    I would bring up an important factor in the dysfunctional nature of the Russian armed forces: The extreme and brutal hazing.
    .
    Older conscripts, NCOS and officers ritually and systematically beat up new conscripts in a tradition that was birn in the 1950s when former gulag prisoners – which included criminal gang members- were sent to do.military service and they brought the brutal Russian gang culture with them.

    Every year many conscripts get literally beaten to death. Soldiers are also subjected to extortion. The whole system is complicit, everyone from the private to the colonel lives in fear.
    One analog would be the military of imperial Japan where officers from Tojo downwards would beat subordinates.
    The difference is, the imperial Japanese army managed to be effective in the first part of WWII.
    The core of a military force are the experienced NCOs, and most of them leave after a couple of years due to the toxic culture.
    The Russian military deals with the problem by saying it has been solved, and for several years it has been forbidden to mention it.

  18. divineconspiracy667 says

    I don’t get how military intelligence around the entire world has been fooled into believing Russia is this great world power.
    It has a GDP lower than both Canada and South Korea, two countries with 1/5 and 1/3 the population. They’ve obviously been riding on the image of power projected based on cold war propaganda for the last 30 years.
    Add to that the fact that oligarchs have been looting the country shamelessly since the fall of the USSR, and there’s no way they could seriously support a military that’s a danger to any countries that aren’t a mere fraction of the size of Russia.
    I get it, they have nukes. But I can’t imagine their nuclear capability is anything like it was in the 80s. If Russia did start tossing nukes around, they’d find themselves on the receiving end of much worse than they’re capable of dishing out.
    I’m not advocating for massive escalation of the war, but I don’t think the world should be respecting Russian capability as much as they have been since the invasion of Ukraine began.

  19. PaulBC says

    birgerjohansson@21

    Every year many conscripts get literally beaten to death.

    I forget when I heard about this, but I remember it reported as news in the US at least as far back as the 90s (maybe reported on NPR). There were some chilling accounts of families getting back bodies that had clearly been subject to abuse though it was claimed to be an accident. It sounded like ethnic minorities were especially likely to be victims (Grain of salt. I have no idea who is ever telling the truth but I just vaguely remember this.)

    I would think that if Russia’s goal is to have an effective fighting force rather than maintain such “traditions” that they would put an end to abuse. I don’t see how it serves even Putin’s expansionist goals.

    I’m not advocating for massive escalation of the war, but I don’t think the world should be respecting Russian capability as much as they have been since the invasion of Ukraine began.

    It does makes me wonder about NYT headlines from a few months back like: Russia’s Military, Once Creaky, Is Modern and Lethal or Why Is Putin at War Again? Because He Keeps Winning.

    Yeah, well, much like I said about the former guy, he may be getting tired of all this winning. I am not sure anyone really respects Russian capability. In terms of sheer numbers, it still looks like it beats Ukraine (if armies fought like Risk pieces) and there are always nukes if that doesn’t work out.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    divineconspiracy667 @22:

    It has a GDP lower than both Canada and South Korea, two countries with 1/5 and 1/3 the population

    I think that’s misleading (see difference between nominal and PPP GDP). They produce almost all their own military equipment, a lot of which is pretty good (my impression), and are the second largest arms exporter.

    So, they have the population and hardware to be a global power. What they seem to lack is a competent professional military culture, from top to bottom. I suspect the same may be true of China.

  21. Susan Montgomery says

    Civil war, perhaps?

    @6 That’s what starts rhe war in RSR, not what ends it. Although, it’s possible that something along those lines already happened and drove them to this.

  22. answersingenitals says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 25: “They (Russia)………are the second largest arms exporter.”

    Their customers for those arms must be re-evaluating their purchase decisions.

  23. unclefrogy says

    It does not appear that the leaders of NATO are acting like they believe that Putin’s nukes are not a creditable threat, but none of them are cowering in fear either. When you have a mad dog surrounded and he starts barking and snapping you have to be careful. I am sure that all the forces in Europe are on some heightened level of alert armed and ready to do the unthinkable as well as many things short of that.
    All I can do is watch and listen and hope no one makes a bad mistake.
    Are Putin and the Russian government examples of the peter principle in action?

  24. numerobis says

    PaulBC: Russia’s sheer numbers are much smaller than Ukraine’s so on the Risk battlefield it loses — Risk doesn’t have tanks and bombers.

    In terms of troops, Russia sent in 200k or so, versus Ukraine had closer to 300k active soldiers plus millions of civilians willing to help out e.g. recovering armour with their tractors, or cooking food, or calling in intelligence — jobs that Russia needs to use soldiers for. Until Russia goes all-in with mass conscription, there’s no way for it to get as many troops as Ukraine can field.

