Commentary: Ruminations on Putin’s Control of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, His Arrest Warrant, and Diplomacy with Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert dedicated to Russian servicemen taking part in the military operation in Ukraine on the eve of Defender of Fatherland Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia. February 22, 2023. surely contrasted There was surely great contrast between the ebullience displayed by Putin at the patriotic and his thoughts and feelings behind the scenes about what his military commanders are doing in Ukraine and what he can expect from them as the war continues. Many decisions and actions taken by Russian Federation commanders in Ukraine have taken the special military operation in a direction in considerable variance with Putin’s albeit misconceived original concept of taking control of the country without stirring much resistance. In examining this issue, greatcharlie seeks to reinforce somewhat likely conclusions by foreign and national security policy bureaucracies in the US and around the world not just concerning Putin’s control of Russian Federation Armed Forces, and to some degree, his security services as well, but also his culpability for crimes committed against innocent Ukrainian civilians as well as soldiers. Lessons he has likely learned from the Ukrainian experience are hypothsized and through exploring those lessons a discussion on why that raises the bar in terms of the requirements for “safely” managing diplomacy with him and shaping the overall outcome of the Ukraine tragedy.

Many decisions and actions taken by Russian Federation commanders in Ukraine have taken the special military operation in a direction in considerable variance with Putin’s albeit misconceived original concept of taking control of the country without stirring much resistance, a perspective put in plain view during his February 24, 2022 address, broadcasted just as the Spetsial’noy Voyennoy Operatsii (Special Military Operation) began. With no pretension intended, greatcharlie states the Russian Federation’s handling of its wrongful invasion at all levels has been deplorable. What arouses an interest at this juncture has been Putin’s lack of control over many “big things” during the massive enterprise. Within the boundaries of its faculty, here greatcharlie humbly provides a few insights on how many things have gone wrong for Putin, the colossal issues that now beset him concerning the war, how he might seek to gain firmer control of the situation, and what that might mean going forward. Hopefully, greatcharlie provides new perspectives not just concerning Putin’s control of the Vooruzhonnije Síly Rossíyskoj Federátsii (the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Armed Forces), and to some degree, his security services, but also his culpability for heinous crimes committed against innocent Ukrainian civilians as well as unarmed soldiers. An historic parallel to his lack of control over events in the field is presented. Lessons he has likely learned from the Ukrainian experience are hypothsized and through exploring those lessons a discussion on why that raises the bar in terms of the requirements for “safely” managing diplomacy with him and shaping the overall outcome of the Ukraine tragedy.

Xenophon of Athens (c. 430 BC–354 BC) was an Ancient Greek military leader, philosopher, and historian, born in Athens. At the age of 30, Xenophon led one of the largest Greek mercenary armies of the Achaemenid Empire, the Ten Thousand, that famously attempted to seize Babylon but failed in 401 BC. As a writer, one of his works was Cynegeticus, usually translated as On Hunting or Hunting with Dogs. In discussing his wish that readers would find value in his treatise, Xenophon writes a passage which interestingly parallels greatcharlie’s desires regarding this essay. He states: ψέγουσι δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοὶ τοὺς νῦν σοφιστὰς καὶ οὐ τοὺς φιλοσόφους, ὅτι ἐν τοῖς ὀνόμασι σοφίζονται, οὐκ ἐν τοῖς νοήμασιν. οὐ λανθάνει δέ με ὅτι τὰ μὴ καλῶς καὶ ἑξῆς γεγραμμένα φήσει τις ἴσως τῶν τοιούτων οὐ καλῶς οὐδ᾽ ἑξῆς γεγράφθαι: ῥᾴδιον γὰρ ἔσται αὐτοῖς τὸ ταχὺ μὴ ὀρθῶς μέμψασθαι:καίτοι γέγραπταί γε οὕτως, ἵνα ὀρθῶς ἔχῃ, καὶ μὴ σοφιστικοὺς ποιῇ ἀλλὰ σοφοὺς καὶ ἀγαθούς: οὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν αὐτὰ βούλομαι μᾶλλον ἢ εἶναι χρήσιμα, ἵνα ἀνεξέλεγκτα ᾖ εἰς ἀεί. (Many others besides myself blame the sophists of our generation—philosophers I will not call them —because the wisdom they profess consists of words and not of thoughts. I am well aware that someone, perhaps one of this set, will say that what is well and methodically written is not well and methodically written—for hasty and false censure will come easily to them. But my aim in writing has been to produce sound work that will make men not wiseacres, but wise and good. For I wish my work not to seem useful, but to be so, that it may stand for all time unrefuted.) (Regarding the presentation of the Greek text, greatcharlie asks its readers to kindly pardon its indulgence. It is presented here in “private” acknowledgement and celebration of someone of the utmost importance who will begin her undergraduate studies in the Classics in the Fall of 2023!)

I. The Magnitude of the Ukraine Disaster Begins to Take Form within Putin 

Stepping into the realm of conjecture, greatcharlie can imagine Putin, at the time of his decision to launch the special military operation was girded by the belief that his extreme action was necessary to secure a spiritual victory for mankind over the ugly evil of Nazism. However, Putin at the time of this writing may see the situation a bit differently. Clearly, he has plunged his country and the world in a challenging situation by acting on what he doubtlessly would likely still call “certainties” concerning Ukraine, NATO Expansion, and Western threat to the Russian Federation.

Putin has a history of putting himself and the Russian Federation in controversial situations on the international scene. As a political leader who has been an actor on the world stage longer than most, he has managed to use his skill at manipulating others and many a dodge to extricate himself and the Russian Federation in time and go at the world again on another day. Now it really appears that he has worked himself into a square corner. Despite a number of generous analyses made public in the West that suggest the Russian Federation can turn things around, winning the Ukraine War given the current level of thinking among commanders of the Russian Federation Armed Forces appears impossible. There may very well be authentic solutions, but they will unlikely see them.

Putin attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the eternal flame in the Hall of Military Glory at the Battle of Stalingrad Museum, Volgograd, February 2, 2023. Putin has a history of putting himself and the Russian Federation in controversial situations on the international scene. As a political leader who has been an actor on the world stage longer than most, he has managed to use his skill at manipulating others and many a dodge to extricate himself and the Russian Federation in time and go at the world again on another day. Now it really appears that he has worked himself into a square corner. Despite a number of generous analyses made public in the West that suggest the Russian Federation can turn things around, winning the Ukraine War given the current level of thinking among commanders of the Russian Federation Armed Forces appears impossible. There may very well be authentic solutions, but they will unlikely see them..

II. Putin’s Actual Control of the Russian Federation Armed Forces

When there are missing pieces among facts collected in an investigation, a reliable imagination can be very useful. One can imagine what might be happening with another party. That supposition could become a working hypothesis. One then can act upon it, and if lucky, the investment in time and energy will prove justifiable. As alluded to earlier, the received wisdom among many Western military analysts and Russia scholars is that The Kremlin runs the Russian Federation Armed Forces, and in their view “today the Kremlin means Putin.” His military advisers are Ministr Oborony Rossijskoj Federacii (Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation) Russian Army General Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov. Evidence offered of his control of the armed forces is the fact that “both generals serve “entirely at the pleasure of Putin” and “the respective predecessor of each was summarily dismissed.” One steps out on an attenuated thread when standing behind such evidence to support arguments regarding Putin’s control of the military. What may be perceived as simple truth, in reality is not so simple.

Over the two plus decades of Putin’s leadership, the record shows that unethical and outright criminal behavior can surely be well concealed under the Russian Federation government system. Certainly long before, in the erstwhile Soviet system, corruption in the armed forces was endemic and lucrative enough for those senior commanders engaged in such who would quietly “grease the palms” of superiors and who were not caught. The sales of military equipment to black marketers was the commonplace betrayal of some commanders. Another example that remains in greatcharlie’s memory from the days of the Cold War was learning that fighter pilots would pay commanders in order to serve in certain top tier squadrons. The military is not the only foreign and national security bureaucracy ham-strung and suffering from corruption. Unimaginable but true, even the chief of the Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsi (Russian Federation Federal Security Service) or FSB Alexander Borrnikov, an irreplaceable member of Putin’s piratical crew, was shrewdly deceived by subordinates in the FSB 5th Department foreign intelligence service before the special military operation began. (The matter is discussed in further detail later in this essay. SEE greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post entitled “Brief Meditations on the Role of Deception, Deceit, and Delinquency in the Planning, Preparations, and Prosecution of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” for other insights shared on the matter.)

If one It has been suggested by some experrs that in Ukraine, Putin by his own hand destroyed the armed forces that built up over two decades. Looking at this supposition open-mindedly, one might added that if that is so, he certainly did not do it deliberately. However,,it is greatcharlie’s postulation, delicately put, that long before Ukraine was invaded, the real harm done to Russian Federation Armed Forces was at the hands of his trusted chief military advisers, Shoigu and Gerasimov. Shoigu and Gerasimov became a team in November 2012. They did a superb job of making the Russian Federation Armed Forces look good but had to know they were not really good at all. Thus, their claims for years that the Russian Federation Armed Forces conventional forces were a hard-hitting, highly-mobile, terrifying, sort of juggernaut, were more hyperbole than anything else. They seemed to have been quite willing to live with that. If the Russian Federation Armed Forces were called into action on some large scale–something they probably believed was unlikely–the two commanders likely decided long ago to just play it out. Dereliction of duty is a phrase that comes to mind. On February 24, 2022, they rolled the dice and poured their troops into Ukraine as ordered, hoping somehow that things might fall into place. Things did not go their way. Putin most likely had no idea how much damage was being done by Shoigu and Gerasimov. He could hardly admit even now that he did not know. If he did not need them now as a buffer between himself all the many failures militarily, and all the political drama, and if he had anyone else tied as closely to him that he knew as well and could turn, Putin would have likely sent them to higher service already, as is the pattern. If the Ukraine War were to end in the Russian Federation’s favor, an unlikely outcome, perhaps the two general might face trying times. Putin does not forget or forgive such betrayals. He is not the understanding type.

If one might suggest that it was all a deliberate act of subversion by one or both of the generals, the question would be to what end: cui bono? The most likely immediate guess of those eager to see regime change of any kind in the Russian Federation might be that the plan was to set up Putin in order to foster his overthrow or elimination and their rise to power. Yet, both Shoigu and Gerasimov, given all of the supportive evidence publicly available on their respective atrocious management of two huge organizations, would have a better chance of achieving a decisive victory over Ukraine than controlling the Russian Federation with a modicum of competence. Unless megalomania and self-deception are controlling elements to an enormous degree in the respective thinking of both generals, they are surely aware that ruling the Russian people would be out of their sphere, beyond their faculties.

Readers must pardon greatcharlie’s frankness, but given that Shoigu and Gerasimov are psychologically able to remain standing flat-footed on the ground and stare calmly at a military disaster of such magnitude for their country’s armed forces, another possibility not to consider lightly is that either one or both may be psychologically unstable. This averment shall be left for mental health professionals and behavioral scientists to parse out in the round.

Ministr Oborony Rossijskoj Federacii (Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation) Russian Army General Sergei Shoigu (left) and Chief of General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov (right). It is greatcharlie’s postulation, delicately put, that long before Ukraine was invaded, the real harm done to Russian Federation Armed Forces was atbthe hands of his trusted chief military advisers, Shoigu and Gerasimov. Shoigu and Gerasimov became a team in November 2012. They did an superb job of making the Russian Federation Armed Forces look good but had to know they were not really good at all. Thus, their claims for years that the Russian Federation Armed Forces conventional forces were a hard-hitting, highly-mobile, terrifying, sort of juggernaut, were more hyperbole than anything else. They seemed to have been quite willing to live with that. If the Russian Federation Armed Forces were called into action on some large scale–something they probably believed was unlikely–the two commanders likely decided long ago to just play it out. Dereliction of duty is a phrase that comes to mind.

A. Delegation and Disappointment

Further to the preceding point, what did not serve Putin well was any thought that he could delegate matters concerning the special military operation that he typically would have overburdened himself with in the past. It appears to have been a matter of misplaced trust, which is very unusual for Putin. As an executive he made the proper management decision, but given the nature of his regime and its players, it was the wrong choice, at the wrong time, anc the wrong issue to do any delegating over. If Putin had been truly In control of the facts and the moving pieces, greatcharlie goes out on a limb to say he probably would have never gone into Ukraine and as it was, encountered considerable, unexpected resistance or just bad luck. However, if he would have still decided to go in knowing what he knows now, he would very likely have done his homework and to the very best of his ability developed real answers to resolve prospective problems having imagined more than enough possible failures and mishaps that could derail his plans and having most likely rehearsed over and over in his mind more than one way to resolve them. The situation for the Russian Federation Armed Forces would doubtlessly look a lot different than it does now. Of course, none of that happened.

Power and control are often limited for political authorities, even autocrats, during conventional military operations. That lack of control–along with US experience in Vietnam– is what in part inspired the US Congress to pass the War Powers Act in 1973. Surely, laid bare in Ukraine for Putin is his own lack of control  Certainly many may disagree with this assessment, but those who insist that Putin directly controlled events in Ukraine, even war crimes committed, should look more directly at just how poorly he has controlled aspects of his special military operation. On the four occasions presented here, Putin’s lack of control was self-evident.

1. The First Big Let Down: Russian Federation Intelligence on Ukraine

Putin is perhaps the most prominent Russian intelligence doyen in the Russian Federation. Far more than just being familiar with the workings of Russian’s intelligence services, in the in the Soviet Union’s Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (the Committee for State Security) or KGB, and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. (Some commentators and analysts prefer to emphasize that his behavior is reflective of the nature of that erstwhile organization’s cold-blooded reputation, brutish methods, and the sinister mindset of its leadership.) In 1998, President Boris Yeltsin appointed him as director of the FSB, during which time he reorganized it and dismissed several top personnel. Before becoming Russian Federation President, Putin served as Yeltsin’s Secretary of Sovet bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii (the Security Council of the Russian Federation) or national security adviser. Having those experiences, knowing that problems can exist not only with the behavior of personnel as well as the leadership of the intelligence services, he should known that reporting from them should be examined closely. In a very perplexing way, Putin felt confident enough to appeal to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in his February 24, 2022 broadcast announcing the start of the special military operation. Putin said: “I would also like to address the military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Comrade officers! Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine. You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people.” Putin continued: “I urge you to refuse to carry out their criminal orders. I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. I will explain what this means: the military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families.” Lastly, he stated: “I want to emphasize again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.”

 As the story goes, the now former head of FSB foreign intelligence service, the organization’s 5th service, Sergey Beseda and his deputy as well as head of the operational information department, Anatoly Bolyukh, reportedly had cooked up intelligence suggesting that Ukraine was weak, riddled with neo-Nazi groups, and would give up easily if attacked. The 5th Service is a division that was established in 1998, when Putin was director of the FSB, to carry out operations in the countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Its mission was to help ensure those countries remained within Russia’s orbit. Beseda and Boyuhk were apparently among those in the intelligence services who gambled that there would not be an invasion and lost. Whatever Putin’s inner voice might have been saying about what he was being told about Ukraine, he closed his ear to it. Putin was apparently so convinced by reporting that Ukrainians were so dissatisfied with the leadership in Kyiv ready to welcome regime change, he attempted to appeal to members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to acquiesce to invading Russian Federation forces. Putin seemed to proceed, accepting whatever was handed to him with a blindness that bordered on madness to self-interest and to the interest of the Russian Federation. Considering how Putin spoke so boldly in his broadcast to the Zbrojni syly Ukrayiny (Armed Forces of Ukraine, hereinafter referred to as the Ukrainian Armed Forces) audaciously suggesting they turn on their government, If whole matter were not so grave, it could viewed as Armed Forces comical.

Putin (center) Shoigu (left) and Gerasimov (right) at military exercises 2022. Through Zapad, Vostok, and other large scale military exercises by the Russian Federation Armed Forces, observers as Putin, himself, might have witnessed how its commanders emphasizing the use of superior firepower, would be able to capture large swaths of territory and massing on decisive points, to include some large cities, in a formidable manner. Being a bit more specific, through the exercises, Russian Federation commanders displayed an amazing awareness of what was occurring in their battle space, foresight, and agility. They could rapidly maneuver their units to block in one place, counterattack in another, and withdraw their units when conditions were most favorable. Moreover, through the exercises, one would have been led to believe that Russian Federation commanders could act fast and soundly through their system of command, control, and communications. The choice to organize combat forces under the concept of the Combined Arms Army, comprised of brigades, divisions, and supporting units that are assigned by the Military District, was essentially recognized as a master stroke of military genius. No one could possibly doubt, at least in the Russian Federation, Thanks to the appropriation of superb military hardware by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Russian Federation forces would be able to relentlessly gain ground and retain the initiative in the face of whatever the US and its NATO allies might throw at them.

2. A Study in Contrasts: Acumen Displayed in Zapad, Vostok, and Other Military Exercises and Poor Performance on the Battlefield

Through Zapad, Vostok, and other large scale military exercises by the Russian Federation Armed Forces, observers as Putin might have witnessed how its commanders emphasizing the use of superior firepower, would be able to capture large swaths of territory and massing on decisive points, to include some large cities, in a formidable manner. Being a bit more specific, through the exercises, Russian Federation commanders displayed an amazing awareness of what was occurring in their battle space, foresight, and agility. They could rapidly maneuver their units to block in one place, counterattack in another, and withdraw their units when conditions were most favorable. Moreover, through the exercises, one would have been led to believe that Russian Federation commanders could act fast and soundly through their system of command, control, and communications. The choice to organize combat forces under the concept of the Combined Arms Army, comprised of brigades, divisions, and supporting units that are assigned by the Military District, was a master stroke. No one could possibly doubt, at least in the Russian Federation, Thanks to the appropriation of superb military hardware by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Russian Federation forces would be able to relentlessly gain ground and retain the initiative in the face of whatever the US and its NATO allies might throw at them. 

Despite what may have been choreographed to display a well-trained, well-equipped war machine for Putin’s unknowing eyes, the walls fell down in Ukraine. A poor strategy, faulty planning of the military operation, leaving the door open to supply and resupply of arms, equipment and sustenance, failure to decisively conquer by moving up the River Dneiper to cut off the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the East, reinforcing the failed operations in the Donbas, in part resulted in a stalled invasion and the epic slaughter of a modern army. Putin counted upon commanders with limited combat experience and no experience who more than anything else displayed negligence, inattentiveness to details large and small, delinquencies, and deficiencies. The conquest of Ukraine was something Russian forces could not have accomplished, factoring in the tenacity and will of Ukrainian forces, even on their best day or should have even contemplated. As for the concept of the Combined Arms Army, the formations raised and operated under it were as empty with troops as the concept was with promise.

3, Putin’s Faith in Spetsnaz: “A Weapon Is Only as the Man Who Wields It”

Putin has never hidden his admiration for Russian Federation Special Operations Forces. In foreign and national security policy approaches taken by the Russian Federation, special operations forces have been the go-to hammer to swing when the application of force was deemed required by the Kremlin. Such has also been the case with regard to domestic threats, particularly emanating from the Caucasus. Outside of government structures, Putin’s admiration for commando-type formations has likely played a role in his full acceptance and regular utilization of professional military contractors as the Wagner Group which are teaming with erstwhile spetsnaz members. In the opening days of the special military operation, Putin put his appreciation for the Russian Federation’s special operations forces on display by taking time on  February 27, 2022 to broadcast a message congratulating active military personnel and veterans of their formations on their professional holiday, “Special Operations Forces Day”. More than just a canned speech, Putin laid his heart out bare by stating: “You have demonstrated many times that you are prepared to act with the utmost efficiency and under the harshest conditions to precisely and professionally complete the most difficult and demanding missions. You always perform your military duty to protect your native country and citizens with honor and protect Russia’s national interests. The heroic traditions of the special forces find their roots in the centuries-long history of our army. They were fortified during the Great Patriotic War, matured and grew even stronger in Afghanistan and many hotbeds, as well as during the elimination of terrorists gangs both in the North Caucasus and in Syria. Putin said further: “I know that you undergo exactly this kind of training -comprehensive, all-encompassing and intensive, a real school of warfare. You strive to follow the best paragons of courage and bravery, true patriotism, and you set an example for new generations of defenders of the Fatherland and pass on your experience to young servicemen.” Very likely with reference to former spetsnaz serving in the Wagner Group, Putin remarked: “I want to thank the command and the personnel of the special operations forces as well as special forces veterans for their loyalty to the oath, for their impeccable service to the people of Russia and our great Motherland. My special appreciation goes to those who are performing their duty in the special operation to render assistance to the people’s republics of Donbass.”

Putin’s faith in the spetsnaz to carry out their duties to their utmost abilities was warranted, but aa is the same with special operations soldiers in every country, they were only human and could only do so much. Placing them with their exquisite military capabilities in stealthy hit-and-run direct actions, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and covert operations, under the control of Russian Federation commanders who were killing off their own conventional troops due a lack of so many necessary attributes for competent, military command on the present-day battlefield, did not help. Among the classified US national security materials leaked online through the messaging platform in March 2023 were assessments of officials within the foreign and national security bureaucracies on the strength and capabilities of Russian Federation spetsnaz forces. According to those findings, there was such an overreliance on the specialized units on the frontlines that their consequently suffered heavy losses. The decision the use spetsnaz in such a role was purportedly due to skepticism among Russian Federation commanders that their conventional forces’ abilities to achieve objectives set in the invasion plans. Leaked documents also reportedly indicate US officials believe the high casualties of these units should render them less effective not only in Ukraine but also in other parts of the world where Russian forces operate. Evidence of the losses in the spetsnaz units was apparently provided by satellite imagery featured among the leaked materials. Before-and-after imagery of the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade’s base in southern Russia allegedly revealed that “all but one of five Russian Separate Spetsnaz Brigades that returned from combat operations in Ukraine in late summer 2022 suffered significant losses.” Materials citing intelligence intercepts, assess the 346th brigade “lost nearly the entire brigade with only 125 personnel active out of 900 deployed.” US intelligence analysts, who monitored the return of spetsnaz units to their respective bases, believe that extremely high losses in the 25th Spetsnaz Regiment “could explain why there is no clear [intelligence] signature of their return to garrison.” The loss of so many among the spetsnaz very likely came as a shock to Putin.

4. Hoping the Wagner Group Will Shift the Fight Moscow’s Way

As aforementioned, the Wagner Group is a private military contractor based in the Russian Federation. Although private military companies are not permitted under law in the Russian Federation, they were endorsed in April 2012 by none other than Putin, then Russian Federation Prime Minister during an address to the State Duma. The Wagner Group is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin is  an intriguing figure in his own right, and holds a level of standing with Putin which speaks volumes on its own. Prigozhin is widely known by the sobriquet “Putin’s chef” because of his catering businesses that hosted dinners which Putin attended with foreign dignitaries, The Wagner Group has engaged in action externally in support of the Russian Federation’s overt and covert foreign and national security objectives. The Wagner Group is known to have deployed its units in the War in Donbas (2014–2022); Syrian Civil War, (2015–2016); the South Sudanese Civil War (2013-2020); the Central African Republic Civil War (2013-2014); the Second Libyan Civil War (2014-2020); the Sudanese Revolution (2018-2019); Venezuelan presidential crisis (2019-2023); and the Mali War (2012-present). Mentioned earlier was also that fact that Wagner Group fighters are typically retired regular Russian Federation Armed Forces servicemen–veterans. They are aged between 35 and 55. Many served in the Russian Federation’s spetsnaz units, which as noted earlier, are near and dear to Putin’s heart. From the moment the situation went sour in Ukraine, Russian Federation commanders surely recognized that they would either need to find a way to save themselves or hope against hope an ally might come to their rescue. The Wagner Group, already in Ukraine, went in with greater numbers, providing additional strength and combat power on the battlefield that the Russian Federation Armed Forces could not muster. It is widely known that since July 2022, Prigozhin, has been recruiting inmates from Russian Federation prisons to increase the organization’s strength. To an extent, Wagner Group troops were supposed to be the saving grace of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. 

However, it was not long before everyone realized that the Wagner Group’s troops were caught in that same circumstance as their Russian Federation Armed Forces “comrades”. That could only have been expected as the same senior Russian Federation commanders that put their troops in a predicament, controlled the placement and movements of Wagner Group troops. According to the best statistics available to greatcharlie, since April 2022 an estimated 10,000 and 20,000 mercenaries were deployed to Ukraine by the Russian Federation Armed Force, to include the Wagner Group troops in the offensive in the Donbas. As alluded to earlier, to increase the organization’s strength even further, new Wagner Group units composed mainly with violent convicts from prisons–gangsters, murderers, and rapists, were formed. However, it is those Wagner Group “penal units” in particular that have suffered high-profile casualties. According to the US, out of an initial force of nearly 50,000 Wagner troops, including 40,000 recruited convicts, more than 4,100 have been killed in action, and 10,000 have been wounded, including over 1,000 killed between late November and early December 2022 near Bakhmut.

In a February 17, 2023 briefing White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the Wagner Group has suffered more than 30,000 casualties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with about 9,000 of those fighters killed in action. He further explained the US estimates that 90% of Wagner Group troops killed in Ukraine since December were convict recruits. Prigozhin has expressed concern that his troops’ display of courage, obedience to authority and acts of sacrifice have been looked upon with indifference by Russian Army commanders. Given the backgrounds of the Wagner Group prison recruits, the common wisdom is that they are desensitized to violence. They are depicted as fighting as if they have nothing left to lose. From the lens of the Kremlin, things certainly did not work out the way they were supposed to. Surely, Putin maybe somewhat concerned that the Wagner Group’s loses may eventually so great that the organization would not be available to handle other foreign and national security policy matters for some time to come. In a pinch, perhaps Wagner could recruit from among special operations veterans who served in the FSB and Ministestvo po Delam Grazhdanskoy Oborony, Chrezvychainym Situatsiyam i Likvidtsil Posledstviy Bedstviy (Ministry of the Russian Federation for Affairs for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters Emergency Situations also known as the Ministry for Emergency Situations) or EMERCOM, but those former operators would for the most part lack the same level of battlefield experience spetsnaz from the Russian Federation Armed Forces lost in Ukraine possessed.

The full list of disappointments for Putin of or pertaining to the Ukraine enterprise is frightfully long and would overload and overwhelm this essay if included. Though, as aforementioned, theories of Putin’s control over the Russian Federation Armed Forces are accepted, it appears that nearly every theory confirming his alleged control cannot figuratively hold water.

Putin (left) and Gerasimov (right) holding a press conference following announcement that Gerasimov had become overall Russian Federation commander in Ukraine. Even if military analysts and Russia scholars in the West are not aware of it, Putin surely is aware that not even the threat or dismissal or assassination can coax brilliance on the battlefield from Russian Federation commanders who simply lack the faculty to do anything that could dramatically change the situation in Ukraine in Russia’s favor. Being able to fire generals that disappoint him may have confirmed that he has authority over the Russian Federation Armed Forces, but it hardly confirmed that he had absolute control of its commanders actions. Autocrats have limitations, too!

B. The Power to Hire and Fire Generals: What is It Worth?

Even if military analysts and Russia scholars in the West are not aware of it, Putin surely is aware that not even the threat or dismissal or assassination can coax brilliance on the battlefield from Russian Federation commanders who simply lack the faculty to do anything that could dramatically change the situation in Ukraine in Russia’s favor. Being able to fire generals that disappoint him may have confirmed that he has authority over the Russian Federation Armed Forces, but it hardly confirmed that he had absolute control of its commanders actions. Autocrats have limitations, too!

1. Putin Sacked a Slew of Generals in May 2022

Based on information made public by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, on May 19, 2022, Putin fired two senior commanders Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, who had commanded the 1st Guards Tank Army, and Vice Admiral Igor Osipov of the Black Sea Fleet. Osipov was reportedly fired following the sinking of the Russian flagship Moskva, which was a major embarrassment to the Russian Federation Armed Forces. The Moscow-based media group, RBCreported on June 1, 2022, that on May 30, 2022, Putin issued a decree dismissing senior commanders of the security services. The list of those removed from their posts included: Major General of Police Vasily Kukushkin, who was head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Vladimir region; Major General Alexander Laas, deputy head of the Main Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Altai Territory; and, Major General Andrey Lipilin, head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Yaroslavl Region. Major General Alexander Udovenko of the Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Major General Yuri Instrankin, deputy head of the Department for Logistics and Medical Support of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, were also among the dismissed. Additionally, Putin reportedly fired Police Colonel Emil Musin, who was the first deputy head of the Forensic Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

2. Putin Fired 22 Russian Army Generals in August 2022

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence reported that General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev, who headed Russia’s Western Military District since 2018 had been sacked. it was at that time there were the rather quiet, yet widely suspected firings of General Aleksandr Dvornikov, who was the senior but not overall command of all of Russian Federation’s operations in Ukraine and General Gennady Valeryevich Zhidko, who commanded the Southern forces fighting in Ukraine. US officials estimated at the time of these dismissals that more than 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured, which represented more than 50% of the number of troops Russia initially deployed in  the special military operation. According to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, at least 10 generals were among those killed.

3. Putin Fires Russian Army Generals for Failed Response to the Ukrainian Counteroffensive in September 2022

Based on information from Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, the Telegraph reported on September 12, 2022 that Putin fired Lieutenant General Roman Berdnikov, who commanded Russian Federation forces in the Donbas or Western Grouping. Berdnikov was held responsible for the chaos that ensued within Russian lines after Ukrainian troops recaptured swathes of territory in a recent offensive in the east.

4. Putin Replaces Overall Commander in Ukraine in January 2023 and Fires Russian Army General for Vuhledar Fiasco in March 2023

A shift in command well-known among those following events in the Ukraine War was the replacement of Russian Air Force General Sergei Surovikin by Gerasimov as overall commander of the Russian Federation’s intervention in Ukraine. In a January 11, 2023 statement from the Russian Federation Defense Ministry, it was explained that Gerasimov’s appointment constituted a “raising of the status of the leadership” of the military force in Ukraine and was implemented to “improve the quality . . . and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces”. On or just before March 26, 2023, Colonel General Rustam Muradov, who commanded Russia’s Eastern Military District, and was placed in charge of leading an offensive in the Ukrainian city of Vuhledar, in the eastern Donbas region, had been removed from his post. Muradov had previously come under criticism for his failure in Vuhledar from Prigozhin who believed its capture was possible and may have had the effect of turning the war in Moscow’s favor. The Moscow Times, described as an independent English- and Russian-language online newspaper with offices in Amsterdam that is currently outlawed in Russia, also reported that Muradov had been suspended, One of the Moscow Times’ sources told the online daily, “Muradov was suspended because he was a crazy idiot who could command soldiers to die. Many complained about him.”

In February 2023, Muradov attacked Vuhledar by sending his soldiers into minefields, right under the artillery fire of the Ukrainians. As a consequence of his actions, reportedly two elite Russian Naval Infantry brigades, one presumed to be the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, and 103 pieces of equipment were reportedly lost in just three days. Interestingly, the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. reported in a March 9, 2023 assessment of the Ukraine War that Shoigu ordered Muradov to take Vuhledar “at any cost” in order “to settle widespread criticism within the Russian Ministry of Defense about the lack of progress and significant losses in the area.”

As the record indicates, on every occasion when Putin, usually via his Defense Minister, sacked a group of generals who underperformed, a month or a couple of months later, he was dismissing another group for similar, if not parallel failures. Sacking a general, more than just a punishment, is a very strong form of public embarrassment. By now, everyone interested in Putin has recognized that he rarely reverses his own decisions. (If that were the case, he surely would have reversed his decision to invade Ukraine. Declaring success early on and offering purported measurables among other things would have been the most likely off ramp.) Firing generals from commands whose records he doubtlessly reviewed and gave ultimate approval for top assignments unlikely came easy for him. Perhaps Putin may even be concerned that it reveals that he is not the best judge of people, that he has lost his touch, and worst of all, it confirms for some that he is not infallible. His mistakes with the military have very noticeably begun to pile up. Interestingly, despite being punished, the generals who were sacked will at least live to see another day. The soldiers, some incredibly young, whose lives they carelessly wasted in Ukraine will not have that chance.

There is very likely a need at this point to remind some readers that greatcharlie does not seek to offer anything that might in the slightest way support or provide an apology, legal advice, or worst, a legal defense, for Putin over war crimes committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. Thoee among greatcharlie’s readers who may feel anything of the kind is being offered here to Putin, then it is respectfully suggested they stop reading the commentary at this point for it would surely be unreasonable, unconstructuve to continue with such colored perspective. Again, the purpose of this commentary is to suggest to any Western foreign and national security policymakers and decisionmakers ways to take a broader view on Putin’s decisionmaking regarding the Ukraine issue to create opportunities for fruitful diplomacy with the Russian Federation leader despite the challenging circumstances that exist presently.

Alexander Gardiner’s famous photograph of US President Abraham Lincoln, and Union Army Major General George McClellan, Commander of the Army of the Potomac (right) and Allan Pinkerton (left) at Antietam, Maryland, October 3, 1862. Although many readers, particularly in the US, both technically and perhaps more so emotionally, may be unwilling to accept the following as a firm point of comparison, greatcharlie suggests that they consider Putin’s difficulties with the Russian Federation Armed Forces and how US President Abraham Lincoln tried earnestly to place strictures on the behavior of Union Army forces and struggled to control Union Army commanders during the US Civil War (April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865). On April 24, 1863, Lincoln signed General Orders No. 100: Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field which was more famously known as the Lieber Code. The order, more specifically governed the wartime conduct of the Union Army by defining and describing command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the military responsibilities of the Union Army soldier fighting against the Confederate States of America.

C. Another Leader Who Struggled To Control His Commanders During Wartime

Although many readers, particularly in the US both technically, and more so emotionally, may be unwilling to accept the following as a firm point of comparison, greatcharlie suggests that they consider Putin’s difficulties with the Russian Federation Armed Forces and how US President Abraham Lincoln tried earnestly to place strictures on the behavior of Union Army forces and struggled to control Union Army commanders during the US Civil War (April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865). On April 24, 1863, Lincoln signed General Orders No. 100: Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field which was more famously known as the Lieber Code. The order, more specifically governed the wartime conduct of the Union Army by defining and describing command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the military responsibilities of the Union Army soldier fighting against the Confederate States of America. The author of the military law was jurist Franz Lieber, a German lawyer, political philosopher, and combat veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. Lieber essentially modernized the military law of the 1806 Articles of War to ensure Union Army could prosecute its war against the Confederate States of America with legitimacy.

However, despite signing this well-crafted code of conduct, Lincoln had little control of how Union Army soldiers, as well as their commanders, would behave on the battlefield. For example, under the Lieber Code called for the #humane and ethical treatment of populations residing in occupied areas, however, the document clearly had little impact during Union Army Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea (November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864), a scorched earth campaign through Georgia. After seizing Atlanta, Sherman, green-lit by his superiors, marched 60,000 troops from three armies under his command–the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Ohio–285 miles (458 km) east from Atlanta to the coastal town of Savannah during which they successfully disrupted the economic and industrial base of the Confederate States, particularly its war-making capacity and crushed the morale of those sympathetic to the Confederacy. 

In fairness to Sherman, it must be noted that he acted in accord with the concept and intent of Lincoln’s Lieber Code when he gave explicit instructions to his troops regarding their conduct while on their march through Georgia, but there were a few deviations. In his Special Field Order No. 120, Sherman out of necessity encouraged foraging and the confiscation of livestock as he left his Army Group’s supply lines behind to travel so deep, so fast, and so furiously into Georgia. Home invasions were off limits. However, if antagonized by Confederate Army soldiers, Union Army officers were granted permission to destroy private and industrial property. Additionally, the field order permitted able-bodied Black laborers to join the march, but commanding officers were instructed to prioritize the distribution of supplies for soldiers of their Army Group. The majority of Union Army soldiers complied with Field Order No. 120, but some dubbed “bummers” roamed the countryside intentionally terrorizing civilians and looting. Although bummers were technically engaging in forbidden activities, the overall psychological impact of their actions on the local population was in sync with the purpose of the march. The greatest damage done by Sherman’s troops was the destruction of Georgia’s railroad lines, both a conveyor for industries and military transportation. Union Army soldiers would rip up and melt down tracks in full view of the demoralized populace.

Union Army troops tearing up railroad tracks in Georgia as Confederate civilians watched in horror (above). Despite signing this well-crafted code of conduct, Lincoln had little control of how Union Army soldiers, as well as their commanders, would behave on the battlefield. For example, under the Lieber Code called for the humane and ethical treatment of populations residing in occupied areas, however, the document clearly had little impact during Union Army Major General General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea (November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864), a scorched earth campaign through Georgia. After seizing Atlanta, Sherman, green-lit by his superiors, marched 60,000 troops from three armies under his command–the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Ohio–285 miles (458 km) east from Atlanta to the coastal town of Savannah during which they successfully disrupted the economic and industrial base of the Confederate States, particularly its war-making capacity and crushed the morale of those sympathetic to the Confederacy. 

