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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 376: Russians use new 1.5 ton gliding bombs against Ukraine

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russians use new 1.5 ton gliding bombs against Ukraine. Conflict brewing in Russian senior leadership over demand to storm Vuhledar. Türkiye says it is working to renew the Black Sea grain deal.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 6

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 6, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 4, 2023. Source: ISW.

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The Russian Federation’s main focus is the offensive operations on Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarske axes. On March 5, Ukrainian troops repelled over 95 enemy attacks on these axes, including in the vicinities of settlements of Bilohorivka, Nevs’ke (Luhansk oblast), Zaliznyans’ke, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, and Ivanivske (Donetsk oblast).

Russian forces continue to violate the rules of International Humanitarian Law, striking and shelling with artillery the civilian facilities and homes and attempting to destroy the critical infrastructure of Ukraine.

On March 5, the adversary launched 31 airstrikes and 8 missile strikes. The invaders launched more than 70 MLRS attacks. The threat of further missile strikes by Russia is highly probable across Ukraine.

Kharkiv Battle Map. March 04, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no signs of Russian forces forming an offensive group were found. On March 6, the occupants fired mortars and artillery at Iskryskivshchyna, Volfyne (Sumy oblast), Budarky, Veterynarne, Vil’khuvatka, Strilecha, Krasne, Ternova, and Ohirtseve (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk and Lyman axes: Russian forces fired artillery at the vicinities of settlements of Dvorichna, Hryanykivka, Masyutivka, Pishchane (Kharkiv oblast), Kuzemivka, Bilohorivka, Nevs’ke, Chervonopopivka, Serebryans’ke forestry (Luhansk oblast), Terny, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. March 4, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary continues its attempts to assault the town of Bakhmut and surrounding settlements. The invaders shelled Zaliznyans’ke, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Bohdanivka, Chasiv Yar, Kurdyumivka, Klishchiivka, Shyroka Balka, Ozaryanivka, Druzhba, Hryhorivka, Maiors’k, and New York (Donetsk oblast).
  • Avdiivka and Shakhtarske axes: the occupants conducted unsuccessful offensive operations towards Krasnohorivka, Kam’yanka, Sjeverne, Pobjeda, and Mar’inka (Donetsk oblast). Russian forces shelled the vicinities of 21 settlements. Among them are Vesele, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Berdychi, Pervomais’ke, Krasnohorivka, and Vuhledar.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. March 4, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary is defending, attempting to enable a changeover to the offensive in some areas. More than 40 settlements came under fire, including Novosilka, Vremivka (Donetsk oblast), Zaliznychne, Hulyaipole, Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Vesele, Beryslav, Chornobaivka, Antonivka (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson. The attacks have caused civilian casualties and damaged civilian infrastructure.

In order to mislead the Ukrainian Defense Forces, Russian forces have been manoeuvring by moving convoys in the vicinities of settlements of Nova Kakhovka (Kherson oblast) – Armiansk (temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea). These actions cause dissatisfaction among the personnel of the Russian occupation forces. The main reason is the insufficient fuel stocks and the lack of even a hint of the manoeuvres’ effectiveness.

In the city of Volnovakha (Donetsk oblast), the invaders set up a base for the repair of damaged equipment at a local vocational school. Students are forced to take part in the repair work.

[A conflict is brewing in the top military leadership of the Russian Federation due to significant losses and the lack of real achievements at the front. In February of this year, Putin awarded the commander of the Eastern Military District, Muradov, the rank of colonel general for a report on the “successes” of the 155th Marine Brigade in the Vugledar axis. Now the Russian ministry of defence Shoigu demands that the general work out his rank and take the city at any cost. According to the available information, the leadership of the 155th brigade and the servicemen refuse to go on a senseless offensive again, in which the incompetent leadership sends them – to storm the well-fortified positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine without any support and preparation.]

On March 5, Ukrainian Air Force launched 12 air strikes on the concentrations of the occupants, while the missile and artillery units hit x command posts, 4 concentrations, and 1 position of air defence systems of Russian forces.

Air defence forces shot down 5 enemy UAVs during the day. According to preliminary information, 4x types of “Shahed-136” and 1x “Lancet”.“

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13 “Shahed” UAVs destroyed, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. The Air Force Command reports that on the night of March 5-6, 2023, Russia “attacked Ukraine with Iranian kamikaze drones “Shahed-131/136” from the northern direction (Bryansk region of the Russian Federation). A total of fifteen launches of attack UAVs were recorded.

A total of 13 “shaheeds” were destroyed: 12 by the forces and means of anti-aircraft defence of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, one more by air defence units of other components of the defence forces of Ukraine.

Wagner Group’s Financier reflects on retreat from Bakhmut and shift of front line to Russian borders, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Yevgeny Prigozhin, Head of Wagner private military company (PMC), is confident that the retreat of his troops from the city of Bakhmut will collapse the entire front, and then Russia will blame the mercenaries for the defeat in the war. […]

Prigozhin is outraged that the Russian Defence Ministry does not give the Wagnerites ammunition and more convicts to recruit to their ranks for this reason.”

It is possible to deliver ammunition to Bakhmut and evacuate wounded – Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “The defence forces are holding the lines in Bakhmut; there is an opportunity to deliver ammunition, provisions, medicines, and take the wounded from there.

When asked whether it is true that important military bridges for the Ukrainian army were blown up in the Bakhmut area, Cherevatyi said: Yes, during military operations, Russian forces hits our infrastructure, bridges and other areas. However, our units provide in different ways the ability to deliver everything you need. He also emphasised that no army in the world ever announces its tactical actions.”

Armed Forces of Ukraine destroy two Russian military bases in Melitopol, Ukrinform reports. “Two powerful explosions were heard in the northern districts of the city. We have information that two objects, where the ruscists were stationed, were destroyed, Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov said during the national news telethon, Ukrinform reports. According to preliminary information, hundreds of enemy soldiers were killed. The General Staff will provide exact figures and complete information, the mayor added.”