    It’s tanks and aircraft and artillery and so on where Russia has an advantage. Russia has a fair amount in reserves still, much more than the West had of low-training stuff like anti-tank missiles, or Soviet kit that Ukraine could use. Except that the war has been going on long enough to train up some Ukrainians on NATO kit. Now that that is getting unblocked there’s just an absolutely huge amount that can flood in from reserves.

    When the reserves are spent, the Western military industry was an order of magnitude more productive than Russia’s military industry pre-war, and it’s probably a bigger disparity now with widespread component shortages in Russia. If the West so chooses, it can easily provide plenty enough weaponry for Ukraine to defend itself and recapture all the territory that’s been invaded (even in 2014), without sending a single soldier to Ukraine.

  25. robro says

    I know next to nothing about military things, but from what I gather every military has an array of problems. Morale and motivation can vary. Equipment fails. Given the kind of money we’re talking about, corruption is a given. When we think about how poorly the Russian armed forces seem to be doing, we might ask what’s par. Would an American army in similar circumstances do better, or enough better to matter?

  26. anonymous3 says

    The likely long term outlook for the war in Ukraine is likely the same outcome for the wars in Georgia/South Ossettia/Abkahzia(sp?), Chechnya, and Syria. That being, Russia will slowly grind its enemies to dust by flattening all commercial, industrial, and population centers with massed artillery and mass executions of both PoWs and civilians.

    The US/NATO strategy for Ukraine remains rather standard great power maneuvering. Namely, giving enough aid, supplies, and training to Ukrainian forces to bleed out the maximum amount of blood and treasure from Russia for their troubles. Whether or not Ukraine remains an independent and functional state at the cessation of hostilities isn’t a real consideration for them.

    Most militaries are much weaker in practice than they are on paper. The Chinese PLA is largely a political organ rather than a war fighting one; only about 10% of the PLA is really even trained for combat. India is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a beast. Though it is rapidly modernizing and also making a big push for domestic production of martial material. That’s probably not a good thing considering recent internal politics of India. Germany has some nice tanks, mediocre self-propelled artillery, and laughable infantry and air force. France is largely aimed at dealing out imperial violence to its former colonies. It has a decent expeditionary force, an aging but formidable CATOBAR carrier in the Charles De Gaulle, and fairly sophisticated amphibious sea control carriers in the Mistral-class. Britain has a conventionally powered STOVL carrier and a decent, though small, surface fleet supplemented by a decent nuclear sub force. It has extremely limited expeditionary capabilities and largely relies on the US to fill holes in its logistical and AWACS capabilities. A series of recent budget cuts have further hampered its effectiveness. It’s military is, on its own, mostly a territorial defense force. The Italian military is a joke and has been since the third century, except for a brief dalliance with competence in the Napoleonic era with was technically the Sardinian military, not Italian. Conscript armies like DPRK, ROK, Russia, and most Eastern European & Central Asian armies are significantly less effective than an all volunteer professional arm.

    America’s military is anomalously effective for five reasons. First, America uses an all volunteer force of professional soldiers. Though it supplements its main fighting element with irregulars from regional militias (aka the National Guard), the primary expeditionary and invasion forces are all professional soldiers. That makes a huge difference when it comes to invasions and maneuver warfare. Second, America has and incredible NCO corp in all branches of its military. Such effective NCOs allow for better small squad tactics, giving the US military far more flexibilty and maneuverability in combat, greatly increasing their effectiveness. It’s not unusual to have E4s and E5s with advanced post secondary degrees or even graduate level degrees. There are literally NCOs with PhDs in nuclear engineering. Third, most of our current navy was commissioned under a Navy largely filled with combat-tested officers who learned some fairly painful lessons during WWII. As a result, the fleet was designed to fight and win wars, not line the pocket of defense contractors. Compare the older ships that are far more effective than their newer replacements, overseen by officers who have never been in a significant naval engagement with a peer adversary; Nimitz vs Ford, Arleigh Burke vs LCS, and Ticonderoga vs Zummwalt. Fourth, the American Air Force is largely composed of aircraft designed by officers who learned painful lessons in the skies over Vietnam. The Fighter Mafia as they were called were responsible for the F-15, F-16, F-18, & A-10 that make up the bulk of American air power. Compare these to the overly expensive modern fights with fielded numbers too low to be effective, ie the F-22 and F-35. Fifth, America has the best logistical system of any military in the world, bar none. It uses a sophisticated pull system to get the troops what they need instead of a push system giving them what some officer back at headquarters thinks they should need. If you want to see the problems with a push logistical system, just look at Russia. This is aided by the very competent, and rather piratical NCOs who run the local quartermaster offices. It sounds counterintuitive but you really want a quartermaster with larceny in his heart. It allows a thriving black market to occur between units functioning as a secondary supply line that can react faster than official channels to meet critical needs. There’s a joke in the Army that there’s only one thief in the Army and everyone else is just trying to get their shit back.