The text of the Lieber Code was arranged to create concordance with the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) and prohibited racist discrimination against Black soldiers of the Union Army, specifically by Confederate Army troops who denied them the rights and privileges of prisoners of war. The military law clearly had little impact on the treatment of racially segregated Black soldiers of the US Colored Troops (USCT) by their White Union Army comrades in arms. At the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), incredulously yet painfully true, White soldiers of the Union Army’s 1st Division essentially assisted soldiers of the Confederate States Army massacre Black soldiers of the 4th Division (USCT) in the midst of the fighting. (SEE the February 28, 2023 greatcharlie post entitled “Reflections on the Battle of the Crater in Relation to Russian Federation Casualties in Ukraine: Where Did All the Leaders Go?”.

On top of that, a succession of commanders failed to meet Lincoln’s expectations during the war. He could insist upon regular consultations on their battle plans, but he could not control what they actually did on the battlefield. He could only remove them. or allow them to resign, but he could not repair the damage they had done to the Union effort, or do anything about the wastage of Union Army soldiers. Very briefly, Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, having previously functioned as Commander of the Army and Department of Northeastern Virginia from May 27, 1861 to July 25, 1861, served as a general in the Army of the Potomac until after the Second Battle of Bull Run when he was relieved of command at his own request on September 6, 1862. Major General George “Little Mac” McClellan was appointed Commander of the Military Division of the Potomac, and later, the Army of the Potomac (July 26, 1861 to November 9, 1862). In 1862, McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign unraveled after the Seven Days Battles, and he also failed to decisively defeat the forces of General in Chief of Armies of the Confederate States General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam. Frustrated by McClellan’s cautious tactics, Lincoln removed him from command. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside served as Commander of the Army of the Potomac from November 9, 1862 to January 26, 1863. Following his infamous “Mud March”.and the senseless slaughter of his troops during the Union Army’s defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside was replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Major General Joseph Hooker served as Commander of the Army and Department of the Potomac from January 26, 1863 to June 28, 1863. Concerned about Hooker were first raised when reports were made that his headquarters doubled as a combination of bar and brothel. Hooker’s timid command performance and grave defects as a commander–he lost mental control of his command in battle–were exposed at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Ostensibly recognizing “faults” in his behavior and performance and reportedly sensing the distrust of Lincoln and Union Army General in Chief Major General Henry Halleck, Hooker resigned his command on June 28, 1863, on the eve of battle. Major General George Meade jumped in as Commander of the Army of the Potomac from June 28, 1863 to June 28, 1865. Meade repulsed the forces of the General in Chief of Armies of the Confederate States General Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg from July 1, 1863 to July 3, 1863 with tactical adroitness; however, he was castigated by some for failing to hotly pursue the remainder of Lee’s forces. He instead allowed them to escape from his immediate reach. Lincoln in duress penned a letter to Meade dated July 14, 1863, relieving him of his command but never sent it. Success was not assured at Gettysburg, but Meade had apparently failed to keep any preconceived follow through firmly in mind in the event of victory.. Although Meade retained command of the Army of the Potomac until the end of the war, his independence of action was sharply curtailed after March 9, 1864, when General Ulysses S. Grant took control of Union  forces from Halleck and was named Commanding General of the US Army. 

Despite keeping a close eye on them to the point that he nearly micromanaged the war, Lincoln could only possess marginal control over the actions of his most senior commanders. He surely had even less of a chance to control the actions of subordinates well beneath them in the chain of command on the battlefield. A law such as theLieber Code could ar best signal intent. In the end, what was done was done. If unlawful or unethical acts were witnessed, they could at best be reported and adjudicated within the system of military justice, or if egregious enough, reviewed in Congressional hearings. 

Painting of the representatives of 12 countries at the conference held in the Alabama room at Geneva’s Hotel de Ville August 22, 1864 where they adopted the first Geneva Convention “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field” (above). The International Committee of the Red Cross while recognising that it is “primarily the duty and responsibility of a nation to safeguard the health and physical well-being of its own people,” knew there would always, especially in times of war, be a “need for voluntary agencies to supplement . . . the official agencies charged with these responsibilities in every country.” To ensure that its mission was widely accepted, it required a body of rules to govern its own activities and those of the involved belligerent parties. A year later, the Swiss government invited the governments of all European countries, as well as the US Brazil, and Mexico, to attend an official diplomatic conference. A total of twenty-six delegates from 16 countries came to Geneva. The meeting was presided over by Swiss General Guillaume Henri Dufour. The conference adopted the first Geneva Convention “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.” Representatives of 12 countries signed the convention at that time.

IV. Under the Geneva Convention Military Commanders Are Responsible for What Happens in Field

To the extent the political authorities cannot control events in the field, commanders take on greater responsibility for their actions and those of their subordinates. Under Geneva Convention I , Article 49; Geneva Convention II, Article 50; Geneva Convention III, Art. 129; Geneva Convention  IV, Article 146; Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, Article 28; and, Geneva Protocol I, Articles 86 and 87, it is clear that commanders shalll be held criminally responsible under the law if they knew or should have known that subordinates were going to violate the law by committing a war crime, yet failed to take steps to prevent it. Further, commanders would be held liable for failing to punish or report subordinates who have already committed a war crime. To that extent, commanders are viewed as being in control of their troops and being responsible for all that transpires within their commands at all times. That rationale gains support in the following way. When the commander develops a plan of action, necessary is the requirement to assess all factors relevant at the time, such as ground and enemy forces, your own forces, logistics, courses open. (In greatcharlie’s day, it was referred to as the METT+T analysis (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Time, and Troops Available. Yes, greatcharlie’s editor is that old!) Once the plan is decided, the commander issues orders to subordinates. The next aspect of control is the direction of the engagement,, during which it is expected that the commander take into account the law of armed conflict. 

V. Likely Big Lesson Learned by Putin Concerning Control of the Russian Federation Armed Forces 

Having learned a very painful lesson with his conventional forces during the special military operation, Putin will ensure that he fully controls the “crown jewels” of the Russian Federation Armed Forces: the nuclear triad. That effort to establish that control has been mostly revealed with each public move he has made with regard to the supply, continual redeployments, and drilling of those forces. With regard to to those who command the nuclear forces, as explained in greatcharlie’s March 30, 2023 post entitled, “Commentary: What Comes Next for Putin at Home and in Ukraine?: An Assessment One Year After the Start of His Special Military Operation”, just as Russian Army generals and colonels were ready and willing to advance their troops into the tragedy that is the Ukraine War–some generals and colonels went as far as to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield, the commanders of the Raketnye Voyska Strategicheskogo Naznacheniya Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation, literally Strategic Purpose Rocketry Troops) which control land-based ICBMs, the strategic bombers and other nuclear capable airframes of the Voenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii (Russian Air Force), and satellites of the Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony (Russian Aerospace Defense Forces) without a shadow of doubt would go into action. In addition, commanders of the strategic submarines of the Voyenno-morskoy Flot (Russian Naval Force) in both the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet would execute their missions. Indeed, commanders who are in control of the Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear triad would act without question in the manner prescribed by political authorities. It would be a mistake for anyone to believe otherwise. Surely, there are more than enough members of the Russian Federation Armed Forces hurting over the nightmare that has befallen their comrades in Ukraine. They more than likely want to dish out some “payback” against those countries that they likely perceive–based on what they surely have been told–created circumstances there, and many can deliver payback in the extreme.

At the Battle of Camarón, an important episode of the Second French Intervention in Mexico (December 8, 1861 to June 27, 1867), the 3rd company of 62 Legionnaires and three Legion officers, led by Captain Jean Danjou was sent to reinforce a French military convoy, transporting 3 million francs in gold bullion, siege guns, and sixty wagons of ammunition. Information was received that the convoy would be ambushed. Before Danjou could reach the convoy, the led elements of a force of 3,000 Mexican Army infantry and cavalry made contact with his unit and he was forced to make a defensive stand at the Hacienda Cameron, in Camarón de Tejeda, Veracruz, Mexico. At the point when he recognized that victory would be absolutely impossible to achieve against the larger Mexican force massed around their defenses, Danjou urged his soldiers to take an oath to fight to the death rather than surrender. He made them swear their fealty on his wooden hand. Danjou then shared his bottle of wine and encouraged his men with has been called  “those noble words that warm one’s heart and makes the final sacrifice less difficult to face.”  When the French Foreign Legion moved to France, Capitain Danjou’s wooden hand was taken to Aubagne, where it remains in the Legion Museum of Memory.  The hand is the most cherished artifact in Legion history.  April 30th is celebrated as “Camerone Day,” an important day for the Legionnaires, when the wooden prosthetic hand of Capitaine Danjou is brought out for display. In 1892, a monument commemorating the battle was erected on the battlefield containing a plaque with the following inscription in French: Ils furent ici moins de soixante / Opposés a toute une armée / Sa masse les écrasa / La vie plutôt que le courage / Abandonna ces soldats Français / Le 30 Avril 1863 / A leur mémoire la patrie éleva ce monument. (Here there were less than sixty opposed to a whole army. Its numbers crushed them. Life rather than courage abandoned these French soldiers on April 30, 1863.  In their memory, the fatherland has erected this monument”) The railing from the Legion grave at Camarone can now be found at the village of Puyloubier near Aix-en-Provence. (The importance of the Battle of Camarón with regard to the history and culture of the French Foreign Legion is discussed in greatcharlie’s February 28, 2023 post entitled “Commentary: The Utilization of Wagner Group Penal Units as Suicide Squads: A Callous Go-to Solution for Regimes Facing Intractable Military Situations.”

Although perhaps willing to accept that Putin is the quintessential “bad actor”, it appears almost impossible for many to believe Putin could decide for the Russian people that as a country the Russian Federation would accept a similar fate, mutantis mutandis, rather accept what he ostensibly would perceive and envision as the nightmare of life under the thumb of Western powers and the near certain invasion of their country in the near future. Indeed, observers might try to consider a scenario in which Putin after observing the Russian Federation Armed Forces lose one decisive battle after another in rapid succession and all had unraveled in Ukraine, would make a nationwide broadcast one evening explaining to the Russian people that the Russian Federation was about to be invaded by the proxy forces of the Western powers, that the special military operation, meant as a pre-emptive action has lifted the curtain on the true nature of the Western powers’ objectives and operations in Ukraine and based on all that has been revealed concerning the actions of the Western powers and the astronomical support of the offensive military activities of their partner in Kyiv, despite repeated warnings from the Kremlin for them not to continue their aggressive activities in the Russian Federation’s near abroad, a state of total war existed between the Russian Federation and the US, its NATO allies, and the EU. He would tell the Russian people that their support, prayers, and courage were needed as his government took its next steps. Putin would likely display sangfroid and equanimity, and speak with the tone of a leader in complete command of a situation.(Readers might cast their minds back to Nazi German Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels’ February 18, 1943 address at the Berlin Sportpalast following the Wehrmacht’s epic loss at Stalingrad to the Soviet Army, in which he zealously implored the German people to commit anew to an all-out war effort: Totaler Krieg–Kürzester Krieg! (Total War–Shortest War!) From the point of that hypothetical broadcast, it would most likely just be a matter of time before the worst possibility would materialize.

It is greatcharlie’s contention, without pretense, some absurd desire to establish some greater sense of importance, or a ridiculous effort to claim of greater sapience, that Western diplomats would do well to reflect on this assessment and consider how responding to what they might deem as Putin’s misperceptions to open the door to great possibilities.)

The Russian Federation’s Sarmat Intercontinental ballistic missile (above) is a 115 feet (35-meters) tall and has a range of 11,185 miles (18,000km)(). Some estimate this to be higher. It can carry at least 10 multiple targetable re-entry vehicles – each with a nuclear warhead – which can each be aimed at a different target. It can also deliver hypersonic Avangard glide vehicles that can travel further and faster, flying in a variable path to overcome missile defenses. Just as Russian Army generals and colonels were ready and willing to advance their troops into the tragedy that is the Ukraine War–some generals and colonels went as far as to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield, the commanders in control of the Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear triad and supporting organizations would act without question in the manner prescribed by political authorities. It would be a mistake for anyone to believe otherwise.

VI. The Arrest Warrant for Putin

In Paragraph 6 of  the First Oration of his Catalonia Orations, Marcus Tulius Cicero, an excoriation of rival senator Lucius Sergius Catiline, who he alleged sought to overthrow the Roman Senate, he writes: Quamdiu quisquam erit, qui te defendere audea, vives, et vives ita, ut nunc vivis, multis meis et firms praesidiis obsessed, ne commovere te contra rem publicam possis. Multorum te etiam oculi et aures non sentience, sicut adhuc fecerunt, speculabuntur atque custodient. (As long as one person exists who can dare to defend you, you shall live, but you shall live as you do now, surrounded by my many and trusty guards, so that you shall not be able to.stir one finger against the republic: many eyes and ears shall still observe and watch you, as they have hitherto done, though you shall perceive them.) Doubtlessly, with the necessary adjustments, surely this is the fate many in Western governments hope will befall Putin and he would be left in such a depleted state. However, greatcharlie suggests the satisfaction that they seek will unlikely manifest and the cost of any attempt to get their hands on Putin would be far worse than steep. Such attempts to create such a circumstance would inflame Putin’s ardor to a degree one could only reasonably expect the worst.

On March 17, 2023, the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a warrant of arrest for Putin in the context of the situation in Ukraine. (Indicted along with Putin on that day was Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation since 2021.) As Russian Federation President, Putin has been declared allegedly responsible for “the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute).” The Pre-Trial Chamber II also stated that “the crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from February 24, 2022.” The Pre-Trial Chamber II further explained that it has reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility “(i) for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute), and (ii) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control, pursuant to superior responsibility (article 28(b) of the Rome Statute).” The alleged war crime as outlined by the Pre-Trial Chamber II is horrendous. At the nub of the matter is the issue of Putin’s level of control over the actions of all Russian Federation elements in Ukraine.

So often it has been the case with Putin’s presidency, legal action in response to his behavior on the world stage may have been warranted, but not necessarily required given the context of situations. Prioritizing the furtherance of international peace and security, the leader of Russian Federation with an enormous nuclear arsenal under his control, and members of his coterie, were hit with tongue lashings, finger-wagging, and sanctions. National governments, regional organizations, and international organizations would level economic sanctions against the Russian Federation and national legislatures would pass punishing business and financial laws designed to stifle the ability of the Russian Federation business community, particularly the country’s elite, to maintain and generate within advanced industrialized systems. The Magnitsky Law passed in the US created a considerable degree of pain and aggravation for Putin. Other than that, and a few other other coercive measures, Putin was repeatedly extended a degree of latitude. Putin was surely smart enough to recognize that. (One might posit that he flaunted that latitude allowed to him in the faces of Western powers by invading Ukraine.) In an environment in the West in which political leaders, especially among NATO and EU countries were being hounded over not doing enough to support Ukraine and not enough to decouple and lash out against Putin, the choice of the US-led international community became to exercise legal power over the Russian Federation President. Urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to issue a warrant for Putin’s arrest, though significant, was seemingly rather trivial in comparison with the greater task of assisting Ukraine in defeating the Russian Federation. Nonetheless, it helped set a path toward what may be a future of even more trying diplomatic efforts with Putin, which to great extent–unless the international community makes another choice, the unthinkable choice of granting Putin whatever he wishes–has put the outcome somewhat out of its rational hands.)

A. Putin Still Minimized as an “Oppositional Adolescent” by the West?

As touched upon in greatcharlie’s March 30, 2023 post, it is difficult to see exactly what end was hoped for when the decision was made to indict Putin. There was likely some ego stroke scored as a result of sticking it to Putin, but not much more was accomplished than that. (How horrifying and disappointing it would be to discover the intent was to goad Putin to react adversely and make mistakes. If such is even remotely accurate, perhaps those who hypothetically were impelled by that thought might not have considered a big mistake Putin might have immediately made–and could still make–could have been to start a nuclear war. “Wishful thinking” is not a form of optimism, it is a euphemistic term for denial.)

Whether it was not thought through or was actually a subconscious aspect of the choice, the most likely connotation within the Kremlin of the West’s support for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Putin was a demonstration of the many levers of power at its disposal, to hurt him on the world stage. It was an exhibition of its power relative to his. A dynamic poorly concealed throughout the years of Putin’s interaction with Western powers was the need of its national leaders to remind him of his subordinate status and his struggle to make them accept him as an equal. That dynamic was readily apparent when the Russian Federation was a member of the erstwhile “G-8”, now the G-7 Interestingly, at one point, that membership was of considerable importance to him. Surely, that is no longer the case. Perhaps he brands himself an ass now for ever thinking he or the Russian Federation would ever really receive acceptance within it.

Maybe it would have been far more reasonable and practical to demand Putin confess irresponsibility over leading his country into war with so many criminally minded senior officials and military men unaware that he would not have genuine control of those who would eventually perpetrate heinous acts in Ukraine under orders from unstable authorities far beneath those in the Senate Building at the Kremlin as well as some sort of diabolical control from Hell. The chance of Putin cooperating in either case would doubtlessly be the same: zero! One might wonder what would be the plan of the International Criminal Court to successfully and safely take him into custody. 

Under Article 58 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of July 17, 1998, an arrest warrant can be issued publicly or under seal when the arrest of the person appears necessary to ensure a person’s appearance at trial. Under Article 89 of the Rome Statute, the court may request the cooperation in the arrest and surrender from any State on the territory of which the person may be found. The court has no internal enforcement mechanism which would allow it to arrest persons subject to arrest warrants. In the interest of promoting good interstate relations, diplomacy, and peace and security and simply in the planetary interest, under such trying circumstances, discretion in taking such actions–at least refraining from declaring as criminal a party essential to establishing peace–would be the best choice, the better part of valor. Putin’s accountability and culpability for war crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian Federation forces was something which could have been dealt with later. The priority now is ending the war if possible.

B. Actualities Concerning Intelligence and Making Claims against Putin

With regard to providing evidence of Putin’s crimes, one would need to be dismissive of the fact that the intelligence and security services of the Russian Federation have sophisticated capabilities. One cannot say for certain what would happen if the Kremlin produced its own classified information confirming Putin plainly stated he would brook no behavior by Russian Federation forces in the field of the kind for which he is accused of having some responsibility. Hypothetically, the Kremlin might be able to produce transcripts of communications between errant commanders demonstrating their deliberate effort to conceal their actions from superiors, making false any suggestion that Putin controlled or ordered their illegal actions. To that extent, it might be proven with a sea of declassified official internal documents by the Kremlin that generally Putin did not impose too much on his commanders and within reason, relied on their reports and advice on the special military operation. Of course, one could expect it to possess a profusion of redactions to give them that ultra official feel and if any documents are authentic, to hide any nitty-gritty. With such evidence at hand, the Kremlin would surely insist it has no need to respond to baseless accusations about the Russian Federation President. 

One could unlikely insist as part of any fair and balanced legal process that Russian Federation classified intelligence is of less veracity and should be distrusted outrightly. Turning to the intelligence of one country–for instance the US, the United Kingdom, or Germany–that can provide information collected through electronic eavesdropping externally on the internal communications of the armed forces and security organizations of another country–for example the Russian Federation–with the aim to refute and discredit said monitored country’s own intelligence on what was being discussed among its military and security officials, would be something better than an act of bias and stand the idea of objective justice on its head. The International Criminal Court is supposed to be an objective tool for the world. Readers must pardon greatcharlie’s frankness but having stated the former, it believes that such a chauvinistic step and in the end finding Putin “unhesitatingly and with utter conviction” guilty, perhaps even in absentia, rationally imaginable given how predisposed so many that serve in regional and international bodies are to think unfavorably about him. The thinking of the court is certainly not to be judged by greatcharlie. It is only outlining what it perceives as a likely possibility. (This statement is not intended as apophasis.) If one might take into account anything about Putin’s arrest warrant written here could even remotely have some influence, it would at best be as a cautionary assessment for Western foreign and national security bureaucracies to consider before pursuing the arrest warrant matter any further.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin (above) at the Kremlin on March 8, 2023. Whether the action was not thought through or was actually a subconscious aspect of the choice among powers of great influence in the West, the most likely connotation within the Kremlin of the West’s support for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Putin was a demonstration of the many levers of power at its disposal, to hurt him on the world stage. It was an exhibition of its power relative to his. A dynamic poorly concealed throughout the years of Putin’s interaction with Western powers was the need of its national leaders to remind him of his subordinate status and his struggle to make them accept him as an equal. That dynamic was readily apparent when the Russian Federation was a member of the erstwhile “G-8”, now the G-7 Interestingly, at one point, that membership was of considerable importance to him. Surely, that is no longer the case. Perhaps he brands himself an ass now for ever thinking he or the Russian Federation would ever really receive acceptance within it.

VII. Energetic Diplomacy: The Best Chance of Stemming Catastrophe

In the aftermath of everything, historians would likely be forced to choose whether there really was something so peculiar about Putin that makes energetic efforts at diplomacy at this stage so taxing. It may actually be the case that the fault for ineffective diplomatic efforts with lies with the foreign and national security policy officials and political leaders of the many countries that had to deal with him. Perchance it was the fault of both parties for failing to see a true middle ground in things satisfactory to both sides. Nevertheless, it is greatcharlie’s conviction that at the present the West is in grave danger. The source of that danger in the Russian Federation. Ending the Ukraine War on favorable or acceptable terms for all parties is of the utmost importance. However, the priority is to ease the world back from an apparent slow spiral to armageddon.

In its March 30th post, greatcharlie suggeeted that at this point, diplomacy with the Russian Federation on Ukraine has figuratively been knocked off the rails. True, indicting Putin was a step that practically ensured his refusal to negotiate with Kyiv unless he had attained some considerable advantage in Ukraine and his negotiating position would be very strong. However, rather than draw a line there as in March and succumb to despair, here greatcharlie pulls back from the statement that the opportunity for diplomacy has been lost. 

A  Having the Right Answers

Doubtlessly, there are more than a few Western diplomats ready and able to work on the problem and await directions for the next move by the West. Yet alas, that is hardly enough on its own to inspire confidence that the situation will be resolved. What would be crucial in launching a new diplomatic offensive would be employing an envoy who would have sufficient standing for such an errand, given Putin’s animus toward, one might imagine, all things of or pertaining to the West. The selected envoy could travel to Moscow to speak with Putin about his thinking and intentions. Rather than guess at what is on his mind, it would be better to hear it firsthand and definitively. If the kernel for negotiations with Moscow can be found, then there may be a chance for further positive exchanges. If Putin makes it clear that he will not brook any talk about the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops from Ukraine or reasonable terms for peace negotiations, and ratchets up threats to use nuclear weapons, at least there would be greater certainty over where things stand and what preparations must be made. Putin shall not countenance what he may perceive as a diminution of the great dignity of the Russian Federation. 

Although all countries with an immediate stake in the Ukraine matter should be made aware of the diplomatic effort to achieve an entente with Putin, the new contact may need to be performed discreetly. Perhaps this is best that can be done at this juncture. Hope can be the only thing that comforts people in misery. For Russian people, who are the ones who will decide whether there is a need for change in the direction their country has been moving, hope for that change could be founded through contact between their president and the outside world. Paradoxically, while Putin may indeed enhance his standing among many as they will see the Russian Federation still acting as an important player on the world stage, many others may perceive such diplomacy as proof that the Russian people are viewed as far more than just potential targets for retaliatory nuclear strikes from the the US, the United Kingdom, and France, and written off as nothing to signify. It is suggested by greatcharlie in an opaque way that such a diplomatic effort could even mean far more to the right number of them. In public discussions of the new diplomacy, Western diplomats would do well to emphasize the effort has been undertaken with consideration of the well-being of the Russian people and make other statements of that nature.

There are for certain countless pitfalls that could disrupt or even destroy a new, robust diplomatic effort. What may be most important for Western capitals to recognize are the right answers that will bring a negotiated settlement and peace. There is also the issue of time available. Again, Putin has a large say in how things will turn out and surely has his own timeliness for action. To that extent, until some acceptable path to peace is found, perhaps the greatest danger will remain a decision already made by him to act in some ghastly way.

B. In the Meantime, Will the West Lose Control of Its Junior Partner in Kyiv?

The indications and implications of multiple reporting, to include the Washington Post, of alleged swift action by US foreign and national security policy officials to halt a plan by Ukraine to launch mass strikes against Moscow may be that at least the White House is aware of just how close the world in to a potential nuclear war, it does not want that, and that it now has the extra burden of monitoring the behavior of its “junior partners” in Kyiv. It is uncertain whether the Ukrainian leadership was led to take such a course as result of a lack of wisdom and experience or a complete absorption in self-interest or both. However, if newsmedia stories of this episode are accurate, it would appear that they were blind as beetles to the possibility that their planned assault could have triggered a catastrophic response from the Kremlin to the great detriment of Ukraine, but the whole wide world

If Putin already has a mind and the will to take the most drastic step possible against the West, Kyiv in planning an attack on Moscow could have supplied him with a reason better than anything he could have conjured up. The world moves closer and closer to the edge of the precipice with every errant move as this. It is wonder if there were any other planned Ukrainian actions halted by Western powers that would have brought the world the worst. One wonders how long can this balancing act without a safety net go on without catastrophe.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, (left) and U.S President Joe Biden (right) shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. Doubtlessly, there are more than a few Western diplomats ready and able to work on the problem and await directions for the next move by the West. Yet alas, that is hardly enough on its own to inspire confidence that the situation will be resolved. What would be crucial in launching a new diplomatic offensive would be employing an envoy who would have sufficient standing for such an errand given Putin’s animus toward, one might imagine, all things of or pertaining to the West. The selected envoy could travel to Moscow to speak with Putin about his thinking and intentions. Rather than guess at what is on his mind, it would be better to hear it firsthand and definitively. If the kernel for negotiations with Moscow can be found, then there may be a chance for further positive exchanges. If Putin makes it clear that he will not brook any talk about the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops from Ukraine or reasonable terms for peace negotiations, and ratchets up threats to use nuclear weapons, at least there would be greater certainty over where things stand and what preparations must be made.

The Way Forward

Putin watched his predecessors mismanage,  breakdown, and lose control over the Soviet Union while he was both inside and outside the system. Unable to repair the Russian Federation by replicating not even a simulacrum of what came before it, despite his best efforts, one might suggest he may have already decided to figuratively burn down “the wide-world and its fading sweets.” It is a wonder Putin has not gone mad given the extraordinary pressures that have relentlessly squeezed him since the special military operation began and even beforehand. Standing on the precipice of losing everything, it would best for the wide world if Putin can continue to retain his balance. The clear choice for him is either to continue forward or abandon at great personal loss, the reckless and destructive path upon which he set his country on February 24, 2022, and triggering the most undesirable statistical probability his predecessors foresaw the most likely outcome: a perpetuation of the struggle long-term would be between East and West, begun during the Cold War between the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union. Putin has mourned its collapse with considerable grief and disappointment.

Among those who use wisdom and logic, imagination can have value in an investigation. Imagination is a quality many lack, but many also lack wisdom and logic. Often it is the case that a lack of maturity inhibits one ability to reason matters out correctly. Just having an answer, right or wrong, based on some chain of thinking is enough for some. Smart, confident people can find a constructive solution to any problem. There is in reality nothing so mysterious about Putin that should lead any national leader to throw the possibility of acceptable relations with the Russian Federation out of the window. Welling up with the type of anger and disappointment that might cause them to find affinity with Putin’s worst critics will destroy any opportunity for a fruitful course to develop. As noted greatcharlie here ad nauseum, those leaders must consider what their respective countries’ relationships with the Russian Federation mean not only with regard to Ukraine, but in the bigger picture. When leaders lose sight of the multifaceted nature of their respective countries’ relationships with the RussianFederation, they create the danger of driving those relationships down to lower points. They should think about current so-called challenges as opportunities. Meditating on the matter, they may discover possibilities for getting many things done by just doing things a bit differently. Leaders should not let bad words, negative choices flashover all issues regarding the Russian Federation and become civilization’s dénouement. positive changes on one issue can often result in great benefits on another. Respice finem (Have regard for the end.)

Commentary: What Comes Next for Putin at Home and in Ukraine?: An Assessment One Year After the Start of His Special Military Operation

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin (center right), Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation General Sergei Shoigu (bottom left) and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation Naval Force or Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov (top). In preceding posts on the Russian Federation’s special military operation in Ukraine, greatcharlie sought to dive a bit deeper on each occasion into Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s mind. The aim was to better understand how Putin–the one who started the Ukraine War–thinks and offer not just insight on decisions he has made but foresight on decisions he might make in the near future. Given how the situation has progressed in Ukraine so negatively for Putin and the Russian Federation, he will need to reach some conclusions on the outcome of what he has started while he can still have a real say in events. This essay offers some new ideas and insights that may assist readers in developing their own lines of thought on how to best proceed with regard to Putin and relations with the Russian Federation.

In its attempts to parse the subject of the Russian Federation’s Spetsial’noy Voyennoy Operatsii (Special Military Operation) in preceding posts, greatcharlie regularly sought to dive a bit deeper into the mind of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. The objective was to better understand how Putin thinks and additionally offer not just insight on decisions he has made but foresight on decisions he might make in the near future. The purpose of this essay is to offer some new ideas and insights that may assist readers, hopefully to include some practitioners in the field of foreign and national security policy analysis and decisionmaking, to develop new lines of thought on how to proceed concerning Putin and relations with the Russian Federation. 

Noticeably, some analysts who publish essays have appeared fixated emotionally upon the idea of Putin being a beast and it has colored their analyses. They have been unwilling to ascribe any premium qualities to any aspects of his leadership even when an objective examination would surely warrant such. Students among greatcharlie’s readership must guard against mimicking such analyses. This commentary may disappoint some because at points here and there, greatcharlie has noted ways in which Putin has displayed better than average qualities. The goal here is to take an objective look at the individual and his record, not prepare a popular piece. Aude sapere. (Dare to know.)

At first glance, one would likely discern the same aggregation of elements and the characteristics similar to those of many other leaders of authoritarian regimes throughout history.  As this is 2023, one might reasonably have hoped to find something better, believing mankind had advanced beyond such base impulses. Still, with Putin there is more. From what can.be gathered by greatcharlie, in the mind of Putin, what some might reluctantly call genius seems to coexist with madness. (The invasion of Ukraine was certainly an act of daylight madness, and has brought greatcharlie to this position. Surely, his appalling choice was impelled by something far greater than some abhorrent eccentricity. ) Some of his harshest critics might go as far as to conclude some form of hallucinatory insanity appears to be married with megalomania with regard to his case. This is stated without the intention of identifying everything he has done of recent as unbalanced and no effort should be exerted on finding correct reasoning and wisdom in his decisions.

In The Republic, Plato quotes Socrates as saying “Be as you wish to seem.” The record of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin indicaties that he has displayed a logic superior to those who surround him, unquestionably a superior knowledge of the Russian Federation’s political environs, and an greater expertise in the workings of the Russian Federation’s system, that has allowed him to make it work for him. To help describe Putin, greatcharlie feels compelled to quote an apposite phrase from one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories, “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” (1917): “All other men are specialists, his specialism is omniscience.” His power in the Russian Federation practically knows no bounds. To that extent, one can confidently call him an autocrat.

A self-declared, dyed in the wool, Russian patriot, Putin would never in his addresses harp on the dilapidated state of his country and poor material in terms of personnel with which he had to work when President Boris Yeltsin essentially left the Russian Federation. Murders, mysterious deaths, disappearances, embezzlement and all other forms of corruption were commonplace then and for some while afterward. Putin used what could arguably be called his charisma to create an illusion of advancement by highlighting occasional economic achievements, technological breakthroughs, and international successes and used those bright spots to distract watching eyes as best as possible away from a political system under his iron grip, an authoritarian security network, social band-aids that were usually inadequate or ineffectively implemented, and endless propaganda, among other things. It has helped him carry the country to this point without collapse. Fluctuat nec mergitur. (It is tossed by waves but does not sink.) 

Three decades ago Putin was as far away from being Russian Federation President as one could imagine and that he had never expressed any interest in being such publicly or within his private circle, yet he took the responsibility head-on from day one and has maintained his balance in spite of the near limitless pressures and stressors that have beset him. Perchance his mentality is the only type that could ever survive service in such a position for so long in the environment the Russian Federation has provided.

Ethno-religious nationalist and ultranationalist precepts as well as criminal thoughts that colored Putin’s thinking both girded and impelled his actions at home. On the world stage, Putin’s thinking has orbited around the same political “ideals” and thinking. Those extreme ideas. He proved that he could wield an iron fist in Chechnya and demonstrated the willingness to project Russian Federation military power in former Soviet republics–all of which have been sovereign countries for over three decades and together he has dubbed the Russian Federation’s “near abroad”–and as far beyond his country’s borders as the Middle East and Africa. However, Putin’s aforementioned hardline political ideals and thinking have been most apposite for the West due to the manner in which they have couched his persistent desire to retaliate against the West over ways he perceives it has wronged his country. Perhaps now he is more so directed at destroying it than ever before. For quite some time, Putin has been tormented by what many in the West would call groundless suspicions about US, EU, and NATO motives in countries within the Russian Federation’s periphery, its near abroad.

To that extent, in his speeches Putin has regularly expressed a hodge-podge of thoughts manifesting his belief that the US is an opponent, the Russian Federation stands vulnerable to the US “tricks”, and that former Soviet republics and Eastern bloc countries still have obligations to Moscow. It will likely take some time for historians to fully decipher it all. A good example of such expressions is the February 24, 2022 address he gave just before the special military operation was launched. A positively ominous suggestion that Putin and his acolytes have repeatedly made for over a decade is that the US seeks to conquer Russia for its abundant resources. The Western newsmedia has given scant attention to a singular document prepared in 2013 by Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation General Staff) that manifested thinking in the Russian Federation on the US intentions. The document was discussed in greatcharlie’s November 16, 2016 post entitled, “Belarus Allows Small Demonstrations Outside KGB Headquarters: As Belarus Curries Favor with the West, Can It Help Russia, Too?”. 

Far more than an ordinary military assessment on NATO expansion, the document, known initially as the top secret Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation, declared that future conflicts will be “Resource Wars.” The basis of that assessment was that the depletion of energy resources will soon become an ultimate world crisis and overtake regions. Severe shortages of oil, gas and other natural resources would cause their prices to steeply rise. Russia’s senior military leaders believed outside powers, primarily the US and its allies, could possibly invade their country from several directions to physically grab territory and resources. Putin accepted the threat assessment of the Russian Federation General Staff which essentially paralleled his own thinking, and signed the Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation into law on January 29, 2013. The notion that Russian Federation borders were being threatened by the US and NATO and that defensive measures needed to be taken has nearly controlled Russian military thinking since the plan was developed. Such paranoid delusion should have been addressed diplomatically. Instead, more pressure was poured on especially with Western activity in the Baltic States–Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania–and Ukraine. It would be interesting to know whether assessments were done in Western governments on how Putin would react to these moves and whether those assessments, if they advised caution, were taken seriously. One might suggest that Putin’s suspicions about the US and NATO surely factored into his decision to invade Ukraine.

If one would choose to call it bad luck, Putin has certainly had more than his share of disappointments in recent years. He has surely come to the realization concerning the weakness of his country’s conventional military, economic, diplomatic, and political power in the world particularly as a result of the outcome of the Ukraine special military operation. The Russian Federation’s limited conventional war in Ukraine which has resulted in no clear achievements to match the dreadful cost in Russian troops and materiel as well as astronomical expenditures has simply been a net negative in practical terms and politically. 

Putin views the support that the West, as well as many other countries around the world have  provided Ukraine, as aggressive, provocative, and unacceptable. Along with many of his top advisers, particularly Russian Federation Vice President Dmitry Medvedev, he has responded by making repeated threats to the effect that the Russian Federation is ready to use nuclear weapons. To give weight to such promises, Putin has ordered redeployments of nuclear devices, multiple drills of Russia’s force of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and cut off communications with the US regarding the movement of those weapons and drills with them.

The West has made it clear to Moscow that it would not entertain his accusations or be terrorized by his threats. Still, there does appear to be a bit extra to Putin’s actions on this occasion than simply strengthening his position for diplomacy or politically at home. As with the invasion of Ukraine, his moves in that direction could easily become something more than a bluff.

Acta non verba. (Deeds not words!) On the matter of assistance from other countries who are the Russian Federation friends and partners, there has been a lot of talk but hardly any action to make a real difference in Ukraine. Putin did not make it this far relying on help from others. He is smarter than that. He got into his situation alone and he knows very well that he alone must find the way out of it, if he can. More important to Putin concerning his friends and partners would be knowing with some certainty that none of them have betrayed him or have plans to do so. Eventually, Putin will need to reach a hard decision on the outcome he wants for the big picture while he still can have some say.