Kraken special unit announces destruction of observation tower in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Kraken, the special unit of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, has announced that they destroyed the Grenadier autonomous observation tower in Russia’s Bryansk Oblast, using a kamikaze drone.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • The Russian military has continued to respond to heavy armoured vehicle losses by deploying 60-year-old T-62 main battle tanks (MBT). There is a realistic possibility that even units of the 1st Guards Tank Army (1 GTA), supposedly Russia’s premier tank force, will be re-equipped with T-62s to make up for previous losses. 1 GTA had previously been due to receive the next-generation T-14 Armata MBT from 2021.
  • In recent days, Russian BTR-50 armoured personnel carriers, first fielded in 1954, have also been identified deployed in Ukraine for the first time.
  • Since the summer of 2022, approximately 800 T-62s have been taken from storage and some have received upgraded sighting systems which will highly likely improve their effectiveness at night. However, both these vintage vehicle types will present many vulnerabilities on the modern battlefield, including the absence of modern explosive reactive armour.
  • In late February 2023, Russian mobilised reservists described being ordered to assault a Ukrainian concrete strong point armed with only ‘firearms and shovels’. The ‘shovels’ are likely entrenching tools being employed for hand-to-hand combat.
  • The lethality of the standard-issue MPL-50 entrenching tool is particularly mythologised in Russia. Little changed since it was designed in 1869, its continued use as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterise much of the war. One of the reservists described being ‘neither physically nor psychologically’ prepared for the action.
  • Recent evidence suggests an increase in close combat in Ukraine. This is probably a result of the Russian command continuing to insist on offensive action largely consisting of dismounted infantry, with less support from artillery fire because Russia is short of munitions.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Monday 6 March, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 153770 (+650)
  • Tanks – 3423 (+9)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6703 (+11)
  • Artillery systems – 2433 (+7)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 488 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 250 (+2)
  • Aircraft – 302 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 289 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5307 (+8)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2086 (+15)
  • Special equipment – 234 (+2)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 873 (+0)

Russia’s losses amount to 200,000 people, 1800 officers killed and wounded – Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Spiegel and Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “Over 200,000 Russian soldiers and more than 1,800 officers have been either killed or wounded since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February. As he states, Russia has lost more than 2,000 tanks and the Russian forces fire over 23,000 artillery shells a day on average.

Hospitals in occupied territory of Ukraine full of seriously wounded Russian soldiers, Ukrinform reports. “The Russian occupation forces continue to suffer heavy manpower losses. Healthcare facilities in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine are full of the seriously wounded, they are almost never evacuated for treatment to the territory of Russia,” Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Anna Maliar posted on Telegram. In order to hide information about the number of soldiers who died from wounds, their records are kept exclusively by Russian combat medics.

At the same time, the information about the real losses quickly spreads among Russian military personnel and demoralizes them. In particular, the volunteer cossack detachment assigned to strengthen the 155th separate guards marine brigade of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation refuses to participate in the offensive and comply with the orders of the incompetent command, Maliar emphasized. This tendency is also observed in other enemy units.

In this context, the command of the Russian occupation forces intensified coercive and punitive measures, trying to improve the military discipline and prevent soldiers from massively abandoning the areas of hostilities, Maliar informed.”

Russia will be out of resources to wage aggressive war in 3 months – Chief of Intelligence, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing USA Today. “Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence, has said that the terrorist state has the time until the end of spring before it runs out of resources to wage an aggressive war.”Russia has wasted huge amounts of human resources, armaments and materials. Its economy and production are not able to cover these losses. It’s changed its military chain of command. If Russia’s military fails in its aims this spring, it will be out of military tools.

Wagner chief says Russian position at Bakhmut at risk without promised ammunition, Reuters reports. “Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Russia’s front lines near Bakhmut would could collapse if his forces did not receive the ammunition promised by Moscow in February. For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal, Prigozhin, referring to the absence of ammunition, said in his press service Telegram channel on Sunday.

The mercenary chief regularly criticises Russia’s defence chiefs and top generals. Last month, he accused Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and others of “treason” for withholding supplies of munitions to his men.”

Russians use new 1.5 ton gliding bombs against Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Defense Express. “The first use of this type of bombs was recorded a few weeks ago against one of the objects in Chernihiv Oblast. According to the media outlet, one of the fragments had remnants of a marking that corresponds to UPAB-1500B. The export version of this gliding munition with the index K029BE was first demonstrated at the MAKS 2019 exhibition by the developer GNPP “Region”, which is part of the Tactical Armaments corporation. […]

The high threat of using the UPAB-1500B lies in the fact that it is a glider type, is equipped with an inertial and satellite navigation system and has a warhead weighing 1,010kg, designed to hit highly protected objects. […] The bomb can be dropped 40km from the target, for which the carrier must rise to a height of 14km, the publication writes. […]

At the same time, the media outlet notes that the use of gliding bombs by the Russian Federation remains an isolated phenomenon. Ensuring a long flight range requires flying at a significant altitude, which simplifies the identification of targets and the possibility of defeating the carrier.”

Humanitarian 

Türkiye says it is working to renew Black Sea grain deal, Reuters reports. “Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Ankara is working hard to extend a UN-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia following its invasion. The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye last July allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports. The agreement was extended in November and will expire on March 18 unless an extension is agreed.

Russia has signalled it is unhappy with aspects of the deal. […] Russia has said it would only agree to extend the Black Sea grain deal if the interests of its own agricultural producers are taken into account. […] Russia’s agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by Western sanctions, but Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a “barrier” to it being able to export its own grains and fertilisers.

Cavusoglu said he also discussed efforts to discuss the extension of the deal with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Almost 23 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported via the Black Sea Grain Initiative as of March 3, according to the Joint coordination Centre in Türkiye which oversees implementation of the deal.”

Shmyhal: Last year was most difficult for government but it managed to achieve economic stability, Ukrinform reports. “Three years of the Government’s work, of which the last year was the most difficult. We withstood on the economic, financial, budget, energy, social, logistics, and food fronts,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal posted on Facebook, summing up the outgoing week.

The key achievements of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine are financial and economic stability, energy sustainability, and progress in European integration.”

Environmental

Ukraine may need 70 years to demine territories, Ukrinform reports, citing Ministry of Economy. “Considering the scale of mine pollution, demining efforts may last up to 70 years. Therefore, to solve this problem as soon as possible, strong support from international partners is needed.”

