There are some serious problems with the article.

First of all, it is plagued with straw man's arguments. Some examples are: "Putin’s reluctance to admit defeat even when his army suffers setbacks." and "We can see a similar mass army mentality displayed by Russia. It has always gone for the numbers, assuming a plentiful supply of troops and armour, sufficient to crush opponents, while adopting an unsentimental attitude to the human costs of war."

Let's do a reality check:

* When the initial 4 axis attack failed, Russia did not opt to reinforce each axis, but rather concentrate forces to more limited goals and territory.

* When the Ukranian offensives at Kherson and Kharkov bared fruit, Russia accepted the lost territory, the new reality and moved to mobilize 300K troops to be able to stay in the game.

* When the state of the troops at Kherson became unbearable, Putin did not order them to fight to the last man but rather moved them at the other side of the river and blew up the bridges.

* During '23, Russia used its military to create defensive lines and train while it mainly used the Wagner prisoners to attack Bahmut. It was not its military that was suffering the major losses at that battle.

Ukraine on the other hand decided again and again to fight to the last man every time a major city was under siege, either Mariupol, Bahmut or other ones. It consumed limited and valuable resources (especially its men) to fight basically hopeless battles instead of retreating to more defensive positions (from which it could inflict heavy casualties to the Russian army).

I really don't see how Russia is the side that is over-stretching its forces, trying to achieve goals for which it does not have the means or does not care for its military. On the contrary, it is Ukraine that has wasted many lives in lost battles.

Regarding the current offensive, the author seems to examine the whole operation as if only ammo and tanks are the things that are expended. On the contrary, what is more important is the men dying and injured in the offensive.

You cannot create an offensive force within months, it takes years of training and experience. What is far easier is to have a large defensive/territorial defense force. What this means is that Ukraine is using up resources it cannot replace. It might be able to mount a sufficient defense, even if its offensive utterly fails, but that does not mean that it only needs to get a few more rounds of ammo and wait for the weather to clear in order to launch its next summer offensive. Military personnel capable of conducting combined arms offensive operations does not grow on trees.

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Russia has not got to the hard part yet. Taking and holding major cities. They have failed to hold Kherson. They bombed Mariupol and Bakhmut back to the Stone Age. They shelled a lot of cities, like Kharkiv and spent insane amounts of artillery to do this. And yet, there‘s not much to show for. For sure Ukraine has also taken heavy losses, but they don’t have much choice. Giving up more territory, means more Buchas, more lives lost. Ukraine has options, if the West provides the required tools. The US should send ATACMS immediately. After a couple of strikes to the Kerch Bridge, the Russian occupation of Crimea would become unsustainable. The boost to Ukrainian morale and the blow to Russian morale would be significant.

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My point was that Ukraine's military choices, instead of being based on critical, tactical military realities, only served political goals at the expense of scarce military resources.

Your response was basically to acknowledge my point by trying to provide a political reason for such actions that was basically non-existent. Most of the major cities in question (especially Bahmut) were already evacuated by their residents. Ukraine did not continue fighting for months in Bahmut to allow civilian residents to flee, but to deny Russia conquering the city. That is just a fact.

Regarding ATACMS I am not so sure why we should analyze the past or the present based on individual wishes about how the future should unfold.

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To really evaluate, whether the battle of Bakhmut was just a political choice, we would have to know how many Ukrainian soldiers, Russian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries were killed or wounded in action. Sometimes the two sides of a battlefield won’t agree on which side won. During the Winter War, Finland inflicted losses of up to 40:1 on the Red Army and yet the Fins would‘ve lost, once Spring had set in. We don’t know whether today’s Russia has the stomach to accept heavy losses like these for basically not much gain, but the military special operation is not popular at the homefront. Morale, medical supply and equipment aren’t great. Many young Russians have flex the country. The decision to bind Russian forces at Bakhmut might have had military reasons for Ukraine still. We simply don’t know everything that played into this decision. And we may not know for quite some time, whether it was an error or not. At the beginning of the war, numbers were heavily in favor of Russia. Not so much now. Russia’s overwhelming artillery superiority has pretty much evaporated. Their lack of certain types of logistical means has limited Russia‘s options and Ukraine has exploited these limits quite cleverly. Which is to say, the Ukrainian forces know their limits and capabilities much better than we are. At this point, it doesn’t take much for the Russian position in Crimea to become untenable and Russia knows this. In addition Putin blinked, because no one in his army tried to stop Wagner‘s march on Moscow. He may have eliminated Prigozhin and that dude with the SS-runes tattoo (Who knew? A Russian missile might‘ve found a real Nazi after all!), but this is much too late. The Russian border with NATO has doubled. The West has rallied in opposition to Russia’s imperial ambitions. Quite a lot has gone wrong from Putin’s perspective. There‘s blood in the water and the sharks may become hungry for more. So the clock is also ticking on Putin now. The desaster with the lunar lander fits nicely. If Putin keeps on winning like this… maybe all

Ukraine has to do is running out Putin‘s clock?