    With both the USAF and USN having their procurement departments revert to unfettered graft and the NCO corp retiring at higher than usual rates due to repeated tours through Iraq and Afghanistan, the American military looks to become far less effective in the next few decades than it has been for the previous several decades.

  27. Walter Solomon says

    Owosso Harpist @5

    what we believe about Russia is now to be regarded as the stuff of Cold War Hollywood Fiction.

    A bit off-topic for this thread, but you ever have time on your hands and want to read something amusing, Russian movie reviews of American films might fit the bill. This is especially true when the film features Rusdian characters or set in Russia. If, like me, you can’t read Russian cyrillic, you’ll need a translator.

    Some common complaints Russian moviegoers have about how they’re depicted on film includes the ubiquitous drinking of vodka/alcoholism, hats with earflaps, depicting Russia as a arctic wilderness, eating borscht at a formal dinner, showing Russians as inordinately fond of bears, and showing Russian prostitutes. The website has wide a selection of new and old American films that users review.

  28. numerobis says

    anonymous3: The West has clearly (though not unanimously) decided that it would rather have a prosperous Ukraine that’s part of the West than a Ukraine that’s just a rubble zone slowly grinding Russia.

    If the West wanted the latter we’d send in small arms, which is where things started. But in the past few weeks, now that Ukraine has shown it can win, we are sending in tanks and artillery. The US alone is in for billions of aid already and is toying with tens of billions more.

  29. Reginald Selkirk says

    @34
    If the West wanted the latter we’d send in small arms, which is where things started. But in the past few weeks, now that Ukraine has shown it can win, we are sending in tanks and artillery.

    That’s not the only thing that has changed. Russia has committed clear war crimes and shown their intent of genocide.

  30. Rich Woods says

    @owosso #5:

    “our fears of Russia being highly formidable, with nukes and all, have all been for nothing.”

    I think that’s a conclusion too far. The reason why simple things such as Russian ERA tank armour and AFV tyres have been shown up as so defective could be because most of the money has gone to maintaining the nukes properly. After all, Russia has depended upon deterrence via two threats since the 1940s: an overwhelming number of tanks being sent across the plains of Eastern and Central Europe, and a sufficiently large and far-reaching nuclear first-strike capability. If you had to cut the budget to each by half, or the budget to one by 20% and the other by 80%, which one of those three options would you pick?

  31. says

    @18 raven
    I think interesting explanation of Russian attitude towards Ukraine is given by Kamil Galeev here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1516162437455654913.html
    TLDR: Russians believe Ukrainians to be imperfect Russians and their mission is to make them “normal” again.

    @22 divineconspiracy667
    why russian military is much worse than people expected is greatly shown in this video by Perun

    (all of his videos about war are very informative and great first step into topic)

    TLDW = too many “great power” projects, not enough widely used decent equipment

    or in this insane twitter thread
    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1502673952572854278.html

    TLDR corruption is main factor that is exacerbated by a whole spectrum of issues

    The nukes are most likely functional, but only tens maybe hundreds of them are high yield thermonuclear on ICBMs/submarines. Some are standard bombs (baltics and Poland are probably only valid targets) many are in storage and many are just small tactical nukes that were designed as enhanced artillery, not for nuclear war.
    But still, using any of them would be suicide for russia.

    @25 Rob Grigjanis
    the production part doesn’t seem so bright if you read this:
    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1507819508609679364.html
    Also they have some decent export hardware but best hardware is not used in big enough numbers and the doctrine is terrible, with experience built on small conflicts without real opponents.