Russia causes US$54 billion worth of environmental damage to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ruslan Strilets, Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine. “We have developed a new methodology together with our environmental inspection, and [we] use seven types of methodology and have already calculated UAH2 trillion worth of damage [US$54 billion]. 

This includes pollution of land, air, water, burnt forests, and destroyed natural resources. Our main goal is to show these figures to everyone so that they can be seen in Europe and the world; so that everyone understands what the price of this environmental damage is and how to restore this damage to Ukraine, the minister said.

According to him, forests are suffering the most at the moment. Almost 3 million hectares of forest have been damaged due to Russian aggression. This is almost a third of Ukraine’s forested area. Almost 500,000 hectares are now under temporary occupation or in the combat zone.

Strelets also noted that 10 national parks, eight nature reserves and two biosphere reserves are currently under Russian occupation. He said 600 species of fauna and 750 species of flora are under threat of extinction.”

Negotiations on Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant reaches dead end – Ukraine’s Energy Minister, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukraine’s Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko has stated that the diplomatic steps on bringing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) back under Ukraine’s control are currently unsuccessful.

According to him, the situation has reached a dead end, as the position voiced by Ukraine at all international platforms is that any negotiations on ZNPP should be based on: first, the demilitarisation of the plant, and second, the withdrawal of Rosatom employees from ZNPP. Thirdly, Ukrainian personnel should be able to operate the nuclear facility without pressure. But in response to this, we received a null and void decree from Putin stating that ZNPP is ‘federal’ property, with the registration of a company in Moscow called ‘Zaporozhye station’, said Halushchenko.

The Minister noted that Ukraine is receiving disturbing messages from the IAEA mission, that has been working on the ZNPP, that the Russians behave extremely unprofessionally at the station. The IAEA mission confirms that the Russians operate the plant in such a way that the condition of equipment and facilities at ZNPP is significantly deteriorating. There is a feeling that one of the occupiers’ goals is to leave the ZNPP at the inoperable condition after its liberation, said Herman Halushchenko.”

Russia has destroyed more than 500 objects of Ukraine’s cultural infrastructure, Ukrinform reports. “A total of 1,322 objects of cultural infrastructure have already been damaged due to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Almost a third of them – 505 objects – have been destroyed,” the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine posted on Telegram.

Cultural infrastructure suffered the greatest losses and damages in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Luhansk regions.”

Actions by terrorist Russia little different from those by Islamic State – Yermak, Ukrinform reports. citing Ukrainian President’s Office Head Andriy Yermak. “Marinka. It is gone. These are the consequences of the activity of terrorist Russia. They are little different from IS, Yermak said. According to him, before the arrival of the ‘Russian world,’ Marinka used to be a flourishing populace.

How should the Russians pay for Mariinka and other Ukrainian cities? For their crimes and killings? A tribunal. A sanction noose. Military defeat on the battlefield. Isolation. A just revision of Russian history, including that of World War 2. Reparations. Demilitarization. The collapse of the regime. We will do this, Yermak said.

According to Ukrinform, Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said over 20 countries had joined the efforts on creating a special tribunal for Russia’s crimes of aggression in Ukraine.”

Support

Ukrainian pilot pair in Arizona to fly military simulators -US officials, Reuters reports. “Two Ukrainian pilots are in Arizona to fly flight simulators and be evaluated by the US military, two US officials said on Saturday, as Washington remains mute on whether it will send fighter jets or sophisticated remotely piloted drones to Kyiv. […] The Arizona “familiarization event” is a first and will facilitate dialogue between Ukrainian and US personnel and provide an opportunity to observe how the US Air Force operates, a US defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. This event allows us to better help Ukrainian pilots become more effective pilots and better advise them on how to develop their own capabilities, the defence official said.

The program involves watching how Ukrainian pilots conduct their mission planning and execution in flight simulators in order to determine how we can better advise the Ukrainian Air Force on how to use capabilities they have, an administration official said on condition of anonymity. Other allies have also conducted similar events in the past, the defence official said. The defence official did not say how long the Ukrainians had been in the Southwestern state.

The officials said there were no updates regarding F-16 fighter jet pledges to Ukraine. It’s about training them on their own planes, the administration official said, “not about F-16s. The US has not begun any F-16 training of Ukrainians, Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defence for policy, told members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Training on military equipment, both for its use and maintenance, has been a leading indicator of a potential transfer. […] The Pentagon’s assessment for even the most expeditious delivery of F-16s and concurrent training is 18 months, so you don’t actually save yourself time by starting the training early, Kahl told the panel.”

Ukraine’s Air Force explain what they need to protect country from new Russian bombs, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force. “Ihnat confirmed the information that the Russians have begun to use new UPAB-1500B 1,500 kg gliding bombs against Ukraine. Absolutely correct, it is so, this information isn’t new. They [the Russians – ed.] can use missiles remotely, the way they did in spring, but they can also use guided aircraft bombs. Russian forces’s missile capabilities are not unlimited either. The planning bombs, gliding aircraft bombs that have wings, can fly tens of kilometres. It is likely that the Su-34 fighter-bomber that was [recently] shot down attacked Ukraine with such bombs.

That is why we are now talking about modern fighters with a large effective range. Why do we need F-16s or other aircraft? To counter this threat, to protect our cities and villages. Ihnat noted that aircraft bombs of such type can cause more damage than missiles. Patriot air defence systems can help Ukrainians protect themselves, but plenty of such systems would be needed.

The planes are more mobile, they can scramble to intercept the same bombers, and with missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres, chase away at least those planes and prevent them from dropping these bombs. That is why we need modern fighters, because our Soviet planes cannot do this, he emphasised.”

Ambassador Prystaiko: UK to send Ukraine twice as many Challenger 2 tanks as pledged, Ukrinform reports, citing RFE/RL. “After the visit of President Volodymyr Zelensky to the United Kingdom, it was agreed that Great Britain will provide Ukraine with twice as many Challenger 2 tanks as previously pledged. At the same time, Britain is gradually forming a consensus within NATO regarding the transfer of fighter jets to Kyiv.