Putin could potentially go on leading the Russian Federation for a time after some hypothetical peace deal was reached. While in power though, Putin would surely appear seriously hobbled by any outcome of the special military operation that would be less than a clear victory for the Russian Federation. No matter how he might arrange things so that he could remain in office, he would be seen as just hanging on to power as opposed to being thoroughly in charge as he has been. Once the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin on March 17, 2023 over war crimes committed in Ukraine, he could scarcely travel anywhere without facing the real threat of arrest or at least an attempt to detain him. It is difficult to see how anyone would believe he would be open to talk with a leader of any country supportive of that arrest warrant. He most likely viewed that move as a declaration of war by external powers set against him.

Omnia prius experiri, quam armis, sapientem decet. (It becomes a wise man to try all methods before having recourse to arms.) It is likely that some readers may disagree with this segment of greatcharlie’s assessment, but issuing an arrest warrant for Putin was a step that practically ensured his refusal to negotiate with Kyiv unless he has attained some considerable advantage in Ukraine and his negotiating position would be very strong. That situation will unlikely arise if the Ukrainians have a say in the matter; and, they do! In the interest of promoting good interstate relations, diplomacy, and peace and security under such trying circumstances, discretion in taking such actions–at least refraining from declaring a party essential to establishing peace as criminal–would be the best choice, the better part of valor. Putin’s accountability and culpability for war crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian Federation forces was something which could have been dealt with later. The priority now is ending the war if possible. At this point, diplomacy with the Russian Federation on Ukraine has figuratively been knocked off the rails. There is no well-defined, well-trodden path to take toward diplomacy given the circumstance created. Everything is up in the air so to speak.

Postea noli rogare quod inpetrare nolueris. (Don’t ask for what you’ll wish you hadn’t got.) It is difficult to see exactly what end was hoped for when the decision was made to indict Putin. There was likely some ego stroke scored as a result of sticking it to Putin, but not much more was accomplished than that. It is far too late to suggest Western leaders come to their senses on the matter. The opportunity very likely lost was both enormous and crucial. (Note: All of that said, there remains the possibility that Putin would still accept a king’s ransom and something akin to immunity worldwide concerning his arrest warrant just to halt military operations in Ukraine and withdraw Russian Federation forces from the country in a limited way,. Numerous pitfalls would be associated with the payment option.)

Intimations formed from facts have led greatcharlie to postulate that Putin was very likely hoping to get a peace deal that was not perfect but at least not draconian in its terms through diplomacy with a new administration in Washington. However, the prospects for that, at least the time of this writing, appear to have changed dramatically for the worse. If he cannot get a peace deal, defeat would become a real possibility for his country if significant international support for Ukraine’s war effort continues.

As for the Russian Federation, it would no longer be looked upon as anything to be reckoned with. The somewhat shiny veneer of a superpower, an image of Moscow from the days of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the Cold War in which the follow-on national government in Moscow rejoiced, was promoted and well-polished by Putin for years. Although he successfully managed to present the Russian Federation in that way to the world in the past, he would no longer be in a position to do that with any impact following a hypothetical defeat. For certain, Putin would still make the case that Moscow achieved its goals in this scenario, but most likely few in the world, not even his friends in Belarus, China or North Korea, would accept that. The loss of the Russian Federation’s image of greatness, as he for so long sought to project it, would be the thing that would gravely wound him psychologically and perhaps physically.

The thought that he might face the same, suffice it to say “karmic fate” of Nlazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Iraq’s Saddam Hussain, Libya’s Muammar el-Quadafy, or the other leaders of authoritarian regimes is doubtlessly anathema to Putin. He most likely believes the West is trying to drive him in that direction. However, unlike those leaders who have ignominiously fallen to democratic forces or invading armies, Putin would not need to run into a bunker, left only with his reasons, and await his fate. He can still act, and act ferociously. Putin does not have to dream hopelessly of developing wonder weapons in time to strike back at his foes with vengeance. As alluded to earlier, he controls a massive arsenal of thermonuclear weapons and ICBMs, many of which are quite advanced technologically. In August 2022, the issue of Putin’s potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine initially gained traction in the newsmedia. The issue is now discussed far less. In greatcharlie’s August 31, 2022 post entitled “Would the Ejection of Russian Forces from Ukraine Lead to a  Thermonuclear Response by Moscow?: Some Meditations on Putin’s Likely Thinking”, the matter is discussed in some detail.

Omnia iam fient fieri quae posse negabam. (All the things which I denied could happen are now happening.) Attacking the West with thermonuclear weapons would be the ultimate form of punitive action. To be frank, there would be a considerable imbalance with regard to infrastructure and environmental destruction, institutions and businesses ruined, and lives lost. Perhaps greatcharlie may be oversimplifying the matter by stating in a thermonuclear exchange, the Western world has far more to lose, in terms of an exciting future of endless positive possibilities than the Russian Federation. The ability to destroy that bright future, would surely outweigh concerns over the destructive capacity of the retaliatory capability some Western countries possess. Perchance it would even be the case in such an instance that the people of the Russian Federation would not know Putin launched against the West first. Conceivably, the Kremlin could make certain before the attack that in its aftermath the messaging would be that their country was viciously attacked by the US and its nuclear armed allies. (Despite how off-kilter as it may sound, a Russian Federation devastated by a thermonuclear attack would ironically be a safer country for Putin to rule. He expectedly would still be in control of all the levers of power–the security services, the armed forces, and the country’s financial resources. There would also be a lot to keep everyone who would survive in the country very busy. It is unlikely that the Russian people at that time would be interested in anything that anyone in the West would have to say.)

Putin would very likely feel an odd sense of satisfaction even with a Cadmean victory resulting from a thermonuclear exchange with the West. This time he could be somewhat more assured that he would get the results he wanted. He would get the sense of satisfaction he very likely had hoped to feel when he launched the special military operation against Ukraine. (This is where the part about madness takes on greater meaning.)

Just as Russian Army generals and colonels were ready and willing to advance their troops into the tragedy that is the Ukraine War–some generals and colonels went as far as to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield, the commanders of the Raketnye Voyska Strategicheskogo Naznacheniya Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation, literally Strategic Purpose Rocketry Troops) which control land-based ICBMs, the strategic bombers and other nuclear capable airframes of the Voenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii (Russian Air Force), and satellites of the Voyska Vozdushno-kosmicheskoy Oborony (Russian Aerospace Defense Forces) would go into action. In addition, commanders of the strategic submarines of the Voyenno-morskoy Flot (Russian Naval Force) in both the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet would execute their missions. Indeed, commanders who are in control of the Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear triad would act without question in the manner prescribed by political authorities. It would be a mistake for anyone to believe otherwise. Surely, there are more than enough members of the Russian Federation Armed Forces hurting over the nightmare that has befallen their comrades in Ukraine. They more than likely want to dish out some “payback” against those countries that they likely perceive–based on what they surely have been told–created circumstances there, and many can deliver payback in the extreme. Libens-Volens-Potens. (Ready-Willing-Potent.)

As noted, a Cadmean victory or at best a Pyrrhic victory would be the most that he could possibly hope to attain in Ukraine at this point. Ever aggressive, Putin perhaps even now has trouble reigning in his ardor to destroy those “who put him and the Russian Federation in their current bad position” even if it is the last thing he does. Such was the choice of the Russian folklore hero Ural-batyr against the Devs. (That would certainly have meaning for the Rodnovers in his circle and throughout the Russian Federation. SEE greatcharlie’s aforementioned August 31, 2022 post for more on that story.) If the Western leaders truly believe Putin will not set off a thermonuclear exchange despite already facing challenges in Ukraine that could certainly lead to his demise, then it would make sense for them to accelerate its timing by pushing the edge of the envelope in terms of their support for Ukraine’s victory. It would seem most are still uncertain about what he will do. (Retaliatory thermonuclear strikes would surely be the thing to get Putin into a bunker.)

In the chain of insights regarding Putin discussed here, each link rings true.. As stated prior, Putin most likely knows that he will need to reach some conclusions on the outcome of what he has started while he can still have a real say in events. Sufficient evidence exists to postulate that he feels a bit boxed in and reasonably so. Most human beings do not like the feeling of being boxed in and will react aggressively to extricate themselves from the situation even if the odds are against success. As expressed earlier, placidity should hardly be expected of Putin. Thereby, Putin’s response to his situation and that of the Russian Federation, as with nearly every other response he has offered so far, is unlikely to be positive and will most likely be final. Saepe ne utile quidem est scire quid futurum sit. (Often it is not even advantageous to know what will be.)

Commentary: The Utilization of Wagner Group Penal Units as Suicide Squads: A Callous Go-to Solution for Regimes Facing Intractable Military Situations

Wagner Group troops filmed in action from a Ukrainian Armed Forces drone in the town of Popansa on May 4, 2022 (above). In the image, a Wagner Group squad is involved in intense street fighting with Ukrainian troops. The Wagner Group is a private military contractor based in the Russian Federation whose units have been deployed to bolster the number of Russian Federation Armed Forces in Ukraine. From the start of the special military operation, Moscow has used paid fighters to bolster its forces. However, Russian Federation commanders, displaying a remarkable lack of military acumen across the board, have used Wagner Group troops, and some of their own, essentially as “suicide squads” or “cannon fodder” to achieve less than important objectives. This is especially true with regard to Wagner Group “penal units” which have suffered high-profile casualties. The use of this tact is hardly novel. Here, greatcharlie discusses four military formations which in fairly recent history were created and utilized by their respective governments on the battlefield much as the Wagner Group in Ukraine, mutantis mutandis. In each case, military commanders could provide what they believed were clear, logical, and plausible explanations for their respective choices.

As alluded to in greatcharlie’s preceding January 31, 2023 post entitled “Reflections on the Battle of the Crater in Relation to Russian Federation Casualties in Ukraine: Where Did All the Leaders Go?”, there is a strange buoyancy and caustic ebullience that seems to have overcome some in the Western newsmedia concerning videos recorded of the daily slaughter of members of Vooruzhonnije Síly Rossíyskoj Federátsii (the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Armed Forces) by the hundreds in Ukraine. Those videos are broadcasted and streamed online by several newsmedia houses without end: cui bono? On immediate impression, one might presume its is the product of newsmedia managers possessing a seemingly seared conscience or spliced moral cord, who perchance, mutatis mutandis, are not too different in their callous thinking from those who started the war. Yet, despite how disagreeable such reporting may be to greatcharlie, recognizably, it has been considerably helpful in shining a spotlight upon the positively callous and diabolical practice of Russian Federation commanders to force their troops to waste their lives for meager gains. This is especially true as some military experts have already judged to be a lost cause in Ukraine. Many of the newsmedia stories on the slaughter of Russian Federation troops have focused on the abysmal losses of Gruppa Vagnera (the Wagner Group).

The Wagner Group is a private military contractor based in the Russian Federation whose units have been deployed to bolster the number of Russian Federation Armed Forces in Ukraine. From the start of the special military operation, Russia has used paid fighters to bolster its forces. In April 2022, it was estimated to have initially deployed between 10,000 and 20,000 mercenaries, including Wagner Group troops in the offensive in the Donbas. To increase the organization’s strength even further, new Wagner Group units composed mainly with violent convicts from prisons–gangsters, murderers, and rapists, were formed. However, it is those Wagner Group “penal units” in particular that have suffered high-profile casualties. According to the US, out of an initial force of nearly 50,000 Wagner troops, including 40,000 recruited convicts, more than 4,100 have been killed in action, and 10,000 have been wounded, including over 1,000 killed between late November and early December 2022 near Bakhmut. It is most apparent that misperception, and not reality, had driven top Russian Federation commanders’ decisionmaking on the battlefield in Ukraine. Coping with the situation as it actually stands presently has been better than challenging for them. Some aspects of their struggle such as the wasteful expenditure of their own troops but especially the lives of Wagner Group troops, believing that tact will somehow serve to bring forth victory, seems to escaped any alteration.

The use of the ugly and unnerving tact of essentially throwing troops at an opponent is hardly novel. In modern times, the remarkable idea of using one’s own their own troops essentially as “suicide squads” or “cannon fodder” to achieve less the important objectives was given birth in many countries. Casting one’s mind back again to its preceding January 31, 2023 post, there, greatcharlie considered the line of thought that resides in the minds of commanders of Russian Federation Armed Forces on the battlefield that would allow them to use their troops so carelessly and callously, centering its examination on parallels in Union Army and Russian Federation commanders’ thinking and behavior respectively at the Battle of the Crater, a calamitous episode of the US Civil War and present-day in Ukraine. It was noted that there are countless cases in military history when frightfully high casualties have been suffered in actions on the battlefield that never held hope of accomplishing anything except the destruction of the units sent out to fight. The main focus of the discussion here are four military formations which in fairly recent history were created and utilized by their respective governments on the battlefield much as the Wagner Group in Ukraine. There was little to no regard for their troops’ well-being. In nearly every case, though, those who sent them out to futile fights could provide what they believed were clear, logical, and plausible explanations for their respective choices. Omnia mala exempla ex rebus bonis orta sunt. (Every bad precedent originated as a justifiable measure.)

Wagner Group troops in Ukraine pose for photo (above). Although private military companies are not permitted under law in the Russian Federation, over a decade ago, the Wagner Group were endorsed in April 2012 by none other than Vladimir Putin while Russian Federation Prime Minister in an address to the State Duma. The Wagner Group has engaged in action externally in support of the Russian Federation’s overt and covert foreign and national security objectives. The Wagner Group is known to have deployed its units in the War in Donbas (2014–2022); Syrian Civil War, (2015–2016); the South Sudanese Civil War (2013-2020); the Central African Republic Civil War (2013-2014); the Second Libyan Civil War (2014-2020); the Sudanese Revolution (2018-2019); Venezuelan presidential crisis (2019-2023); and the Mali War (2012-present). The Wagner Group first appeared in Ukraine in 2014, where it participated in the annexation of Crimea.

More on the Wagner Group

While publications and online Information regarding Wagner Group is readily available and the organization is well-known and been well-studied among military analysts, greatcharlie believes it is necessary to at least offer some baseline of facts about it. The hope is to some degree help equalize among readers as to what it is all about, particularly undergraduate and graduate students who constitute the largest portion of greatcharlie’s readership. (The discussion could possibly serve as a basis for their own discoveries.) As aforementioned, the Wagner Group is a private military contractor based in the Russian Federation. Although private military companies are not permitted under law in the Russian Federation, they were endorsed in April 2012 by none other than Putin, then Russian Federation Prime Minister during an address to the State Duma. The Wagner Group has engaged in action externally in support of the Russian Federation’s overt and covert foreign and national security objectives. The Wagner Group is known to have deployed its units in the War in Donbas (2014–2022); Syrian Civil War, (2015–2016); the South Sudanese Civil War (2013-2020); the Central African Republic Civil War (2013-2014); the Second Libyan Civil War (2014-2020); the Sudanese Revolution (2018-2019); Venezuelan presidential crisis (2019-2023); and the Mali War (2012-present). 

It is alleged by some that the Wagner Group was founded by Dmitriy Utkin, a veteran of the First and Second Chechen Wars. Until 2013, Utkin served as lieutenant colonel and brigade commander of the 700th Independent Voyská spetsiálnogo naznachéniya (‘Special Purpose Military Detachment) of the 2nd Independent Brigade, a special forces unit of Glavnoe operativnoe upravlenie General’nogo štaba Vooružёnnyh sil Rossijskoj Federacii (the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation). Much speculation exists over the choice of Wagner as the organization’s name. On dit, the group’s name comes from Utkin’s own call sign “Wagner”, reportedly after the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner. Utkin–a member of Putin’s ethno-religious nationalist circle–supposedly picked Wagner due to his alleged infatuation with the Third Reich (Note that Nazi Germany’s Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer was Wagner). Additionally, some have presumed Utkin is a full-blown  neo-Nazi because, as reported by the Economist, he has several Nazi tattoos. It is further alleged that some members of the Wagner Group have been linked to white supremacist and neo-Nazi far-right extremists. This allegation is particularly directed at members of Wagner’s openly far-right and supposedly neo-Nazi Task Force Rusich, simply reference Rusich within the organization. Other circumstantial evidence to support such theories is the fact that Wagner members have left neo-Nazi graffiti on the battlefield.

Conclusions about members of the Wagner Group and neo-Nazism are juxtaposed with their role in promoting the ethno-religious nationalism espoused by the Russian Federation’s present leadership. To the extent that Wagner Group members are understood by the regime to be dedicated solely to the values and interests of Putin’s Russia, the Russian President–a self-declared fervent anti-Nazi–awarded Utkin and three other Wagner Group’s senior commanders, Alexander Kuznetsov, Andrey Bogatov and Andrei Troshev, with the Order of Courage and the title Hero of the Russian Federation at Kremlin reception to mark the Day of Heroes of the Fatherland. (Kuznetsov is alleged to be the commander of Wagner’s 1st Reconnaissance and Assault Company, Bogatov was identified as the commander of the 4th Reconnaissance and Assault Company, and allegedly, Troshev was identified as the Wagner Group’s “executive director”.) One would suppose that Putin would hardly award a group of neo-Nazis with such honors. Putin surely would know if they were neo-Nazis.

Gnawing a bit further at the neo-Nazi issue, those analyzing Wagner Group members might consider that in the case of the Wagner Group, any Nazi symbols may not be used by members as a sign of their adherence to a depraved, well-worn political expression, but a readily available means to express that there was a desire to be harmfully malicious in their undertakings. If anything, their reported use of Nazi symbols would more likely manifest their wish to somehow express the evil, the homicidal ideation and ill-will that exists within them and around which the thoughts of senior commanders of Wagner very likely circle. Certainly, through the use of such symbols, the likely aim is to induce and instill terror among opponents and observers alike. For most individuals, the sight of a swastika is far more disturbing than the sight of a pentagram. None this is meant to suggest the members of the Wagner Group are simply tearaways making nuisances of themselves. They are indeed very dangerous men, and it takes a lot to deal with them. Laisser s’établir des amalgames primaires, assimilant immaturité masculine toxique et néo-nazisme.

The indications and implications of all that has been observed about the organization by various journalists may alternatively be that the Wagner Group is actually demonic in nature. Surely, its members by their action have shown a hatred mankind and the whole wide world, and an intent is to disrupt, or better destroy, in order to sow chaos and conflict. None of this is to suggest that the Wagner Group is some Satanic cult. However, the Wagner Group’s activities have never been aimed at improving the lives of people anywhere. Intriguingly, it is very apparent that often tragic consequences have beset those who have chosen to join, associate with, or briefly come in contact with, the organization. That has certainly been the case for the organization’s usual volunteers as well all those who have formed its penal units who have been sent into Ukraine. What contact the Wagner Group has meant, or will mean, for Putin and the Russian Federation Armed Forces is open to debate. Having stated all of this, the organization, surely is not supernatural, and can be and has been defeated on the battlefield. In Syria, February 2018, there was the singular case of a large unit Wagner Group troops encountered a small detachment of US Special Forces soldiers at their base at a refinery in the town of Khasham. The US Special Forces defenders, making effective use of air support and artillery, dealt a devastating blow to the Wagner Group troops. (For more on that event, see greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post entitled “Brief Meditations on the Role of Deception, Deceit, and Delinquency in the Planning, Preparations, and Prosecution of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”.)

From another albeit “spiritual” angle, reportedly some closely associated with the Wagner Group leadership claim many are followers of the Slavic Native Faith, Rodnover. Indeed, along that vein, reportedly, anonymous members of Wagner Group have insisted that Utkin is a Rodnover. In the Routledge International Handbook of Religion in Global Society (Routledge, 2020), it is stated that Wagner Group members insist that Utkin is a ssuredly a Rodnover. Under Rodnover  theology, there is the belief in an absolute, supreme God (Rod) who begets the universe, lives as the universe, and is present in all its phenomena. Among Rodnovers, there is the belief that their religion is a faithful continuation of the ancient beliefs of the Slavs that survived as a folk religion following their Christianization during the Middle Ages.

The owner of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin (center), poses for a nighttime photo with his troops on the frontlines in Ukraine. In August 2017, a Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak made the suggestion that Yevgeny Prigozhin was owner of the Wagner Group, a role he had constantly denied. At the time, Prigozhin was already recognized as a member of Putin’s coterie. An intriguing figure in his own right, Prigozhin holds considerable standing with Putin which speaks volumes on its own. He is affectionately called “Putin’s chef” because of his catering businesses that hosted dinners which Putin attended with foreign dignitaries. Prigozhin became heavily involved in matters concerning the special military operation in Ukraine especially since massive numbers of troops from his organization were operating there. Prigozhin has made his judgments concerning the incompetence and fidelity of Russian Federation Armed Force’s top commanders as Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Russian Army General Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov very clear and very public.

Wer ist dein mysteriöser Chef? It was in August 2017, Yeni Şafak, a Turkish newspaper, made the suggestion that Utkin was only a figurehead for the company. The individual later revealed to be the owner of the Wagner Group was the Yevgeny Prigozhin. Now well-recognized as a pivotal player in the Russian Federation war effort in Ukraine, as well as an intriguing figure in his own right, Prigozhin holds a level of standing with Putin which speaks volumes on its own. Prigozhin, called “Putin’s chef”, because of his catering businesses that hosted dinners which Putin attended with foreign dignitaries, was known to have ties with the Wagner Group and Utkin personally. For quite a while, Prigozhin even denied any communication with the Wagner Group. Prigozhin actually sued Bellingcat, Meduza, and Echo of Moscow for claiming he had links to the organization. In an interview in December 2018, Putin also denied allegations that Prigozhin had been directing the Wagner Group’s activities. However, in September 2022, Prigozhin relented and admitted having created the group. Prigozhin claimed, “I cleaned the old weapons myself, sorted out the bulletproof vests myself and found specialists who could help me with this. From that moment, on May 1, 2014, a group of patriots was born, which later came to be called the Wagner Battalion.”

Prigozhin has made his judgments well-known to Putin concerning the incompetence and fidelity of Russian Federation Armed Force’s top commanders as Ministr Oborony Rossijskoj Federacii (Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation) Russian Army General Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov. He has also made his views on the matter very public. Et monere at moneri proprium est verae amitcitiae. (It is a characteristic of friendship to give advice and to receive it.)

Among standing units of the Wagner Group is the aforementioned Rusich. It is referred to as a “sabotage and assault reconnaissance group”, which has been fighting as part of the Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The Wagner Group is believed to have a Serb unit, which was, until at least April 2016, under the command of Davor Savičić, a Bosnian Serb.  Savičić reportedly was a member of the Serb Volunteer Guard, known as “Arkan’s Tigers” during the Bosnian War and the Special Operations Unit (JSO) during the Kosovo War. A new unit in the Wagner Group consists of citizens of Scandinavian countries, in particular, from Norway. It has participated in the firefights on the Bakhmut front. The unit is referred to as the Níðhöggr“, sometimes also known as Nidhogg. Níðhöggr is one of the great serpents (dragons) in Norse mythology. The snake gnaws at the roots of the Yggdrasil tree (the world tree symbolizing the universe), and also devours sinners. Dragons have been seen upon various patches of this unit in the field.

Typically, Wagner Group fighters are retired regular Russian Fedrration Armed Forces servicemen aged between 35 and 55. Their pay was once alleged to be between 80,000 and 250,000 Russian rubles a month which the rough equivalent of $667 to $2,083. It was recently suggested by one source that their pay was as substantial as 277,200 Russian rubles or US$3,500. Nulla salus bello. (There is no security in war.) It is widely known that since July 2022, the Wagner Group’s chief, Prigozhin, has been recruiting inmates from Russian Federation prisons to increase the organization’s strength. Prigozhin possesses the authority to promise prison inmates that in return for agreeing to fight in Ukraine, are promised the termination of their prison sentences and a salary for six months. Indeed, the Wagner Group offers 200,000 rubles ($2,700 approximately) and amnesty for six months of “voluntary” service in Ukraine. Reportedly, a death benefit of 5 million rubles is provided to their relatives if they were killed in action. The recruitment of prison inmates for service in the Wagner Group is nothing new. The organization reportedly recruited imprisoned UPC rebels in the Central African Republic to fight in Mali and Ukraine. They are reportedly nicknamed the “Black Russians”. However, as noted earlier, it is these newly raised penal units that Russian Army commanders typically send to attack Ukrainian positions in frontal assaults, allowing them to identify defenses for the artillery to bombard. The tactic has proven marginally effective, but nonetheless it is a most apparent display of archaic wartime callousness. The troops’ display of courage, obedience to authority and acts of sacrifice have been looked upon with indifference by Russian Army commanders. Given the backgrounds of the Wagner Group prison recruits, the common wisdom is that they are desensitized to violence. They are depicted as fighting as if they have nothing left to lose.

Curiously, a possible way to look at the conundrum Russian Federation Armed Forces face might be that they are essentially shipwrecked in Ukraine. Since retreat was never an option, from the moment the situation went sour, Russian Federation commanders surely recognized that they would either need to find a way to save themselves or hope against hope an ally might come to their rescue. The Wagner Group, already in Ukraine, went in with greater numbers, providing additional strength and combat power on the battlefield that the Russian Federation Armed Forces could not muster. To that extent, Wagner Group troops were supposed to be their saving grace–Prigozhin might say the rescuers–of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. However, it was not long before everyone realized that they were caught in that same circumstance as their Russian Federation Armed Forces “comrades”. That could only have been expected as the same senior Russian Federation commanders that put their troops in a predicament, controlled the placement and movements of Wagner Group troops.

 

Prigozhin in conversation with Russian Federation prison inmates about service in Ukraine with the Wagner Group. is widely known that since July 2022, the Wagner Group’s chief, Prigozhin, has been recruiting inmates from Russian Federation prisons to increase the organization’s strength. Prigozhin possessed the authority to promise prison inmates that in return for agreeing to fight in Ukraine, are promised the termination of their prison sentences and a salary for six months. of “voluntary service”, and a death benefit for their relatives if they were killed in action. It is these newly raised penal units that Russian Army commanders typically send to attack Ukrainian positions in frontal assaults, allowing them to identify defenses for the artillery to bombard. The tactic has proven effective, but nonetheless it is a most apparent display of archaic wartime callousness. The troops’ display of courage, obedience to authority and acts of sacrifice have been looked upon with indifference by Russian Army commanders. Given the backgrounds of the Wagner prison recruits, the common wisdom is that they are desensitized to violence. They are depicted as fighting as if they have nothing left to lose.

The Image of Penal Units and Suicide Squads Created by Hollywood

What many of a certain generation commonly know about prisoner volunteering for special units in wartime perhaps is perhaps drawn from Hollywood through films as the iconic 1967 hit, “The Dirty Dozen.” The film, directed by Robert Aldrich and produced during the Vietnam War era, was a representation of Pop Culture of the 1960s. It told the fictional story of OSS Major Reisman, who is an insubordinate US Army officer facing a court-martial, when he is allowed one last chance for a reprieve. He was given the mission to  select 12 Army prisoners from a maximum-security detention center, train them for a top-secret mission behind the German lines, and then lead them into battle. If they succeed in the mission, they will be released. Throughout the film the higher levels of the US military are depicted as deeply flawed, and nearly every effort was made by the military bureaucracy to thwart his efforts. Riesman succeeded by breaking through red tape and turned those characters representing the riffraff of the military into the heroes.

Interestingly enough, the screenplay was based on author E. M. Nathanson’s 1965 bestseller which was founded on the story of an actual unit of demolition specialists of the 101st Airborne Division that operated behind enemy lines during World War II dubbed the “Filthy Thirteen”. It has been suggested that another inspiration for the screenplay was the story of an unusual public offer to US President Franklin Roosevelt by 44 prisoners serving life sentences at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to serve in the Pacific on suicide missions against imperial Japan. A number of special units were created by the US during World War II to take on very dangerous and challenging missions against Nazi German and Imperial Japanese forces. They were not penal units or suicide squads.They were essentially what would today be called special operations units, highly trained for such missions. Among the more commonly known were: the US Army Rangers; the US 6th Army Special Reconnaissance Unit (Alamo Scouts); the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), (Merrill’s Marauders); the Marine Raiders (Carlson’s Raiders); the US Navy Underwater Demolition Teams/Frogmen; Doolitle’s Tokyo Raiders of the US Army Air Force; and, the US-Canadian 1st Special Service Force. During World War II, penal units and suicide squads were more popular within the totalitarian regimes of both the Allied and Axis sides.

These men have been alleged to be members of a Shtrafbat standing stripped of their ranks, medals and orders, awaiting instructions (above). The individual in the foreground appears to be a political officer.. The Shtrafbat were military penal battalions in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Army suffered one catastrophic defeat after another, at the hands of the Nazi German Army. It had been driven all the way back to Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The leadership of the Soviet Union was unsure of how to reestablish military discipline and the motivation among troops to stand and fight. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227 in the summer of 1942 increased the number of Strafbats and expecting of them. Order No. 227, known popularly as “Ni shagu nazad!” (Not one step back!) required harsh punishments, including summary execution, for unauthorized retreats. Troops thrown into the Shtrafbats, known as Shtrafniki.

The Shtrafbat

Shtrafbats were military penal battalions in the Soviet Union. Dire circumstances on the Soviet Union’s Western Front in World War II, would lead to their use as suicide units against the Nazi German Army. Almost immediately upon the launch of the Nazi German Army’s Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Army suffered one catastrophic defeat after another. The Soviet Army had been driven all the way back to Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The leadership of the Soviet Union was unsure of how to reestablish military discipline and the motivation among troops to stand and fight. Supposedly after learning of the Nazi German Army’s effective use of penal units, best known during the war as the Strafbatalllon–also discussed here–in combat, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227 in the summer of 1942 increased the number of Strafbats and expecting of them. Order No. 227, known popularly as “Ni shagu nazad!” (Not one step back!) required harsh punishments, including summary execution, for unauthorized retreats. Troops thrown into the Shtrafbats, known as Shtrafniki, were stripped of their ranks, medals and orders. Although Shtrafniki were able to serve as junior commanders in their units, senior commanders were drawn from regular units, and often the best ones at that. Among the list of offenses that could result in assignment to a penal unit as a Shtrafnik included: cowardice in combat, desertion, neglect of military equipment, sabotage,and drunkenness.The maximum term of service in a penal unit for a convicted soldier was three months. After that, Shtrafniki were promised that their ranks and awards would be reinstated, and they would be returned to a conventional Soviet Army unit. Unlike the Shtrafniki, staff officers, company commanders, platoon leaders, political officers, and most junior commanders were assigned to the battalions on a permanent basis.

Some Shtrafniki were ordered to service in the Soviet Air Force and the Soviet Navteq, however, their most common use was in infantry roles. In infantry service, penal companies were allotted an authorized strength under Order No. 227 of 150 to 200 men. The strength authorized at the battalion level was originally set at 800. Shtrafbats initially served under the control of commanders of Armies. Later, Shtrafbats would be raised within Fronts (the equivalent of Army Groups). Infantry service was recognized by many Soviet prisoners as the equivalent of a death sentence. Theoretically, Shtrafniki could receive military decorations for outstanding service. However, there was also the possibility that Shtrafniki would be placed under suspicion for being politically disloyal. Those Shtrafniki who faced that fate would become targets of political officers and in many cases thay were persecuted even after the war ended. 

Soviet Army troops in the assault (above). To ensure Shtrafniki would advance as ordered, “zagraditel’nye otriady” (anti-retreat) detachments of the Soviet special organization known as Smert Shpionam (Death to spies) or SMERSH. When positioned as barrier troops, regular Soviet Army troops  could not be relied upon to carry out their orders with regard to retreating Shtrafniki. SMERSH blocking detachments positioned at the rear would aggressively respond to Shtrafniki who retreated. More significant punishments would befall Shtrafniki that were arrested and faced court martial on the drumhead. With no means to escape their fate, Shtrafniki would advance with reckless-abandon toward Nazi German lines until they were killed by mines, heavy machine-gun fire, or artillery. If any Shtrafniki managed to reach their objective or simply survive, they would be reassembled among fresh units and sent forward again. Occasionally, some Shtrafbat battalions executed their missions even when barrier troops were not positioned to their rear.

To ensure Shtrafniki would advance as ordered, ‘zagraditel’nye otriady’ (anti-retreat) detachments of the Soviet special organization known as Smert Shpionam (Death to spies) or SMERSH. When positioned as barrier troops, regular Soviet Army troops  could not be relied upon to carry out their orders with regard to retreating Shtrafniki. SMERSH blocking detachments positioned at the rear would aggressively respond to Shtrafniki who retreated. More significant punishments would befall Shtrafniki that were arrested and faced court martial on the drumhead. With no way or means to escape their fate, Shtrafniki would advance with reckless-abandon toward Nazi German lines until they were killed by mines, heavy machine-gun fire, or artillery. If any Shtrafniki managed to reach their objective or simply survive, they would be reassembled among fresh units and sent forward again. Occasionally, some Shtrafbat battalions faithfully executed their missions even without barrier troops positioned to their rear.

All of this sounds quite familiar with regard to the use of Wagner Group troops in Ukraine. The indications and implications are that there may actually be nothing that Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders plan to do to reduce the Wagner Group’s casualties as they may not see anything unorthodox or callous in the manner they use them. Perhaps, without any alteration, Russian Federation Armed Force will insist upon the continued slaughter of Wagner Group troops. There is much available for Zbroyni Syly Ukrayiny (the Ukrainian Armed Forces) to exploit in a non-lethal way from this situation,  allowing it radically change the course of events concerning the war beyond the battlefield.

Members of a Nazi German Strafbataillon engaging in dangerous urban combat on thee Eastern Front (above). Strafbataillon (Penal Battalion) was the term used for penal units created with prisoners in all branches of Nazi Germany’s armed forces (Wehrmacht) that were held for both criminal and political offenses. It was in 1942, long after the war began, that the term Strafbataillon was widely used. The pre-war program for segregating soldiers deemed troublesome from others was known as Sonderabteilungen (Special Departments). Government policy then was to rebuild the armed forces by keeping “potential troublemakers” away from other troops, thereby preventing any “destructive elements” from interferring with their dutiful military service. Once World War II began, the role of the Strafbataillon was altered. Hitler conceived of a new way to effectively manage incarcerated members of the Wehrmacht as well as so-called subversives. To give them greater purpose, he issued an order stating any first-time convicted soldier could return to his unit after he had served a portion of his sentence in a special probation corps before the enemy. 

The Strafbataillon

Strafbataillon (Penal Battalion) was the term used for penal units created with prisoners in all branches of Nazi Germany’s armed forces (Wehrmacht) that were held for both criminal and political offenses. It was in 1942, long after the war began, that the term Strafbataillon was widely used. The pre-war program for segregating soldiers deemed troublesome from others was known as Sonderabteilungen (Special Departments). Government policy then was to rebuild the armed forces by keeping “potential troublemakers” away from other troops, thereby preventing any “destructive elements” from interferring with their dutiful military service. The number of Sonderabteilungen grew on May 21,1935, Nazi Germany’s Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor) Adolf Hitler decreed that under the new Nazi Defense Act, any conscript who was deemed “unfit for military service because of subversive activity” would be arrested. Soldiers who were marked as disruptive to military discipline, yet “worthy of service”, would also be sent to military Sonderabteilungen. The objective of the penal units then became to change attitudes toward state and national policy while instilling a sense of duty, honor, and purpose. That was, however, achieved through harsh discipline and punishments, extensive indoctrination programs, and restrictions on home leave. Troops who conformed were eventually transferred to regular units. Those who remained undisciplined or continued to oppose the military were transferred to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Before World War II, there were nine Sonderabteilungen within the Wehrmacht in Nazi Germany. According to estimates, between 3000 and 6000 Wehrmacht personnel passed through those special departments. A total of 320 dubbed “incorrigible rogues” were transported to concentration camps.

Once World War II began, the role of the Sonderabteilungen was altered again. Hitler conceived of a new way to effectively manage incarcerated members of the Wehrmacht as well as so-called subversives, and give them greater purpose. He issued an order stating any first-time convicted soldier could return to his unit after he had served a portion of his sentence in a special probation corps before the enemy. Eventually, the Sonderabteilungen were disbanded and a new formation, the Feld-Sonder Battalion (Special Field Battalion), was created and placed under the command of the Feldgendarmerie, the military police of the Wehrmacht that performed tasks as traffic control and population control behind the frontline as well as the suppression and execution of partisans and the apprehension of enemy stragglers. However, as the war continued, the need for more military personnel grew. To drive more military personnel to the battalions, military tribunals were directed by the Oberkommando Wehrmacht (the Nazi German Armed Forces High Command) to send incarcerated members of the Wehrmacht, as well as “subversives”, to what were named Bewährungsbataillone (Probation battalions). During World War II, more than 27,000 soldiers served a probation period in a Bewährungsbataillon. The initial unit was Bewährungsbataillon 500.  Service in Bewährungsbataillon 500 was intended to be unpleasant. The unit fought across the Eastern Front, and casualties were quite high. Troops assigned to the Bewährungsbataillone were expected to undertake dangerous operations at the front. Refusal entailed enforcement of the original sentence in Strafgefangenelager (punishment camps) in which conditions were scarcely better than in some concentration camps. Most convicted soldiers desired to regain their rights as citizens and lost honor. Thus, there was actually incentive among them to serve a probation period in Bewährungsbataillone despite the high battle losses suffered within those units, and morale within them was reportedly high. They were observed, evaluated, and commanded by selected officers, non-commissioned officers, and assigned enlisted men. Beginning in April 1941, convicted soldiers—even those sentenced to death—who had shown exceptional bravery or meritorious service were actually allowed to rejoin their original units. 