    @29 numerobis
    It seems like you watched this

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEpk_yGjn0E

    @32 anonymous3
    I don’t think there is “NATO strategy” as most countries have their own agendas.
    Basically UK and USA fit what you describe, eliminating Russia from the role of regional power and making it less valuable for China as an ally or vassal state being the priority, Ukraine being useful in the future being just a possible bonus. Netherlands seems to go along with them, I don’t know about Belgium.
    France and Germany have world influence ambitions and they don’t like playing second fiddle to USA, so their national priorities are in China. As US and UK control the seas, both FR and DE want some land route to China and that requires good relations with Russia, so as long as there was a possibility of Ukraine loosing quick, keeping some relations with Russia was important.
    I can’t say much about mediterranean countries (except Italy being hooked on RU gas and liking fascists) and Hungary is Putin’s fifth column.
    Bulgaria was on the fence with parliament and president split, but turning off the gas supplies moved Bulgaria square into anti Ru camp.
    Bulgaria is important since they have biggest capability in producing 152 calliber artillery shells (Warsaw Pact standard) that Ukraine uses the most of.
    Switzerland was ok with jewish gold, they will not have problem with making money on russian gas and they don’t really care, Austrians are “neutral” and like rubels.
    I don’t know much about Nordic and Balkan countries
    Rest of the ex WP countries (EE, LV, LT, PL, CZ, SK, RO) remember the horror of holocaust, the oppressivness of russian occupation and how joining NATO and EU changed their countries and see the war in Ukraine as their moral duty to share their lucky circumstance with another nation persecuted by Russia. It’s not about geopolitics or interests, in last 300 years this region got 2 chances from fate to be anything else than subjugated by one empire or another – false one in 1918 and real one in 1990 and failing to extend this to Ukraine would mean we also don’t deserve it, it would be betrayal of ourselves not just them.

    @33 status of Eastern Europeans (even the name is stupid, Russia takes half of geographical Europe so everyone West of Russia is either in Central or Western Europe) as “white but not quite” is something obvious for anyone who was born on the wrong side of Iron Courtain.
    As soon as a discussion is limited to white part of Western society the second grade status of “easterners” is obvious, and we get promoted to “full white” only when discussion comes to responsibility for colonializm and slavery.

    The last part – is there a reason to hope?
    Maybe.
    Biden is in reality doing really great job, Ukrainians are above expectations and everything can happen. It’s not about who can deal more damage, it’s about who can take more damage and continue to fight and it seems to me that Ukrainians are able to fight Russians longer than Putin whatever the illness that he has.
    The question is, can Ukrainians convince rest of western Europe to definitely cut ties with Russia and support Ukraine and can Ukraine already have counteroffensive in full swing before Biden loses elections in 2024.

  32. Rich Woods says

    @Walter #33:

    I’ve been to Russia. The quantity of vodka drunk is not negligible, but don’t let it crowd out the beer options, which are superb. Borscht is delicious and available everywhere, though vegetarian versions only tend to be found in the big cities. Russian prostitutes are easy to spot in any tourist locale (hotels and casinos especially; I’ve seen the same for natashas in the Far East). None of this may be ideal or desirable (and indeed when I was there Putin was bringing in further laws against consumption of alcohol in a public place, which was seen as an infringement on the enjoyment of a refreshing lunchtime beer on a hot day) but it exists. Is it stereotyped in films? Certainly. But then have you ever seen a film about a person new to New York not getting barged aside by pedestrians if they should slow down for a second to get their bearings?

  33. whheydt says

    As regards Russian competence on the battlefield… From what little I’ve read, the current Russian army kept the Soviet structures in place and those were that real decisions were only made fairly high up. “Initiative” at low levels (NCOs, lower officer ranks) is strongly discouraged. Where in the US Army, an NCO would be encouraged to take advantage of any unexpected opportunity, Russian NCOs would be expected to send word up the line for orders.

    The Ukraine army has been getting training by the US for about 8 years now, and–apparently–they have switched to the US model of an NCO corps that will react to events rather than waiting for some general or colonel to give them orders about what to do.

    The results on the ground are what you see.

    As for Russian export arms… Gulf War I was seen as a testing ground for Russian vs. US doctrines and equipment. Russian doctrine and equipment both performed poorly. Whether any given country wants to continue to use Russian second-tier equipment probably depends–at least in part–on who they think they are going to fight.

  34. imback says

    Remember Don Knotts’ character was often incompetent but also impulsive and so was limited to one bullet he had to keep in his pocket. Now imagine he had nukes. He may goof up and drop them on the wrong Washington, but that’s not really reassuring.

  35. microraptor says

    Rich Woods @36: The failure of Russia’s equipment seems to be less due to budget cuts and more due to the men in charge of the budgets siphoning money off in order to buy mega-yachts and send their kids to expensive foreign boarding schools. We don’t know if that corruption extends to the people managing the nuclear arsenal, but given how rampant corruption is in the Russian government it would be very surprising if there wasn’t.

    That being said, the issue with a defective nuclear weapon is that it’s still a nuclear weapon. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a nuke and “doesn’t launch” is the only one that’s not still a catastrophe.