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There is a tremendous amount of wishful thinking in your comment. The remainder is opinion based on either western propaganda or they are bold statements which do not have evidence to support them. For example your assertion that Russia had more troops committed to the Special Operation at the beginning than Ukraine. This is false Russia had less than 1:1 acrosss the entire front. The retreat from Kiev, Kharkov etc preceeded the mobilsation of 300,000 troops.

Furthermore, the eight weeks which have elapsed since this article appeared have proven the Ukrainian offensive to have failed comprehensively. As attackers the Ukraine have lost many multiples of the Russian losses as defenders. There was never any danger of Ukraine breaching the Russian lines. In effect they have given it their best shot and failed to gain any significant ground. In doing so they have humiliated NATO with the spectacle of their advanced weaponry blown to pieces or lying burning in a field. Even the Guardian reports Ukrainian losses may exceed 75,000 dead and an additional 220,000 wounded.

Like many academic or military analysts from the school of wishful thinking you have almost no understanding of the Russian military doctrine, organisation or culture. You provide analysis and opinion using the familiar US/NATO template to view the Russian operations, this causes fundamental errors in conclusion and this is evident when looking back at almost every written analysis of the conflict coming from the collective west.

The only way to overcome this inherent cognitive bias is to comprehensively study Russian military history and operations. The collective west tends to view Russia as the ramshackle remnants and results of post soviet ruins. There is also a tendency to forget or ignore Russia's long history and culture or assume that it has no influence due to it being erased in soviet times. Not true.

Don't you think that the Russian military having fought back and forth over the Ukraine 80 years ago has significant institutional and archival knowledge as to what is required to operate and achieve its goals? I'm talking operationally from the entire front down to village level. Imagine the vast amount of data that exists inside the Russian army and airforce even before a shot was fired.

Once again, in the collective west, using the NATO template Russia's actions and inactions over the last 18 months have been judged as incompetence, lacking in capability, cowardice or Ukrainian ascendency. In reality almost all falls into the wishful thinking category. This easily shown. Let us make one overriding assumption as an academic exercise. Let us say the Russian doctrine has been - `when faced with a decision always take the option that is unexpected'. Now go through all the assumptions you've made about Russian actions and see how this renders them.

As will become evident in Spring Ukraine has hollowed out its own military with the futile offensive. When Russia chooses to commence operations it will rain 6 months of stockpiled munitions down on unlucky sections of the front and second line until they collapse. Ukraine has far less in battle experienced reserves now and they will be hard pressed to plug holes. The percentage of conscripts forced to join the Ukraine army against their will increases the chances of disorderly retreat and consequently the loss of command and control. Russia has the luxury of total air and artillery dominance regardless of wishful think to the contrary. They will bombard sections of the line until survivor flee and only then send in ground forces to occupy hold and modestly pursue., Then repeat the bombardment. Artilley dominance being one of Russia's preferred operational doctrines since before 1812.

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Let me quote Kasparov here: Latest Russian joke:

-- What does mobilization have common in Russia and Israel?

-- Long lines for flights to Tel Aviv.

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A brilliant, compelling original argument.

The only thing that might deserve more emphasis is how the strains of a prolonged war will affect the Russian economy and Putin's popularity. If Russian casualties continue to mount, if the Ukrainian offense continues its pressure (no matter how slowly), if the West remains committed to Ukraine's defense, then the end of the war will depend on how long Putin remains in power. Cracks are already appearing.

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The Washington Post is playing an important part in all this, as you note. I am a subscriber - it’s a way to keep in touch with the world of my American family. The Post is quietly committed, I think, to a Land for Peace deal as soon as possible and it interprets events in that spirit. What most concerns is that, since they obviously have friends in the highest places, they may be reflecting the real policy preferences of Biden and his government

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I too am a Washington Post subscriber, and I subscribe to the NY Times as well. The WaPo foreign desk has been singing from the Mearsheimer hymnal since the beginning of the war. An unhappy readership was hopeful that the defeatist tone might change when the previous publisher and CEO, Fred Ryan, returned early this year to Ronald Reagan world from whence he came. We have been sorely disappointed. However, after the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan debacles, we have also learned to be highly skeptical of articles based solely on anonymous Pentagon sources and cherry-picked D.C. think tankers. The NY Times provides far more first-hand, on-site reporting from veteran journalists and war correspondents, some of whom have long experience in Ukraine and Russia. I go to the Times for Ukraine news; I go to the Post to complain.