If we are talking about military training, then we asked for one scope, and now Britain offers us to increase it 2.5-fold this year. So there is an increase of 250%. The issue of some of the weapons we asked for, aircraft for example, is complicated. We are looking for options. Speaking of [Challenger 2] tanks, then 14 tanks were pledged. And following President Zelensky’s visit, it was agreed to double this number, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom Vadym Prystaiko [said].

At the same time, in his opinion, the statements by the British authorities that Ukraine can receive Eurofighter aircraft “only in peacetime” are “an attempt to be frank in communication and not to scare the allies.”

German Rheinmetall plans to build a tank production plant in Ukraine, Ukraine Business News reports. “Negotiations for constructing a new €200M defense factory have already begun, said the head of the company, Armin Papperger. According to him, the plant could produce up to 400 Panther-type main battle tanks a year. Papperger expects a decision within the next two months.

The Panther is a modern main battle tank concept, which the Rheinmetall concern unveiled in the summer of 2022. The new tank is based on Leopard 2 and is most beneficial for countries with the Leopard already in service. The head of Rheinmetall is convinced that the plant can be protected from Russian air raids with the help of air defense systems. Papperger believes that Ukraine needs 600 to 800 tanks to win the war. In his opinion, the war will probably last for years. He believes that Ukraine has enough weapons to defend itself but lacks the resources to regain its territory.”

New Developments

  1. Scholz: Putin has to withdraw troops from Ukraine, this is basic condition for talks Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that the responsibility for ending the war in Ukraine lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin. To my view, it is necessary that Putin understands that he will not succeed with his invasion and his imperialistic aggression and that he has to withdraw troops. This is the basis for talks, he said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. […] There will be no decisions without the Ukrainians, Scholz said, saying Putin had clearly misjudged the strength of Ukraine as well as the unity of all the friends of Ukraine in challenging the Russian invasion.”
  2. Top Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov ‘seriously ill from suspected poisoning’, MetroChechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov – a close ally of Vladimir Putin – is reported to be seriously ill with kidney problems amid fears of ‘poisoning’. The fanatical pro-war zealot who has advocated using nuclear weaponsagainst Ukraine is rumoured to have summoned a leading doctor from the United Arab Emirates because he ‘does not trust’ Moscow doctors. Several opposition sources have claimed kidney illness accounted for Kadyrov’s surprising absence from Putin’s state of the nation speech on 12 February, and a recent ‘bloated’ appearance, as seen at a recent meeting in his palace in Chechen capital Grozny with Denis Pushilin, head of the invaded Donetsk People’s Republic.”
  3. Polish President: Russian war against Ukraine is neo-colonial, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Polskie Radio. “Polish President Andrzej Duda has stated that Russian aggression against Ukraine is of neo-colonial nature, and Russia tends to exploit Ukraine economically. Duda stated that the Russians wanted to conquer and exploit their neighbours, which is a continuation of historical colonialism. […] “The empire abducts people, including children, and take them away deep into Russia. The Ukrainians state that the Russians have abducted 100,000 children. If someone does not obey its will, the empire kills them. Doesn’t it sound familiar? Hasn’t this happened in the history of many countries? I am saying this openly, because in the past, Poland was a victim of neighbouring empires’ cruel policy,” added the Polish president. Duda also said that the support of residents of the least developed countries should remain one of the EU’s priorities. He noted that these countries have also suffered as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that includes the damage dealt by growing food prices.”

Scholz comments on prospects of security guarantees for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN and its Fareed Zakaria GPS program on Sunday. “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that the West is ready to consider security guarantees for Ukraine, but in peaceful times.[…] Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Britain, Germany and France had offered Ukraine a rapprochement agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that would give it greater access to Western military equipment, but at the same time would involve the resumption of negotiations with Russia.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 5, 2022:

ISW is publishing an abbreviated campaign update today, March 5. This report analyzes the ongoing Battle for Bakhmut and Russian prospects for further offensive efforts. Ukrainian forces may be conducting a limited fighting withdrawal in eastern Bakhmut and are continuing to inflict high casualties against the advancing mixed Russian forces. Russian milbloggers have also lowered their expectations of Russian forces’ ability to launch additional offensives, which would likely culminate whether or not Russian forces actually capture Bakhmut. If Russian forces manage to secure Bakhmut they could then attempt renewed pushes towards one or both of Kostyantynivka or Sloviansk but would struggle with endemic personnel and equipment constraints. The likely imminent culmination of the Russian offensive around Bakhmut before or after its fall, the already culminated Russian offensive around Vuhledar, and the stalling Russian offensive in Luhansk Oblast are likely setting robust conditions for a future Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a limited tactical withdrawal in Bakhmut, although it is still too early to assess Ukrainian intentions concerning a complete withdrawal from the city. Ukrainian forces may be withdrawing from their positions on the eastern bank of the Bakhmutka River given recent geolocated footage of the destruction of the railway bridge over the river in northeastern Bakhmut on March 3. Russian war correspondents and milbloggers claimed that Russian forces captured eastern, northern, and southern parts of Bakhmut on March 5 and claimed to be reporting from positions in eastern Bakhmut, but ISW cannot independently verify these claims at this time. Geolocated footage showed that Wagner Group forces continued to make advances in northeastern Bakhmut and advanced near the Stupky railway station on March 5. A Ukrainian serviceman told a Ukrainian outlet that Russian forces have yet to cross the Bakhmutka River into central Bakhmut as of March 4, and Russian milbloggers claimed that the Wagner Group pushed Ukrainian positions back to central Bakhmut. It is unclear if Ukrainian forces are planning to hold positions on the western bank of the Bakhmutka River.

The Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut remains strategically sound as it continues to consume Russian manpower and equipment as long as Ukrainian forces do not suffer excessive casualties. Ukrainian forces are unlikely to withdraw from Bakhmut all at once and may pursue a gradual fighting withdrawal to exhaust Russian forces through continued urban warfare. Russian forces are unlikely to quickly secure significant territorial gains when conducting urban warfare, which usually favors the defender and can allow Ukrainian forces to inflict high casualties on advancing Russian units—even as Ukrainian forces are actively withdrawing. The Bakhmut city center is located on the western bank of the Bakhmutka River, and Russian forces will need to fight through the area if they are unable to advance directly north or south of Bakhmut to the west of the city center. Such urban conditions and river features may benefit Ukrainian forces if Ukrainian forces are able to hold the line from Khromove (a settlement on Bakhmut’s northwestern outskirts) south to the T0504 Bakhmut-Kostyantynivka highway. Russian milbloggers noted that Ukrainian forces are retaining the ability to defend Khromove and are continuing to repel Russian attacks on Ivanivske and on the T0504 highway to the south. The Ukrainian defense of positions near Khromove and on the T0504 could force Russian forces to fight through the urban terrain of central Bakhmut, which could impose significant delays and losses on Russian forces and accelerate the culmination of Russia’s offensive. Urban warfare in Bakhmut may further degrade already exhausted Russian mixed forces in a fashion similar to that caused by Ukraine’s fighting withdrawal from the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk line, which effectively ended Russian offensive operations in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the summer of 2022.

The Russian military’s attritional campaign to capture Bakhmut has likely prompted Russian milbloggers to adopt more realistic expectations for further Russian operations in Ukraine. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) commander and Russian milblogger Alexander Khodakovsky questioned whether Russian forces are prepared for potential Ukrainian counteroffensive operations after possibly “getting carried away by Bakhmut [and] Vuhledar” and suggested that Russian forces may have set conditions for Ukrainian counter-offensives by heavily expending combat power and resources on these operations. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces would likely have to conduct a short operational pause following the potential capture of Bakhmut. Another prominent Russian milblogger offered a more ambitious assessment that Russian forces would take Kostyantynivka by the end of spring 2023 and launch an offensive on the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration between the summer and fall of 2023. Even this relatively ambitious assessment contrasts with previous high expectations from Russian milbloggers, many of whom claimed that the entire Ukrainian frontline around Bakhmut would collapse and Ukrainian forces would fall back to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk following the Russian capture of the small settlement of Soledar northeast of Bakhmut on January 11. Russian milbloggers similarly shifted to more conservative expectations focused on the immediate capture of specific settlements as the highly attritional campaign to capture Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in the summer of 2022 progressed and the overall offensive culminated. Nine months of highly attritional, slow Russian advances in the Bakhmut area have likely heavily informed these increasingly realistic and constrained Russian milblogger assessments.

The Russian military will nevertheless likely fail to meet Russian milbloggers’ expectations despite these more realistic assessments. The timeline offered by even the most ambitious assessment suggests that Russian campaigning to capture all of Donetsk Oblast would be a years-long effort. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin similarly assessed that it would take Russian forces up to two years to reach the Donetsk Oblast administrative borders. Russian forces currently do not have the manpower and equipment necessary to sustain offensive operations at scale for a renewed offensive toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, let alone for a years-long campaign to capture all of Donetsk Oblast. Meaningful Russian offensives around Vuhledar or elsewhere in western Donetsk Oblast are also highly doubtful. Russia will have to mobilize considerably more personnel and fundamentally transform its military industry to be able to support such operations. The Russian military‘s likely continued failure to achieve a decisive victory in Donetsk Oblast will likely draw increasing ire from Russia’s ultranationalist pro-war community.

The Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut will likely culminate whether Russian forces capture the city or not, and the Russian military will likely struggle to maintain any subsequent offensive operations for some months. The conventional Russian military recently massed and lost significant numbers of mobilized personnel for a since-culminated offensive push near Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast. Russian “major” offensives in the Kupiansk, Svatove, and Kreminna directions in Luhansk Oblast are also failing to generate any significant successes on the frontlines. The Russian military relied on Wagner Group forces to make any advances in the nine-month effort for Bakhmut and has since reinforced Wagner forces in Bakhmut with Russian airborne elements and mobilized personnel. Russian forces likely lack the capability to further reinforce the Bakhmut area significantly without pulling forces from another area of the front line due to the lack of untapped reserves, with the possible exception of the 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division that was last reported in Luhansk but uncommitted to the fighting. The culmination of all these efforts further supports ISW’s assessment that Russian forces likely lack the combat power to sustain more than one simultaneous offensive. The Russian effort against Bakhmut does not further the Russian military’s operational or strategic battlefield aims, and significant Ukrainian defenses in the surrounding area undermine any tactical significance that capturing Bakhmut likely has for Russian forces. Ukrainian forces will likely have a window of opportunity to seize the battlefield initiative and launch a counteroffensive when the Russian effort around Bakhmut culminates either before or after taking the city.

Endemic personnel and equipment constraints will likely prevent Russian forces from launching another prolonged offensive operation like the Battle for Bakhmut in the coming months. Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov stated on March 3 that Russian military casualties in Bakhmut equate to one Ukrainian loss per seven Russian losses. White House officials reported on February 17 that the Wagner Group, which has predominantly fought in the Bakhmut area, has suffered 30,000 casualties with about 9,000 fighters killed since the start of the full-scale invasion in Ukraine. It is highly unlikely that Russian forces will be able to sustain grinding human wave attacks following the capture of Bakhmut, and the Kremlin will need to launch another mobilization wave to replenish heavy Russian losses in the area since May 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been delaying announcing the second mobilization wave since January and is reportedly doubling down on “quiet mobilization” to avoid generating possible unrest in Russia. The Wagner Group reportedly opened recruitment centers in about 30 cities as of March 5. These recruitment efforts will take several months at least, however, causing delays that will likely deprive Russia of the initiative and may support Ukraine’s ability to conduct counteroffensives. Ukrainian and Western officials have noted that Russia continues to face ammunition shortages, and the struggling Russian defense industrial base cannot remedy such shortages in the near term.

The Russian Armed Forces will continue to rely on irregular formations in further offensive operations in the coming months. The Russian military command largely relied on Wagner convict forces to carry out costly infantry frontal assaults, with Western intelligence officials and prison advocacy groups estimating that 40,000 to 50,000 convicts joined the Wagner Group. Wagner has since started using its elite elements after losing much of its convict force. It is unclear how combat-capable Wagner forces will be after the culmination of Russian operations around Bakhmut. Wagner forces may thus also require significant reconstitution. Russian conventional forces’ reliance on Wagner to conduct assaults and make advances in Bakhmut depleted a key mitigation for the limitations of the conventional Russian military.