It was in 1943 that the penal units were more widely referred to as Strafbataillon, as noted earlier. The Strafbataillone were still serving under the control of the Feldgendarmerie, but were redeployed to conduct not only dangerous, but what were essentially suicide missions for the Heer (German Army) to include clearing minefields, assaulting difficult objectives and defending positions against overwhelming attacking forces. They were also made to do hard manual labor in positions under enemy observation and fire, building and repairing military structures such as bunkers and pillboxes as well as military infrastructure. A specially-formed military police force, Feldjägerkorps, would by its disciplinary actions help maintain the flow of troops to the Strafbataillone. The Feldjägerkorps was given the responsibility to maintain control and discipline throughout all the Wehrmacht as well as the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron) or SS. Feldjägerkorps units were formed from combat-decorated officers and noncommissioned officers. The force received its authority directly from Oberkommando Wehrmacht. The Feldjägerkorps units in the field could summarily execute officers or enlisted men for any breach of military discipline, order or duty. By September 1944, all soldiers and recruits who received a sentence of deferred execution in a drumhead court-martial from the Feldjägerkorps were sent directly to Strafbatallione which greatly increased their strength right up to the end of the war.

Strafbataillon troops of the Nazi German 999th Light Africa Division troops advance through town toward Allied positions (above). Major operations conducted by Strafbataillione on the Eastern Front included Kamianka, Ukraine, as well as at Gruzino and Sinyavino, near Leningrad. In October 1942, the 999. leichte Afrika-Division (999th Light Africa Division) was formed in Tunisia from civilian criminals and prison inmates who had been deemed “unfit for military service.” Indeed, a third of the 28,000 troops who joined the division were political prisoners from the concentration camps at Baumholder and Heuberg. They were encouraged to volunteer on the promise that all past crimes would be wiped out by exemplary bravery in combat. The 999th Light Africa Division initially fought in North Africa and later in the Soviet Union. Some units were also used as garrison troops in Greece and in the anti-partisan campaign, in the Balkans. 

Infanteriebataillone 500, 540, 550, 560, 561, and 609 were Strafbatallione engaged in major operations conducted on the Eastern Front including Kamianka, Ukraine, as well as at Gruzino and Sinyavino, near Leningrad. These units were supplied and treated nearly as normal units, but, as noted, were used for special dangerous missions. Presumably due to the fact that troop shortages were ubiquitous in units on the frontlines, often soldiers were allowed to fulfill their probation in their field unit. However, when their respective units were not at the front or did not engage in actions in which the soldiers could stand the test, they were transferred to one of these Infanteriebataillone. In October 1942, the 999. leichte Afrika-Division (999th Light Africa Division) was formed in Tunisia ffroma hodge-podge of civilian criminals and military prison inmates who had been deemed Wehrunwürdig (unfit for military service). A third of the 28,000 troops who joined the division were political prisoners from the concentration camps at Baumholder and Heuberg. They were encouraged to volunteer on the promise that all past crimes would be wiped out by exemplary bravery in combat. Although the 999th Light Africa Division fought in North Africa, the fighting in there was largely over by the time it took the field. The unit would additionally serve in the Soviet Union. Some of its units were detailed as garrison troops in Greece and other were deployed to the Balkans to engage in the Bandenbekämpfung, or anti-partisan campaign there. 

The Waffen-SS also raised probation units. They included: SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 (SS Parachute Battalion 500); SS-Sturm-Btl 500 ( SS Assault Battalion 500); and, the notorious SS-Brigade Dirlewanger, a unit discussed later in this post. They were generally manned with troops Straflager und Wehrstraflager (punishment camp and defense discipline camp) In the Straflager and Wehrstraflager, extremely  hard labor had to be performed without the availability of appropriate supplies. Those who survived were said to be “endangered” for transfer into one of these units.

Notable here is the fact that as the course of the war had turned against Nazi Germany, military losses and the need to maintain discipline by example led the Oberkommando Wehrmacht to order the formation of additional punishment units from the thousands of Wehrmacht military prisoners that were held in its military prisons. Hopefully, the discussion of such here will not appear as a sort of suggestion to Putin on how the increase the strength of his forces in Ukraine. (In all honesty, greatcharlie hardly believes Putin or anyone in the Russian Federation government would have even a remote interest in its scribblings.) Prigozhin has at least deigned to ask prison inmates to serve in Wagner Group units. If the right occasion arises, all of that may quietly change for both military and civilian prison inmates. The hypothetical move might be announced publicly, couched in some plausible excuse of exigence or perhaps, prison inmates might be taken from penal institutions en masse and covertly sent to Ukraine. It might be said then: Unbewusst, war vielleicht Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler das Vorbild. 

The Dirlewangers move through the streets of a town on the Eastern Front (above).The SS Dirlewanger organization was a rather unorthodox Nazi German military organization of anti-partisan fighters. As the Wehrmacht rolled through Europe at the start of World War II, it faced increased resistance from partisan insurgents. To manage the problem, in 1940, the SS began an experiment. An initial 55 convicted poachers from prisons and concentration camps that it believed possessed the necessary skills, were put in service through impressment for the purpose of hunting down and capturing partisan fighters in their camps in the forests of the Eastern Front. A conditional pardon was promised to prison inmates who served in the recherché unit. They were placed under the command of Oskar Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger’s troops could do almost anything they pleased: loot, rape and pillage. There were often no repercussions for the most heinous actions. In Poland, Dirlewanger and his men would commit their most horrible war crimes. First, it was the Wola Massacre or Wola Slaughter (August 5, 1944 to August 12, 1944) in which 40,000 to 50,000 Poles in the Wola neighborhood of Warsaw were systematically slaughtered. Then, given its reputation, the Dirlewangers were called upon to assist in the quelling of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (August 1, 1944 to October 2, 1944). 

The Dirlewangers

During World War II, a rather unorthodox military formation of anti-partisan fighters was fielded by Nazi Germany known infamously as the Dirlewangers. As the Wehrmacht rolled through Europe at the start of war, it faced increased resistance from partisan insurgents. To manage the problem, in 1940, the SS began an experiment. It organized 55 convicted poachers from prisons and concentration camps, that it believed possessed the necessary skills to hunt down and capture partisan fighters in their camps in the forests of the Eastern Front, were put in service through impressment in an organization named Wilddiebkommando Oranienburg (Oranienburg Poacher’s Unit). As noted earlier, such anti-partisan campaigns were referred to as Bandenbekämpfung. A conditional pardon was promised to prison inmates who served in the recherché unit. Orders were passed down to train the unit’s members in marksmanship and placed them under the command of four SS officers. The unit was placed under the command of SS Obersturmführer Oskar Dirlewanger, an alcoholic, convicted of illegal arms possession and embezzlement and imprisoned twice for the rape of a 14 year old girl and sexual assault. Subsequently, the unit was named after him, Sonderkommando Dr. Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger found a patron in a comrade from World War I, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen SS Gottlob Berger. It was arranged for Dirlewanger to report directly to the Reichführer-SS (Reich Leader of the SS) Heinrich Himmler, a most senior leader of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party or the Nazi Party), and a member of Hitler’s inner circle. It was not long before the number of poachers in the Dirlewangers dwindled and the unit began to take any men it could get. The strength of the unit was increased with additional prison inmates who had been convicted of burglary, assault, murder, and rape. The unit grew further when it took on deserters, punished soldiers and even concentration camp survivors. At that point, the unit was designated SS-Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger, 

Despite being subordinated to large military organizations in the field, Dirlewanger’s troops could do almost anything they pleased: loot, rape and pillage. There were often no repercussions for the most heinous actions. It is said that other Nazi German units, even some from the Waffen SS oddly enough, detested Dirlewanger and his men. However, any efforts to remove them from the battlefield and prosecute the soldiers for their atrocities were quietly knocked down in Berlin. To prevent any loss of control of his troops, Dirlewanger well-maintained unit discipline through beatings and shootings. Reportedly, if a civilian or soldier displeased him, Dirlewanger shot them in the hand. If one of his men grabbed any items that he wanted, he would execute him on the spot.  Given the conditions that existed in the unit, desertion became commonplace. 

Anti-partisan warfare was intense and casualties in Dirlewanger’s unit were high. On January 29, 1942, the battalion received authorization to recruit foreign volunteers to supplement its strength. On August 20, 1942, Hitler further authorized the expansion of the unit to two battalions. The added strength would come from additional poachers, Russians and Ukrainians recruited in the field, and military delinquents. This latter source of recruits was approved on October 15, 1942. The term “military delinquents” referred to men from all branches of the Wehrmacht, including the Waffen-SS, who had been convicted of felony offenses while in service. As the Soviet Army drove West and German forces retreated, the Dirlewanger organization was raised to the level of brigade as SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (SS Assault Brigade Dirlewanger).

Oskar Dirlewanger was an alcoholic, convicted of rape and sexual assault among other crimes. Dirlewanger reported directly to the Reichführer-SS (Reich Leader of the SS) Heinrich Himmler, a most senior leader of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party or the Nazi Party), and a member of Hitler’s inner circle. Dirlewanger would eventually receive the rank of SS-Oberführer. It is said that other German units, particularly from the Waffen SS oddly enough, detested Dirlewanger and his men. However, any efforts to remove them from the battlefield and prosecute the soldiers for their atrocities were knocked down in Berlin. To prevent any loss of control of his troops, Dirlewanger maintained unit discipline through beatings and shootings. Reportedly, if a civilian or soldier displeased him, Dirlewanger shot them in the hand. If one of his men grabbed any items that he wanted, he would execute him on the spot.  Given the conditions that existed in the unit, desertion became commonplace. 

With the help of his friends in Berlin, the ranks of the unit would grow even further, and In May 1943, the unit officially became a regiment, designated SS-Regiment Dirlewanger (SS Regiment Dirlewanger). The unit would next receive the designation, SS-Sonderregiment Dirlewanger (SS Special Regiment Dirlewanger) with the addition of a third bataillon, approved in August 1943. However, before that battalion could be formed, the regiment was sent into the frontline on an emergency basis with Army Groups Center and North, beginning on November 14, 1943. Both poorly equipped or trained for that purpose, the unit consequently suffered extremely high casualties and was reduced to a reported strength of 259 troops. Hundreds of military and concentration camp convicts were forwarded to Dirlewanger to allow him to rebuild the regiment, and by February 19, 1944, its strength had reached 1200 men. On April 15th, the unit was enabled to establish its own replacement company to facilitate replacing casualties. Soviet citizens were no longer recruited, and future recruits for the regiment would be selected exclusively from military prison inmates and volunteers from the concentration camps. These latter were not only convicts but also political prisoners. It was then that Dirlewanger reportedly would go as far as to accept the criminally insane into his unit’s ranks.

In Poland, Dirlewanger and his men would commit their most abominable war crimes. First, it was the Wola Massacre or Wola Slaughter (August 5, 1944 to August 12, 1944) in which 40,000 to 50,000 Poles in the Wola neighborhood of Warsaw were systematically slaughtered. Then, given its reputation, the Dirlewangers were called upon to assist in the quelling of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (August 1, 1944 to October 2, 1944). The Dirlewangers killed an estimated 35,000 men, women, and children in one day. A fairly well-known story associated with the tragedy is that a witness in the Warsaw Ghetto at the time observed Dirlewanger ordering his men to execute 500 young children. Dirlewanger reportedly insisted that his troops save their bullets and execute the task with rifle butts and bayonets. Nearly 80 percent of Warsaw was practically razed to the ground by the unit.. The complaints against the Dirlewangers continued to mount. That led the SS to move the unit from Poland to the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (now Belarus) to allay the fears of field commanders. Still, Dirlewanger was rewarded for Warsaw with the promotion to SS-Oberführer on August 15, 1944. On its first deployment to Byelorussia in 1942, Dirlewanger’s unit would kill 30,000 people. Apparently, Dirlewanger’s favorite method of suppression was to round Byelorussians up in a barn, set it on fire, and machine gun anyone who fled. In October 1944, the unit was given the mission to quell the Slovak National Uprising. On February 20th, 1945 while at the Oder River in Silesia, the Dirlewanger Brigade along with parts of a number of Nazi German Army units were formed into the 36.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS Dirlewanger (36th Waffen SS Grenadier-Division Dirlewanger). While the unit rejoiced in becoming a division, it was only such in name only as it lacked the required strength.

It has been more than alleged that the Wagner Group’s actions in the Eastern Ukrainian town of Bucha fairly mirrored the horrors committed by the Dirlewangers during World WarII.  After Russian forces had retreated from Bucha on March 31, 2022 following a near month-long occupation of the town, the bodies of 419 unarmed civilians, many found with their hands bound behind their backs. Local Ukrainian authorities reported that nine children were among those killed. The Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s foreign-intelligence service, later intercepted secret messages confirming Russian mercenaries known as the Wagner Group played a leading role in the massacre.

Members of the Foreign Legion engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Algeria (above). The Foreign Legion is a carry-over from the 19th century–perhaps some might say it is an anachronism. The military formation was established by King Louis-Philippe on March 9, 1831, as a unit to support the conquest of Algeria, which the French had invaded in 1830. To fill its ranks, focus was placed on collecting the foreign deserters and criminals who had drifted to France in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. It was discovered that these men, viewed by the French government as a potential threat to civil society, could be induced to become professional soldiers at minimal cost. Indeed, the Foreign Legion attracted many refugees who migrated to France as well as unemployed soldiers from all points in Europe. It was especially popular among members of the Swiss regiments who had served the unpopular Bourbon regime before to the July Revolution of 1830. The Legion under-performed in the French struggle for conquest in Algeria, the conflict for which the formation was raised. Among the variety of factors. Before the Algerian campaign ended, 844 legionnaires died. Sadly, heavy losses among legionnaires from that point on were considered acceptabl, and perhaps expected in the many military interventions on foreign soil by France that followed.

The French Foreign Legion, 

The French Foreign Legion, in purpose and task, could be characterized as a throwback to the 19th century–perhaps some might say it is an anachronism. The military formation was established by King Louis-Philippe on March 9, 1831, as a unit to support the conquest of Algeria, which the French had invaded in 1830. To fill its ranks, focus was placed on collecting the foreign deserters and criminals who had drifted to France in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. It was discovered that these men, viewed by the French government as a potential threat to civil society, could be induced to become professional soldiers at minimal cost. Indeed, the Foreign Legion attracted many refugees who migrated to France as well as unemployed soldiers from all points in Europe. It was especially popular among members of the Swiss regiments who had served the unpopular Bourbon regime before the July Revolution of 1830. The Legion under-performed in the French struggle for conquest in Algeria, the conflict for which the formation was raised: its raison d’être. Among the variety of factors the led to such result were the mismanagement of troops, problems with instilling military discipline and enforcing regulations among its homogeneous battalions of Algerians, desertion, and the staffing of its formations with the least qualified officers in the French Army. In the Legion’s initial engagement there, a unit of 27 legionnaires was overrun after being abandoned by a French officer and the cavalry under his command. By the time the Algerian campaign ended, 844 legionnaires were killed. Sadly, heavy losses among legionnaires from that point on were considered acceptable, marked their many military interventions on foreign soil, and perhaps to some degree were expected. 

During France’s intervention in Spain from 1833 to 1839, around 9,000 died or deserted. The death toll of legionnaires in the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856 was 444. From 1861 to 1865, France intervened in Mexico with the aim of overthrowing the reformist government of Mexican President Benito Juárez and establishing a European satellite state under the authority of the Austrian Prince Maximilian. Of the 4,000 legionnaires sent into Mexico, half were lost. Mexico emerged victorious and Maximilian was killed. However, an important piece of legionnaire history was actually established in the Mexico debacle at farm compound near a village called Camarón, in Vera Cruz. There, 62 legionnaires barricaded themselves and fought to the last man against superior Mexican forces. In the 1930s, the story of the engagement was transformed into an officially cherished legend of “Camerone!”  The story assisted in propagating the notion that the Foreign Legion faithfully carried out orders regardless of the sacrifice required. Performing honorably in battle was an obligation that required dismissing thoughts or feelings about self-preservation. On va faire Camerone!

Between 1870 and 1871 during 1he Franco-Prussian War, more than 900 legionnaires died while reinforcing the French Army. It brought the Foreign Legion from their bases in Algeria to France. Once the fighting ended, the Foreign Legion was used by the French government to violently reduce the Paris Commune. Legionnaires were ordered to kill French citizens and did so sometimes by summary execution in the street. In the aftermath, After order was restored, the legionnaires were quickly returned to their bases in Algeria.

French paratroopers very likely of the 6ème Bataillon de Parachutistes Coloniaux (6 BPC)–(even the French officials do not know who exactly is in the image–during a counter-attack against the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu in March 1954. The Foreign Legion’s unorthodox composition, isolation in Algeria, and the absence of patriotic purpose purportedly assisted in shaping it into a resolute fighting force in the years following its inception. Over those same years within the Foreign Legion, the notion that meaningless sacrifice is itself a virtue took hold. That sentiment was manifested in an 1883 address by French General François de Négrier to an element of legionnaires who were being deployed to Indochina to fight the Chinese. He reportedly stated: “You! Legionnaires! You are soldiers meant to die, and I am sending you to the place where you can do it!”  Many legionnaires would die in Indochina as well as in some of France’s many African colonies.  The Foreign Legion was called to France again to fight in World War I. The record indicates that 5,931 legionnaires were killed in action. Between the wars, the Foreign Legion again returned to its bases in North Africa. When World War II began, legionnaires could only monitor the fight from there. No time was available or no was any effort made to deploy them to the homeland given the short span of the Battle of France from May 10, 1940 to June 25, 1940. The Foreign Legion did not see heavy combat again until the postwar period in Indochina as part of the French Union’s Far East Expeditionary Corps.

The Foreign Legion’s unorthodox composition, isolation in Algeria, and the absence of patriotic purpose purportedly assisted in shaping it into a resolute fighting force in the years following its inception. Over those same years within the Foreign Legion, the notion that meaningless sacrifice is itself a virtue took hold. That sentiment was manifested in an 1883 address by French General François de Négrier to an element of legionnaires who were being deployed to Indochina to fight the Chinese. He reportedly stated: “You! Legionnaires! You are soldiers meant to die, and I am sending you to the place where you can do it!”  Many legionnaires would die in Indochina as well as in some of France’s many African colonies.  The Foreign Legion was called to France again to fight in World War I. The record indicates that 5,931 legionnaires were killed in action. Between the wars, the Foreign Legion again returned to its bases in North Africa. When World War II began, legionnaires could only monitor the fight from there. No time was available or no was any effort made to deploy them to the homeland given the short span of the Battle of France from May 10, 1940 to June 25, 1940. The Foreign Legion did not see heavy combat again until the postwar period in Indochina as part of the French Union’s Far East Expeditionary Corps. There, 9,017 legionnaires were killed in action in the failed attempt by France to hold on to its Southeast Asian territory from December 19, 1946 to July 20, 1954. The final engagement was the decisive Battle of Điện Biên Phủ. French defensive positions were overrun by the Viet Minh on May 7, 1954 following a two-month siege, Although a few French troops escaped to Loas, 11,000 were captured. A mere 3,300 survived imprisonment. Ce fut une défaite écrasante, une déroute complète

The Foreign Legion would return to Algeria after the Indochina debacle. Many of its officers were embittered, feeling they had been betrayed by bureaucrats in Paris. Eager to prove they had the moral fiber to defend the integrity of France, they zealously took on a new struggle to quell an Algerian independence movement. The fight was reportedly characterized by the use of torture, retributive killings, and atrocities committed by both sides. It is estimated that a million people died in the struggle. The Foreign Legion lost 1,976 men. Today, the Foreign Legion ihas a strength of nearly 9,000 men which represents 11% of the operational strength of the French Army.

Camerone Day 2017 in Aubagne, France, the Headquarters of the Foreign Legion. On Camerone Day, the doors of the Legion are open for public as part of the commemoration of the Bataille de Camerone (Battle of Camarón), a crucial moment in the history of the French Foreign Legion. It is portrayed as a pure example of bravery and the determination to fight to the finish, an example to be followed by every legionnaire. The phrase “On va faire Camerone!” (Let’s make Camerone) became popular among legionnaires, clearly expressing their will to fight to the last bullet. The date April 30, 1931 was designated as both the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Foreign Legion’s creation (although it should be March 10th), and the first official public commemoration of the epic Battle of Camarón. It is proudly commemorated even by the smallest Legion unit stationed in the most isolated place on the planet. The Recit de Camerone (Narration of Camerone), the telling of the story, is inseparable from the ceremony.

Perhaps what has been presented here is enough for readers to draw in their own mind’s the shape of the Foreign Legion. Crucial to understanding the Foreign Legion is understanding the “heart” of the legionnaire and his dedication to the organization’s proud history of sacrifice for France. From the outside, however, the organization would reasonably be assessed as one that manifests its government’s desire to exploit the misfortune of those from the lower rungs of the social strata, training them and then throwing them into often questionable military operations overseas with little regard for their well-being are they viewed dismissively as being expendable. Clear, logical, and plausible arguments could surely be made on that side of the matter, too!

Interestingly, the Foreign Legion and the Wagner Group diverge with other penal units and suicide squads of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, two among the worst regimes conceived in the 20th century, that were also discussed here to the extent that their respective ranks are not filled through impressment or emergency laws, but rather through volunteerism. Nevertheless, their troops have been used essentially in the same harsh ways. The Wagner Group is a fairly young organization, having existed for less than a decade. Although its role in the foreign and national security affairs and support from the Russian Federation is not established under existing laws, there remains the real chance that the Wagner Group, now with veil lifted on its operations given its massive presence in Ukraine and strength that it has reached so far, may be established within the Russian Federation government as a military formation more in the vein of the Foreign Legion at the time of its establishment in 1831. This may be a possibility at least during the prospective life span of the current government under Putin. Overarching is the possibility that his regime may not survive the Ukraine War which it started.

The Way Forward

Generally, the objectives for which the Wagner Group have been used by Russian Federation government have been better than controversial, often at odds with the established international order and transnational interest to maintain peace and stability around the world. However, those objectives have always been in line with the values and interests of the government in which the organization serves. Its troops are presently being used in negligent and wasteful ways in Ukraine. However, one would not have to look too far to find military formations in advanced industrial countries, such as France with its Foreign Legion, that serve similar purposes for their respective governments and have a history of being used in similar, questionable ways. It would seem the story of Wagner Group in Ukraine is not so outré after all.

Roosevelt’s December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat: Inferences from Its Text on Likely Meditations That Helped Him Create Hope for a Country on the Brink of War

US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt customarily delivered his famous Fireside Chats from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House where he is seen (above) seated at a table before seven microphones and newsreel cameras to his front. Roosevelt began broadcasting Fireside Chats during his presidency on March 12, 1933. They initially served as a means for him to inform the public of what the government was doing to resolve the Great Depression. The December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat is famously known as the “Arsenal of Democracy Speech,” for it is recognized as being the moment Roosevelt declared the US “must be the great arsenal of democracy” for countries already fending off the Axis Powers–Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. The story provides a fitting historical example of the trials and tribulations that can beset a President who must lead his country to war. As a bridge to our days, the situation for countries fighting the Axis Powers in 1940 mirrored that of Ukraine in 2022. The Ukrainians, desiring peace, were torn from it by the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation. Under US leadership, an array of support from Europe and worldwide in response to the pleas of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky for help. It would be interesting not only to look at what Roosevelt sought to communicate in his address, but discern deeper meaning in what he said. Presented is greatcharlie’s interpretation of what his inner thoughts might have been.

On December 29, 1940,  Fireside Chat, the sixteenth in a series of presidential radio broadcasts in the US, as well as Europe and Japan, 32nd President of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, informed the people of their government’s plans to keep the country safe and secure. This particular Fireside Chat is famously known as the “Arsenal of Democracy Speech,” for it is recognized as being the moment Roosevelt declared the US “must be the great arsenal of democracy” for countries already fending off efforts.by the Axis Powers–Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan–to conquer them. This vital part of Roosevelt’s story provides a fitting historical example of the trials and tribulations that can beset a President caused to lead his country to war, a task made more difficult when the priority of the people is maintaining the peace and avoiding overseas conflicts at almost all costs. New priorities had come to fore and had to be accepted. Dark days were ahead. Terrible challenges would need to be endured by the people. Their strength and fortitude would be tested. As a bridge to our days, the situation in 1940 mirrored that of Ukraine in 2022, mutatis mutandis. The Ukrainians, desiring peace, were torn from it by the aggressive actions of its neighbor, the Russian Federation. Under US leadership, an array of support from Europe and worldwide in response to the pleas of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky for help. In Roosevelt’s case in 1940, he was relying principally on the United Kingdom to hold the line against the Axis Powers across its vast Empire and the Commonwealth. There was no country that the US to fall back on for support. The US was the final protective line of freedom, democracy, and civilization, itself.

Certainly, the December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat has been well trodden by historians and Roosevelt scholars for more than eight decades since its original broadcast. Still, greatcharlie thought it would be interesting not only to look at what Roosevelt sought to communicate in his address but what he, then age 57, pondered at the time when he was alone with his thoughts in an attempt to discern deeper meaning in what he said. In presenting its interpretation of what some of Roosevelt’s inner thoughts might have been, greatcharlie has stayed true to actual facts. Each consideration is informed by what was known to be the situation at the time in the US and rest of the world, particularly the United Kingdom. While sharing its impressions regarding Roosevelt’s complexity. greatcharlie has remained grounded in what was possible. Insights that historians and Roosevelt scholars have already presented are not regurgitated, yet support for its Inferences are drawn from historical examples provided in their works. Notions that have generally been discounted or dismissed in the context of the address are not included. Nothing is made too complex and greatcharlie does not pretend to have all of the answers. 

The text of the December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat is drawn from a transcript provided by The American Presidency Project of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Comparisons were made with the online typescript of the address published by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum to confirm its accuracy. Here, the text is divided into 10 segments with headings to facilitate its examination.

Roosevelt’s December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat,

Roosevelt began broadcasting Fireside Chats during his presidency on March 12, 1933. The broadcasts initially served as a means for him to inform the public of what the government was doing to resolve the Great Depression. While Governor of New York State, Roosevelt had some success using Fireside Chats to inform state residents of the latest developments and steps being taken to provide some relief from the devastating effects of the crisis upon them. The first one he made as governor was on April 3, 1929. During the New Deal, Roosevelt gave a radio address around twice a year, informing the public one or two weeks beforehand with the hope of garnering a large audience. Typically, he would include in the address: aspects of government programs; criticisms of them and his responses; and, expressions of  optimism and encouragement. Roosevelt usually delivered his address from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. Reportedly, he would arrive 15 minutes before air time to greet members of the newsmedia, including radio and newsreel correspondents.

Despite the severe nature of the threat posed by the Axis Powers, in his December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat, Roosevelt remained a paragon of sangfroid and equanimity in the face of it all. He was a gentleman at all times publicly. One would expect by reputation that he would be on his game on that day, and show well of his presidency, his country, and his own scruple. While offering answers to the dangers he highlighted, he spoke in an informal and relaxed style, his aim being to create a tone of familiarity and sense of forthrightness among listeners. That evening, Roosevelt was speaking to everyone in the US, including officials with whom he worked and conversed daily. At 9:30PM, Roosevelt began his address. It lasted 36 minutes and 53 seconds.

1. Sentences 1 through 11: The Country Faces a New Crisis Unlike the One Discussed in the 1933 Fireside Chat: It Is a Matter of National Security

Inferences

Peior est bello timor ipse belli. (Worse than war is the very fear of war.) A primary purpose of the December 29, 1940 Fireside Chat naturally was to assuage apprehensions on the rise within the US public concerning ongoing violent events in the world. Equally naturally, more than just explaining that everything would be alright, Roosevelt sought to provide hard facts on what was exactly happening in the world and what his administration was doing in response. To the good fortune of the US, at a time of such great crisis, there was an intrepid president in office of great creativity particularly on matters concerning defense and the armed forces. Indeed, he was correct in every particular. Roosevelt did not exaggerate one jot.

The Roosevelt administration’s isolationist policy, then in effect, assured a considerable degree of non-entanglement in international politics, particularly non-involvement in ongoing and burgeoning conflicts in Europe and Asia. The US took measures to avoid political and military conflicts across the oceans, it continued to quietly manage economic interests in China and Southeast Asia and actually expanded its economic interests in Latin America.

Through the isolationist policy, US citizens who were still suffering the effects of the Great Depression, could sense it was okay to focus onward on family sustainability, employment, and community in some cases. Roosevelt’s administration worked feverishly to resolve the situation. The people needed a bit more time to heal from the Depression’s ills and the isolationist policy allowed them the psychic space to do that.

Many isolationists among political and business leaders, scholars, national and grassroots non-interventionist organizations in the US in1940 surely wanted their country to stand fast, dignified and proud, in the face of provocations by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. Aggressive external parties had a great say in how the US would act. The US could not just stand by as some impressive paragon, placid and imperturbable, while Hitler plotted its utter destruction and the enslavement of its people. Time was of the essence. By the end of 1940, for all intents and purposes, a war with the Axis Powers, for all intents and purposes, had essentially become unavoidable for the US. In 1940, that would have been a hard saying. It Is very likely that for the US, everything would have been lost if the US had failed to act as Roosevelt prescribed.

Roosevelt had to bring the people and many in the government, too, to understand not his truth but “the truth” about the situation the US was in. He had to do so realizing how difficult it was for people to unlearn what they have held true for a long time about their country being able to stay out of war abroad.

Sentences 1 through 11 of the Fireside Chat

“My friends:

This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk on national security; because the nub of the whole purpose of your President is to keep you, now, and your children later, and your grandchildren much later, out of a last-ditch war for the preservation of American independence and all the things that American independence means to you and to me and to ours.

Tonight, in the presence of a world crisis, my mind goes back eight years to a night in the midst of a domestic crisis. It was a time when the wheels of American industry were grinding to a full stop, when the whole banking system of our country had ceased to function.

I well remember that while I sat in my study in the White House, preparing to talk with the people of the United States, I had before my eyes the picture of all those Americans with whom I was talking. I saw the workmen in the mills, the mines, the factories; the girl behind the counter; the small shopkeeper; the farmer doing his spring plowing; the widows and the old men wondering about their life’s savings.

I tried to convey to the great mass of American people what the banking crisis meant to them in their daily lives.

Tonight, I want to do the same thing, with the same people, in this new crisis which faces America. We met the issue of 1933 with courage and realism.

We face this new crisis–this new threat to the security of our nation–with the same courage and realism.”

2. Sentences 11 through 21: The Threat

Inferences

Nazi Germany would serve as the best example to illustrate the clear and present danger the US faced. It was a danger that could not be ignored or avoided. Nazi Germany was on the rampage in the world abroad the most in the US knew or were from. It would need to be confronted. It would not be enough to dissuade or deter the Nazis. Nazi German Reichskanzler (Reich Chancellor) Adolf Hitler’s ability to make war had to be destroyed. There was no other option. No amount of coercive diplomacy would convince Hitler to dismantle his war machine. The time that idea might have had any validity as a suggestion had long since passed. France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, all under the control of the Nazis had to be freed. Hitler could not be allowed to feed off their respective resources and manpower of those countries to further build Nazi Germany’s strength and military prowess. The United Kingdom had to be protected. Surely, Roosevelt considered every possibility.

However, the situation in Europe was positively fluid. Just the year before the United Kingdom, France seemed to have answers to blocking Hitler’s plan to conquer the Continent. In the Low Countries–Netherlands, Belgium and even Luxembourg–had no intention of being open doors for a westward drive by Nazi Germany and took defensive measures. Norway was under threat but still free. By December 1940, the United Kingdom was standing alone. It had already fended off Nazi Germany in its skies, and knowing conquest was foremost on Hitler’s mind, it girded itself for an invasion that nearly everyone expected to come. All of that and more was going on at home while its armed forces were fighting furiously against the Axis Powers.

On May 22, 1932, Roosevelt, then New York Governor of New York State, received a Doctor of Laws honorary degree from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia during a commencement ceremony. He gave a powerful address on the state of the country and the place of the youth in its future, the precepts of which founded his New Deal plan as US President. Roosevelt’s address also provides insight into his courageous approach to seemingly insurmountable problems. He explained: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something . . .We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. . . .”

How the US could best take on the fight to defeat the respective Axis Powers while remaining neutral was the big question. In developing a concept for doing that Roosevelt seemed to find wisdom in the aphorism “an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure.” Creating more time to prepare by keeping the aforementioned friendly countries, with which the US had not yet become formally allied, was the most appropriate course of action at that point. He would provide encouragement to countries fighting the Axis Powers to hold the line at all points in which the Axis Powers were active, but Roosevelt did not intend to stand by and wait to see how things would turn out. Rather than wait for what came next, he sought to influence what was transpiring to create favorable outcomes on those frontlines.

To the extent it could, the US responded to requests for weapons and resupply of equipment from “belligerents” at war with the Axis Powers. Time was of the essence. Action had to be swift. The window of opportunity to act as supportive as possible on multiple fronts while standing off from the fighting would remain open for only so long. Despite the assistance provided, many being assisted could still fall. That was the case with France.

Regarding the situation of United Kingdom specifically, in 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in cooperation with his French Premier Edouard Daladier fell for a rather prosaic scheme organized by Hitler and his Nazi government, with Italian leader Benito Mussolini in tow, that evinced a frightfully transparent motive. The leaders negotiated to permit Hitler to take control of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The government in Prague had no role in the talks. Hitler recognized how the Western powers were willing to surrender the peace and territory of others to protect their own peace and well-being. Chamberlain appeared truly naive to those within his own political party in Parliament, the Conservative Party, byname Tories, and within the loyal opposition, the Labour Party. Labour forced a vote of no confidence which ended Chamberlain’s days as Prime Minister.

Sentences 11 through 21 of the Fireside Chat

“Never before since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock has our American civilization been in such danger as now.

For, on September 27, 1940, this year, by an agreement signed in Berlin, three powerful nations, two in Europe and one in Asia, joined themselves together in the threat that if the United States of America interfered with or blocked the expansion program of these three nations–a program aimed at world control—they would unite in ultimate action against the United States.

The Nazi masters of Germany have made it clear that they intend not only to dominate all life and thought in their own country, but also to enslave the whole of Europe, and then to use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the world.

It was only three weeks ago that their leader stated this: “There are two worlds that stand opposed to each other.” And then in defiant reply to his opponents, he said this: “Others are correct when they say: With this world we cannot ever reconcile ourselves. . . . I can beat any other power in the world.” So said the leader of the Nazis.

In other words, the Axis not merely admits, but the Axis proclaims that there can be no ultimate peace between their philosophy, their philosophy of government and our philosophy of government.

In view of the nature of this undeniable threat, it can be asserted, properly and categorically, that the United States has no right or reason to encourage talk of peace, until the day shall come when there is a clear intention on the part of the aggressor nations to abandon all thought of dominating or conquering the world.

At this moment, the forces of the states that are leagued against all peoples who live in freedom, are being held away from our shores. The Germans and the Italians are being blocked on the other side of the Atlantic by the British, and by the Greeks, and by thousands of soldiers and sailors who were able to escape from subjugated countries. In Asia, the Japanese are being engaged by the Chinese nation in another great defense. In the Pacific Ocean is our fleet.”

United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill at his seat in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street, London, circa 1940.

3. Sentences 22 through 40: Hitler and the Axis Powers: What They Represent

Inferences

United Kingdom Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was installed May 10, 1940. As Roosevelt correctly saw the United Kingdom as essentially the aegis of the US, he appeared to depend particularly upon Churchill to hold the line against Hitler as promised. In Churchill’s first speech before the House of Commons, three days after being installed on May 10, 1940 as Prime Minister, he powerfully stated regarding the war: “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Roosevelt learned that holding the line would not be a mean feat for the United Kingdom. In a May 15, 1940 cable, Churchill revealed the truth of the dire straits his country found itself in to Roosevelt. He wrote: “The scene has darkened swiftly. The enemy have a marked preponderance in the air, and their new technique is making a deep impression upon the French. I think myself the battle on land has only just begun . . . The small countries are simply smashed up, one by one, like matchwood. We must expect, though it is not yet certain, that Mussolini will hurry in to share the loot of civilization. We expect to be attacked here ourselves, both from the air and by parachute and air borne troops in the near future, and are getting ready from them. If necessary, we shall continue the war alone and we are not afraid of that. But I trust you realize, Mr. President, that the voice and force of the United States may count for nothing if they are withheld too long. You may have completely subjugated, Nazified Europe established with astonishing swiftness, and the weight may be more than we can bear.”