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Aug 23, 2023·edited Aug 23, 2023

Land for peace will not mean peace. Are you talking about Putin's credibility on some deal? Land for peace means we surrender to Putin as he claims this is a war against the West. In fact it is a war against the meaning of sovereignty and international law... that we will never live down if we stop supporting Ukraine. And what about the fact that we are saying this fight is existential for Ukraine and concessions are up to them? Will they concede to Putin. How does that work going forward? We here (some of us in the US) are often impatient and fickle ( and I dare say immature). If ever there was a just war... this is it after WW2 and Hitler's aggression.

We need to give Ukraine what it needs to win on t he battlefield and asap. This cannot drag on and on because of the looming cold feet here.

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The Wa Po does not have anybody who understands the process and ways of waging war. They only look at a map and then draw conclusions. Most US press fails to under stand the role of attrition, logistics, GLOC, morale, and the role of ever evolving technology and limits to what AFU can do without all the tools they need (F-16, ATACMS among others). By measures of logistics and attrition and GLOC and even morale, AFU is winning. The results on the map will eventually come. But RU had months to prepare solid defensive lines, it will similarly take months to pierce and break those lines. Patience. Keep Calm and Attrit On!

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It seems quite clear that the only way a 'Land for Peace' deal could work is if Ukraine was granted NATO accession at the same time.

Anything else would simply lead to a further frozen conflict and regrouping. But it seems unlikely that such a deal would be politically palatable to either Ukraine or Russia.

Wars are very hard to end...

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And it probably explain why USA hasn’t yet delivered M1A1s tanks or F16s...

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What do these nameless American sources hope to achieve with these leaked criticisms of the Ukrainian military?

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Rather than reading appeasenik publications, such as the Washington Post or New York Times, or their German and French equivalents, it is probably better to follow Bronk, Evans, Freedman, Gady, Galeotti, Geopolitics Decanted, Kofman, RUSI, Watling, WOTR, et al. and from this multitude of generally sober sources construct one's own picture.

I recently drove from Odesa to Sloviansk, and one thing became clear - the original sin was the West allowing Russia to build the "Scholz-Biden-Line" of massively mined field fortifications across the by and large flat open steppe, easily surveiled by Russia, saturated with Lancet-3 drones. To this day, hardly any matériel that Ukrainian infantry needs for protection, de-mining, surveillance and transportation has been delivered by the West, which is enamoured with "big ticket items" and self-congratulatory backslapping. And so it is up to us supporters to finance and/or procure many essentials our governments stubbornly refuse to be concerned with.

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My humble opinion is that until UAF has a credible air dominance, the analysis form the unnamed sources at Pentagon will be wrong.

The US/NATO perspective of a fight always include air superiority or parity. At this time, UAF cannot commit deep strikes to disrupt RU forces or provide top cover for assaulting defensive positions because they simply don’t have the air assets.

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This is not a well considered article.

Among the more egregious oversights:

That Ukraine has unlimited capacity to sustain losses. Whether human, material, economic - these are all enormous. It is certain by now that there is no family in Ukraine that does not itself or directly connected close contact who does not know someone killed in the fighting. Cemeteries are full.

Similarly, Ukraine air defense is exhausted; replacement Western systems are few, far between and horrifically expensive as well as being undersupplied with missiles. Ukraine started with something like 100 batteries of S300s; I doubt there are more than 1 or 2 dozen western systems that have replaced those losses much less the thousands of missiles in those batteries. Ammunition is another, very publicly documented shortfall. The US started in 2022 producing 2 days of Ukrainian artillery consumption per month; the present production is up to 3 days of Ukrainian consumption. In 2025, the US military industrial complex will be up to 11 days of Ukrainian consumption produced per month. Europe's capabilities, collectively, are even worse - a literal small fraction of US capability.

Then there are the platforms. Does anyone dispute that Russia has destroyed - not only most of Ukraine's enormous numbers of Soviet weapons platforms (planes, tanks, IFVs, AFVs, MLRS etc) from before the conflict but has also destroyed most of the Soviet weapons platforms that used to be in the Warsaw Pact countries? And is now in the process of destroying Western ones? And in turn - who is producing more new platforms: the collective West plus Ukraine or Russia? And what does this in turn mean for the conflict going forward?