  36. Walter Solomon says

    Rich Woods @38

    Good point. Stereotypes abound in Hollywood and minorities, particularly Black Americans, are aware as much if not more than any other group. I would guess some of the Russian moviegoers recognize the truth in these depictions but are frustrated because of the lack of positive images.

  37. brucegee1962 says

    Regarding Russia’s nukes — just because the overall military is clearly a shambles doesn’t necessarily mean all specific parts of it are. I was reading about some of the advance units that tried to take the Kyiv airport, and apparently they really did fight splendidly, not giving up even when it was clear that they were being hung out to dry and the relief they were expecting would never show up.
    It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the nukes are among the good bits or the rotten bits.

  38. PaulBC says

    OT @42 I’d enjoy seeing more foreign films portraying Americans. I’m sure it would be easy enough to find exaggerations and stereotypes.

    One thing I have noticed from British actors is one particular American accent, which tends to be nasally and uptight. Think Murray Head in the One Night in Bangkok video or more recently Tom Ellis doing Lucifer’s twin brother Michael. I am pretty sure there are other examples. It’s not that either of them sound wrong. It’s just not representative. (How about Southern, Brooklyn, or Californian?) I wonder if there is some particular reason for doing this one. Maybe it is supposed to capture the “ugly American” character. It’s also possible that there are British actors doing less obvious accents that I don’t notice (I saw Kenneth Branagh in the Woody Allen movie Celebrity (1998) and can’t recall anything especially jarring or anything much at all about that movie.) I also haven’t noticed it as much with women. At least they don’t sound like Murray Head complaining about Thailand.

  39. says

    Hey now PZ, please don’t dump on my childhood “Apple Dumpling Gang!” Putin is evil and Don Knotts and Tim Conway are a delight to watch.

  40. says

    Are Putin and the Russian government examples of the peter principle in action?

    It’s not so much competent people being promoted past their level of competence, as competent people being snubbed, ridiculed, beaten down, bullied and marginalized by incompetent people who don’t want to live in a society run by people more competent than themselves, and who reject as “foreign” any ideas or practices they didn’t think of themselves or can’t control.

  41. says

    My favorite story of the week comes straight from the FSB. They tried to frame some Ukrainians for terrorism and an assassination attempt. However, there was a bit of a miscommunication regarding the planted evidence. Instead of cell phone SIM cards, they planted expansion packs for the video game “The Sims”. The level of incompetence displayed by Russia at this point is mind boggling. This is not the Russia I grew up in fear of in the 80s.

  42. jrkrideau says

    Russia might manage to eke out some pyrrhic victory in the east, but wow, one thing they’ve just lost forever is any reputation as a formidable fighting force.

    Ukraine is screaming for NATO help and Russia is reducing the Donbas Ukrainian forces to dust. Yep, not a formidable fighting force.

  43. says

    @46
    Back when I worked in IT, we had a joke. “Promote the most useless people to management so they can do the least damage”. I saw my boss destroy $60,000 worth of equipment because he was fucking around. “Get back in the office Tom, I’ll figure out how much it costs to get this fixed”.

  44. says

    OT @44: American movies don’t seem to do regional American accents much anymore. All American characters (the white ones at least) speak pretty much the same, or at least with a very narrow range of variation. Boston, New York, Texas, Midwest and other accents seem few and very noticeable when they happen (case in point: “The Town”). I have no idea why that is…maybe some “experts” somehow decided people didn’t want to hear regional accents in their pop culture?

  45. John Morales says

    jrkrideau:

    Ukraine is screaming for NATO help and Russia is reducing the Donbas Ukrainian forces to dust.

    So, much as in February. Not exactly overpowering Ukraine.

    Yep, not a formidable fighting force.

    Well, it’s about as good as Ukraine’s fighting force. Evidently.

    (Good at reducing cities to rubble, to be fair; very good at looting and stuff like that)

  46. PaulBC says

    jrkrideau@48

    Russia is reducing the Donbas Ukrainian forces to dust.

    While minimizing civilian casualties, naturally. Or are you still claiming that?

  47. StevoR says

    @jrkrideau : I’m curious about your thoughts on the sinking of the former Russian flagship Moskva and the clashing Russian vs Ukrainian accounts where it turns ou taht Russia clearly lied about many things from the cause of the sinking tothe loss of some of its crew. Ha sthat made you reconsdier how creduible the Russians and pro-Putin source s actually are?

    I also asked in another thread a few (?) weeks ago which pronouns you prefer and don’t recall seeing any answer, one would be appreciated if you have a strong preference there?