By providing weapons to the United Kingdom, the capabilities of its armed forces would be enhanced and the chances of it holding out would be increased. However, Churchill had to be depended upon to hold the line at home, too. Churchill determined that the United Kingdom would fight on, but there were Members in his War Cabinet willing to sign a peace agreement with Hitler. 

With the hope that three parties would work together with the common aim of defeating Nazi Germany, Churchill created a War Cabinet in which two out of five members were Labour politicians, one was National and two were Conservatives.  Yet, despite the crisis, domestic political fighting was not restrained. In the Parliament, a series of crucial, often heated, discussions and debates took place in late May 1940. If anything had suddenly happened to Churchill, politically or physically, there was the danger that those willing to strike a deal with Hitler would follow through with their wrongheaded ideas. As well as bolster the United Kingdom’s ability to fight, US military assistance would prove to Churchill and those shaky Members of Parliament that the US was standing fast with them. By working together, Roosevelt and Churchill forged a sort of entente cordiale.

Sentences 22 through 40 of the Fireside Chat

“Some of our people like to believe that wars in Europe and in Asia are of no concern to us. But it is a matter of most vital concern to us that European and Asiatic war-makers should not gain control of the oceans which lead to this hemisphere.

One hundred and seventeen years ago the Monroe Doctrine was conceived by our Government as a measure of defense in the face of a threat against this hemisphere by an alliance in Continental Europe. Thereafter, we stood guard in the Atlantic, with the British as neighbors. There was no treaty. There was no “unwritten agreement.”

And yet, there was the feeling, proven correct by history, that we as neighbors could settle any disputes in a peaceful fashion. The fact is that during the whole of this time the Western Hemisphere has remained free from aggression from Europe or from Asia.

Does anyone seriously believe that we need to fear attack anywhere in the Americas while a free Britain remains our most powerful naval neighbor in the Atlantic? Does anyone seriously believe, on the other hand, that we could rest easy if the Axis powers were our neighbors there?

If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the high seas–and they will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere. It is no exaggeration to say that all of us, in all the Americas, would be living at the point of a gun—a gun loaded with explosive bullets, economic as well as military. [The source of the transcript of the Fireside Chat utilized here notes that although the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum online typescript of the address includes “Australia” and not “Australasia,” a close review of an authentic recording has confirmed Australasia is correct. Praeterea qui alium sequitur nihil invenit, immo nec quaerit. (Besides, he who follows another not only discovers nothing but is not even investigating.)]

We should enter upon a new and terrible era in which the whole world, our hemisphere included, would be run by threats of brute force. To survive in such a world, we would have to convert ourselves permanently into a militaristic power on the basis of war economy.

Some of us like to believe that even if Britain falls, we are still safe, because of the broad expanse of the Atlantic and of the Pacific.

But the width of those oceans is not what it was in the days of clipper ships. At one point between Africa and Brazil the distance is less from Washington that it is from Washington to Denver, Colorado–five hours for the latest type of bomber. And at the North end of the Pacific Ocean, America and Asia almost touch each other.

Why, even today we have planes that could fly from the British Isles to New England and back again without refueling. And remember that the range of the modern bomber is ever being increased.”

4. Sentences 42 through 71: What the Axis Powers Are Capable of and Plan To Do; How They Think; Areas They Threaten; The US Plan of Action

Inferences

Every step of the way, Roosevelt had to be thorough in his analysis of matters, very calculating in his choices, and very measured in his actions. Surely, he often had to show restraint, perhaps knowing that certain bold advances would likely be most helpful, yet prohibiting himself to limited moves that would be most effective. No one was allowed to get in the way of those efforts. In greatcharlie’s humble view. the following words of the renowned Irish novelist, short-story writer and poet in “Chapter 9: Scylla and Charybdis” of Ulysses (1922) are apposite to Roosevelt: “His own image to a man with that queer thing genius is the standard of all experience, material and moral.”

Roosevelt was well aware that everyone in Washington had an opinion on how to proceed with regard to Europe and Asia. Roosevelt however, had his own opinions and did not need to pollinate them with theirs. What he wanted most from others were good, solid suggestions for lines of action.

Officials in the government, business, academia, his own political party as well as the ever-present pestiferous critics who were hardly acquainted with the actual facts must have appeared truly counterintuitive to Roosevelt for believing that Hitler would somehow choose to work diplomatically with the US or ignore it on his path to world conquest. He appears to have concluded that given technological advances, the Atlantic could be easily overcome by the massive Nazi war machine whereas others still had not.

As an objective of Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat was not arouse fears within the country but rather put its people on an even keel in a time of trouble, he could hardly explain that the Axis Powers would not forever tolerate robust actions from the US to undermine their respective plans for conquest, even though he likely believed Hitler would strike with some bold violent move soon enough.

For the War Department, the US was the only priority. There, calculations were assuredly being done all the time in 1940, focusing particularly on depleted supplies, weapons and ammunition due to cash-and-carry, which in the department was seen as a virtually unlimited stream of military assistance flowing out of US arsenals and military production plants into the United Kingdom. Cash-and-Carry was a creative program implemented by Roosevelt. Under the program the US could sell countries such as the United Kingdom and France as long as they paid cash and carried the war materials on their own cargo ships. Roosevelt managed to persuade the US Congress to allow the US the flexibility to take such a step just before the passage of the Neutrality Act on August 15, 1935 which imposed strict limitations on US interactions with “belligerent” countries.

Imagining that military commanders and war planners in Roosevelt’s War Department had occasionally turned their focus to classified “map maneuvers and “chart maneuvers” concerning the situation in Europe from the position of the Nazi German Armed Forces, they may have judged that Nazi Germany would easily recognize the United Kingdom, the British Empire and its Commonwealth, stood in the way of their line of march. Churchill actually presented that position as a statement of fact in his June 4, 1940 speech before the House of Commons, saying: “The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war.” They may have concluded in the War Department that soon enough Hitler would want to mitigate that problem. Cutting the United Kingdom off from the US using U-Boats would very likely be Hitler’s solution.

Roosevelt was already keenly aware U-Boats could cause something close to insurmountable damage to merchant fleets operating in the Atlantic. Churchill once wrote that, “The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.” As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt observed how they successfully performed before the US entry into World War I. He would surely find that conclusion logical. Given what had been demonstrated by Hitler to that point, Roosevelt most likely presumed the dictator would eventually seize the opportunity before him. The question left was exactly how much longer Hitler would tolerate the resupply and support from the US that kept the United Kingdom in the fight. 

Undoubtedly concerned with the timing of such a possibility, Roosevelt appeared compelled to increase the tempo of action and do the most possible while conditions were moderately favorable on the Atlantic. As it so happened, by 1940, German U-Boats had already achieved considerable success in sinking merchant ships on the way to the United Kingdom. However, Nazi Germany had not vastly increased their U-Boat arsenal and formed a fleet in such a way to deliver a decisive blow. It is now known that Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) Karl Dōnitz, who at the start of World War II, served as the Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote (Commander of the Submarines), pushed for a German fleet that consisted almost entirely of U-boats. He fully believed that depriving Germany’s enemies vital supplies such as food and oil would be more effective than sinking enemy ships with the risk of combat. He claimed that given 300 of the Type VII U-boats, he could defeat the entire Royal Navy utilizing tactics that would later be named “wolfpacks”. 

Luckily, Hitler was not so clever. He gave the jobs of both Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy) and Großadmiral, Oberkommando der Marine (the Naval High Command) Erich Raeder. Raeder was uninterested in Dönitz’s theories. Raeder was a traditionalist whose focus was surface warfare. Raeder also judged that Germany could not contest the Royal Navy for control of the sea. Even more, Raeder believed submarine warfare was cowardly. By 1941, although relatively small in number, U-boats under then Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Dőnitz were threatening Allied shipping as far as the US east coast. However, the U-Boats were never used at a level to knock the United Kingdom out of the war despite having the genuine capability to do so.

Sentences 42 through 71 of the Fireside Chat

“During the past week many people in all parts of the nation have told me what they wanted me to say tonight. Almost all of them expressed a courageous desire to hear the plain truth about the gravity of the situation. One telegram, however, expressed the attitude of the small minority who want to see no evil and hear no evil, even though they know in their hearts that evil exists. That telegram begged me not to tell again of the ease with which our American cities could be bombed by any hostile power which had gained bases in this Western Hemisphere. The gist of that telegram was: “Please, Mr. President, don’t frighten us by telling us the facts.”

Frankly and definitely there is danger ahead—danger against which we must prepare. But we well know that we cannot escape danger, or the fear of danger, by crawling into bed and pulling the covers over our heads.

Some nations of Europe were bound by solemn non-intervention pacts with Germany. Other nations were assured by Germany that they need never fear invasion. Non-intervention pact or not, the fact remains that they were attacked, overrun; thrown into modern slavery at an hour’s notice, or even without any notice at all. As an exiled leader of one of these nations said to me the other day—”The notice was a minus quantity. It was given to my Government two hours after German troops had poured into my country in a hundred places.”

The fate of these nations tells us what it means to live at the point of a Nazi gun.

The Nazis have justified such actions by various pious frauds. One of these frauds is the claim that they are occupying a nation for the purpose of “restoring order.” Another is that they are occupying or controlling a nation on the excuse that they are “protecting it” against the aggression of somebody else.

For example, Germany has said that she was occupying Belgium to save the Belgians from the British. Would she then hesitate to say to any South American country, “We are occupying you to protect you from aggression by the United States”?

Belgium today is being used as an invasion base against Britain, now fighting for its life. And any South American country, in Nazi hands, would always constitute a jumping-off place for German attack on any one of the other Republics of this hemisphere.

Analyze for yourselves the future of two other places even nearer to Germany if the Nazis won. Could Ireland hold out? Would Irish freedom be permitted as an amazing pet exception in an unfree world? Or the Islands of the Azores which still fly the flag of Portugal after five centuries? You and I think of Hawaii as an outpost of defense in the Pacific. And yet, the Azores are closer to our shores in the Atlantic than Hawaii is on the other side.

There are those who say that the Axis powers would never have any desire to attack the Western Hemisphere. That is the same dangerous form of wishful thinking which has destroyed the powers of resistance of so many conquered peoples. The plain facts are that the Nazis have proclaimed, time and again, that all other races are their inferiors and therefore subject to their orders. And most important of all, the vast resources and wealth of this American Hemisphere constitute the most tempting loot in all the round world.”

US M3 Grant tank being loaded onboard a cargo ship bound for a war zone overseas.

5. Sentences 72 through 108: Plans of Axis Powers to Overcome the US and Explaining Why Opponents to US Assistance Are Wrong; A Struggle for Human Liberty and Freedom Is Underway

Inferences

In Napoléon: Ses Opinions et Jugemens sur les Hommes et sur les Choses (1838) by Jean-Joseph-Stanislas-Albert Damas-Hinard, an entry under courage is Correspondance de Napoléon avec le Ministre de la Marine, Lettre du 25 Mai 1805 states: “Rien ne donne plus de courage et n’éclaircit plus les idées que de bien connaître la position de son ennemi.” (Nothing gives more courage or better clarifies ideas than knowing accurately the position of one’s enemy.) In the prewar years as well as during the war, Roosevelt seemed to have a reliable intuition which he appeared to use to its fullest. Concerning Hitler’s very likely determination to invade the US, Roosevelt did not need to read about that in an intelligence report, or rely upon his intuition. If one could forgive greatcharlie’s frankness, as Roosevelt was an experienced politician from New York State and a learned man, he understood just how monstrous and vile the thinking of individuals as Hitler could be.

Yet, Roosevelt knew the value of intelligence and surely wanted to get a leg up on the Axis Powers however he could. He wanted to know what they were doing abroad, particularly throughout the northern and southern continents, and especially in the US. Rather than wait for the veils to lift, he charged the somewhat meager intelligence resources the US had at the time to break through them.

It is uncertain whether what sufficed for foreign intelligence services for the US at that time–the Special Intelligence Service of the Federal Bureau, of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Military Intelligence Division—would have been aware in 1940 of any high-tech research and development planned or underway in Germany such as long-range rocket and ballistic missile programs and jet-powered aircraft. The FBI had developed ties with the United Kingdom’s MI6 foreign intelligence service and MI5 internal security organization and learned much from them in order to work more effectively on common causes.

An Interdepartmental Information Conference in 1939 brought all elements of the burgeoning US intelligence community together for the first time, to discuss creating a structure to handle the espionage threat to the US.  Rather than fight like a sack of wildcats, new linkages were created between the FBI and the US military, and partnerships were established with foreign services such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as Mexican and British intelligence officials.  The FBI’s General Intelligence Division was established to manage foreign counterintelligence and other intelligence investigations.  In 1940, US President Franklin Roosevelt signed a Presidential order allowing FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, to begin wiretapping embassies and consulates.  Sizable failures, new initiatives, and the FBI’s education in managing the intricate details of counterespionage matters resulted in the surprise arrest of 33 German agents in 1941, effectively breaking the back of Abwehr (German military intelligence) in the US. To that extent, Roosevelt was made aware of Nazi Germany’s espionage activities in the US, and within certain parameters he could inform the US public of those efforts which were aimed at laying the groundwork for the conquest of their country.

Much as Churchill, Roosevelt seemed gripped by a strange fear about Hitler. He truly believed that it would be impossible to discuss anything with him. In Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943  (St. Augustine’s Press, 2013), reviewed in greatcharlie’s March 2, 2015 post, George Rutler explains that Roosevelt believed Hitler could very well have been the Devil Incarnate. Related to this Churchill recalled during a subsequent radio interview that before his discussion with Roosevelt began aboard the battleship HMS Prince of Wales at Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland on Sunday, August 10, 1941, the two leaders attended a church service on the warship’s fantail. Churchill commented regarding the church service: “I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we are serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high.”

Sentences 72 through 108 of the Fireside Chat

“Let us no longer blind ourselves to the undeniable fact that the evil forces which have crushed and undermined and corrupted so many others are already within our own gates. Your Government knows much about them and every day is ferreting them out.

Their secret emissaries are active in our own and in neighboring countries. They seek to stir up suspicion and dissension to cause internal strife. They try to turn capital against labor, and vice versa. They try to reawaken long slumbering racial and religious enmities which should have no place in this country. They are active in every group that promotes intolerance. They exploit for their own ends our own natural abhorrence of war. These trouble-breeders have but one purpose. It is to divide our people; to divide them into hostile groups and to destroy our unity and shatter our will to defend ourselves.

There are also American citizens, many of them in high places, who, unwittingly in most cases, are aiding and abetting the work of these agents. I do not charge these American citizens with being foreign agents. But I do charge them with doing exactly the kind of work that the dictators want done in the United States.

These people not only believe that we can save our own skins by shutting our eyes to the fate of other nations. Some of them go much further than that. They say that we can and should become the friends and even the partners of the Axis powers. Some of them even suggest that we should imitate the methods of the dictatorships. But Americans never can and never will do that.

The experience of the past two years has proven beyond doubt that no nation can appease the Nazis. No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. We know now that a nation can have peace with the Nazis only at the price of total surrender.

Even the people of Italy have been forced to become accomplices of the Nazis; but at this moment they do not know how soon they will be embraced to death by their allies.

The American appeasers ignore the warning to be found in the fate of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and France. They tell you that the Axis powers are going to win anyway; that all of this bloodshed in the world could be saved; that the United States might just as well throw its influence into the scale of a dictated peace, and get the best out of it that we can.

They call it a “negotiated peace.” Nonsense! Is it a negotiated peace if a gang of outlaws surrounds your community and on threat of extermination makes you pay tribute to save your own skins?

Such a dictated peace would be no peace at all. It would be only another armistice, leading to the most gigantic armament race and the most devastating trade wars in all history. And in these contests the Americas would offer the only real resistance to the Axis powers.

With all their vaunted efficiency, with all their parade of pious purpose in this war, there are still in their background the concentration camp and the servants of God in chains.

The history of recent years proves that the shootings and the chains and the concentration camps are not simply the transient tools but the very altars of modern dictatorships. They may talk of a “new order” in the world, but what they have in mind is only a revival of the oldest and the worst tyranny. In that there is no liberty, no religion, no hope.

The proposed “new order” is the very opposite of a United States of Europe or a United States of Asia. It is not a Government based upon the consent of the governed. It is not a union of ordinary, self-respecting men and women to protect themselves and their freedom and their dignity from oppression. It is an unholy alliance of power and pelf to dominate and enslave the human race.”

Attendees of the August 22, 1940 Destroyer Conference at the White House. From left to right, US Attorney General Robert Jackson, US Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Acting US Secretary of State Sumner Welles and US Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

6. Sentences 109 through 123: The US Must Act; What the Failure to Support the United Kingdom Would Mean; Time Is of the Essence

Inferences

Given his objective of doing the most possible while conditions were moderately favorable on the Atlantic, Roosevelt likely reached the logical conclusion that many weapons still sitting in US arsenals, beyond what had already been sent abroad, would be put to far better use in the hands of the combat experienced fighting forces of countries already engaged in the struggle with the Axis Powers. He may have assessed that any additional weapons supplied to the United Kingdom and France while it was still in the fight, would have, what would decades later be dubbed, a “multiplier effect” on both the morale, capabilities, and possibilities of those forces. He clearly wanted the United Kingdom to have every chance of success.

In implementing his policy of assisting the United Kingdom with as much as the US could within safe parameters, Roosevelt had to cope with incessant virtual debates–virtual, as there was no room for a debating directly with the president on foreign and national security policy that he set in place and wanted action on–with top military officers and top bureaucrats in the War Department who believed they were presenting what could be characterized as “America First” arguments.

The US Armed Forces opposed the diversion of its military supplies to the United Kingdom. At the nub of that position was the pessimistic belief of the Chief of Staff of the US Army General George Marshall that the United Kingdom would not be able to fend off Nazi Germany. (That assessment was frightfully off the mark.) As was the case when France fell, Marshall anticipated that when the United Kingdom surrendered, all of the US war materials that were being rushed there would fall into Nazi German hands. Marshall and others argued that the US national defense would not be served by clearing out its arsenals for others’ lost causes, but rather by retaining military supplies for the protection of the Western Hemisphere.

Yet as alluded to earlier, Roosevelt understood that moment, such thinking was too pessimistic, very limited, even defeatist. It has often been the case that only after a crisis has crossed its tipping point that the great value of a creative approach is recognized. However, in this case, if Roosevelt had waited for anyone to have some epiphany, the chance to have a positive impact would likely have been lost forever. If the US failed to try all options with real potential still available, it would tragically have little say in the final outcome which likely would have been dark. To that extent, Roosevelt, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, insisted top military and naval officers and senior bureaucrats in the War Department fix themselves to the task of finding ways to immediately implement his plans, rather than wait to simply hope they would see things his way.

While administering the Navy and working somewhat closely with the Army as Assistant Secretary of Navy during World War I, Roosevelt may have detected a parochialism among senior military and naval officers that colored thinking in planning. He may have also detected that among top commanders and planners, there was a certain piquancy in knowing all the right boxes were ticked and everything that was planned was accepted as being done in the correct way. Roosevelt understood what a liability such thinking would be in the country’s circumstances in 1940. For Roosevelt, the usual practices and perfunctory work had no place.

As noted earlier, Roosevelt would not respond to his advisers in toxic, hostile ways. He remained well-beyond that. Still, at times, senior leaders in the War Department, appearing uncertain, even distrustful of Roosevelt’s thinking, in their own way put extra pressure on him. If he reacted at all, his words would be more sardonic than cutting. In an intriguing December 29, 2015 article in Politico written on the 75th Anniversary of the Fireside Chat discussed here, historian Josh Zeitz wrote, unfortunately without citations, that Roosevelt would often brace and threaten to expel those who were hesitant to comply with his orders. This behavior was most apparent when on June 1, 1940, weeks before France fell to Nazi Germany, Roosevelt unilaterally declared enormous caches of military equipment “surplus” and ordered that they be shipped immediately to the United Kingdom. When the US Secretary of War Harry Woodring, an ardent isolationist, fired off a strong memo to the President voicing concern about the legality of the order, Roosevelt ordered him to comply or resign. (Roosevelt eventually had to demand his resignation when refused to release B-17 “Flying Fortresses” to the United Kingdom. He replaced him with a Republican from the administration of US President Howard Taft, Henry Stimson.) General Henry Arnold, Chief of the US Army Air Corps repeatedly expressed concerns that the order would have a deleterious effect upon the country’s readiness for war, Roosevelt reportedly told an aide: “If Arnold won’t comply, maybe we’ll have to move him out of town.” When the US Navy’s Judge Advocate General balked at sanctioning the transfer, Roosevelt instructed the US Secretary of the Navy, Charles Edison, to send the “sea lawyer” on a protracted vacation. Zeitz explains Edison refused, to which Roosevelt replied: “Forget it and do what I told you to do.”

A national leader must have a well-considered idea of what the objectives of a country’s military action will be and how that action should be prosecuted. Those choices are political, established in the country’s foreign and national security policy long before any choices are made, but often in history the need to fight has been existential. Top military commanders must remain obedient to the concept and intent expressed by the national leader. To that extent, war becomes a continuation of politics with other means much as the 19th military theorist, Prussian General Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, suggested in his renowned book Vom Kriege (On War) published posthumously in 1832: “Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln.”

As a highly developed individual, Roosevelt seemingly was able to keep perspective on almost everything. He did not appear to truly despair or fault those in the foreign and national security bureaucracies for furnishing patent answers they were long trained to provide and patriotically as well as emotionally compelled to make. Yet, he was also likely aware, well-ahead of most, that the circumstances of war with the Axis Powers would demand that many unlearn lessons from the past and open their minds up to new thinking on a global scale, transcending anything they might have considered or dared to imagine before. Nothing said ever caused Roosevelt to halt or even slow down the export of US military resources. In truth, more often, Roosevelt would receive answers and rapid responses from advisers much as he desired.

When Churchill asked Roosevelt for the loan of “forty or fifty of your older destroyers,” and warned that without them the United Kingdom would be unable to fight the “Battle of the Atlantic” against Nazi Germany and Italy, what followed was three-and-a-half months of negotiations. There were significant issues to sort out. Roosevelt’s first response disappointed Churchill. Roosevelt truthfully responded, “a step of that kind could not be taken except with the specific authorization of Congress and I am not certain that it would be wise for that suggestion to be made to the Congress at this moment.” Still, Churchill continued to do his part with regard to holding the line. On July 3, 1940, the Royal Navy was dispatched to bomb the French Navy at its base in northwestern Algeria with the purpose of at best destroying or at least disabling the French fleet to prevent it from being used by Nazi Germany. If the United Kingdom had even largely fallen to Nazi Germany, the naval assets of the French fleet, aggregated with Germany’s Kriegsmarine and the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy), the US would be left to fight an enormous armada of naval and air power. By August, talks between the US and the United Kingdom shifted from a loan or sale of the surplus destroyers to an exchange of the surplus destroyers for bases on British Territories in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. Though he was reportedly not open to thoughts from some advisers on what should be accomplished, he was presumably open to thoughts on the best way to accomplish the “Destroyer-Bases Exchange.”

First, Roosevelt met with US Attorney General Robert Jackson to discuss the legal situation regarding his authority to provide surplus US Navy destroyers on that basis with the United Kingdom without further authorization from Congress. 

Second, on August 13, 1940, US Secretary of State Henry Stimson, US Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, US Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, met with Roosevelt to outline the essential points of an agreement. Third, on August 15, 1940, Jackson advised Roosevelt that the Department of Justice definitely believed he did have authority to act without the consent of Congress as the destroyers to be transferred fell in the classification of obsolescent materials. All he needed was certification from naval and military authorities that the warships were not needful for the defense of the US. On September 2, 1940, President Roosevelt signed the Destroyers for Bases Agreement.

Sentences 109 through 123 of the Fireside Chat 

“The British people and their allies today are conducting an active war against this unholy alliance. Our own future security is greatly dependent on the outcome of that fight. Our ability to “keep out of war” is going to be affected by that outcome.

Thinking in terms of today and tomorrow, I make the direct statement to the American people that there is far less chance of the United States getting into war, if we do all we can now to support the nations defending themselves against attack by the Axis than if we acquiesce in their defeat, submit tamely to an Axis victory, and wait our turn to be the object of attack in another war later on.

If we are to be completely honest with ourselves, we must admit that there is risk in any course we may take. But I deeply believe that the great majority of our people agree that the course that I advocate involves the least risk now and the greatest hope for world peace in the future.

The people of Europe who are defending themselves do not ask us to do their fighting. They ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security. Emphatically we must get these weapons to them; get them to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough, so that we and our children will be saved the agony and suffering of war which others have had to endure.

Let not the defeatists tell us that it is too late. It will never be earlier. Tomorrow will be later than today. Certain facts are self-evident.

In a military sense Great Britain and the British Empire are today the spearhead of resistance to world conquest. And they are putting up a fight which will live forever in the story of human gallantry.”

Chief of Staff of the US Army General George Catlett Marshall (seated center) with members of his general staff in November 1941.

7. Sentences 124 through 130: A No US Boots on the Ground Pledge; Addressing Naysayers; Integrating the War Needs of US and the United Kingdom

Inferences

In July 1940, the Democratic Party nominated Roosevelt for an unprecedented third term in office. His opponent, Republican nominee Wendell Willkie, agreed with Roosevelt that the US should lend active assistance to the United Kingdom. Yet, as the election drew closer, Willkie began to give speeches warning that a vote for Roosevelt was a vote for entering the war. As polls narrowed, Roosevelt sought to assure voters, stating: “We will not participate in foreign wars and we will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas except in case of attack.” Ultimately, Roosevelt won reelection, and with that behind him, he perhaps believed he had more flexibility to make more decisive moves to support countries fighting the Axis Powers and prepare the US for war

On September 16, 1940. the US Congress approved the Selective Service and Training Act. The majority of Members of Congress, despite resistance from isolationists in the body, could see the writing on the wall with regard to the Axis Powers and war. The act, which instituted the first peacetime military draft in US history, required men between the ages of 21 and 36 to register for the draft. The number of selected draftees was capped at 900,000 men, who would be enlisted for one year of training and service, and could only serve in the Western Hemisphere or in US territories. Though there were anti-draft protests on college campuses nationwide, in December 1940, 78% of US citizens polled favored the military draft. Once the Selective Service and Training Act went into effect, the requirements for more weapons and supplies in the US would sharply increase. With conscripts starting to arrive for training in the armed forces, the War Department became concerned that those conscripts would be fully equipped. 

While the situation in Europe worsened, Marshall would repeatedly convey the concerns of the uniformed services in the War Department over his foreign military assistance efforts in his meetings with Roosevelt. Surely, Marshall may have felt he was doing his job with fidelity, speaking truth to power. He, too, was part of the aforementioned “cabal” that questioned the legality and Roosevelt’s decision to declare swathes of war materials surplus and ship them off post haste to the United Kingdom. Expressing caution based on the best ways one knows how to handle a situation was logical, and somewhat understandable. The War Department did have war plans that were dependent on those military resources. Marshall’s intent was to stockpile resources for a coming fight. This certainly would have been the position of top military leaders generally as it is what they had been trained to do. Moreover, it would become nearly impossible to make adjustments and firm up war plans and strategies without knowing what would be available, or better, what would be left, after weapons, surplus and new, from US arsenals were shipped around the world.

Marshall’s reaction to the near non-stop movement of such high levels of military resources to the United Kingdom might have been expected by Roosevelt. According to an anecdote drawn from Forrest Pogue’s George C. Marshall, Vol. 2: Ordeal and Hope, 1939-1942 (Viking, 1966), in the fall of 1938, when the threat of war loomed in Europe, Roosevelt called a White House meeting with key members of his administration in order to discuss his proposed defense plan, which primarily consisted of a rapid and dramatic expansion of US airpower. Marshall had been the Deputy Chief of Staff of the US Army for less than one month. As a new brigadier–one-star–general, he was one of the lowest ranking attendees of the meeting. During the course of the discussion, Roosevelt asked each attendee if they agreed with his proposal. All voiced agreement except Marshall who tactfully disagreed with Roosevelt’s concept. The other attendees noted that Marshall’s disagreement visibly startled Roosevelt. After the meeting adjourned, many of those present made it clear that they believed Marshall had effectively ended his career. Five months later, in a move that stunned most of Washington, Roosevelt asked Marshall to serve as the next Chief of Staff of the US Army. 

In another instance, during a meeting at the White House with Roosevelt, Marshall presented a chart that reflected the arrangement for dividing planes coming off the assembly line, particularly the US Army’s prized B-17 “Flying Fortress”, mentioned earlier, with the United Kingdom, particularly exhibiting the wide difference between orders and deliveries. Marshall reportedly asked pointedly whether the United Kingdom’s consignment should be computed as half of the planes scheduled for delivery or as half of those actually delivered. Roosevelt’s response to Marshall allegedly was: “Don’t let me see that chart again.” As the leader of the US Army, certainly, Marshall was aware of the indications and implications of that statement for him personally.

Perhaps it is bitter this but Roosevelt likely understood Marshall could hardly provide him with a forecast of what the situation would be in another year that would hold any degree of certitude. In other words, Marshall could not be certain how the world for which his planners had organized military strategic objectives, military plans, and military resources would Iook in a year. Roosevelt knew that the time to act was now. In a calibrated way, he could supply the United Kingdom and many others who were fighting the Axis Powers what they needed when they needed it the most. The US would be the one through such efforts to aggregate all of the power available for the fight immediately.

It is possible that in Roosevelt’s eyes, perhaps even for fleeting moments, he might have been irked. Roosevelt, after all, was only human.. In those imagined moments, he might have felt the attitudes and behaviors  that Marshall and other senior officials in the War Department as well as other foreign and national security bureaucracies was more akin to the type of rural or urban shopkeeper who was more focused with the fullness of the stockroom, orderly shelves, and keeping his or her portion of the sidewalk swept than selling inventory, making profits, and best serving his or her community: the recipe for ruin.

When Marshall argued against efforts to elevate the United Kingdom’s military capabilities at the expense of those of the US, perhaps he may have actually managed to create some degree of doubt, no matter how small, that the general was not the best strategic thinker and would not, as Chief of Staff of the US Army, be able to make the whole challenging and unfortunate trek he saw the country on. The general’s attempts to tactfully lobby Roosevelt perhaps would lead many today to think that every so often an afflatus would strike him. To be more frank, Marshall acted as if he viewed his president’s choices as something closer to whims than thoughtful, strategically sound decisions. Roosevelt may have held in mind, perhaps even had nightmares over the fact, that Marshall’s line of thinking somewhat resembled that of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France, British Army General Lord Gort. He used his troops to construct the “Gort Line,” a 45 mile defensive line comprised of bunkers, pillboxes, and anti-tank traps along the France-Belgium border rather than build up mobility assets, firepower, and air power, and train his commanders and their units to integrate combined arms warfare with air power, and to use deception, speed, maneuver, and concentrate power. That approach, seemingly not too advanced for 1940, would have been more compatible with the British Army’s offensively-minded Dyle Plan, established as a response to a possible Nazi German invasion. When the invasion of France began in the Spring of 1940, Gort was unable to act decisively. While Churchill praised Gort in his June 4, 1940 speech before the House of Commons, his remarks about the disaster in France seemed to reveal that he felt Gort’s handling of the British Expeditionary Force may have hurt its chances of achieving greater success. 

Still, Roosevelt seemed to retain enough confidence and faith in Marshall and may have believed the general would come around to looking at things with a broader view that would parallel his own. To the extent that is accurate, it would mean Marshall was an exception. Roosevelt sympathies were always with members of the armed forces knowing how indispensable and difficult their work so often was yet very distant in the thoughts of most of those they defended. Marshall would serve as Chief of Staff of the US Army throughout World War II. Gloriosum est iniurias oblivisci. (It is glorious to forget the injustice.)

Sentences 124 through 130 of the Fireside Chat 

“There is no demand for sending an American Expeditionary Force outside our own borders. There is no intention by any member of your Government to send such a force. You can, therefore, nail, nail any talk about sending armies to Europe as deliberate untruth.

Our national policy is not directed toward war. Its sole purpose is to keep war away from our country and away from our people. Democracy’s fight against world conquest is being greatly aided, and must be more greatly aided, by the rearmament of the United States and by sending every ounce and every ton of munitions and supplies that we can possibly spare to help the defenders who are in the front lines. And it is no more unneutral for us to do that than it is for Sweden, Russia and other nations near Germany, to send steel and ore and oil and other war materials into Germany every day in the week.”

US Navy and Royal Navy sailors inspect depth charges aboard Wickes-class destroyers in 1940. In the background are USS Buchanan (DD-131) and USS Crownshield (DD-134). Both surplus warships were transferred to the Royal Navy on September 9, 1940.

8. Sentences 131 through 144: Replenishing US Arsenals; Building Greater Weapons for Defense; Taking Workers into Consideration; Expectations of Industry Leaders

Inferences

Looking back, one might suggest that rather than burden the president with his concern over stockpiles, Marshall should have developed for Roosevelt plans that would allow for the replenishment of what was old with new weapon systems with the latest capabilities and identified how that replenishment could have been performed rapidly with the existing US industrial base and a recommended expanded one.

When Roosevelt spoke of counsel from the military experts, he concealed the fact that he, himself, was such an expert. Roosevelt had acquired considerable experience maintaining the readiness of the US Armed Forces and preparing them for war long before becoming US President.

As only touched upon earlier, on March 12, 1913, Roosevelt, then a two-term state New York State Senator at age 31, received the nomination to become the US Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the administration of US President Woodrow Wilson. Confirmed unanimously by the US Senate, Roosevelt was the youngest Assistant Secretary of the Navy until that date. US President Theodore Roosevelt, his fifth cousin, had held the same post. It was more than fate that caused another Roosevelt to be selected for the same position. Roosevelt’s superior, US Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels focused on policy and Congressional matters, leaving him to handle personnel matters, operations, and contracting. Although new to naval affairs, Reportedly, Roosevelt had the energy Daniels required to get things done. Fortuitously for Roosevelt, Daniels was willing to serve as a mentor, which allowed him to learn valuable lessons in politics that would be useful to him for years to come.

Even before World War I began, Roosevelt worked to prepare the US Navy for his country’s entry into it. Then, much as in his future, many in government lacked his perspective. Some officials even dismissed the idea that the US would enter the war. Wilson’s doctrine of neutrality would actually thwart many of Roosevelt’s efforts to ready the Navy. Nevertheless, observing events in Europe Roosevelt kept pushing for the Navy’s preparation. Lessons learned on navigating through the administration, particularly with Daniels and Wilson, enabled him to eventually create some movement in the right direction. In late 1915, the US invested in a $600 million program to upgrade and expand the Navy. In the meantime, German U-boats began sinking hundreds of Allied ships. When they began unrestricted warfare on the oceans, Wilson went to Congress for a declaration of war. Congress obliged on April 6, 1917. In the meantime, during the war, Roosevelt placed great focus on mitigating the U-boat threat. He advocated for a plan to lay vast anti-submarine minefields in the North Sea. The mine project was an early sign of Roosevelt’s appreciation for creative solutions. Reportedly, by February 1918, 100,000 mines were prepared for deployment, but the war ended before the system could be fully tested, but the minefield is believed to have destroyed at least four U-boats

It was surely Roosevelt’s unequivocal concept and intent in 1940 to ensure commanders and planners in the US armed forces had as many advantages as possible and enhance the chance for victory, he wanted them to have a preponderance of weapons. It was a mistake for others to think anything otherwise. The war’s outcome bears that out. With an unrivaled wealth of newly minted military resources, their capabilities would be considerable and the possibilities for action would become nearly unlimited. How well US commanders and planners would use them remained to be seen.

Sentences 131 through 144 of the Fireside Chat

“We are planning our own defense with the utmost urgency; and in its vast scale we must integrate the war needs of Britain and the other free nations which are resisting aggression.

This is not a matter of sentiment or of controversial personal opinion. It is a matter of realistic, practical military policy, based on the advice of our military experts who are in close touch with existing warfare. These military and naval experts and the members of the Congress and the Administration have a single-minded purpose—the defense of the United States.

This nation is making a great effort to produce everything that is necessary in this emergency—and with all possible speed. And, this great effort requires great sacrifice.

I would ask no one to defend a democracy which in turn would not defend everyone in the nation against want and privation. The strength of this nation shall not be diluted by the failure of the Government to protect the economic well-being of its citizens.