Russian forces have previously relied on unconventional forces from the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR/LNR) militias, Chechen units, and the Wagner Group in attritional campaigns to capture Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, and Lysychansk, although the campaign to capture Bakhmut has represented a major inflection in the Russian military’s reliance on such forces. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed on March 4 that Russian forces would fail to seize Bakhmut and the front line would collapse if Wagner forces stopped fighting. Prigozhin announced on February 9 that Wagner had stopped recruiting from prisons while the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reportedly incorporated convicts into conventional and LNR Militia formations. ISW previously assessed that the MoD’s efforts to restrict Wagner’s force generation efforts could indicate that the MoD is prioritizing its power struggle against Prigozhin over achieving Russia’s war aims.

Russian forces would have the choice of two diverging lines of advance after capturing Bakhmut but would likely struggle to sustain offensive operations and make any significant gains. Russian forces could attempt to advance west along the T0504 highway to Kostyantynivka or northwest along the E40 to Sloviansk, but heavy Ukrainian fortifications in both directions would likely inflict high casualties against attacking Russian forces and force the effort to culminate prematurely. These highways lead away from each other on diverging axes that are not mutually supporting, and Russian forces’ best chance at success would be to prioritize one of these lines of effort. Russian forces would likely face similar if not worse personnel and equipment shortages compared with those that hindered their efforts against Bakhmut and other axes, however. Russian forces would likely have to choose between relaunching an offensive effort towards Kostyantynivka or Sloviansk at a great cost they cannot afford to pay, or resting and reconstituting, thereby setting favorable conditions for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

It is not clear if Russian forces intend to resume offensives near Vuhledar, and it is highly unlikely that Russian forces would advance far enough in this direction to support operations elsewhere in any case. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on March 5 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu instructed Eastern Military District (EMD) commander Colonel General Rustam Muradov to take Vuhledar at any cost, amid conflict between the two over the lack of progress and significant losses in the area, supporting ISW’s previous assessment that Shoigu may be evaluating Muradov’s continued suitability as EMD commander. The conflict between Russia‘s top military commanders will likely compound the effects of catastrophic personnel and manpower losses that are constraining Russian operational capabilities in the Vuhledar area. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that commanders of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet are refusing to conduct offensive operations in the area and that Russian forces have lost control over an irregular Cossack battalion formation near Vuhledar. Russian forces have reportedly reconstituted the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade at least seven times since the start of the invasion, and the combat effectiveness of this committed formation is likely negligible. Russian forces are highly unlikely to be able to conduct any concentrated offensive effort with the current demoralized and degraded forces in the Vuhledar area. If Shoigu did instruct Muradov to resume offensives on Vuhledar, Muradov would likely require new manpower and equipment reserves to follow through on these instructions. ISW assessed that Shoigu likely met with Muradov on March 4 to assess the possibility of resuming offensives around Vuhledar, although it still is not evident whether Shoigu has decided to provide Muradov with the necessary resources to do so.

Resumed Russian offensives near Vuhledar are highly unlikely to support Russian offensive operations elsewhere in Donetsk Oblast. Vuhledar is about 24km away from Marinka and Kurakhove as well as the N15 highway that Ukrainian forces use as a ground line of communication (GLOC) for operations in western Donetsk Oblast. Russian forces would need to advance 24km to support operations along the western outskirts of Donetsk City in the direction of Marinka or to threaten rear Ukrainian positions in uncontested areas of Donetsk Oblast in the direction of Kurkahove. Russian forces failed to advance four kilometers from Mykilske and Pavlivka to Vuhledar in the recent three-week offensive to capture the settlement. Russian forces have not made advances anywhere near 24km in Ukraine since the first months of the full-scale invasion.

The likely imminent culmination of the Russian offensive around Bakhmut, the already culminated Russian offensive around Vuhledar, and the stalling Russian offensive in Luhansk Oblast are likely setting robust conditions for Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces had regained the initiative in Ukraine as of February 8, but Russian forces have since failed to capitalize on that initiative to secure any operationally significant gains. Russian forces will likely lose the initiative in Ukraine within the coming months due to the likely culmination of their three main offensive efforts. Ukrainian forces previously seized the initiative after the culmination of the Russian offensive to capture Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in July of 2022 and conducted counteroffensives operations a few months later that resulted in the liberation of large swathes of territory in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts. The culmination of Russia’s current three offensive efforts will likely allow Ukrainian forces to launch counteroffensives anywhere along the frontline that they deem best suited for such operations. The high manpower and equipment costs that the Russian military has spent in failed offensive operations in Luhansk and western Donetsk oblasts and on the operationally insignificant city of Bakhmut will benefit these likely upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensives. 

Key inflections in ongoing military operations on March 5:

  • The Ukrainian Air Force Command and Ukrainian news outlet Defense Express reported that Russian forces began using new UPAB-1500V aerial bombs against Ukrainian targets.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks northwest and south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks near Avdiivka and on the western outskirts of Donetsk City. A Russian source claimed that Russian forces advanced to Pervomaiske, 8km northwest of Donetsk City.
  • The Ukrainian General Staff continued to report that Russian forces are attempting to create conditions for the transition to an offensive in some areas of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions. ISW has not observed indicators that Russian forces are preparing to launch sustained offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast or any offensive activity in Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor General Viktoriya Litvinova reported that Russia deported about 16,000 children of whom 307 were able to return to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights Daria Herasimchuk reported that Russian officials use coercive tactics to separate Ukrainian children from their parents in order to deport them.

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska reported that Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating 171 cases of sexual assault committed by Russian Forces against Ukrainian citizens.

Conflict brewing in Russian senior leadership over demand to storm Vuhledar, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces states that a conflict is possible among the Russian military top leadership over their significant losses and lack of success in the combat zone. […]

This February, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin promoted [Rustam] Muradov, commander of the Eastern Military District, to the rank of colonel general for his report on the ‘successes’ of the 155th Marine Brigade on the Vuhledar front. Now, [Russian Defence Minister Sergei] Shoigu is demanding that the general prove his rank and take the city at any cost.

According to available information, the brigade’s leadership and soldiers refuse to go for an absurd offensive again, which they are being sent to by their inept leadership to storm the well-fortified positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, without any support or training.”