  48. StevoR says

    ^ turns out that ..

    Has that made you reconsider how credible pro-Putin Russian sources are?

    For clarity.

    @ 10. raven :

    You can see why Russia wants to invade and occupy Moldova. Moldova has 2.8 million people and not much of an army. They wouldn’t last more than a few days against the Russians.

    That’s what they (Russia and many commentators) said about Ukraine before the invasion too remember?

    Russia is a bully and they really like to beat up on countries much smaller than themselves. Chechnya had around 1 million people and Georgia is 3.7 million. Estonia is 1.3 million.

    True but equally applicable to most nations. Are there any nations that partuicularly like picking fights with countries larger and more populous than their own? I guess Imperial Britain and Japan in their attempted and successful conquests of India and China might count? Plus 16th C Spain conquering the Incan and Aztec empires and, ditto, other European powers in the colonial era but still, generally speaking?

    The USA of course has also bullied many smaller nations eg Iraq, Vietnam , Argentina and Chian occupies Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, etc ..

  49. raven says

    Are there any nations that partuicularly like picking fights with countries larger and more populous than their own?

    There aren’t many. But there are a few.

    The American colonials fought the British empire during the war for independence, and won.
    The Vietnamese fought the French and Americans and won, although they didn’t exactly pick those fights.

    The most obvious one recently was Germany and the second World War. The tried to take over the world and lost. Fighting the Russians, British, Americans, French resistance, and their allies all at once wasn’t a good idea.

  50. calgor says

    @26 – it’s both the cause and the reason it ended. In RSR, the loss of oil infrastructure triggered the war but also created the weakness that forced capitulation.

    Real Russia has always been dependent on foreign income to survive and given the freedoms that Russian people experience now compared to under soviet control, loss of those freedoms will bite even harder. If the Ukrainians squeeze hard on the arguably only commodity that Russian still has global political power over, Russia may seek a quicker resolution to the war. My only concern is how quickly, totalitarian rulers are not known for giving up their toys peacefully and are spiteful enough to destroy them so no one else can play with them.

  51. says

    @jrkrideau #48

    Are they? The Russians have devolved into using Douglas Haig’s strategies at the Somme. Bomb Ukrainian positions, then inch your troops forward, lather, rinse, repeat. They’re taking a lot of small towns and villages, but there doesn’t seem much of “dust-grinding” of Ukrainian troops because, unlike a certain German dictator who insisted on defending every inch of soil no matter how irrelevant, the Ukrainians employ a flexible defense and the Russians are paying a high toll for every step they take forward in Donbass. Thing is of course that Russia cannot afford such a snail’s pace of progress because they have May 8th (VE Europe day for the Russians) breathing down their necks and the more time Ukraine gets, the more it can mobilize and receive weapons and training from the West.
    Of course, the recent announcements that Russia is looking hungrily for Transnistria (which Lukashenko already gave away months ago anyway), the attempts to bully Poland and Bulgaria by closing the gas tap and the nuclear threats becoming louder and louder tell me that the Russians are getting desperate and are aware things aren’t going their way despite the constant reassurances that “everything is going according to plan”. O yeah, and Putin himself doesn’t look all that much like a happy man content with his life choices either, huh? I would even say he looks like he’s not far away from a nervous breakdown.

  52. birgerjohansson says

    The New York Times Literary Supplement has an article that may explain the cultural state that has grown in Russia during Putin. It is written by the Ukrainan author Oksana Zabuzjko, who argues that much of the Russian classic literature tends to find excuses for the perpetrator, and also revisits the faulty analysis of Russia in the west ever since the Soviet collapse.

    Ukraine has been seen through a Russian perspective, even in the west, as a colony without identity of its own.
    The article adressed too many topics to be easily summarized, if you have access to New York Times I would recommend reading it.

  53. birgerjohansson says

    @58 I have tried finding english-language links to the article, but Google redirects me to Swedish articles of the author. Maybe you can do better.

  54. richardh says

    RayCeeya@47:

    My favorite story of the week comes straight from the FSB. They tried to frame some Ukrainians for terrorism and an assassination attempt. However, there was a bit of a miscommunication regarding the planted evidence. Instead of cell phone SIM cards, they planted expansion packs for the video game “The Sims”.

    Not to mention the book with a “nazi” dedication signed by somebody called “Signature unclear”.

  55. birgerjohansson says

    Gorzki @ 37
    The link to Kamil Galeev is excellent, and overlaps with many ideas expressed by Oksana Zabuzjko .
    BTW Pushkin would have been regarded as a proto-fascist in the West if his attitudes had been more widely known. I am reminded of Japan during the 1930s.