If our capacity to produce is limited by machines, it must ever be remembered that these machines are operated by the skill and the stamina of the workers. As the Government is determined to protect the rights of the workers, so the nation has a right to expect that the men who man the machines will discharge their full responsibilities to the urgent needs of defense.

The worker possesses the same human dignity and is entitled to the same security of position as the engineer or the manager or the owner. For the workers provide the human power that turns out the destroyers, and the planes and the tanks.

The nation expects our defense industries to continue operation without interruption by strikes or lock-outs. It expects and insists that management and workers will reconcile their differences by voluntary or legal means, to continue to produce the supplies that are so sorely needed.”

9. Sentences 145 through 168: Refitting Manufacturing To Meet Growing Needs Now and Imagining the Future

Inferences

Roosevelt’s interest and emphasis on workers was well-established when he implemented the New Deal. In his addresses and public and private writings, he expressed a fondness for workers in his tone. He surely was glad his efforts had many back on their feet, but likely ambivalent over the fact that a further increase in employment would be the result of preparations for war. Roosevelt’s discussion of workers here, however, may have also been a manifestation of a concern over having sufficient manpower in the armed forces while also having enough manpower available for greatly increased industrial base. Meeting manpower requirements, based on War Department plans led to the aforementioned Selective Service and Training Act.

Considerations along those lines would likely require examining the degree to which isolationist zeal would cause many able workers to refrain from working in war plants. A sort of counterbalance might be the reality that hypothetical war plant jobs would draw those more concerned about steady work and providing for their families and themselves. Perchance when Roosevelt, not having foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor and its impact on the US psyche, contemplated the possibility of being forced by circumstance to declare war on Nazi Germany or Japan, he may have felt unsure of the public response to some degree. With some many US soldiers dying in 1918 alone and the deaths of troops due to influenza–Roosevelt, himself, caught influenza while returning to the US after a visit to the front lines–it is unclear how many able men would be willing to subject themselves possibly to the same for the sake of the Europeans or the Asians.

Surely Roosevelt wanted to duplicate, at a far greater capacity, the military production underway with urgency in the United Kingdom as Churchill described in his June 4, 1940 speech in the House of Commons. Churchill indicated that in such an emergency, industry and labor can find common ground. Churchill explained: “An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere, night and day, Sundays and week days. Capital and Labor have cast aside their interests, rights, and customs and put them into the common stock.” To that extent Roosevelt would mention that there was cooperation between the government, industry, and labor. He extolled industry and labor for their dedication to the effort to build up the “Arsenal of Democracy.” However, it was hardly close to the levels he understood would be needed to defeat the Axis Powers.

Sentences 145 through 168 of the Fireside Chat

“And on the economic side of our great defense program, we are, as you know, bending every effort to maintain stability of prices and with that the stability of the cost of living.

Nine days ago I announced the setting up of a more effective organization to direct our gigantic efforts to increase the production of munitions. The appropriation of vast sums of money and a well coordinated executive direction of our defense efforts are not in themselves enough. Guns, planes, ships and many other things have to be built in the factories and the arsenals of America. They have to be produced by workers and managers and engineers with the aid of machines which in turn have to be built by hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the land.

In this great work there has been splendid cooperation between the Government and industry and labor; and I am very thankful.

American industrial genius, unmatched throughout all the world in the solution of production problems, has been called upon to bring its resources and its talents into action. Manufacturers of watches, of farm implements, of linotypes and cash registers, of automobiles and sewing machines and lawn mowers and locomotives are now making fuses, and bomb packing crates, and telescope mounts, and shells, and pistols and tanks.

But all our present efforts are not enough. We must have more ships, more guns, more planes—more of everything. And this can be accomplished only if we discard the notion of “business as usual.” This job cannot be done merely by superimposing on the existing productive facilities the added requirements of the nation for defense.

Our defense efforts must not be blocked by those who fear the future consequences of surplus plant capacity. The possible consequences of failure of our defense efforts now are much more to be feared.

And after the present needs of our defenses are past, a proper handling of the country’s peace-time needs will require all of the new productive capacity—if not still more.

No pessimistic policy about the future of America shall delay the immediate expansion of those industries essential to defense. We need them.

I want to make it clear that it is the purpose of the nation to build now with all possible speed every machine, every arsenal, every factory that we need to manufacture our defense material. We have the men- the skill- the wealth- and above all, the will.

I am confident that if and when production of consumer or luxury goods in certain industries requires the use of machines and raw materials that are essential for defense purposes, then such production must yield, and will gladly yield, to our primary and compelling purpose.

So, I appeal to the owners of plants—to the managers—to the workers—to our own Government employees—to put every ounce of effort into producing these munitions swiftly and without stint. With this appeal I give you the pledge that all of us who are officers of your Government will devote ourselves to the same whole-hearted extent to the great task that lies ahead.

As planes and ships and guns and shells are produced, your Government, with its defense experts, can then determine how best to use them to defend this hemisphere. The decision as to how much shall be sent abroad and how much shall remain at home must be made on the basis of our over-all military necessities.”

10. Sentences 169 through 187: The Government Has the Matter Covered; It Is Taking Steps; and More Will Be Done

Inferences

Roosevelt committed the US in June 1940 to assisting belligerents in the fight against the Axis Powers with war material, he did so with the insistence, as required under US law, that recipients pay for purchases with cash. As aforementioned, in the summer of 1940, Churchill warned that his country would not be unable to continue paying cash for purchases. By December 1940, the worst had come to pass, and Churchill informed Roosevelt that the United Kingdom was no longer able to pay it for military supplies. Apparently prepared for such news, Roosevelt had ready a proposal for a new initiative that would be known as Lend-Lease. Under it, the US would provide or “lend” the United Kingdom with the war materials and other supplies it needed to fight Nazi Germany, and payments would be deferred. When payments were eventually made, the emphasis would not be on payment in dollars. Payments would primarily take the form of a “consideration” granted by the United Kingdom to the US.

Roosevelt reportedly garnered support for the lend-lease concept through use of the analogy of lending a neighbor your garden hose if his house was on fire and thereby keeping the fire from spreading to your own house. At a press conference held at the White House on December 17, 1940, at which he announced Lend-Lease, Roosevelt explained: “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire . . . I don’t say to him before that operation, ‘Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it’ . . . I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. . . .”

On January 10, 1941, Roosevelt would introduce the lend-lease program to Congress. It would formally allow the US, via Congressional approval, to lend or lease war supplies to any nation deemed “vital to the defense” while keeping the country only indirectly involved in World War II. The Lend-Lease Act was passed on March 11, 1941. Roosevelt had more than sufficiently proved the concept and value of such an approach throughout 1940.

Sentences 169 through 187 of the Fireside Chat

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.

We have furnished the British great material support and we will furnish far more in the future.

There will be no “bottlenecks” in our determination to aid Great Britain. No dictator, no combination of dictators, will weaken that determination by threats of how they will construe that determination.

The British have received invaluable military support from the heroic Greek army, and from the forces of all the governments in exile. Their strength is growing. It is the strength of men and women who value their freedom more highly than they value their lives.

I believe that the Axis powers are not going to win this war. I base that belief on the latest and best of information.

We have no excuse for defeatism. We have every good reason for hope—hope for peace, yes, and hope for the defense of our civilization and for the building of a better civilization in the future.

I have the profound conviction that the American people are now determined to put forth a mightier effort than they have ever yet made to increase our production of all the implements of defense, to meet the threat to our democratic faith.

As President of the United States I call for that national effort. I call for it in the name of this nation which we love and honor and which we are privileged and proud to serve. I call upon our people with absolute confidence that our common cause will greatly succeed.”

Roosevelt and Churchill meet face-to-face for the first time for a secret meeting aboard the battleship USS Augusta at Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland August 9, 1941.

A Job Well Done

In 1940, Roosevelt and Churchill, although not having as yet met in-person, forged a personal bond, an entente cordiale, and more importantly, a bond between their countries that would further develop through the challenges of World War II into what would be called the special relationship. Such a union would have been deemed improbable 154 years before when the Founding Fathers of the US declared their country’s independence from the “United Kingdom of Great Britain”. While all things related to monarchy were surely anathema to Roosevelt given his firm adherence to the precepts of democracy and the US Constitution, yet it would seem the lyrics of George Frederick Handel’s coronation anthem “Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened” (1727) might have been quite an apropos felicitation for him as he led the US, the United Kingdom, and world forward against tyranny: “Let thy hand be strengthened and thy right hand be exalted. / Let justice and judgment be the preparation of thy seat! / Let mercy and truth go before thy face. / Let justice, judgment, mercy and truth go before thy face. / Allelujah.”

Roosevelt was a genius for his practicability, a talented leader superbly harnessed, and self-controlled. Still, taking all aspects of the crisis in daily, as he did, he must have occasionally felt a sense of vulnerability. Even if such intrusive thoughts were infrequent, they would likely have had some degree of influence on his work and his spirit. Alone in his thoughts, Roosevelt apparently was left to dig down deep and draw strength from within. He imparted that strength to the audience of his address in the US.

Roosevelt had an almost mystical, crystal clear perspective of what was happening in the world and what to do despite the atypical and overly generous appearance of his action. Too many advisors did not and seemingly could not gain that same perspective, and placed additional pressures on a President who had already been strained beyond the capacity of most around him. Fulfilling the work that he swore to do during two inaugurations, Roosevelt was faithfully executing the Office of President of the US, and will to the best of his ability, acting with the goal of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the US in the face of threat from the Axis Powers. The even harder work of leading a country engaged in what would be an horrendous and very costly war worldwide had yet to begin.

Roosevelt died during his fourth term in office on April 12,1945 and thereby did not see the results of his incredible efforts. The most important result was the unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers and total victory that back in 1940 Roosevelt said would come if war came. The Roman historian Titus Livius (59 B.C.-A.D. 17), known as Livy, provided in Greek, a history of Rome that begins with the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional founding in 753 B.C. through the reign of Emperor Caesar Augustus during his own lifetime. In the Preface of Book I of that history Ad Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) (c. 28 B.C.), Livy states about the study of history: “Hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monumento intueri; inde tibi tuaeque rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu, foedum exitu, quod vites.” (What chiefly makes the study of history wholesome and profitable is this, that you behold the lessons of every kind of experience set forth as on a conspicuous monument; from these you may choose for yourself and for your own state what to imitate, from these mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result.)

Ruminations on the Russian Federation’s Failure To Close the Door in Western Ukraine to Foreign Military Assistance as Part of Its Invasion Plan

US airmen and marines (above) load M777 artillery pieces marked for delivery to the Ukrainian Armed Forces on an US Air Force transport plane. Many weapon systems sent into Ukraine have had a multiplier effect on the battlefield. Firepower in the form of multiple launch rocket systems, self-propelled artillery, and heavy caliber guns, transported possibly along the now heavily traveled supply lines from both Poland and Romania enabled the Ukrainian Armed Forces to launch two highly-successful counteroffensives. Presented here are some ruminations on Russia’s failure to initially shut the door to the massive levels of military assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the US, other NATO Member States and the EU via Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Emphasis is placed on the likely reasons why Russia went into Ukraine militarily without addressing the potential impact of Western resupply of Ukrainian forces. To that extent, issues considered include: whether the Russian Federation General Staff was responsible for this considerable delinquency or was the Kremlin near criminally remiss for not heeding likely recommendations of the military chiefs and their war planners.

Intriguingly, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin launched the Ukraine War lacking a strategy that took into consideration of what Vooruzhonnije Síly Rossíyskoj Federátsii (the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Armed Forces) would come up against. What was seemingly completely missed or misunderstood was the degree of support from the US and NATO Member States that Kyiv would receive. No effort, that was apparent, was made to obviate the ability of the US and its NATO allies to supply Ukraine at will as part of the military strategy. From the start, conquering Kyiv was the focus as if Putin, his foreign and national security policy team at the Kremlin, and his senior commanders in the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Perhaps, for Putin, the conquest of Ukraine was a dream on which he could feast his imagination. That was at least until the matter was reduced to reality. If one might think of Putin at all as a rational actor, it would seem Putin has painted himself into a corner. That is quite unlike Putin. Some might say that after all the years of accomplishments and successes, and all the experience, he was bound to make one big mistake. It is a real head rubber.

Presented here are some ruminations on Russia’s failure to initially shut the door to the massive levels of military assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the US, other NATO Member States and the EU via Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Emphasis is placed on the likely reasons why Russia went into Ukraine militarily without addressing the potential impact of Western resupply of Ukrainian forces. To that extent, issues considered include: whether the Russian Federation General Staff was responsible for this considerable delinquency or was the Kremlin near criminally remiss for not heeding the recommendations of the military chiefs and their war planners; whether the door was left wide open between Poland Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania with Ukraine because they were hamstrung by Putin’s concept that a successful “lighting strike in Ukraine” could be achieved even though the idea was apparently developed in the abstract; and, whether they had little choice but to acquiesce to the manifestations of Putin’s sense of vulnerability over Ukraine’s close ties to the US, the EU, and NATO. Unless one was actually behind closed doors of conference rooms in the Kremlin and the national security bureaucracies in Moscow, or “reading someone’s mail,” one cannot know for certain how the decision concerning resupply from western Ukraine was made or maybe not made. The best informed guess would inevitably be an interpretation. While “ruminating”, greatcharlie sought to stay grounded within the realm of what would actually be possible in Putin’s regime given what is known about it. Insights offered here are occasionally supported with historical examples of timeless relevance that immediately came to mind or actually helped to generate ruminations. Causa latet, vis est notification. (The cause is hidden, the result is obvious.)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US Army General Colin Powell (above) at press conference at the Pentagon on January 23, 1991. When a military campaign is launched, often an objective becomes separating an opposing army from what gives it support and what allows it to continue to generate combat power. Acting in this manner against an opponent is referred to as acting decisively. During the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, the concept of separating Iraqi forces in Kuwait from resupply as well as command and control from the Iraqi military and political leadership was expressed without ambiguity by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US Army General Colin Powell during a press conference at the Pentagon on January 23, 1991. He famously stated: “Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First, we’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.”

Why Is Resupply an Issue?

When sent to war, the purpose of an army is to use its trained troops to deliver calculated lethal violence in protection of their country and its values wherever they are ordered to go. Not to be forgotten, is the necessity that the army’s troops place their very lives on the line in that pursuit. Equally important to note, not all countries have the same values. The values of the Russian Federation, particularly those that compelled the invasion of Ukraine, are quite different, for example, from those of the United Kingdom, France, or Germany. As professionals, army commanders act to the best of their knowledge and experience, use their troop in accordance with their army’s doctrine and in obedience to the concept and intent laid out by the army’s senior leadership. When it is the case, the army leadership acts in fol)owing with the concept and intent of their country’s political leadership. Such was the case when the Russian Federation Armed Forces were directed by Putin and ordered by the Russian Federation General Staff to invade Ukraine.

Today, armies can deploy with a considerable amount of supplies, but supplies begin to deplete as soon as the fight is underway. Nevertheless, to keep the army going, long before it becomes engaged, considerations and arrangements are made by planners and logistical (supply) officers to transport supplies wherever they are needed. Losing the ability to be resupplied means an army can fight only until the point when it metaphorically and literally, as one element of resupply, runs out of gas. To that extent, the most extreme of human endeavors becomes an even greater challenge for troops in that army. Whether resupply is possible can more often mean the difference between victory and defeat. 

To be a useful, effective fighting force on the battlefield, critical items such as bullets, grenades, rifles, other small arms, Kevlar vests, phones, petroleum, oil lubricants, and all and elements as replacement troops, and troop medical evacuation must get up to where the fight is. As shortages become problematic, commanders must begin to economize, their ability to act will be reduced, and subsequently their army becomes far less effective. The commander of the opposing army, if a capable commander, will discern the change, recognize the advantage presented and seek to exploit it as best as possible. The decision would need to be made on whether the army with dwindling supplies should be withdrawn. If the situation reaches the point when the commander can no longer act to alter the army’s situation, his army is being battered, or his army is cut off and has no available means of egress, he may be forced to surrender. While this description is somewhat oversimplified, it lends support for the idea that when a military campaign is launched, often an objective becomes separating an opposing army from what gives it support and what allows it to continue to generate combat power. Acting in this manner against an opponent is referred to as acting decisively.

During the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, the concept of separating Iraqi forces in Kuwait from resupply as well as command and control from the Iraqi military and political leadership was expressed without ambiguity by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US Army General Colin Powell during a press conference at the Pentagon on January 23, 1991 alongside the US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. In the hour-long briefing, which detailed the first week of operations of the 28-nation coalition against Iraq, Powell famously stated: “Our strategy to go after this army is very, very simple. First, we’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it. To cut it off, that began last week when we started to go after the nerve center, the brains of the operation, the command and control of the operation, and the lines of communication that come out of Baghdad and other places in the country.”

One might have expected that Russian Federation Armed Forces top commanders and planners, in a similar vein, might have taken a similar tack toward the Ukraine Armed Forces. It might have been expected that they would have recognized that resupply not so much from Ukrainian arsenals but from those of US, other NATO Member States, and other countries in the EU would need to be blocked, cut off in some way. Yet, nothing remotely similar to what Powell expressed in 1991 was heard from theMinisterstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Ministry of Defense Russian Federation) or General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), or from Putin, himself, about cutting Zbrojni syly Ukrayiny (Armed Forces of Ukraine, hereinafter referred to as the Ukrainian Armed Forces) off from resupply. There were no feigned movements such as moving Russian Federation forces to points outside Ukraine from which a blocking operation could best be launched in order to signal the intention to cut the Ukrainian Armed Forces off from resupply. Nothing was done sufficiently enough to cause supporters of the government of Kyiv to second guess any planned efforts to resupply the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In view of the potential decisive impact from contributions by the 30 countries in NATO,  particularly the US with its military largess, it would seem some Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders and planners thinking logically would urge the Russian Federation General Staff to suggest scrapping the operation until the problem of the Western resupply threat was resolved. 

A near endless list of situations during wars in which resupply determined the outcome of battle or even the war, itself. For example, armies have often encountered difficulties in cutting off resupply on a strategic level when fighting a determined opponent. Occasionally political leaders and army commanders have been slow in recognizing the opportunity to act decisively to mitigate resupply efforts on a strategic level. Armies have faced difficulties on the tactical level against a smaller force of well-trained, well-organized, and well-led opposing troops, even during a siege, when sufficient resupply has been made available to them

Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail (Đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh) was a supply system that provided support, in the form of manpower and materiel, to the Communist insurgency, Viet Cong, and the People’s Army of Vietnam (North Vietnamese Army) during the Vietnam War. It comprised a logistical network of roads and trails that ran from North Vietnam to South Vietnam through the kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Initially troops, pushing heavily laden bicycles, driving oxcarts, or carrying supplies on their backs, moved hundreds of tons of supplies along it. However, trucks would become the primary means of moving supplies and troops. By 1969, tgere was even a pipeline crossed the Lao frontier through the Mu Gia Pass and, by 1970, it reached the approaches to the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam. The plastic pipeline, equipped with numerous small pumping stations, managed to transfer diesel fuel, gasoline, and kerosene all through the same pipe. By the end of 1970, the number of pipelines entering Laos increased to six that year. As a whole, supply efforts through trail were quite effective, which no mean feat given US efforts to thwart effort through trail included attacks from a CIA-raised clandestine army and the most intense air interdiction campaign in history. Mitigating the effects of US operations to destroy the trail was an existential effort. One might say the Ho Chi Minh Trail was the “center of gravity” for the Communists. Its loss probably would have led to their defeat in the war. As long as supplies could get to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, their war effort could continue with vigor which complicated US-led efforts to secure South Vietnam for the government in Saigon. South Vietnam would eventually surrender to North Vietnam.

Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945

During World War II, Germany acted robustly to prevent merchant ships from carrying food, raw materials, troops and their equipment from North America to the United Kingdom. If they had succeeded, the outcome of war might have been radically different. The United Kingdom might have been starved into submission, which would have been complete strain on the morale. Its forces and those of its allies worldwide likely would have been deeply impacted. The supply line from the US was essentially the beating heart, the center of gravity, of the United Kingdom’s war effort. The threat to the movement of ships across the Atlantic came in the form of German submarines, the “Unterseeboot” or U-boat. United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill once wrote that, “The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”

At the start of World War II, the Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote (Commander of the Submarines) was Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) Karl Dōnitz. Dönitz pushed for a German fleet that consisted almost entirely of U-boats, claiming that depriving Germany’s enemies of vital supplies such as food and oil would be the most effective way to achieve victory. He claimed that given 300 U-Boats of the latest design, the Type VII, he could defeat the entire Royal Navy. He would utilize them in tactical formations that would later be called “wolfpacks”. Dőnitz’s  superior, Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy) and Großadmiral, Oberkommando der Marine (the Naval High Command) Erich Raeder, was uninterested in his theories. Raeder was a traditionalist whose focus was surface warfare. Raeder also judged that Germany could not contest the Royal Navy for control of the sea. Even more, Raeder believed submarine warfare was cowardly. By 1941, although relatively small in number, U-boats under then Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Dőnitz were threatening Allied shipping as far as the US east coast. By the end of 1942, U-boat “wolfpacks” were achieving considerable success in sinking merchant ships. By early 1943, the United Kingdom’s resources, especially oil, were running out, and it became a question of whether Allied shipyards could build merchant ships fast enough to replace the tonnage that was being sunk. 

Finally recognizing the value of then Admiral Dönitz concepts on the effective conduct of submarine warfare, in January 1943, German Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler saw to it that he was advanced to the rank of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) and replaced Großadmiral Erich Raeder as Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine and Großadmiral, Oberkommando der Marine. Interestingly, he retained his post as Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote. Dőnitz was given the authority to act as he saw fit with German naval forces too late. At that juncture, Dőnitz had 200 operational U-boats. By April 1943, his U-boats were clearly struggling to make an impact. The Allies were sinking German submarines in greater numbers, with 45 being destroyed in the months of April and May. Aggressive Allied anti-submarine tactics were aided by the introduction of new technology. Long-range aircraft were equipped with centimetric radar and directed based on Ultra intelligence from intercepts of Kriegsmarine Enigma code communications. The mass production of Liberty Ships in US shipyards would ensure that the Allies would overcome attrition rates and win the Battle of the Atlantic. Without the victory, the Allies would not have been able to land forces ashore in the Mediterranean Theater or at Normandy.

In Operation Sonnenblume, in 1941, the German Afrika Korps‘ first offensive in North Africa, it sought to advance on Alexandria and Suez. In that advance, the capture of Tobruk was a priority as it was the only deep water port in Eastern Libya and would have provided the Germans with the closest supply port to the Egypt–Libya border. Of some significance is the fact that the one the renowned military commanders to emerge from the war led the attack on Tobruk: Generalleutnant (Lieutenant-General) Erwin Rommel. In 1940, Rommel commanded the 7th Panzer Division during the invasion of France where he demonstrated skill in the new tactic of blitzkrieg. He was a military officer who knew his business. When Rommel struck, he achieved complete surprise against British Army units in Libya’s eastern coastal region. The British Army was forced to retreat several hundred miles across the desert toward Tobruk. At Tobruk, the British Army and its allies held on. The Germans frequently bombarded the port. A blockade had been organized to thwart British resupply and reinforcement efforts. However, ships of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Station ran the blockade, and provided Tobruk’s defenders gunfire support, supplies, fresh troops and by ferrying out the wounded. The defenders of Tobruk received enough resources to keep up the fight. Rommel was stopped and the siege was lifted in December 1941.

Tobruk Siege 1941

In Operation Sonnenblume, from February 6, 1941 to May 25,1941, its first offensive in North Africa, the German Afrika Korps sought to advance on Alexandria and Suez in that advance, the capture of Tobruk was a main objective. Tobruk was the only deep water port in Eastern Libya and would have provided Rommel a supply port closer to the Egypt–Libya border than Benghazi, 900 kilometers or 560 miles west of the Egyptian frontier, which was within the range of Royal Air Force bombers; Tripoli was 1,500 kilometers or 930 miles to the west in Tripolitania. Of some significance is the fact that the one the renowned military commanders to emerge from the war led the attack on Tobruk: Generalleutnant (Lieutenant-General) Erwin Rommel. A veteran of World War I, from 1929 through 1933, Rommel served as an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School and from 1935 at the Kriegsakademie (German War Academy) at Potsdam. In 1940, Rommel commanded the 7th Panzer Division during the invasion of France where he demonstrated skill in the new tactic of blitzkrieg. He was a military officer who knew his business. When Rommel struck, his Afrika Korps achieved complete surprise against British Army units in Libya’s eastern coastal region of Cyrenaica. The British Army was forced to retreat several hundred miles across the desert towards Tobruk.

Recognizing that he had the opportunity to capture Tobruk before the British Army and its Allies had time to organize an effective defense, Rommel advanced aggressively to exploit it. The 9th Australian Division, dubbed “The Rats of Tobruk”, supported by British Army armor and artillery, repulsed initial German assaults on April 10, 1941 to April 14, 1941, and even when the fresh 15th Panzer Division was committed to the attack on April 30, 1941, the defenders held on. The Germans frequently bombarded the port with artillery and Luftwaffe (German Air Force) dive-bombers and medium bombers. A blockade had been organized to thwart British resupply and reinforcement efforts. However, ships of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Station–to include the Inshore Squadron–ran the blockade. Indeed, known as the “Tobruk Ferry Service”, Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy warships provided gunfire support, supplies, fresh troops and by ferrying out the wounded. The defenders of Tobruk were provided enough resources to keep up the fight. The Royal Air Force flew defensive sorties from airfields far away in Egypt. The siege of Tobruk was the first occasion in the war that German Panzer units had been stopped. The siege was lifted in December 1941. It must be noted that via Operation Crusader, launched on November 27, 1941, Tobruk was relieved by the British Eighth Army which after September 1941, controlled British Army and other Allied ground forces in the Western Desert. It seems worthwhile to note the Fall of Tobruk occurred when Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel  commanding Panzerarmee Afrika (Panzer Army Africa) which controlled the Afrika Korps and additional German units deployed to Africa as the 90th Light Infantry Division), as well as the Italian X Corps and XX Corps, attacked  on June 20, 1942 with massed air support, broke through a weak point on the eastern defensive perimeter, and captured the port. Although the garrison on the western perimeter had not been attacked, it was cut off from supplies and transport. Lacking the means to escape, the majority had to surrender; 33,000 prisoners were taken. Rommel had indeed learned lessons during the 1941 siege.

Être Voué à L’échec dès le Début

Even if everything else had been planned and arranged in the correct manner in every other aspect for the invasion, the viability of the entire plan would still rest on the ability of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to at best destroy, acceptably disrupt, or at the absolute minimum, delay resupply from the US, EU, and NATO. Without being able to control the movement of resupply in the West, the plan for the invasion should have been scrapped or the attack should have been postponed until that was nailed down. The reasoning behind such a decision has already been made abundantly clear looking at the circumstances of the handful of examples presented here already. As it was, the “special military operation” was launched, half-baked, and billions of dollars in military assistance has reached the Ukrainian Armed Forces via their country’s western border. Many weapon systems sent into Ukraine have had a multiplier effect on the battlefield. Firepower in the form of multiple launch rocket systems, self-propelled artillery, and heavy caliber guns, transported possibly along the now heavily traveled supply lines from both Poland and Romania enabled the Ukrainian Armed Forces to launch two highly-successful counteroffensives. On August 29, 2022, a counteroffensive was launched to eject Russian forces occupying the Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts (provinces). On September 6, 2022, a counteroffensive was launched to eject Russian forces occupying the Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts. Given the unsatisfactory nature in which the Russian invasion was arranged and indeed, has been prosecuted, the decision to go into Ukraine was the sort that if made during an instance of saber rattling and war fever in a highly-industrialized democracy, would very likely lead to the impeachment of a national leader.

Ruminations

To set the record straight from the outset, greatcharlie believes that if Russian Federation forces were selectively positioned in Western Ukraine, the Ukrainian Armed Forces would have likely used their formidable and quite impressive drone arsenal to bombard them. They might have achieved the same relative success that they have achieved with Russian Federation forces in the east and south and around Kyiv. Once aptly prepared, Ukrainian special forces would likely do their part to hunt down and displace and destroy any Russian Federation troops settled in their country’s Western region. 

Commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces would unlikely have known or believed any of that would have been possible before the invasion. One would need to consider other reasons for the omission of a mission to thwart, to an extent blockade resupply to the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the West.The Romania-Ukraine border is 649 kilometers or around 403 miles, but it is discontinuous. The. Moldova-Ukraine border is 1,222 kilometers or 759 miles. However, along the Dniester River, between Moldova and Ukraine, is the autonomous Republic of Transnistria.  Thereby, 454 kilometers or 282 miles of the Moldova-Ukraine border stand as the de factor border between Transnistria and Ukraine.

To the left of the above map are all countries situated on Ukraine’s western border. As Ukraine is looked upon in Europe as a very large country, perchance the area in western Ukraine that would need to be covered was judged by military commanders and planners in the Russian Federation General Staff as too large and deemed too difficult to control or monitor, surveil, and launch successful interdiction attacks and raids from. The Polish–Ukrainian border has a total length of 529 kilometers or 329 miles to 535 kilometers or 332 miles according to different sources. The Romania-Ukraine border is 649 kilometers or around 403 miles, but it is discontinuous. The Slovakia-Ukraine border is 97 kilometers or a bit over 60 miles. The Hungary-Ukraine border is roughly 103 kilometers or 60 miles long. It its located in Hungary’s Tisza river valley of its northeast. The Moldova-Ukraine border is 1,222 kilometers or 759 miles. However, along the Dniester River, between Moldova and Ukraine, is the autonomous Republic of Transnistria.  Thereby, 454 kilometers or 282 miles of the Moldova-Ukraine border stand as the de factor border between Transnistria and Ukraine.

Omission or De-emphasis?

Negligentia sempre habet infortunam comitem. (Negligence always has misfortune for a companion.) Imaginably, there is a moderately rational reason behind the decision to attack the second largest country in Europe, 603,500 square kilometers or 233,000 square miles, without being fully prepared. Ukraine is second largest in size to Russia, which is 17,098,246 square kilometers or 6,601,670 square miles. As Ukraine is looked upon in Europe as a very large country, perchance the area in Western Ukraine that would need to be covered was judged as too large by military commanders  and planners in the Glavnoe operativnoe upravlenie General’nogo štaba Vooružёnnyh sil Rossijskoj Federacii (the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation) and commanders and planners at the lower level in Yuzhnyy Voyennyy Okrug (the Southern Military District) and the Zapadnyy Voyennyy Okrug (the Western Military District) and deemed too difficult to control or monitor, surveil, and launch successful interdiction attacks and raids into. The Polish–Ukrainian border is the state border between Poland and Ukraine. It has a total length of 529 kilometers or 329 miles to 535 kilometers or 332 miles according to different sources.

Concisely and admirably described by the Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (Transfrontier Operational Mission), an association that was set up in 1997 by the government of France to resolve issues for entities concerned with cross border issues, the Poland-Ukraine border begins at the tripoint formed by the Ukrainian, Polish and Slovak borders, in the middle of the Eastern Carpathian mountains. The demarcation runs initially towards the east, arriving at the Ushok Pass and the source of the San River, whereupon it turns north-west to follow the river for around 50 kilometers or 31 miles. It subsequently leaves the river to take a north-easterly direction, crossing the region known as the “Przemyśl Gate”, where mountains meet lowlands. The border then crosses large swathes of agricultural land, to reach the Bug River, which forms the last third of its demarcation. It ends at the tripoint formed by the borders of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. Poland is a NATO Member State and an EU border state.

The Romania-Ukraine border is 649 kilometers or around 403 miles, but it is discontinuous. Again using a description from the Mission Opérationnelle TransfrontalièreThe Republic of Moldova separates the border into two segments. The first in the west, at the tripoint between the Hungarian-Romanian and Hungarian-Ukrainian borders. That segment then continues across the East Carpathian mountains and terminates at the tripoint formed by the Moldovan, Romanian and Ukrainian borders. The second segment begins at the second tripoint between the Moldovan, Romanian and Ukrainian borders, on the north bank of the Danube River, and terminates as it reaches the Black Sea. Romania is a NATO Member State and an EU border state. The Slovakia-Ukraine border is 97 kilometers or a but over 60 miles long. Slovakia is also a NATO Member State and an EU border state. The Hungary-Ukraine border is roughly 103 kilometers or 60 miles long. It is located in Hungary’s Tisza River Valley in the country’s northeast. As with the preceding three countries discussed, Hungary is a NATO Member State and an EU borderstate. The. Moldova-Ukraine border is 1,222 kilometers or 759 miles. However, along the Dniester River, between Moldova and Ukraine, is the autonomous Republic of Transnistria.  Thereby, 454 kilometers or 282 miles of the Moldova-Ukraine border stand as the de factor border between Transnistria and Ukraine. Transnistria is an autonomous republic aligned since 1992 with the Russian Federation. Russian Federation Armed Forces units have also been garrisoned there since 1992. To that extent, anyone providing military assistance to Ukraine would hardly choose to move anything through Moldova as Russian Federation intelligence services posted in Transnistria would likely be able to position themselves to monitor such resupply activities. Moving through Moldova would very likely be deemed too risky, unsafe. To an extent, one might say any effort by Russian Federation Armed Forces to monitor resupply efforts for Ukraine would indicate commanders and planners were covering the matter. Perhaps the Russian Federation General Staff sold that notion to Putin. However, while a few things could be done from Transnistria, given the sheer size of its border with Ukraine, and its position south and toward the east with respect other bordering countries, it would unlikely be enough to make a real difference. It would seem Putin did not want to stir trouble over Transnistria issue. The Russian Federation Armed Forces there have remained relatively quiet, and the West has more or less left the autonomous republic alone. If covert monitoring has been transpiring along or across the Transnistria border, it is apparently not having an impact. Thus, the focus here is on resupply from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin (center), Russian Federation Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu (right), and Chief of Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov (left). Commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces apparently “wholeheartedly” accepted the idea that the Ukrainians would acquiesce as in 2014. Despite losses inflicted upon Ukrainian defenders and territorial gains, in eastern and southern Ukraine as well as Kyiv, the mission to completely snuff out the combat power and resolve of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and force a sort of mass capitulation was not achieved. The losses of the Russian Federation Armed Forces have been exponentially higher. It seems most apparent that the Russian Federation General Staff had moved forward without a satisfactory long-term plan for the invasion. Indeed, by results alone, one might infer that there were actually no contingency plans to draw upon for the invasion of Ukraine.

Folly, Doctor-Like, Controlled Skill

Commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces apparently “wholeheartedly” accepted the idea–fiction–that the Ukrainians would roll over and play nice doggie à la 2014. Tomaten auf den augen haben. Despite losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian defenders and territorial gains, in eastern and southern Ukraine, the mission to completely snuff out the combat power and resolve of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and force a sort of mass capitulation was not achieved. In the end, the losses of the Russian Federation Armed Forces have been exponentially higher. It seems most apparent that the Russian Federation General Staff had moved forward without a satisfactory long-term plan for the invasion. Indeed, by results alone, one might infer that there were actually no contingency plans to draw upon for the invasion of Ukraine, with solutions for all conceivable challenges. Doing the “what-ifs” beforehand was probably viewed as walking out on thin ice “politically”. While the idea might be difficult for the reasonable to reconcile, it appears the massive enterprise was  truly undertaken by Moscow on the fly. 

Allowing the Russian Federation Armed Forces to perform in such a way would be very much unlike Putin given the record of his past behavior. True, over the past two decades, he has dropped some clangers. Even the most knowledgeable and experienced can make mistakes they learned to avoid long ago. That is human nature; the human element. Still, Putin’s actions are usually thoughtful, calibrated, well calculated, with the use of resources in a measured way to achieve the most favorable outcomes. Putin can surely tell the difference between real and unreal. He has not managed to stay in power since 2000 by engaging in Quixotic pursuits. This is something new. One wonders what could possibly come next for Ukraine and for the world.

Putin was oddly hooked on the idea that among the officers, men, and women of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, there was a lingering sense of Soviet unity equal to his own. This in itself was quite interesting as Putin was hardly known for truly displaying brotherly love toward former Soviet republics. He would create an environment of fear in his relationship with their respective leaders. After Euromaidan, the Ukrainians did not want any part of that. In his invasion day television broadcast of February 24, 2022, Putin would go as far as to implore the Ukrainian Armed Forces to submit to his will and allow Russian troops to again simply march into their country. There appeared to be a singular emotional commitment on his part to the ideas of Russian-Ukrainian unity and the fealty of the officers, men, and women of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to Moscow, to him. Putin “appealed” to members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces as follows: “I would also like to address the military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Comrade officers! Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine. You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people.” Putin continued: “I urge you to refuse to carry out their criminal orders. I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. I will explain what this means: the military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families.” If the matter were not so grave, his words might be looked upon as comical.