Putin to be toppled if Ukraine prevails – ex-chief of UK’s General Staff, Ukrinform reports, citing Sky News. “The former Chief of the General Staff of Great Britain, General Richard Dannatt, believes that in the event of a successful counteroffensive on the part of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be kicked out of the Kremlin. At some point in late spring or early summer, the Ukrainians can mount a really strong counteroffensive, utilizing modern equipment that we’re now giving them, Dannatt said, adding that, if western weapons and ammunition keep flowing into Ukraine and if the counteroffensive is properly planned and implemented, there is a chance to achieve a decisive outcome on the battlefield as early as this year.

In his opinion, a few decisive blows struck at certain points along this very extended front against the Russian army may well break the morale of the Russian military and break the back of the Russian army. You don’t have to defeat an army in detail everywhere on the battlefield. You’ve just got to convince enough soldiers that they’ve lost, and when they think they’ve lost, they have lost, the general explained.

Analyzing the situation around Bakhmut, Dannatt noted that strategically it is not too important, but the battle for the city achieved its goal, having become an anvil on which many Russian lives were broken, and therefore it makes perfect sense for the Ukrainians now to retreat to a more protected line and continue the battle there. Dannatt noted that senior generals may be unhappy with Putin’s actions.

I would like to think that if the counteroffensive by the Ukrainians is sufficiently well planned, supported and executed, then Putin won’t be able to do much decision-making himself. If his army crumbles and runs, then I think it is quite likely that he will be swept out of the Kremlin as well, he said. According to the former chief of the General Staff, after Putin, the group of people, the group of leaders who are most disaffected in Russia at the present moment are the senior generals, and that it’s they who may come to power.

They’ve seen Putin unleash a war that they probably don’t agree with, Dannatt explained. They understand that their weapons are distinctly inferior to the West – largely due to corruption in the defense procurement process. According to Dannatt, it is the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation, Valery Gerasimov, who could make a sufficiently sensible plan and have the courage to see it through in order to topple Putin in a joint effort together with other generals. There is going to be a lot of change in Russia over the next 12 months. I have got no doubt, he added.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Russians support the war in Ukraine, Levada Centre reports. “Support for the actions of the RF Armed Forces in Ukraine remains high [77%]. On the issue of peace talks, society was divided almost equally: 50% are in favour of negotiations, 43% are in favour of continuing hostilities. At the same time, only the idea of ​​an exchange of prisoners of war enjoys unequivocal support. An immediate ceasefire is supported by half of the respondents. 

The return of territories to Ukraine or the country’s membership in NATO is considered unacceptable by the majority of respondents [Donetsk and Luhansk 71%, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson 67%]. Since November last year, the number of people confident in the successful course of the “special operation” has slightly increased [63%]. 

The main goals of the “special operation” respondents call the protection of Russian borders [30%] and the protection of the Russian-speaking population of Donbas [27%].

NATO faces an all-out fight with Putin. It must stop pulling its punches, The Guardian reports. “Having catastrophically failed to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine, the western alliance needs a plan to win the war. […] Prior to Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, few NATO combat forces were stationed in the east European countries that signed up after the Soviet collapse. Last year’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine turned a trickle of eastward deployments into a torrent. Bungling Putin had provoked the world’s largest, best-armed military force into setting up camp slap bang on Russia’s doorstep.

The Ukraine invasion has given NATO a new lease of life, strengthening its members’ sense of mutual support, reinforcing the US commitment to Europe, raising defence budgets and inducing neutral Sweden and Finland to join. Conversely, NATO is again locked into a dangerous eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Russia that will probably outlast the current conflict.

This was never the plan. NATO states will doubtless congratulate themselves at their annual summit in July on presenting a united front. Problem is, the Russian invasion also produced the worst setback in NATO’s history. A catastrophic failure of deterrence – NATO’s traditional raison d’être – led Putin to think he could seize a European country and get away with it. Presumably, he still thinks he might. Even when the fighting eventually stops, this renewed military, ideological, political and economic east-west confrontation looks set to continue indefinitely – and grow more deeply entrenched.

NATO’s figures give a measure of Putin’s ineptitude. “Over 40,000 troops, along with significant air and naval assets, are now under direct NATO command” in the east, it says, with “hundreds of thousands more” held in reserve. Eight multinational battle groups, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, guard a bristling NATO frontline with Russia, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea. […]

Seeking to explain battlefield reverses, Putin has repeatedly told Russians the west is the true enemy. In contrast, NATO leaders are adamant: they are not fighting Russia, they are helping Ukraine defend itself. As sophisticated western arms, defence and security assistance and economic aid pour into Ukraine – and Russian losses mount – this distinction is growing harder to maintain. The level of NATO military support now being provided far exceeds what was envisaged a year ago.

It’s a great pity, in truth, that the US president, Joe Biden, and European leaders were not bolder, earlier, in providing tanks and other advanced weaponry. Ukraine is still waiting for fighter planes to enforce no-fly zones and prevent air raids. Much foreseeable suffering and destruction might have been avoided had a too cautious NATO acted sooner and with more grit.

The debate over how far to go, and how quickly, in assisting Ukraine reflects another key problem – NATO’s lack of clearly defined war aims. Does the west seek Russia’s defeat and a generational victory over autocracy and tyranny, or merely Ukraine’s liberation? Biden gave his answer in Warsaw last month. Ukraine, he suggested, was ground zero in the global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Yet French and German leaders are sticking to their view that, in the longer term, an accommodation must be reached with Moscow. Britain, Poland and the Baltic republics take a harder line. Such public divisions only help Putin.

NATO unity is also threatened by right-wing, Putin-friendly Turkish and Hungarian leaders, who are obstructing Sweden’s and Finland’s membership. The Finnish parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to press ahead anyway. Türkiye’s behaviour is particularly disloyal. It should be told to drop its veto on the Swedes or face suspension from the alliance.

Differences persist, meanwhile, over Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO. The country’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, argues it is already a member de facto. NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, worried about triggering a wider war, demurs. This is irrational. Putin has shown he needs no excuse to up the ante. Kyiv should be given all the security assurances it requires – and to which it is legally entitled under the 1994 Budapest memorandum.