  56. ondrbak says

    @birgerjohansson #59

    The New York Times Literary Supplement has an article that may explain the cultural state that has grown in Russia during Putin.

    I have tried finding english-language links to the article, but Google redirects me to Swedish articles of the author. Maybe you can do better.

    A link like this? Also in German, and Ukrainian.

    @AugustusVerger

    because they have May 8th (VE Europe day for the Russians)

    Not that it changes much, but it’s May 9th for the Russians. Quoting wikipedia:

    Victory Day is a holiday that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was first inaugurated in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time).

    A colloquial story was that Stalin really loathed to share the V day with the Allies and the choice of a different day to call a victory and celebrate was rather deliberate.

  57. birgerjohansson says

    …reminds me of India and Pakistan- Pakistan had its time zone offset by half an hour to avoid sharing with India. I do not know if they celebrate independence from Britain on the same day.

    In regards to the imperialist mindset it is like when imperial Japanese soldiers yelled orders in Japanese to recent POW’s and expected to be understood.

    And it is not that distant to the British; they regarded Scotland Wales and Irland as inferior versions of England. During the 1916 Easter uprising, Irish who tried to surrender were killed, presumably viewed as rebellious natives and thus -like enemies in Africa and Afghanistan- not worth the consideration afforded to ‘proper ‘ enemies.

  58. KG says

    Ukraine is screaming for NATO help and Russia is reducing the Donbas Ukrainian forces to dust. Yep, not a formidable fighting force. – jrkrideau@48

    Does a “formidable fighting force” charge into the smaller neighbour it’s invading in an attempt to seize its capital, then find its forces strung out in a 40-mile traffic jam, and eventually withdraw them, leaving piles of its wrecked tanks and dead soldiers behind (plus ample evidence of atrocities against civilians – but admittedly many fromidable fighting forces have produced that)? And if you’re going to claim this was a “feint”, you’ll just make yourself look even more ridiculous. And if that “formidable fighting force” was “reducing the Ukranian forces to dust”, why is its advance so slow? Is the dust fighting back?

    Of course the Ukranians are “screaming for help”. Russia has far more weapons, and is employing them (artllery, aerial bombing, missiles) to flatten Ukranian cities and slaughter Ukranians from a distance. I’m not among those who think Russia has “already lost”, but its undeniable, except to the terminally deluded, that Putin, along with most “experts” (and even genuine experts) expected Russian forces to overrun most of Ukraine and install a puppet government within days.

    To everyone else: jrkrideau reminds me of Orwell’s portrait of the “transferred nationalist”. A transferred nationalist does not simply side with the strong, but picks an object of adulation, than persuades themself it is strong – and virtuous, and persists in that belief in the teeth of any evidence.

  59. birgerjohansson says

    Transferred nationalism is like when the British laud Cesar and the Romans who crushed the culture of Gaul and Britain.
    And the Hindutva nationalists who echo obsolete European ideologies.

  60. birgerjohansson says

    AugustusVerger @ 57
    Putin looks as stressed as a certain Austrian who had a diet of Pervetin and whatever was in those injections, during the time in the bunker.

    In one of those articles we referred to, the Russian soldiers said “why should you be better off than us?” in one of the occupied towns. A good window into their mentality.

  61. numerobis says

    StevoR: jrkrideau is pro genocide but we don’t really have pronouns for that case.

  62. raven says

    O yeah, and Putin himself doesn’t look all that much like a happy man content with his life choices either, huh? I would even say he looks like he’s not far away from a nervous breakdown.

    There are persistent reports that Putin has some sort of chronic disease. He hasn’t looked healthy for a long time.

    This probably isn’t just propaganda either. You can see it in videos of his latest appearances. It might be Parkinsons disease.

    Putin and Parkinson’s: What do doctors say? – DWh https://www.dw.com › putin-and-parkinsons-what-do-d…

    2 days ago — A video released by the Kremlin last weekend shows Putin in seemingly bad health. Some commentators and tabloids claim he has Parkinson’s.

    Putin’s latest life choice is to ethnically cleanse and genocide 44 million Ukrainians in 2022 while everyone in the world is watching it on TV, Youtube, Tiktok, and the internet.
    He will be remembered right up there with Stalin, Pol Pot, and the other mass murderers.

  63. birgerjohansson says

    Ironically, Adolph also had Parkinson’s if I recall correctly.
    A decade ago a Russian pro-Putin artist made a statue of Putin titled “A sound mind in a sound body”. That is doubly ironic.