On the economy side: food and energy inflation have moderated from the worst of 2022, but they are still much higher than at any time in the past generation and a half. Ukraine's economy is obviously in tatters - Western economies are doing badly as well particularly Europe. EU zone, France, Germany and UK are all plunging to COVID lockdown era declines even as Russia's economy is set to grow this year despite all-out sanctions.

Where in all of this litany of publicly documented disparities - not in the favor of Ukraine or the West - is the sense of gloom being overdone?

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Ukrainian forces being too risk averse? It is like the neoclassical dogma supposing that any business is maximizing profit. Reality is that a CEO’s most important financial objective is that the business will survive, not that it will maximize profits. Likewise, the Ukrainian general staff will prioritize that the nation survive, not throwing it headless into the fight.

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Thank you for your excellent article. The US needs to provide more support for Ukraine. Haven’t we in the US seen enough of Putin’s handiwork?

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Thanks so much for this. I read the NYTimes article that is cited here the other day and my heart sank. Talk about Ukraine being risk averse and then the premature assessments, impatience, and in fact immaturity here...comes to mind with these opinions floating around. The Biden fear/hesitancy has been outstanding. I hope the Euros ramp up. It's almost nervy to be so critical of the Ukrainians when we have not given them what they needed faster.. due to fear. And they paid and continue to pay the price while we criticize expecting a grand finale.

Putin's blackmailing and posturing has worked. It's clear he is not giving up. Peaceniks and appeasers get real!

As well I am not confident that our generals or critics here really have that close a connection to the situation...(their people on the ground).

And finally- Donald Trump will not ever see the presidency or any office again!!! We are working on that. Send your blessings.

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Succinct summation which l also agreed with. Thanks.

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Fascinating read, thank you.

As a totally unqualified armchair observer, is the Ukraine strategy all about surprise, even their attempts to hold towns with little strategic importance was a ploy to tie up the Russians and deflect?

All that has happened recently is confirmation that well prepared defences beat an attacking force without air support. That defence has become increasingly desperate but In this case the air support will come, the distractions will increase and morale is still the key advantage Ukraine has over the Russian army.

The message must be reaching the Russian public and there is only so much that the people can take, or am I an incurable optimist?

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Eight weeks have now elapsed since this article was posted. Throughout this conflict time has been rather unkind to the claque of delusional and dishonest military analysts who form the status quo of opinion in the field across the collective west. Over and over they've been exposed as not only wrong, but academically fraudulent.

In fact the majority of those in the field of military and strategic analysis in the collective west have eschewed rigour and evidence, opting instead to act as paid propagandists. Article after article written by `esteemed and learned' individuals connected to highly regarded institutes and colleges or ex military commanders routinely avoid the hard reality of numbers in favour of ever more fanciful wishful thinking. In a functioning society, the vast quantities of lies and baseless opinion written about this conflict, by those who know better and who form part of the academic discipline should have resulted in some harsh criticisms, retractions and calls for self reflection. However it is unfair to expect this of the military academics, when it appears all of our institutions, Government and academia in the collective west have been thoroughly corrupted, with incompetence and sycophancy rewarded at every level and truth-tellers not just unwelcome but expelled and silenced. Putin has referred to the leadership of the collective west as the `empire of lies and hate', in that he is spot on. We are far past that now, at every level our leadership is infected with hubris and ideological delusions. Every action they take is the wrong one and for the wrong reasons. Facts, evidence and truth are viewed as inconvenient, unpopular and often as politically incorrect.

To those who retain critical thinking and demand evidence before making a conclusion, the direction and ultimate outcome of this conflict has never really been in doubt. One can allow for differing opinions...up to a point. We've well and truly gone past that point now. Ukraine propagandised their big offensive for most of 2022, launched it in early 2023 and has concluded it already. Ukraine gained almost nothing of significance but lost vast quantities of manpower and equipment. On any logical calculus, the Russian defenders lost many times less than the Ukrainian attackers. What's more there was never any danger of the Russian front being broken or of any significant Ukrainian breakthrough. This offensive was Ukraine's best shot and it failed dismally and at great cost. Anyone with eyes and a shred of honesty can see that the Ukraine military has been comprehensively attrited over the last 6 months, it has no real capacity to rebuild what it has lost, especially in experienced NCO's and officers.