This question leads back to the fundamental dilemma of the “new NATO”. Is it still purely a defensive alliance? Or will its leaders accept the inherent logic of the emerging situation? That is to say, Putin’s continuing military, geopolitical and rhetorical escalations, and the deepening involvement of individual western nations, mean NATO’s unassertive, semi-detached posture is no longer tenable or practicable, if indeed it ever was.

It’s not just about Ukraine. The western democracies must accept that the wider, head-on confrontation with Moscow that they have striven in vain to avoid is now upon them, exploding around their ears. Putin is mobilising Russian society for a second great patriotic war. He is going all out. French “ifs”, German “buts” and American “maybes” are increasingly unaffordable. This is a fight the west cannot afford to lose – but cannot hope to win while a chronically reactive NATO, unsure of its purpose and aims, pulls its punches and lets Putin set the pace.”

Estonia votes in election test for pro-Kyiv government, Reuters reports. “Estonians headed to the polls on Sunday in an election pitting one of Europe’s most staunchly pro-Kyiv governments against a far-right party seeking to capitalise on anger at rising living costs and which would stop admitting new Ukrainian refugees.

If, as opinion polls predict, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ liberal Reform party wins the national election and successfully crafts a coalition it would cement the Baltic nation’s pro-European direction. Estonia would also stay on course to adopt more green energy and continue to accept refugees from Ukraine. […]

The far-right EKRE party may end up in second place, according to opinion polls, as their promises to slash energy bills by opposing the transition to green energy are proving popular in some parts of the country, as is the pledge to not accept new Ukrainian refugees.”

Estonia’s Kallas in first place in parliamentary election, Reuters reports. “The Reform party of Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas secured first place in Sunday’s parliamentary election, a result that should ensure Tallinn remains one of Europe’s most staunchly pro-Kyiv governments.

Results with 98% ballots counted showed the far-right EKRE party in second place, with 16.1% versus 31.5% for Kallas’ liberal group, reflecting concerns among some voters over the rising cost of living in the wake of Russia’s Ukraine war.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment has already been written by someone else: Simon Tisdall’s op-ed “NATO faces an all-out fight with Putin. It must stop pulling its punches” is in essence reiterating much of what I have been saying for the last year.

I have always seen myself as a NATO officer more than an officer of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The Alliance has always been fundamental to Norway’s security, stability, and prosperity. Norway – along with the great majority of the other member states – would not be able to maintain its security on its own.

Norway’s national defence is based on three pillars: the combined capabilities of its Armed Forces, collective defence through NATO, and bilateral reinforcement plans with close allies.”

Unfortunately – and again as the great majority of the other member states – Norway has not sufficiently invested in either its armed forces or the Alliance. As a consequence of the collective failure of Europe to invest in security and defence, NATO has been forced to step back from past commitments, turn a blind eye to the scale and scope of the broader confrontation, and reduce its level of ambitions as it allows its weakest links to define its highest level of ambition.

Consequently, NATO is providing Ukraine with non-lethal support only. More crucially, it is not using all of its tools to stop a war that is threatening the security of its member states. It is not even responding resolutely to the hybrid war Russia has been waging against the Alliance for years.

NATO has failed to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine, attempting to destabilise Europe and undermine the transatlantic link.

I have, therefore, found myself increasingly critical of a political and military alliance that over time has turned predominately political.

As a result of the shift from military to political focus and the member states lack of investment in security and defence – and despite the statements on the contrary – NATO is fragmented. The most fundamental discord is found between those who remember occupation and oppression and those who do not. As a consequence, the former calls on NATO to do more, bolster their security and defence sector and support Ukraine way above their weight class. The latter support Ukraine as they see fit while still pondering their future security and defence posture.

NATO has yet to agree on a common end-state and red lines. It has no clear or unified strategy because its member states do not fully agree on who to support. While the great majority do support Ukraine, NATO has member states that directly or indirectly support Russia. Contrary to its statement, not all member states share the core democratic values that define the Alliance.

I have been arguing for military intervention in Ukraine since the war started. These are some of my main headlines:

  1. NATO’s defining moment is now or never
  2. The real security concerns behind Russia’s lies about NATO
  3. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine and the West is entering the next phase
  4. NATO, you are already part of the conflict
  5. NATO: Collective Défense or Collective Denial?
  6. Biden said what America will do in Ukraine. Here is what he forgot to say.
  7. Russia’s war with Ukraine affects billions. NATO could end it in a moment.
  8. NATO’s Strategic Concept-2022: A Commitment to do less
  9. NATO is running out of weapons with which it can supply Ukraine
  10. Why a humanitarian intervention in Ukraine is in NATO’s interest
  11. NATO is already paying dearly for its hesitation on Ukraine
  12. Russia is digging in and the West must respond in kind, only deeper and stronger
  13. Putin is asking the West to surrender Ukraine, international law, and its core values and principles
  14. As Russia continues to escalate, it’s time the West proved its will to defend international law
  15. A NATO intervention in Ukraine would prevent nuclear disaster
  16. For the sake of European stability, NATO needs to intervene in Ukraine
  17. The eight signs of discord within NATO
  18. West urgently needs to step up its game: time is working to Russia’s advantage

I have long argued that Western military intervention in Ukraine is inevitable. The West is running out of weapons it can supply Ukraine which it can use with no or limited training. A Russian defeat in Ukraine is crucial to ensure lasting peace. For that to happen, the military balance must be fundamentally changed in favour of Ukraine and democracy.

Despite the commitment of Heads of State to not intervene, I remain optimistic. As the Russian Armed Forces are being decimated by Ukraine, the US and Europe might at one stage find the courage to fight for our shared values and principles alongside Ukraine.

Russia is seen for what it is. All hope for reset and business as normal has been quashed by its crime against humanity. Fear is giving way to resolve. The immature is maturing. Vulnerabilities are being closed. Defence industries are slowly being mobilised. The irresponsible are slowly turning responsible for the lack of other alternatives. The ones absent a moral compass are slowly finding their bearings because Russia’s atrocities leave them no choice.

Consequently, previous “nays” are inevitably being turned into “ayes”.

Who knows? The West might even become brave as the Ukrainians.

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