  64. KG says

    birgerjohansson@65,
    I guess so – but the object in Orwell’s essay is contemporary – although it may be imaginary. Back in the heyday of British imperialism, there was certainly a strong identification with the Roman Empire – both bringing “civilization” to the benighted “barbarians” whether they wanted it or not, and to an extent this still survives among the privately-educated elite. But that identification was/is a component of British nationalism rather than a replacement for it. (And just as a side-note, the Romans didn’t by any means entirely crush the pre-Roman culture of Britain: they never conquered the northern half of what is now Scotland, and even elsewhere, the pre-conquest languages survived – Welsh is descended from one of them, and no British equivalent to the Latin-derived Romance languages of France, Spain, etc. did so.)

  65. birgerjohansson says

    If I was an AI like in the film “Colossus” or in the Terminator franchise, the odd genocide would not trigger the emotion of revulson as AI minds have no heritage of social minds shaped by evolution.
    People like Herbert Spencer, Hitler and that old fucker Pushkin are more machine-like and simple in their thinking.
    Simultaneously they are more like primates untempered by the intellectual tradition of the enlightenment.
    I am reminded of the toxic sludge left over at the end of the petroleum refinery process. An asphalt-like sludge that is used to power ships, causing big health problems in harbor towns.

  66. birgerjohansson says

    Addendum: I forgot to add Putin to the list, the way I see it he is just another little chauvinist quoting Pushkin.

  67. birgerjohansson says

    Regarding the Russian dimwit shown quoting the need for having only one recipe for borscht;
    De Gaulle once said ‘you cannot rule a country with fifty brands of cheese”. The diversity that has made (much of) Europe so interesting is also a pain in the ass for rulers who want to exert control.
    But -as epidemiologists already know- diversity is an insurance against disaster.
    And the economic monoculture of the Euro currency was shown to be bad when Greece collapsed. EU nations that kept their ‘obsolete’ currencies had their own central banks, and thrived.

  68. numerobis says

    raven@68: I doubt Putin will be remembered along Stalin or Pol Pot. He would like to be but he’ll end up only managing a few hundred thousand on his kill count.

  69. Mobius says

    I have studied quite a bit of military history over the years, and Russia’s bungling has been epic. This reminds me of Russia’s resistance to the Germans in the summer of 1941. It was one disaster after another. It hasn’t been as bad as the second Pacific Squadron Russia sent from the Baltic to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. If you want a good laugh, Google it. There are several videos which point to the bumbling mistakes the Russians made.

  70. PaulBC says

    Mobius@75 When I first saw the invasion map, I thought “This looks exactly like the mistake I used to make playing Civilization.” Basically, just blundering in on a wide front with firepower against a seemingly much weaker opponent. In Civ (at least version 1 in the early 90s and not very realistically) I would find that the phalanxes held up against my tanks long enough for them to steal technology, start building their own tanks, and start bombing me from the air and eventually invade my territory.

    But that’s a computer game and I am not a military supergenius, so I kind of figured Russia had it worked out better than it looked. Now I really wonder.

  71. Walter Solomon says

    numerobis @74

    I doubt Putin will be remembered along Stalin or Pol Pot. He would like to be but he’ll end up only managing a few hundred thousand on his kill count.

    Perhaps its more fitting that he’ll be remembered alongside Idi Amin and Bin Laden.

  72. says

    @55 raven
    I would consider not counting Vietnamese as in general, fighting for your independence would add way to many countries to that list
    @60 richardh
    I read “signature illegilible” is a nome de guerre of some russian neonazi, but as I can’t find any info on him, I have no idea whether it’s true.

    As I hate underestimating enemy, I’m wondering if this was made on purpose. The same way how someone from FSB tipped off Ukraine about Kadyrovites going after Zelensky.
    There may be a war between fractions in Russia and it could have been done on purpose to sabotage it.
    Also – it worked even better. No one would care outside Russia if this plot was real, so it may have not been a show for us to see.

    It was a show to russian journalists and propagandists. “Look, we planted this false plot and now we publicly state, we saved Soloviov today, but we may “fail” in the future” which is really just an open threat to journalists.

  73. blf says

    birgerjohansson@73 noted “De Gaulle once said ‘you cannot rule a country with fifty brands of cheese’.”

    Never heard of that version. It’s usually said to be « Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage ? » (“How would you like to govern a country with 246 different kinds of cheese?”), said in 1962. Which, it has been pointed out, is a significant underestimate; France is often said to have over 1,000 different cheeses, and possibly over 2,000 depending on how / what one counts.

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