Putin seemed forgetful of, or totally oblivious to, the fact that he was responsible for the greatest humiliation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces when he ordered the “green men” of the Russian Federation Armed Forces into Crimea to seize Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Further, without firing a shot, the green men first corralled members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces much as sheep in their own garrison and then herded them out of Crimea. Knowing the Ukrainians as well as he claimed he did in the February 24, 2022 broadcast, Putin should have known the Ukrainians are not sheep. He should have been well-aware that there would be payback for what happened in 2014 and everything that has happened since. He surely knows that now.

In its ill-designed aspects influenced by the political leadership, the Russian Federation’s special military operation on a macro-level much resembles the failed German campaign, Operation Barbarossa, launched on June 21, 1941. Hitler provided empty assurances resulting from his baseless analyses to Oberkommando des Heeres (High Command of the Army) to the effect that “We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down.” Oberkommando des Heeres went along with Hitler’s concept that the campaign would be a short one, and that the Soviets would give in after suffering the shock of massive initial defeats. As a result, it did not develop a satisfactory long-term plan for the invasion.  The shock and awe of the initial Blitzkrieg was dissipated by the vast distances, Supply challenges could not be overcome. There was a lack of sufficient manpower resources. German losses could not be sustained. After initial contact, there was stiff resistance from Soviet forces. Despite the serious losses inflicted on the Soviet Army the mission to completely destroy Soviet fighting power and force a capitulation was not achieved by January 7, 1942, and the operation was terminated 20 kilometers short of Moscow. Interestingly enough,a number er of fitting comparisons between Putin and a national leader whose blunders came as a result of being closed to the recommendations and entreaties of his or her top advisers, are those made with Hitler.

Delinquency

There is the real possibility that commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces, attempting to hastily organize the massive Spetsial’noy Voyennoy Operatsii (Special Military Operation) were not even aware that the opportunity to destroy and disrupt the resupply effort for Ukraine was missed. Everything truly started off on the wrong foot from the get-go. By logic, at first glance this would seem unlikely. After all, the well-trained senior officers and planners of the Russian Federation Armed Forces would not be aware of the danger posed by Ukraine’s open western border. Perhaps there may have been some understanding among military planners that the situation there would be played-down in order to line up with thinking from the Kremlin. In the realm of conjecture, anything becomes possible. If such was the case, from that point onward, they could only hope nothing bad would come of that considerable  omission.

The US educator and organizational theorist, Russell Ackoff was a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking, and management science. In a research article entitled “A Major Mistake That Managers Make” in Handbook of Business Strategy, volume 7, number 1, January 2006, pages. 225-227, Ackoff wrote: “Errors of omission, lost  opportunities, are generally more critical than errors of commission. Organizations fail or decline more frequently because of what they did not do than because of what they did.” Although the December 7, 1941 surprise attack of the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor was a tactical victory, it was also a strategic blunder, as the Japanese failed one of their most critical objectives: destroy the US aircraft carriers. Even worse, the Japanese failed to destroy the strategic oil reserves at Oahu, and the damage to docks and yards was slight. That oil reserve fueled the US Navy through the remainder of the war against Japan.

A well-intervaled column of German vehicles moves through the Ardennes Forest in 1940 (above). At the top of the list of historical causes for military blunders has been insufficient intelligence analyses as well as the failure of consumers to include valuable forecasts in their appraisals of situations. Consider for example how the military high command of France failed their government three times in 70 years by minimizing warnings about the intentions of Prussian and German Governments. In 1870, the Supreme Command of the French Imperial Army, with its attitude of debrouillez-vous (“We’ll muddle through somehow”), did not heed signaling that the Prussian Army would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. In 1914, the French Grand Quartier Général (General Headquarters) did not heed indicia signaling that the Imperial German Army, to avoid French defenses on the Franco-German border, would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. In 1940, the Anglo-French Supreme War Council, relying on the defenses of the Maginot Line, did not heed indicia signaling that the German Army would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. Even with this history, in 1944, the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe ignored idicia signaling that the German Army might attempt to move via the Ardennes Forest into Belgium in an attempt to reach Antwerp and cut Allied Forces into two pieces. The result was the Battle of the Bulge in which US forces suffered an estimated 75,000 casualties.

Was Faulty Intelligence to Blame?

Quis, quid, ubi, quibus, auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando? (Who, what, where, with what, why, how, when?) Very pertinent here is the attendant influence of faulty intelligence in understanding the situation of an opponent, strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and possibilities in the development of the concept and intent of an operation in terms of supply. It becomes a factor of some magnitude in planning support operations. It is imprudent for political leaders and top military commanders to ignore information from intelligence services that confirms some action by an adversary is very likely, imminent, or has been taken. Well at the top of historical causes for military missteps has been insufficient intelligence analyses as well as the failure of consumers to include valuable forecasts in their appraisals of situations. 

Consider for example how the military high command of France failed their government three times in 70 years by minimizing warnings about the intentions of Prussian and German Governments. In 1870, the Supreme Command of the French Imperial Army, with its attitude of debrouillez-vous (“We’ll muddle through somehow”), did not heed signaling that the Prussian Army would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. In 1914, the French Grand Quartier Général (General Headquarters) did not heed indicia signaling that the Imperial German Army, to avoid French defenses on the Franco-German border, would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. In 1940, the Anglo-French Supreme War Council, relying on the defenses of the Maginot Line, did not heed indicia signaling that the German Army would move via the Ardennes Forest through Belgium into France. Even with this history, in 1944, the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe ignored idicia signaling that the German Army might attempt to move via the Ardennes Forest into Belgium in an attempt to reach Antwerp and cut Allied Forces into two pieces. The result was the Battle of the Bulge in which US forces suffered an estimated 75,000 casualties.

Referring again to the attack on Pearl Harbor, a newly discovered official US Government memorandum has revealed that intelligence collected about the activities of the Imperial Japanese Navy, led to assessments that Japan might attack the US on the West coast, the Panama Canal, and the US naval and military bases in Hawaii some time in December 1941. The Japanese Imperial Navy would eventually execute a devastating surprise, aircraft carrier-based, aerial attack and submarine attack on the US Naval Base and Headquarters of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and aerial attacks against the US Army Base at Schofield Barracks and the US Army Air Corps Base at Hickam Field. Most US military commanders were bewildered by the successful attack which they never would have believed Japan could execute before it actually happened. By leaning into those beliefs, they were caught flat-footed by the attack. Their immediate responses were meager and ineffective.

In the case of Ukraine, it would seem Putin was provided faulty information. Some intelligence services apparently did more in the direction of providing fabrications than others.. From what can be gathered by newsmedia reports about its findings, the foreign intelligence service of Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) or FSB, known as the organization’s 5th service. The 5th Service is a division that was established in 1998, when Putin was director of the FSB, to carry out operations in the countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Its mission was to help ensure those countries remained within Russia’s orbit. Apparently, the 5th Service laid it on thick. There were allegedly many unproven, torrid statements on the nature of Ukrainian society made concerning the destructive impact of the West on the culture, morality, spiritually, self-image of the people, ultranationalists, and the leadership in Kyiv, and the Ukrainian people’s willingness to stand fast against an invasion. 

Are Russian Federation Satellites Functioning?

One might imagine that there was a chance that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities by Russian Federation satellites could have assisted in covering the space and monitor and act against assistance efforts by supporting calibrated attacks on supply trains, especially readily observable ones  traveling along roads and rails. Intriguingly, only a few short years ago, there was great concern expressed in the US about formidable Russian Federation satellites that were interfering with US satellites. As discussed in greatcharlie’s July 6, 2017 post entitled, “Trump to Meet With Putin at G-20 Gathering: Trump Seeks an Authentic Relationship with Russia”, there was the belief that Russia was developing the ability to approach, inspect, and potentially sabotage or destroy US satellites while they orbited the Earth. 

Now, it seems, Russian Federation satellites must be able to provide a picture of the situation in Ukraine. True, as stated here, Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, but, if many will pardon this expression, in greater terms, it is smaller than the State of Texas in the US, which has been regularly, intensely surveilled by the Russian Federation as it was before by the Soviet Union due mainly to the many massive US military and NASA bases and other facilities there. De quoi s’agit-il ici? It appears that a breakdown in Russian ISR capabilities from space much as its military, naval, and intelligence capabilities generally, had occurred long before the special military operation was launched.

Having been responsible for the preparedness of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, the Russian Federation General Staff had to have known something was awry. it had to have known whether they were up to the job in Ukraine. While the Russian Federation Armed Forces’ Zapad and Vostock exercises perhaps indicated that they were ready for war, surely the Russian Federation General Staff was fully aware of how numbers of troops, actions, reports were, to be frank, falsified. The most senior commanders may not have been sure themselves what the true capabilities of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were. If they were living in an illusion about how mighty their forces were, that  Illusion was destroyed in the face of reality.

Snapshot of the initial wave of Ukrainian refugees (above). There is the possibility the commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces may have believed there was more to gain by having a great flow of refugees pouring out of Ukraine to create problems, chaos and confusion, hostile reactions from populations of countries inconvenienced by overflows of Ukrainian refugees, and frustration among NATO, EU Member State capitals. Conceivably, the thinking from the Kremlin and subsequently the Russian Federation Armed Forces that if the roads out of Ukraine to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova were clogged, potentially military assistance could not get through, at least not efficiently. By weaponizing refugee flows an invasion would cause, it may have been believed a way found to split the seam between two possibilities. However, even in the best case scenario, the refugee exodus would be a temporary problem. If Western powers could not resolve the matter, they would at least be able to mitigate its immediate effects. Once the invasion began, humanitarian and refugee organizations of almost every kind jumped in feet first. The West could do more with assistance to stem the crisis than the Russian Federation could do by creating a refugee overflow crisis. As it turned out, the refugee crisis as the Kremlin might have envisioned and hoped did not materialize.

The Pitfalls of Creative Thinking

There is the possibility the commanders and planners in the Russian Federation Armed Forces may have believed there was more to gain by having a great flow of refugees pouring out of Ukraine to create problems, chaos and confusion, hostile reactions from populations of countries inconvenienced by overflows of Ukrainian refugees, and frustration among NATO, EU Member State capitals. That belief would very likely have been in following with the concept and intent disseminated from the Kremlin. The impact of a refugee surge was witnessed while war raged in Syria. During the 2015 Syrian Refugee Crisis, an estimated 1.3 million refugees seeking asylum literally jammed roads leading to Europe. European countries, especially the first ones along the refugees route that encountered them, were unable to handle their numbers immediately. Some capitals panicked. Many political, social, financial, and security issues subsequently arose. The refugee flow eventually subsided. 

The Weaponization of Refugees

Conceivably, the thinking from the Kremlin and subsequently the Russian Federation Armed Forces that if the roads out of Ukraine to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova were clogged, potentially military assistance could not get through, at least not efficiently. By weaponizing refugee flows an invasion would cause, it may have been believed a way found to split the seam between two possibilities. Zwei fliegen mit einer klappe schlagen. However, even in the best case scenario, the refugee exodus would be a temporary problem. If Western powers could not resolve the matter, they would at least be able to mitigate its immediate effects. Once the invasion began, the UN with its many aid organizations as well as and other international and regional intergovernmental humanitarian and refugee organizations jumped in feet first. The US would work with capitals in Europe, especially Warsaw, and encourage through diplomacy and support with its wherewithal, a multilateral effort by government aid agencies. The EU acted in a similar way. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, CARE and other international and regional nongovernmental humanitarian and refugee organizations. Nongovernmental refugee and displaced persons organizations, and a variety of humanitarian organizations from around the world made their way to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova to get a handle on the problem. 

As things went, the Russi­an Federation’s special military operation triggered a “regional forced displacement crisis.” By September 30, 2022, seven months after the invasion began, 7,536,433 Ukrainian refugees were registered outside of Ukraine. Reportedly, Poland and Germany received the most refugees; more than a million each. The Czech Republic took in the next highest number 438,926, followed by the US, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Italy, and Spain, each of which accepted from 100,000 to 300,000 refugees. Smaller numbers escaped to Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Moldova. 

Interestingly, and doubtlessly to the consternation of the Kremlin and Russian Federation Armed Forces, not only is military assistance flowing freely into Ukraine from Poland but so are “returnees”. Clear data that documents how many of the 7.5 million Ukrainian refugees have returned home permanently, reportedly is unavailable. However as of September 20, 2022, over 6 million cross-border movements were made back into the country. Border crossing points in Poland as well as Romania are said to be receiving most of the returnees, with nearly 4.5 million crossings from Poland and nearly 1 million from Romania. In the aggregate, one might conclude that the West could do more with assistance than Russia could do by creating a refugee overflow crisis. In the end, the refugee crisis that the Kremlin may likely have envisioned and hoped for did not materialize. Vide et credere. (See and believe.)

Where Was the GRU?

As a military matter, intelligence on the situation in Ukraine to the extent it would impact the special military operation had to be of great interest specifically to Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff-Military Intelligence) or GRU  The GRU could not have missed the potential problem of resupply routes into Ukraine from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania being set up. Perhaps the GRU was unable to convince the Russian Federation General Staff of the necessity to close the door to assistance from the West. Maybe there was at first a thought to use the same act twice with “green men” in the Western Ukraine. However, GRU planners may have been concerned about being unable to redeploy or evacuate troops placed perhaps at border crossings, highways, train junctions, road intersections, bridges, heights, airports, military airfields, and so on deep in Ukraine in large numbers if a major problem was encountered.

It was suggested in greatcharlie’s January 25, 2022 post, one could conceive that concerning Western military assistance, a special task force has been organized and assigned in advance, among other things: monitor the delivery, stockpiling of stinger, javelin, and other weapons systems to Ukrainian forces; maintain real-time knowledge of the distribution and location of those weapons; destroy those weapons systems; and, destroy or support actions by other Russian military units to destroy Ukrainian military units to which those weapons were distributed. That hypothetical task force would also likely be tasked to monitor–covertly monitor the intelligence activities and military operations of–Western countries as they relate to supplying Ukraine with special military capabilities. It would seem that suggestion made by greatcharlie then was well-off the mark. Maybe they were concerned about potential for great casualties and huge losses of materiel.

Where Was Spetsnaz?

Voyská spetsiálnogo naznachéniya (‘Special Purpose Military Units) or spetsnaz, a carry over from the days of the Soviet Union, are trained, and tasked as special forces units and fielded in wartime as part of the GRU. As is the case with special forces in most countries, the primary missions of spetsnaz are power projection (direct action), intelligence (reconnaissance), foreign internal defense (military assistance), and counterinsurgency. The GRU may have been unable to conjure up a viable plan to use spetsnaz in western Ukraine. Again, GRU planners may have been concerned about being unable to deploy or evacuate troops placed even on raids so deep without a solid means of egress. Even if it had been possible to monitor and act in the Western region from Belarus, again, distances that needed to be traversed may have been too great.

One might wonder whether the GRU had been aware that there was someone else in Western Ukraine, covert foreign forces from governments very friendly with Kyiv, already holding the most useful entrances and exits to and from Poland, Slovakia,, Hungary,, and Romania open in case of an attack. It is the sort of thing US Special Operations Units, the Special Activities Division of the US Central Intelligence Agency, the British Army’s Special Air Service, and the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service would be very capable of doing and would likely do, covertly. Surely, this idea is drawn from the realm of conjecture, however, it would be a smart move and their hypothetical presence would hardly be reported in the Western newsmedia. If, hypothetically, such forces had been there covertly since 2014, they may have been well-engaged in successful clandestine and covert activities in the region.

Perhaps what happened in Syria may have been an issue at all in GRU Headquarters. A battle between US Special Forces and Russian private military contractors from the infamous Gruppa Vagnera (Wagner Group) may have had a long-lasting educational effect in Yasenevo. Present in Syria as part of the campaign to destroy the so-called Islamic Caliphate created by the Islamic jihadist terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) that cut across iraq and Syria, US Special Forces, in self-defense at their own base, decimated a formation of Gruppa Vagnera that attacked them. Memores acti prudentes futuri. (Mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be.)

Even if commanders and military planners had been certain that spetsnaz could well-handle any foreign forces that hypothetically might have detected in the Western region of Ukraine, there imaginably would have been a wish in the Kremlin to avoid being seen as, and being accused of, attacking those foreign troops. In dubio abstinence. (When in doubt, sustain.)

Where Were the Russian Airborne Forces?

As for the Vozdushno Desantnye Voyska (Russian Airborne Forces) or VDV, surely the Ukrainians might have expected missions launched by them to hold territory in-depth. Yet, as with the GRU, commanders and planners in the VDV may have been concerned about being unable to redeploy or evacuate troops placed perhaps at border crossings, highways, train junctions, road intersections, bridges, heights, airports, military airfields, and so on deep in Ukraine in large numbers if a major problem was encountered. Maybe they were concerned about potential for great casualties and huge losses of materiel. That happened without an operation to block Western assistance coming in from the West: 50,000+ killed. 

Surely, they were made more certain that the VDV would unlikely have been able successfully operate in the Western region of Ukraine after what transpired when its units attacked Hostomel Airport in the first days of the special military operation. The VDV faced considerable troubles there. One might view the capture of an airport a sort of bread and butter target for airborne units in armies worldwide

Russian Airborne Forces landing at Hostomel Airport (above). Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders and planners may have been concerned about the potential for huge losses if a blocking operation in the West were attempted. Surely, they were made more certain that the VDV would unlikely have been able successfully operate in the Western region of Ukraine after what transpired when its units attacked Hostomel Airport in the first days of the special military operation. After securing Hostomel Airport to the extent possible, the Russian Federation Army and VDV there tried to push into the nearby town and then  advance to Bucha and Irpin. Their poorly organized movement encountered ambushes in Hostomel and Bucha which resulted in significant losses of personnel and equipment. Those in command of the Russian Federation Army and VDV troops, decided to hold their positions, digging in on the roadsides to defend themselves against Ukrainian artillery and drone strikes. They also suffered heavy casualties from night attacks by special forces units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. On March 29, 2022, the order was given for the Russian Federation forces at Hostomel to withdraw from the Kyiv oblast. Under continuous artillery fire from Ukrainian forces, the Russians damaged equipment that had to be abandoned and made a hasty retreat.

According to reports based on what was observed, the Russian Federation Armed Forces plan of attack against Hostomel Airport included its rapid occupation, with the intention of using it as an assembly area for Kyiv’s encirclement and capture. The airport is a bit over 6 miles north of Kyiv. The Initial February 24, 2022 assault on Hostomel Airport was a success, catching its Ukrainian defenders by surprise apparently due its speed. Mi-35 and Ka-52 attack helicopters operating out of Belarus struck the airport’s defenses and opened a way for helicopter-borne VDV units in Mi-8 transport helicopters that followed. However, despite being caught off guard by the initial assault by the attack helicopters, the attack itself was ineffective as the Ukrainian defenses were left largely intact.  Without any meaningful air support–it was very likely not included in formulation of the attack plan, VDV units on the ground faced counterattacks by Ukrainian forces almost immediately.

Luckily for the VDV troops struggling with Ukrainian forces for control of the airport, Russian Federation Army units originating in Belarus broke through Ukrainian defenses near Ivankiv and rapidly drove toward Hostomel. Although the advancing Russian Federation troops faced attrition from several Ukrainian ambushes en route, they reached Hostomel Airport and assisted the VDV in securing it on February 25, 2022. The Russian Federation Army units and the VDV sought to establish Hostomel into a forward operating base from which the larger push on Kyiv could be initiated. However, it was at this juncture that the special military operation began facing fierce resistance from the Ukrainians and became stalled. Logistical problems impacted operational tempo. The most visible sign was well-televised coverage of a 40-mile-long convoy that halted due to lack of fuel. Securing Hostomel Airport to the extent possible, the Russian Federation Army and VDV there tried to push into the nearby town and then  advance to Bucha and Irpin. Their poorly organized movement encountered ambushes in Hostomel and Bucha which resulted in significant losses of personnel and equipment. Those in command of the Russian Federation Army and VDV troops, decided to hold their positions, digging in on the roadsides to defend themselves against Ukrainian artillery and drone strikes. They also suffered heavy casualties from night attacks by special forces units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. On March 29, 2022, the order was given for the Russian Federation forces at Hostomel to withdraw from the Kyiv oblast. Under continuous artillery fire from Ukrainian forces, the Russians damaged equipment that had to be abandoned and made a hasty retreat.

A Matter of Military Science

To the extent of everything mentioned here, perhaps a hypothetical concern over sending a relatively large sized force into Western Ukraine was a matter of Russian Federation commanders and military planners remembering what they learned while studying in military educational institutions. To that extent, they wanted to avoid the circumstance faced by Allied troops during Operation Market Garden during World War II.

The story of the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden, a massive Airborne ground assault in from from September 17, 1944 to September 26, 1944 during World War II. remains fairly well-known, however greatcharlie will humbly seek to recount it to the extent that is pertinent here. Under the plan proposed by British Army Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, the Airborne assault would support a single drive north over the branches of the Lower Rhine River,which would  permit the British Second Army to bypass the Siegfried Line and attack the industrial Ruhr. US Airborne troops were dropped in the Netherlands to secure bridges and towns along the line of the Allied advance. Farthest north, the British 1st Airborne Division was dropped at Arnhem to capture bridges across the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine). Their assault was supported by the Glider Pilot Regiment and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade. The British XXX Corps were assigned to reach the British-led contingent in two to three days. The division was told to expect only limited resistance from German reserve forces. However, information collected by the British Army’s 21st Army Group in Belgium and Dutch resistance that German armor units were present around Arnhem. That intelligence was supported by aerial reconnaissance. However, the commanding officer of 21st Army Group, dismissed the information. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force was made aware that almost certainly two Panzer divisions were situated at Arnhem but received the information from Ultra intercepts so close to the Operation Market Garden’s launch that it chose to ignore it. Intriguingly, the First Allied Airborne Army was not made privy to information from Ultra.

The information was very accurate. German Army Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, the commander of Army Group B, had moved his headquarters to Arnhem and was re-establishing defenses in the area and co-ordinating the reorganization of the scattered units. Thus, at the time of Operation Market Garden’s launch, several units would be present in the vicinity of Arnhem to oppose them. Most threatening among them were the II SS Panzer Corps comprising the remains of the 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen” and  the 10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg”. It was the bad luck of the airborne force that both German SS divisions, during their formation, had undergone month-long anti-airborne exercises and had also spent the last 15 months studying how best to act against a parachute assault in classroom and field exercises.

The 1st Airborne Division was dropped a distance from its objectives and encountered unexpected resistance, mainly from elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division and the 10th SS Panzer Division. A small force managed to reach the Arnhem road bridge, but the advance of the main body of the division was halted on the outskirts of the town. As for XXX Corps, it was forced into a struggle at Nijmegen, and advance north was delayed. As a result, the British airborne troops were not relieved as scheduled. After four days, the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division trapped in a small pocket north of the river. Lacking reinforcement and resupply, remnants of the 1st Airborne Division, after nine days of fighting, were withdrawn in Operation Berlin. Without secure bridges over the Nederrijn and the front line stabilized south of Arnhem, the Allies were unable to advance further. The 1st Airborne Division lost almost three quarters of its strength. Battered and tattered, the division was not sent into combat again.

Concern over a Potential Panicked Response by Ukraine’s Neighbors

The Kremlin may have been uneasy about how the US, its NATO allies, and the EU would respond militarily if Russian troops landed in Western Ukraine, “danger close” to the Polish border. Even more, it may have been the case that  they were concerned political leaders in Poland, potentially panicked at observing Russian forces landing practically on its border, might have responded first by ordering Polish Armed Forces to unilaterally drive inside Ukraine border, take positions inside its Western region, and then refer the matter to NATO. Such hypothetical unilateral action might have included an armored and mechanized drive into Ukraine to create a buffer, and landing troops on border crossings, highways, train junctions, road intersections, bridges, heights, airports, military airfields, and so on before they would all fall completely into Russian Federation hands. To that extent, they would likely go after the same targets in Ukraine that the Russian Federation Armed Forces would likely want. In the worst case scenario, Polish troops could have fired heavy artillery and launched missile attacks on targets to deter air landings by the Russian Federation Armed Forces.

Where Was the Russian Air Force?

Concerning Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony, Rossijskoj Federacii (the Russian Federation Aerospace Defense Forces, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces), particularly the Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii, (the Russian Air Force) element, one might have presumed commanders and planners of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces would have organized air power assets of the force to strike strategically and tactically to make a positive difference in the war effort. Strategically, disrupting its supply of weapons from external sources and destroying Ukraine’s ability to construct weapons would likely be a priority. Tactically, a priority would likely be coordinating efforts by Russian Air Force assets with ground forces as they advanced. One might have expected that with the support of the Russian Federation’s ISR capabilities, a plan would have been in prepared for the Russian Air Force to shut the door on the transport of supplies through Ukraine, interdicting supply lines as fast as they were organized. However, that has not been the case. As the situation stands in the Ukraine campaign, the Russian Air Force has been near nonexistent relative to its size, supposed power, and the expectations of military analysts worldwide. Its best fighters and fighter-bombers have been regularly blasted out of the skies by the Ukrainian Armed Forces using both pricey sophisticated air defense weapons systems provided to Kyiv by Western powers as well as javelins and stingers, shoulder fired rockets operated by individual soldiers in the field. In response to the Ukrainian air defense threat, Russian Federation warplanes are not evading by flying sorties at 15,000 to 20,000 feet as they had over Syria. Russian aircraft are often remaining above Russian airspace and firing air launched cruise missiles into Ukraine. Since aircrews cannot identify targets across the border, airstrikes are made in areas where air intelligence reports the enemy is located. In attacking urban centers, that will always result in collateral damage in the form of civilian deaths and injury and the destruction of nonmilitary structures.

The Unwillingness to Speak Truth to Power

Commanders in all branches of the Russian Federation Armed Forces are surely unwilling to speak truth to power and inform Putin of what needed to be done in the West and that they were uncertain that their forces could achieve such an objective. One might imagine that suffering Putin’s coup de gueule would be the least of their worries. It has been a symptom common among those in service of authoritarian regimes throughout history. Skilled commanders are eventually bled dry of their strength to speak out about ill-laid military plans conjured in the minds of tyrannical leaders who are convinced of the certitude of their ideas. Many have been willing to bring reprisals against those commanders, even their best, who, for the sake of the forces they command and country, might step forward to disagree with them. It causes greatcharlie to cast its mind back to the 1981 pop song Der Kommisar“, essentially a scare story originally performed in both German and English by the Austrian artist Falco (Johann Hölzel). In the penultimate chorus of the English version, are the lyrics: “Don’t turn around, wa-uh-oh (yeah-yeah) / Der Kommissar’s in town, wa-uh-oh / He’s got the power and you’re so weak / And your frustration will not let you speak / La la la la la la.”

Commanders in all branches of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were surely unwilling to speak truth to power and inform Putin of what needed to be done in Western Ukraine and that they were uncertain that their forces could achieve such an objective. One might imagine that suffering Putin’s coup de gueule would be the least of their worries. This has been a symptom common among those in service of authoritarian regimes throughout history. Skilled commanders are eventually bled dry of their strength to speak out about ill-laid military plans conjured in the minds of tyrannical leaders who are convinced of the certitude of their ideas. Many of those leadsrs have been willing to bring reprisals against those commanders, even their best, who, for the sake of the forces they command and country, have stepped forward to disagree with them.

The Military Assistance Misread

On a more political level, perhaps Putin, his Security Council, and the Russian Federation General Staff were certainly completely wrong in their most likely conclusions about the degree of assistance the West would provide, what type of weapons and the impact they would have on the battlefield. The US has committed billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine since February 24, 2022. Relative to what the Ukrainians would eventually receive, what they had been provided to that point would hardly have been viewed as impressive by the Russian Federation General Staff.

Much as it had been planned by the US during the days of the Cold War, much of what would be used to repel a Warsaw Pact rampage through Western Europe would be taken from prepositioned stocks of supplies or they would be flown in and shipped in. During the Cold War, from 1969 to 1993, the annual REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) Exercises rehearsed that reinforcement and resupply to a great degree. It seems apparent now that thinking along the same vein in the Pentagon may have driven planning for the support of Ukraine in event of an attack. This idea would very likely be a kick-in-the-head to Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders and planners who had not have recognized the parallels as yet, never foresaw the possibility that the US and its NATO allies would essentially come at them, via the Ukrainians, in a similar way.. How obvious it all might seem now.

A Miscalculation on the Political Will of the West

Perchance Putin, his Security Council, and the Russian Federation General Staff miscalculated with regard to the degree of political will in the administration of US President Joe Biden and the US Congress to support Ukraine. Mixed messages regarding US commitment. The “No US boots on the ground” talk came a tad too early perhaps. It probably was music to ears in Moscow. It may have very well created the impression the US was pulling away or could potentially abandon Kyiv if Russia invaded. It may reasonably seem a bit of an overreach to impute to Putin and his acolytes, but one would only need to look at the varying degrees of overreach they have demonstrated with regard to the Ukraine matter.

Maybe Putin and his advisers concluded that European countries could become rankled enough to lend military support to Ukraine but perhaps they were a bit better than less concerned with the quality and quantity of their potential assistance and financial giving. They would expect the US to have the matter well-covered.

Perhaps they considered that Western European resolve to be engaged robustly, wholeheartedly in Ukraine would hinge on the resolve of the US to back its NATO allies. As for the US, much as alluded to earlier, its resolve would hinge on the success or failure of Russian forces in Ukraine, which really meant the capabilities demonstrated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Thereby, as long as the Russian Federation Armed Forces performed well, robust military assistance beyond javelins and stingers would not be sent into Ukraine. (Based on that suspected line of thought, one might compare how that situation for Ukraine as the invasion got underway to a degree paralleled, mutatis mutandis, the situation of the fledgling US in 1777. The decisive Battle of Saratoga in which the Continental Army defeated the British Army gave the French government the confidence to sign treaties of alliance and trade with the US government and joined its war against Great Britain.  Both countries agreed to fight the war until the US was truly independent, and neither would agree to a separate peace.)

As the efforts of the Russian Federation Armed Forces became desultory, ineffective, and proved surprisingly lacking at Kyiv and Kharkiv, it became easier for the US to give more to an Ukrainian cause with the real potential for victory and convince other NATO Allies to do the same albeit to far lesser degree. Panicked efforts by Kyiv to muster support and acquire weapons were practically wasteful as they clearly had the matter covered.

Misperceptions on Zelensky: A Force To Be Reckoned With

Of likely concern for Putin’s advisers, if not Putin, was surely Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who in the months before the invasion was already burning a bit brighter than the Kremlin expected. There were hints that he potentially could display all the qualities ascribed to great leaders. Doubtlessly, it was hoped in the Kremlin that Zelensky would find himself cutting a figure not unlike Felicia Hemans’ “Casabianca” (1826), crying out for an answer, in Zelensky’s case from Washington, that would never come and his world would go up in flames. As it was, Zelensky proved to be a lion of a man, stalwart of the Ukrainian cause, and a force to be reckoned with once the Russian Federation’s special military operation began. Western government officials and news media commentators alike would view Zelensky as having galvanized the Ukrainian people to resist Russia’s effort to swallow up their country. Zelensky also impressed with his entreaties to the world to come to the aid of his fellow countrymen in the best ways that they could. One might safely assume that his efforts influenced how countries with the wherewithal to respond to the Ukraine in its time of need, worked with him, and rapidly developed and implemented plans to provide considerable support for his country. Indeed, such positive perceptions of Zelensky, his impact, helped to attract aid groups, humanitarian volunteers, foreign fighters, helpful weapons, and financial resources to support Ukraine’s cause.

Ukrainian artillerymen fire US made and gifted M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) (above) at Russian Federation forces holding Ukrainian territory. On a more political level, perhaps Putin, his Security Council, and the Russian Federation General Staff were certainly completely wrong in their most likely conclusions about the degree of assistance the West would provide, what type of weapons and the impact they would have on the battlefield. The US has committed billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine since February 24, 2022. Relative to what the Ukrainians would eventually receive, what they had been provided to that point could hardly have been perceived as impressive by the Russian Federation General Staff. Much as it had been planned by the US during the days of the Cold War, much of what would be used to repel a Warsaw Pact rampage through Western Europe would be taken from prepositioned stocks of supplies or would be flown in and shipped in. The annual Reforger (Return of Forces to Germany) Exercises rehearsed that reinforcement and resupply to some degree. It seems apparent now that thinking along the same vein in the Pentagon may have driven planning for the support of Ukraine in event of an attack.

The Distorting impact of Putin’s Kyiv Obsession

Surely, Putin’s singular emotional wants and wishes beyond what was militarily and strategically logical what drove the planning of the operation or was it formulated to the best of the abilities of trained, experienced, informed military officers in the Russian Federation Armed Forces. To Putin, everything about the government in Kyiv was anathema. Recall as aforementioned that in a very perplexing way, Putin stated in his appeal to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in his February 24, 2022 broadcast: “You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people.” He would go on to say: “I want to emphasize again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.” The indication s and implications of such statement are that Kyiv was indeed an obsession. To that extent, among those wants and wishes was toppling the government in Kyiv. Accomplishing that apparently became a priority with Kyiv in the planning of the invasion or whatever sufficed for its planning that distorted the picture Putin, his Security Council, and the Russian Federation General Staff of the battlespace. When examined in the context of this situation, how apposite the second quatrain of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 becomes: “What wretched errors hath my heart commited, / Whilst it had thought itself so blessed never! / How hath mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted / In the distraction of this madding fever!”

If one might imagine Putin was a bit more pragmatic in his thinking and approach on Kyiv, it might be believed Putin may have thought the quickest road to victory was to cut off the head, the government in Kyiv and the command and control Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff, from their forces in the field. If that could be achieved, Putin likely believed the mass surrender of Ukrainian troops in the field would come next. If that was the case, and what has transpired in Ukraine evinces to some degree that it was, then quite a bit of creative thinking was clearly involved in the invasion’s planning. 

However, by the time of the invasion, the government in Kyiv under Zelensky was well-tied in with its Western supporters. Thorough plans to provide escalating levels of military and financial assistance were surely already in place. Even though Zelensky initially displayed a great degree of uneasiness concerning the way in which the needs of Ukraine in the crisis would be met, it might be the case that what has come Ukraine’s way has far exceeded what he might have been reasonably expected. The shortsightedness apparent in thinking that the Kyiv government could be decapitated is stark. An informed guess is that the Ukraine enterprise was not hashed out with the best foreign and national security thinkers in Russia. One would get the idea it all was the result of the thinking of one man, certain of its roundness. Such impetuous schemes and boldness are at first sight alluring, but are difficult to handle, and in the end result in disaster.

Perhaps the real problem for Putin was not just that he relied on fortune, but was driven by blind rage and to a further extent blind ambition. Ukraine was one the bigger pieces he needed to pull together a respectable number of former republics into some simulacrum of the Soviet Union. While it may seem daylight madness for the reasonable to attempt that, for Putin, it makes perfect sense.

The Distraction of Covetous Thoughts?

As discussed in greatcharlie’s May 30, 2022 post entitled, “Putin the Protector of the Russian People or the Despoiler of Ukrainian Resources: A Look at War Causation and Russian Military Priorities in Ukraine”, long before he became the legendary Russian President that he is today, Putin was a doctoral candidate at Leningrad State University (now the University of St. Petersburg.) it was at the very end of his KGB service. (A fuller discussion of that period of Putin’s life can be found in greatcharlie’s March 31, 2017 post entitled “Book Review: Vladimir Putin, First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia’s President (Public Affairs, 2000)). The rector at the St. Petersburg State Mining University as of this writing, Vladimir Litvinenko, chaired the committee that awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin his doctorate in Economics in 1997. He recently stated that Putin’s thesis was titled “Strategic Planning of the Reproduction of the Mineral Resource Base of a Region Under Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations.” Putin’s economic studies, at what was then Leningrad State University, were most likely heavily doused in Marxian theory. Even more pertinent here, his research made him quite knowledgeable about the resources of countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. He would be very aware of Ukraine’s wealth in minerals, particularly in the eastern and southeastern regions. Indeed, Ukraine has a large supply of many valuable mineral and raw material resources. Ukraine in fact holds approximately 5 percent of the world’s mineral resources. Its significant mineral resources include: iron ore, coal, manganese, uranium ore, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury. As for stocks of iron, manganese, titanium and uranium ore Ukraine is ranked first among European countries. As for mercury ore reserves, it is second only to Spain. Attendant to capturing sovereign territory in Ukraine, much as he grabbed Crimea eight year before, Putin may have wanted possession of its supply of many valuable mineral and raw material resources. Thinking in that direction may also have distorted his picture of what would be most important in invading Ukraine successfully. 