The weather will `freeze' the conflict until Spring, then parts of the Ukraine front-line will be subjected to an unprecedented artillery and rocket attack. With only limited battle hardened reserves available to plug holes, it is likely that there will be a collapse of at least one part but maybe several sections of the Ukraine front-line. As the proportion of `press ganged' conscripts increases so too does the chance of disorderly retreat, loss of command control and localised rout. The Russians stockpile of munitions by Spring will allow them to maintain the bombardment until they see evidence of the line breaking and only then commit ground forces. In this regard, the conflict will begin to resemble a scaled down version of the eastern front circa 1944/45. Huge bombardments, rolling offensives, unrelenting pressure, when the line breaks the Russians will breakthrough modestly, not concentrating enough to provide a significant target, then rinse and repeat.

Herein lies at least part of the problem inherent in academic thinking. Arguably there has been a tendency to view the actions of the Soviets armies from 1944 onwards as a `red horde' impervious to casualties and hell bent on revenge and conquest. Elements of which contaminate rational analysis of Russia to this day. As well, it has suited the establishment to conjure an image of Anglo American military genius assisted by academic hagiography of commanders like Montgomery or Patton. In reality the operations in the middle east and even post Normandy are a side-show and relatively minuscule in scale to the events on the eastern front. The Wehrmacht was a hollowed out shadow of itself in 1944 when the allies finally invaded from the west.

It was because of Zhukov, Rokossovski, Vatutin, Konev, Timoshenko and Chuikov and their vast mobile army groups conducting rolling offensives up and down the eastern front, smashing and out manoeuvring the best that Hitler could muster. But, here in 2023 the propagandists feeding the media in the west are hell bent on revising history. In meta terms they are gradually whitewashing the war in the east such that in broad strokes the narrative becomes - Hitler's regime collapses and then the collective west is confronted with the red horde, hell bent on revenge and conquest, halting them at the iron curtain. Military academia is complicit in allowing this dangerous lie and re-write of history to proliferate. We can conclude this because of way that collectively the thought leaders have aligned with the establishment propaganda rather than the facts in relation to the Ukraine conflict.

By aligning with establishment propagandists - in regards to western military genius and operational capability, in regards to their analysis of the Ukraine conflict and in regards to their silence in the face of attempts to re-write the second world war history minimising the Soviet aspect - military academics are crossing a moral boundary with real world causality. Continuing to advocate arms supply to the conflict, continuing to advance false analysis of Ukraine's actual military position and continuing to promote inaccurate, unfounded and simply false analysis of the Russian military - is complicity in prolonging conflict. Is it defensible to disagree that those that now continue to peddle propaganda have blood on their hands and are in part responsible for each and every casualty between now and the inevitable end of the conflict?

If there was push back, self reflection, retractions of prior articles, admissions of getting it so wrong or even a sense of responsibility emerging from military academia, analysts and military opinion writers one could take a more charitable line. But there isn't and I doubt there ever will. Therefore propagandists should take note, they are likely to see increasing calls for accountability and increasing judgement for their immorality in advocating for more death and destruction in a lost cause.

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Any serious analysis of the defenses facing the counter-offensive and the casualties expended makes it clear that the offensive has been a failure. Have you looked at any maps? Have you seen the compilations of western equipment that's been destroyed? Most of Friedman's writing on the war have been good but random kids on YouTube have a better grip on how much of a disaster this counter-offensive has been. It doesn't have a chance in hell of advancing more than a few more kilometers into the teeth of the next few lines of defense. The counter-offensive is now a firmly counter-productive and political ordeal.

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"Ukraine can never fail! Ukraine can only be failed! If Ukraine fails, it's because we didn't sacrifice more of our treasure and more Ukrainian blood!"

That seems to be the mood here, but nobody wants to go themselves.

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Concur with Martin about an evident line of thought in Post, and think this is in response to building comments that the West (or Washington) has been too little and too late, and that requests for tanks and planes and deep strike assets are not fulfilled. The leakers/critics are attempting to get ahead of that.

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Aug 24, 2023·edited Aug 24, 2023

I do wonder if why so many reporters (not just at the WP, nor solely in the US) abandon their critical faculties and don't push back on off-the-record briefings. Could it be the excitement of a scoop? The pressure of the 24-hour news cycle? Maybe that so few, if any, reporters have any military experience, especially at staff level? Or possibly that attritional warfare is not as exciting as hyping 'thunder runs'? I suspect it's likely to be a mixture of all of the above.

For example, CEPA has just published an analysis by Jan Kallberg that focuses on the logistics nightmare Russia faces as a result of ground already lost, and on the consequences if Ukraine advances just another 15km south. If you read 'Ukraine — Victory Is Closer Than You Think' (https://cepa.org/article/ukraine-victory-is-closer-than-you-think/), you should not, as a professional journalist, publish a 'land for peace' article without including assessments like Kallberg's. The sad truth is that most reporters won't even bother skimming it.

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