If this was Putin’s thinking and actions on this matter, at a more detailed level than discussed earlier, it would very much mirror that of Hitler during Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. As explained by the Imperial War Museum, industrialists in Germany most likely influenced Hitler’s decision to seize the Southern Caucasus in the Soviet Union and Stalingrad despite the concerns and entreaties of Oberkommando des Heeres with undertaking an operation of such distance from where the German Army was situated. As aforementioned, Operation Barbarossa, launched in June 1941, failed to achieve Hitler’s objective of decisively defeating the Soviet Union in a single campaign. German forces managed to occupy vast swathes of Soviet territory and industry. However, the audacious invasion finally ground to a halt in December 1941 on the forested outskirts of Moscow, the exhausted German Army stabilized its winter front in a line running roughly from Leningrad in the north to Rostov in the south. The strain of the harsh winter campaign upon the ill-prepared Wehrmacht, as well as the severe strain placed on the Luftwaffe in its prolonged efforts to air-supply the army’s string of city-bastions along the front, was tremendous. The Germans suffered a staggering 850,000 casualties. Interestingly, despite such considerable setbacks, the Germans believed the war was still going fairly well.

However, the following year, Hitler decided to go on the offensive. A decision by Hitler to launch a campaign in the Southern Caucasus region, south of the German front was spurred on by flawed information provided to him by economic advisers. They told Hitler that Germany would be incapable of sustaining the war without the resources in the Caucasus. North of the mountains was a center of agricultural production, which also held significant coal and metal reserves; to the south, was the region of Transcaucasia, a densely populated industrial center which produced some eighty percent of the Soviet Union’s annual oil production.Responsive to the wishes of the political leadership, by February 1942, the Oberkommando des Heeres was planning an offensive in the Caucasus region. 

On April 5, 1942, Hitler issued  Führerbefehle Nr. 41 (Fűhrer Directive No. 41), laying out the basic plan for the new offensive in the Soviet Union. The new plan would become known as Fall Blau (Case Blue). The main objectives were the major oilfields in the Caucasus and Transcaucasia: Maikop, Grozny and Baku. Senior German commanders were concerned about undertaking such a deep thrust into the opponent’s territory, fearing for the safety of their flank. Hitler’s remedy was to include in the plan the occupation of Stalingrad by Germany’s Italian, Hungarian and Romanian allies. The city would initially be taken by Germans. They would also establish a defensive line along the Don River and Volga River, which would be taken over by allies, too. Capturing Stalingrad would have the additional benefit of blocking all enemy traffic on the Volga, a crucial transport artery. To Hitler, the operation, which he deemed to be “of limited scope,” made perfect sense. Events proved otherwise.

A postage stamp from the erstwhile Deutsche Democratische Republik (German Democratic Republic, also known as the GDR or East Germany) circa 1963, that includes portraits of the Prussian military leader August Neidhardt von Gneisenau (left), Prussian field marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (right). In war, the value of a reliable, knowledgeable, skilled, and open-minded adviser who truly understands the concept and intent of his commander, cannot be underestimated. A model for interaction between a political leader or military commander with his advisers was the one between the renowned 18th century Prussian Army Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher with his chief of staff General August Neidhardt von Gneisenau. In Clausewitz: (Scarborough, 1979), author Roger Parkinson quotes von Blücher with regard to his relationship with his brilliant chief of staff as follows: “Gneisenau, being my chief of staff and very reliable, reports to me on the manoeuvres that are to be executed and the marches that are to be performed. Once convinced that he is right, I drive my troops through hell towards the goal and never stop until the desire goal has been accomplished–yes, even though the officers trained in the old school may pout and complain and all but mutiny.” Regarding an offer for von Blücher to receive an honorary degree at Oxford University following the Napoleonic War, Parkinson quotes him as saying: “Well, if I am to become a doctor, you must at least make Gneisenau an apothecary, for we two belong together always.”

Eyes Wide Shut

“A lion does not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep. ” is a quote often attributed to others, but it is very likely the words of Abū ʿAbdullāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (28 August 767 — 19 January 820) was a Palestinian-Arab Muslim theologian, writer, and scholar, who was the first contributor of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (Uṣūl al-fiqh). Often referred to as ‘Shaykh al-Islām’, al-Shāfi‘ī was one of the four great Imams, whose legacy on juridical matters and teaching eventually led to the Shafi’i school of fiqh (or Madh’hab). In his thoughts, Putin is surely completely alone. He appears indifferent to whether the rest of the world sees him as a bit out of touch or strange, apart from everything else. Outside of his super fans in Russia–many of whom have been unfortunate enough to meet their end, so very young, on fields, hills, and woods in Ukraine as questionably trained conscripts–certainly does not appear gallant or chivalrous. Putin is holding the course on Ukraine, not yielding in any way that might allow for authentic and substantive negotiations to end the conflict to begin. There still does not appear to be a line of talk available to even his closest advisers that could put a different complexion on the matter.

In war, the value of a reliable, knowledgeable, skilled, and open-minded adviser who truly understands the concept and intent of his commander, cannot be underestimated. A model for interaction between a political leader or military commander with advisers was the one between the renowned 18th century Prussian Army Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher with his chief of staff Prussian Army General August Neidhardt von Gneisenau. In Clausewitz: (Scarborough, 1979), author Roger Parkinson quotes von Blücher with regard to his relationship with his brilliant chief of staff as follows: “Gneisenau, being my chief of staff and very reliable, reports to me on the manoeuvres that are to be executed and the marches that are to be performed. Once convinced that he is right, I drive my troops through hell towards the goal and never stop until the desire goal has been accomplished–yes, even though the officers trained in the old school may pout and complain and all but mutiny.” Regarding an offer for von Blücher to receive an honorary degree at Oxford University following the Napoleonic War, Parkinson quotes him as saying: “Well, if I am to become a doctor, you must at least make Gneisenau an apothecary, for we two belong together always.”

An informed guess by greatcharlie is what has likely been a reliable intuition that had served him well along the way and allowed him a leg-up in giving subjects light were darkened with regarding parsing out the many aspects of this massive enterprise in Ukraine. Imagining Putin with his mind set on invading Ukraine come hell or high-water and refusing hear any suggestion that he delay until Russian forces were fully prepared to act, maximize every advantage and exploit the liabilities of Ukrainian forces to the fullest extent, and cope with all contingencies, if one might dare discuss such with him as noted earlier. 

One can only imagine Putin’s outward attitude and behavior at that time. The thought of it all curiously reminds greatcharlie a song sung by the renowned comic, Groucho Marx in the comedy film “Horse Feathers” (1932), not that there is anything remotely humorous about any aspect of the Ukraine War. When Marx’s  character, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, is made the new head of Huxley College, and asked to offer some suggestions for his administration, the first verse of his musical response was: “I don’t know what they have to say / It makes no difference anyway / Whatever it is, I’m against it / No matter what it is or who commenced it / I’m against it.”

Putin Was Blinded by Rage

A dislike of Biden administration members inflamed the ardor of Putin and closest acolytes and they became determined to hurt Kyiv for siding with them. Imagining Putin’s mindset, he likely firmly believed before the invasion of Ukraine that he had a good understanding of the way many senior foreign and national security policy officials in the administration of US President Joe Biden, many of whom had held senior posts in the Obama administration, would respond to a move toward Ukraine. As discussed in greatcharlie’s January 25, 2022 post, Putin had experienced considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment in his dealing with Obama administration officials, particularly on Ukraine. As he may have perceived their actions in the past, they found it rather piquant to interact with him as if he were a lesser party, and given his positions and concerns no consideration. He likely believed they saw him as undeserving of respect. Communications were condescending, actions were often insulting. In an explosion of aggression, in part a response to his treatment, he grabbed Crimea with military force and fomented civil war in the Donbas. He engaged in other destabilizing efforts. Apparently, he was not completely satisfied with those actions, and held in his mind the idea of doing more. Seeing the appointment of many of those same officials in even higher posts in the Biden administration, most likely inflamed his sense with ardor to lash out violently. Everything those officials did in the Biden administration, Putin surely viewed with their past actions firmly in mind.

One might theorize that although he could not conventionally strike directly at those officials, Putin could reach the Zelensky government, members of which he may view as something worse than traitorous. He could well imagine the the fall of the Zelensky government would beset the Biden administration officials that he despised with a sense of loss and failure. Secondly, he would hope to cause torment and anguish among their “Ukrainian followers”. To that extent, perhaps it is not too fanciful to imagine that given current attitudes and behaviors of Putin, the invasion of Ukraine may also have been in part an opportunity for Putin to have a return engagement, a rematch, with former senior Obama administration officials serving in the Biden administration and settle an old score. 

Putin (seated left) during a Russian Federation Security Council meeting just days before the special military operation was launched. A dislike of senior members of the administration of US President Joe Biden likely inflamed the ardor of Putin and closest acolytes and they became determined to hurt Kyiv for siding with them. Imagining Putin’s mindset, he likely firmly believed before the invasion of Ukraine that he had a good understanding of the way many senior foreign and national security policy officials in the Biden administration, many of whom had held senior posts in the administration of US President Barack Obama, would respond to a move toward Ukraine. One might theorize that although Putin could not conventionally strike directly at those officials, he could reach the Zelensky’s government, members of which he may view as something akin to “traitorous”. He knew what anguish and loss the fall of Zelensky’s government would cause those US officials and secondly, their “Ukrainian followers”. To that extent, perhaps it is not too fanciful to imagine that given current attitudes and behaviors of Putin, the invasion of Ukraine may also have been in part an opportunity for Putin to have a return engagement, a rematch, with former senior Obama administration officials in the Biden administration and settle a score.

The Way Forward

It certainly appears to many reasonable people around the world since the Ukraine War began that currently there is a dearth of rational thinkers in the Kremlin. As is so often the case in the history of warfare, perception, better still, misperception, and not reality, drove the decisionmaking of Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders and war planners. Intriguingly, in parsing out the possibilities of this pivotal moment in the war’s planning, it would seem Putin’s special military operation did not necessarily have to turn out as it has.

Too many human lives have been lost in this war. The common wisdom is that the war never should have transpired, and no one should have died. No amount of gain in Ukraine would match the degree of loss in the cold terms of blood and treasure by Russia which started the war. Nevertheless, it will likely go on and plenty more dying will be done.

Conforming to the concept and intent of their political leader, Putin, senior commanders of the Russian Federation Armed Forces mistakenly thought that the campaign would be a short one, and that the Ukrainians would give in after suffering the shock of massive initial defeats. Being responsive to the concept and intent of their political leadership was, by their training and oath, the correct thing to do, but the very wrong thing to do at the same time. Res ipsa loquitur! Perhaps the only real hope for its end on the battlefield is Ukraine’s capture of every bit of sovereign territory, to include Crimea. As mentioned here, that is within the realm of possibility. Yet, Putin would hardly find that outcome satisfactory. If a satisfactory solution cannot be found for both sides on Ukraine, there will be good reason for the world to fear the worst from him. In the cavernous assembly halls of the Kremlin where Putin speaks before top officials of his government, the Russian Federation Duma, other key political leaders at the federal provincial and local levels–nationalists, ultranationalists, and Communists–prominent supporters of the United Russia Party, and business leaders, one will not spy happy faces, filled with optimism over the future ahead. There are mainly the morose visages of people who likely whisper among themselves that the genuine end to everything may be near. Perhaps Putin is equal to his rhetoric, and Russian Federation ICBM’s will make their way out of their kennels. His supporters would likely believe that. A solution to the Ukraine War must be found soon. Utere, non numera. (Use the hours, do not count them.)

Brief Meditations on the Selection of Surovikin as Russia’s Overall Commander in Ukraine, His Capabilities, and Possibilities for His Success

Russian Federation General of the Army Sergei Surovikin (above). In an announcement on October 8, 2022, stated: “By the decision of the Defense Minister of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Surovikin has been appointed commander of the joint group of troops in the area of the special military operation.” At 56, Surovikin had already reached what normally would have been the pinnacle of a Russian officer’s career when he took command of Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony, Rossijskoj Federacii (the Russian Federation Aerospace Defense Forces) in 2017. However, he has been called upon to take on further assignments to include his current one in response to the Russian Federation ever changing national security needs. He has now taken on a great challenge in Ukraine. To better understand this important change in command for Russian Federation forces in Ukraine, one must find out more about Surovikin, and even more, try to understand what is going on in the mind of the individual responsible for the invasion: Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Federation’s Spetsial’noy Voyennoy Operatsii (Special Military Operation) of 2022 was born of ill will and bad intentions. Whatever sense of certainty Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin may have held concerning the ultimate success, perhaps even expectant of lightning success by  Vooruzhonnije Síly Rossíyskoj Federátsii or the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Armed Forces) when he green-lit the invasion has doubtlessly fizzled down from flames to cinders. Clearly, he was dreadfully incognizant of what a discordant harmony of circumstances very likely could and would do his plans and hopes. Since the early days of success after February 24, 2022, nothing has been working well for the Russian Federation Armed Forces on the battlefield. At this point, res ad triarios venit, the matter has come to triarii. Triarii were the reserve soldiers of the Roman Army. When it reached the point in a war that they were called upon, most or all the front line troops had fallen. Putin in fact, mobilized all male Russian citizens eligible to serve on the front lines in Ukraine. Their performance has been something better than terrible. 

In other countries at war, facing such circumstances, leaders and their advisers come to recognize that intractable decisions, all very difficult ones, lie ahead. Among the choices, Putin could further escalate, resolve to hold any gains while minimizing further losses, negotiate inequitable peace terms, or simply withdraw. US President Richard Nixon found himself in a similar predicament, mutantis mutandis, regarding the US military operations in Southeast Asia. In the end, his Secretary of State “managed” to negotiate what was referred to as “peace with honor” with the North Vietnamese government. Selecting from the choices mentioned would be fine for other countries, however, Putin’s Russia is not like other countries. Still, finding a solution, given how things have panned out, is not simply a matter of satisfying one man’s thinking. The Kremlin is hearing ever increasing criticism for the abominable losses in Ukraine, particularly from elites with close ties to it. Nationalist and ultranationlist political parties and personalities began reacting to the situation in Ukraine with asperity. They, too, know the truth. The change in commander was ostensibly designed to send the message both inside Russia and worldwide that Russia still intends win and will emerge victorious in Ukraine. The Kremlin might hope to convince its perceived audience that with a few adjustments, albeit major changes, everything will be on track and the Kremlin has found the commander who will make things right. The impact of the change, at least around the world, has been akin to a misspelled placard at a protest. The time and energy in the Kremlin put into appointing Sergei Surovikin to direct the war and promote the change publicly as a new beginning, may have been a wasted effort.

Surely, foreign and national security policy bureaucracies worldwide have parsed out Surovikin’s appointment in the round and using logic, have reached their respective conclusions. Yet, what seems logical is not always right. To best understand this important change in command for Russian Federation forces in Ukraine one must learn more about Surovikin, and even more, try to understand what is going on in the rather unique mind of Putin. Whatever he does he does for  his ownly reason. Whatever he has done, invading Ukraine and suffering heavy losses for example, has never troubled him. Though nearly isolated, he does not appear to beweep Russia’s outcast state. Putin’s decisionmaking and probable moves must remain the subject of indispensable speculations and the development of prospective scenarios. 

As has been the pattern with preceding posts, historical examples are used to demonstrate that no matter how recherché and bizarre events have been in this present-day episode, which hopefully will somehow end diplomatically to the satisfaction of all parties involved, humankind has been beset and strained by parallel issues. Some examples reach back to Antiquity to provide apposite examples of thinking and behavior that most resemble that of Putin and his top acolytes on the Ukraine matter. Additional supportive examples are drawn from the Napoleonic era. In his satirical monthly magazine Les Guêpes (The Wasps), the 19th century French writer Alphonse Karr expressed the apt phrase: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” (The more things change, the more they remain the same.) How often is that the case.

Surovikin’s official Russian Federation Ministry of Defense photo (above). Surovikin has a reputation for being a hard-as-nails, no-nonsense commander who did not suffer subordinates lightly. Any feelings that he might have had, were never allowed to get in the way of his decisionmaking. In his military career, there were what could delicately be called “bumps in the road”, some small, some big, some very big. In each case, fate somehow stepped in and saw Surovikin through. In June 2021, Surovikin reached the rank of Generál Ármii (General of the Army), the second highest military rank in Russia, second only to a marshal. One year later, in June 2022, it was revealed that he was named the commander of the Army Group “South” of the Russian Armed Forces engaged in the special military operation. Four months later, it was announced that he would be commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Some Background on Surovikin

In an announcement on October 8, 2022, stated: “By the decision of the defense minister of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Surovikin has been appointed commander of the joint group of troops in the area of the special military operation.” Note the announcement stated the Russian Federation Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, not Putin, made the decision. With the announcement, Surovikin became the first overall commander of Russian forces committed to Ukraine. With the aim of providing readers with a decent sense of Surovikin’s experience and expertise, greatcharlie has provided a tour d’horizon of his rather event filled military career.

Surovikin, age 56, was born in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk on October 11,1966. He is married and has two daughters. Reportedly, Surovikin stands about 5 feet 10 inches. While many sources state Surovikin is Orthodox Catholic, presumably meaning Russian Orthodox Catholic, the degree to which he is observant is unknown to greatcharlie. He has been awarded the Order of the Red Star, the Order of Military Merit and the Order of Courage three times. He was awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation. Surovikin had already reached what normally would have been the pinnacle of a Russian officer’s career when in 2017 he took command of Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony, Rossijskoj Federacii (the Russian Federation Aerospace Defense Forces, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces). It was still a relatively new organization, established in 2015 when the decision was made by the Ministerstvo oborony Rossijskoj Federacii or Minoborony Rossii (the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense) to combine Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii, (the Russian Air Force), Voyska Vozdushno-Kosmicheskoy Oborony, (the Air and Missile Defense Forces), and Kosmicheskie Voyska Rossii, (the Russian Space Forces), were placed under one command. However, he has been called upon to take on further assignments to include his current one in response to the Russian Federation ever changing national security needs.

After graduating from the Omsk Higher Military School in 1987, Surovikin began his career serving as a lieutenant in the Voyská Spetsiálnogo Naznachéniya (Special Purpose Military Units) or spetsnaz. Spetsnaz units, a carry over from the days of the Soviet Union,  have been trained, and tasked as special forces and fielded in wartime as part of the Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff-Military Intelligence) or GRU. Not much has been offered at least in the mainstream or independent newsmedia on Surovikin’s work in spetsnaz. He reportedly served in spetsnaz during last stages of the War in Afghanistan, but the specific unit he was assigned to has not been identified. As is the case with special forces in most countries, the primary missions of spetsnaz are power projection (direct action), intelligence (reconnaissance), foreign internal defense (military assistance), and counterinsurgency.

By August 1991, Surovikin was a captain in the 1st Rifle Battalion in the 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division in August 1991 when the coup d’état attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was launched in Moscow by the self-proclaimed Gosudárstvenny Komitét Po Chrezvycháynomu Polozhéniyu (State Committee on the State of Emergency) or GKChP. Orders were sent down from the GKChP that would require Surovikin to send his mechanized unit into the tunnel on the Garden Ring. He drove his vehicles into barricades of a group of anti-coup protesters. A short time afterward, Surovikin was promoted to the rank of major. In 1995, he graduated from the renowned Frunze Military Academy. Surovikin participated in the Tajikistani Civil War where he commanded a motor rifle battalion. He then became chief of staff of the 92nd Motor Rifle Regiment, chief of staff and commander of the 149th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment and chief of staff of the 201st Motor Rifle Division. Whether due to qualifications, politics, or whatever might possibly be a factor under the Russian Federation’s system of government, Surovikin’s superior saw enough potential in him to prepare him for flag rank. In 2002, he graduated from Voyennaya Akademiya General’nogo Shtaba Vooruzhennykh Sil Rossijskoj Federacii (the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Federation). He became commander of the 34th Motor Rifle Division at Yekaterinburg.

By this point in Surovikin’s career, he had acquired a reputation for being a hard as nails, no nonsense commander who did suffer subordinates lightly. Any feelings that he might have had, were never allowed to get in the way of his decisionmaking. In March 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Chibizov accused Surovikin of physically assaulting him for taking leave from his post to serve as an elections observer. In April 2004, Colonel Andrei Shtakal, the 34th Motor Rifle Division deputy division commander for armaments, shot himself in the presence of Surovikin and the district deputy commander after being severely dressed-down by Surovikin. A military prosecutor found no evidence of guilt in both cases. 

In 2004, according to the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense’s website, Surovikin commanded the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division stationed in Chechnya. He was the chief of staff of the 20th Guards Army from 2005. In April 2008, he made the meteoric rise to army commander. In November 2008, Surovikin became Chief of Glavnoe operativnoe upravlenie General’nogo štaba Vooružёnnyh sil Rossijskoj Federacii (the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation), essentially the General Staff’s think tank. In January 2010, he became chief of staff of the Volga–Urals Military District, which soon became part of the Central Military District. Reportedly, from November 2011, he headed the working group charged with creation of the Military Police. The Russian newsmedia indicated that Surovikin had already been selected to head the new organization. Though delayed as a result of the intervention of Voyennoy Prokuratury Rossiyskoy Federatsii (the  Russian Federation Military Prosecutor’s Office), apparently, the discussion on the potential creation of the Military Police stirred a parochial struggle between the Russian Federation Defense Ministry and the Military Prosecutor’s Office, Glavnoye upravleniye voyennoy politsii Minoborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii (the Main Directorate of the Military Police Ministry of Defense Russian Federation) with a strength of 20,000 was stood up. In October 2012, he became the chief of staff of the Eastern Military District. In October 2013, he was appointed commander of the district. On December 13, 2013, Surovikin was promoted to the rank of colonel general. 

In March 2017, Surovikin began his first of two tours in Syria. The first was supposed to last about three months. It was reportedly part of an effort by Moscow to provide first-hand combat experience to as many high-ranking officers as possible. However, on June 9, 2017, Surovikin was introduced to the newsmedia as the Commander of the Russian Federation Armed Forces deployed to Syria. The Russian Federation Defense Ministry repeatedly credited Surovikin with achieving critical gains in Syria, saying that Russian Federation Group of Forces in Syria and Syrian Arab Army forces “liberated over 98 percent” of the country under him. In a June 2022 Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper article explained that Surovikin received this unofficial nickname of “General Armageddon” from colleagues for “his ability to think outside the box and act tough.” in the fight against the Islamic terrorist group, ISIS, Surovikin is credited for directing the Syrian Arab Army when it lifted the siege of Deir al-Zour and directing the attack that recaptured Palmyra for the second and last time. On December 28, 2017 he was made a Hero of the Russian Federation for his leadership of the Group of Forces in Syria.

While all of that was transpiring, at the end of November 2017, It was the journal of Ministerstva oborony Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Ministry of Defense Russian Federation, hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense’) Krasnaya Zvezda that reported Surovikin’s appointment to Commander of the Aerospace Forces by a presidential decree of November 22, 2017. Interestingly, TASS made special note of the fact that Surovikin became the first combined-arms commander in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union to be put in charge of the Russian or Soviet Air Forces. According to a report published by RBK Group on November 2, 2017, Surovikin had been appointed Commander of the Aerospace Forces in spite of his initial objections.

From January to April 2019, Surovikin again took command of Russian military forces in Syria. It was during that period Surovikin directed the operation against Idlib which included countless air and ground attacks on civilian objects and infrastructure. A 2020 Human Rights Watch report states that Russian forces under his command struck Syrian “homes, schools, healthcare facilities, and markets – the places where people live, work, and study”.

In June 2021, Surovikin reached the rank of Generál Ármii (General of the Army), the second highest military rank in Russia, second only to a marshal. One year later, in June 2022, it was revealed that he was named the commander of the Army Group “South” of the Russian Armed Forces engaged in the special military operation. On October 8, 2022, it was announced that he would be commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine.

In Surovikin’s military career there were what could delicately be called “bumps in the road”, some small, some big, some very big. In each case, fate somehow stepped in and saw Surovikin through. As aforementioned, during the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt in Moscow, Surovikin was ordered to send his battalion into the tunnel on the Garden Ring. As a result of his action, three anti-coup demonstrators were killed. After the defeat of the coup, Surovikin was arrested and held under investigation for seven months. The charges were dropped without trial on December 10, 1991 because Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin concluded that Surovikin was only following orders. He was promoted to the rank of major afterwards. In September 1995, while Surovikin attended the Frunze Military Academy, he was sentenced to a year of probation by the Moscow garrison’s military court for illegally selling weapons. However, allegations were made that he had been framed. After an investigation, the conviction was overturned. It was concluded that Surovikin had provided a fellow student a pistol for use in a competition, unaware of its intended purpose. One might speculate that Surovikin either had such connections in very high places who were also benefiting from his sideshow that he was allowed to avoid any severe repercussions beyond a very public arrest or he managed to convince authorities that he was cured of his covetous mind.

On dit, there are supposedly whispers in Russia that that Surovikin reportedly had some business concerning the transporting of Syrian ore to Russia on the side. To date, no such rumor, however, has been substantiated or reported on by any mainstream newsmedia source.

Surovikin is an emblem to the Russian military for its “prowess.” The same was said to be true of Russian Federation General of the Army Aleksandr Dvornikov, who Putin appointed commander of the “special military operation” in Ukraine on April 9, 2022. Russian commanders at different levels have often been made to sound too good to be true, only to have their “gold complexions” dimmed in Ukraine. The latest announcement did not mention Russian Federation General of the Army Aleksandr Dvornikov, who Putin appointed commander of the “special military operation” in Ukraine on April 9, 2022. While some Western newsmedia sources insist Russian Army Colonel General Gennady Zhidko.was Surovikin’s predecessor, Moscow had not publicly specified that anyone had been placed in overall control of the operation until the announcement concerning his new command.

Surovikin, much as Dvornikov, had the opportunity to become familiar in Syria with the ways in which the US provides assistance to foreign forces on the battlefield. Moscow’s likely hope in that regard would be better understand how US and other NATO military minds might have special operations forces working in Ukraine, what to expect as a result of their “suggestions to the Ukrainian Armed Forces as to planning and operations,” and how to counter their assistance operations. If that were the case at all, perhaps Dvornikov never really discerned enough in Syria to exploit. He certainly failed grasp the role deception plays in US military operations and that failure played a role in opening captured territory up to rapid liberation by Ukrainian forces via a counteroffensive. Surovikin has the opportunity to demonstrate that he learned quite a bit more.

In March 2017, Surovikin (above) began the first of his two tours in Syria. The first was supposed to last only three months and was part of an effort by Moscow to provide first-hand combat experience to as many high-ranking officers as possible. However, on June 9, 2017, Surovikin was introduced to the newsmedia as the Commander of the Russian Federation Armed Forces deployed to Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry repeatedly credited Surovikin with achieving critical gains in Syria, saying that Russian and Syrian forces “liberated over 98 percent” of the country under him. In a June 2022 Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper article explained that Surovikin received this unofficial nickname of “General Armageddon” from colleagues for “his ability to think outside the box and act tough.” On December 28, 2017, he was made a Hero of the Russian Federation for his leadership of the Group of Forces in Syria.

Surovikin’s Appointment Shows the World Moscow Has a Handle on Ukraine

Fallaces sunt rerum species. (The appearances of things are deceptive.) As alluded to initially here, one could reach the conclusion at first blush that this change in command amounts to a bromide, an unoriginal idea intended to soothe or placate and have the illusion of problem solving. On the other hand, one might imagine the wisdom in putting a former Russian Federation Aerospace Force commander in charge are that air power will be better applied in Ukraine. Many in the Western newsmedia have assessed Surovikin’s appointment may have been an effort by the Kremlin to mitigate criticism from nationalists who have accused the army of mismanaging the war in Ukraine and of failing to use Russian military power overwhelmingly to force the government in Kyiv to submit. To that extent, close Putin ally and leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Raman Kadyrov, has publicly demanded that many top generals of the Russian Federation Armed Forces be sacked. Reportedly, many pro-Russia military bloggers have harshly criticized the prosecution of the war. 

Perhaps it would be reasonable to suspect that Surovikin came highly recommended for the Ukraine job by the same sort behind the scenes that likely lended him a helping hand whenever he landed himself in trouble in the past. Among Russians who welcomed the appointment of Surovikin was Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Gruppa Vagnera (Wagner Group), a private military company and a vocal critic of the military leadership. According to a statement put out by Concord, Prigozhin said publicly: “Surovikin is the most able commander in the Russian army.” He called Surovikin a “legendary figure, he was born to serve his motherland faithfully.” He noted: “Having received an order [in 1991], Surovikin was that officer who without hesitation got in his tank and went forward to save his country.” His appointment was also very vocally welcomed by Kadyrov,

However, Putin’s control and his choices and the relative influence of his inner circle was put succinctly in a January 12, 2020 interview in The New Yorker magazine of Masha Lipman, a Moscow-based political analyst who has written extensively on Putin’s regime. (The interview came on the heels of Putin’s proposals of Constitutional reforms that ultimately extended his years in power in Russia.) Asked about the degree of Putin’s control in Russia, Lipman responded: “The issue of control is tricky. If one talks about whether government management is efficient in Russia, then no, it is not. And Putin has repeatedly, over his very long time in office, spoken about the need to increase the productivity of labor and quite a few other very important goals. I wouldn’t say he has delivered so well on those. But, if we define control as control over the élite, over making the decisions, of course Putin’s fully in control. And the developments of the past few days are very clear and persuasive evidence of him being in control of making decisions.” Responding to a question about his moves at that time [Constitutional reforms], Lipman said; “This is a demonstration of how Putin is ultimately in charge and how he can make very important decisions by himself in an atmosphere of complete secrecy. We still do not know who was aware of what was in store for the country three or four days ago, and to what extent there is anyone who can actually challenge his decisions, even verbally.” Lipman continued: “Putin rarely consults with anyone, and, even if he does, it is done in a totally opaque way. He’s rarely explicit. Even if he consults with some people in his circle, people leave without having a clear idea of what his goal is and have to guess. Sometimes they guess right. Sometimes they guess wrong. Sometimes they try to curry favor and succeed, sometimes not. At the end of the day he is the ultimate decision-maker. And the strategy and the grand plans that he has for Russia, in their entirety, exist only in his mind.”

Given Lipman’s expert view and  the views that have been expressed by greatcharlie on Putin for quite some time–they may hold water for generous readers, it would only be reasonable to believe Putin naturally has morbid fear of anyone desiring to remove him from power. Equally naturally, he acts aggressively and often eccentricity to potential threats to his power, both real or imagined. No one should hope to get too close. Sometimes holding power too long breeds a familiarity that breeds contempt in many. Envy like fire always makes for the highest points. The Roman historian Titus Livius (59 B.C.-A.D. 17), known as Livy, provided in Greek, a history of Rome that begins with the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional founding in 753 B.C. through the reign of Emperor Caesar Augustus during his own lifetime. In Book XXXV, section 10 of that history Ad Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) (c. 28 B.C.), Livy discusses the campaign for consul that pitted Publius Cornelius Scipio, the son of Gnaeus, who had recently returned from Spain after performing great deeds, and his brother Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, who had commanded the fleet in Greece. Herodotus writes of the challenges facing Scipio: But the eyes of all men were turned upon Quinctius and Cornelius; for both were patricians, contending for one place, and recently-won military glory lent favor to each. But before all else, the brothers of the candidates11 increased their rivalry, since they were the two most celebrated commanders of their age. The greater fame was Scipio’s, and the greater it was, the more it was exposed to jealousy; that of Quinctius was fresher, inasmuch as he had triumphed that very year. There was also the fact that the other had been for about ten years constantly in the public eye, a fact which renders prominent men less venerated from sheer surfeit of seeing them: he had been consul for the second time after the defeat of Hannibal and censor . . . .”

Admittedly, greatcharlie went the long way about presenting this passage from Ad Urbe Condita. However, Livy admirably presents the depth of thinking that led to the challenge to the well-known, long-serving, heroic leader, Scipio, for a newcomer, who could only offer a list of promises and seem so willing, despite his record of service, to challenge the incumbent leader with no apparent reservations. Surely, if this could be used as any measure. Putin always has much to keep his eye on politically.

Putin launched the Ukraine War lacking a worthwhile strategy and recognition of what Russian Federation forces would come up against. What was seemingly completely missed or misunderstood was the degree of support from the US and NATO Member States that Kyiv would receive. No effort, that was apparent, was made to obviate the ability of the US and its NATO allies to supply Ukraine at will as part of the military strategy. From the start, conquering Kyiv was the focus as if Putin and the General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were blinded by rage. The door was left wide open between Poland and Ukraine. Such impetuous schemes and boldness are at first sight alluring, but are difficult to handle, and in the result disastrous.

Perhaps the real problem for Putin was not just that he relied on fortune, but was driven by blind ambition. What has likely been a reliable intuition that had served him well along the way and allowed him a leg-up in giving subjects light were darkened with regarding parsing out the many aspects of this massive enterprise in Ukraine. Polybius (c. 204-122 B.C.), the Greek “pragmatic historian,” and intriguingly an eyewitness to the siege and destruction of Carthage accompanying none other than Cornelius Scipio Aficanus as one of his commanders. In his noted work, The Histories, Polybius covers the period from 264 BC to 146 BC, focusing primarily on the years 220 BC to 167 BC, and detailing Ancient Rome’s conquest of Carthage, which allowed it to become the dominant force in the Mediterranean. In his discussion of the causes for the start of the Carthaginian War, the Second Punic War in Book I, section 8, Polybius cites the work of the Roman analyst Quintus Fabius Pictor (born c. 270 BC, fl. c. 215–200 BC) . Reportedly, this choice may have been based more in homage than irrefutability given concerns even in his time that his work on the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) on Carthage was highly partisan towards the Roman Republic, idealizing it as a well-ordered state loyal to its allies. Fabius was the earliest known Roman historian. His writings, presented in Greek and now mostly lost besides some surviving fragments, were highly influential on ancient writers. He participated in introducing Greek historiographical methods to the Roman world.

Polybius writes: “Fabius, the Roman annalist, says that besides the outrage on the Saguntines, a cause of the war was Hasdrubal’s ambition and love of power. He tells us how, having acquired a great dominion in Spain, he arrived in Africa and attempted to abolish the constitution of Carthage and change the form of government to a monarchy. The leading statesmen, however, got wind of his project and united to oppose him, upon which Hasdrubal, suspicious of their intentions, left Africa and in future governed Iberia as he chose, without paying any attention to the Carthaginian Senate. Hannibal from boyhood had shared and admired Hasdrubal’s principles; and on succeeding to the governor-generalship of Iberia, he had employed the same method as Hasdrubal. Consequently, he now began this war against Rome on his own initiative and in defiance of Carthaginian opinion, not a single one of the notables in Carthage approving his conduct towards Saguntum. After telling us this, Fabius says that on the capture of this city the Romans came forward demanding that the Carthaginians should either deliver Hannibal into their hands or accept war. Now if anyone were to pose the following question to this writer–how opportunity could have better favored the Carthaginians’ wishes or what could have been a juster act and more in their interest (since, as he says, they had disapproved Hannibal’s action from the outset) than to yield to the Roman demand, and by giving up the man who had caused the offense, with some show of reason to destroy by the hands of others the common enemy of their state and secure the safety of their territory, ridding themselves of the war that menaced them and accomplishing their vengeance by a simple resolution–if anyone, I say, were to ask him this, what would he have to say? Evidently nothing; for so far were they from doing any of the above things that after carrying on the war, in obedience to Hannibal’s decision, for seventeen years, they did not abandon the struggle, until finally, every resource on which they relied being now exhausted, their native city and her inhabitants stood in deadly peril.”

As an experienced judoka, Putin knows that there are occasions when one competitor is simply outmatched by another. It is hard to accept when one is the outmatched competitor or the competitor’s loyal supporter. Still, no matter how unpleasant, it is a reality that must be faced with level-headedness. It would seem Putin has not reached that conclusion yet.

(From left to right) Russian Federation Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the Russian Federation General Staff, Russian Federation General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, Putin, and Surovikin at a presentation on aerospace weapon systems. On first impression, one might imagine the wisdom in putting the former Russian Federation Aerospace Force commander in charge is that air power will be better applied in Ukraine. Many in the Western newsmedia have assessed Surovikin’s appointment may have been an effort by the Kremlin to mitigate criticism from nationalists who have accused the army of mismanaging the war in Ukraine and of failing to use Russian military power overwhelmingly. In a January 2020 interview in The New Yorker magazine of Masha Lipman, a Moscow-based political analyst who has written extensively on Putin’s regime, explained: “At the end of the day he is the ultimate decision-maker. And the strategy and the grand plans that he has for Russia, in their entirety, exist only in his mind.”

Surovikin’s Appointment Provides Putin with Some Relief Personally

Choice of Surovikin may have been made simply to provide some measure of relief for Putin. By appointing an overall commander, something that most senior military and political advisers in Moscow might have urged Putin to do earlier or had begun to do once things went poorly, the move would feel something far different than a bromide. Putin would be acting proactively, putting fresh eyes on the matter and hopefully a more successful line of thinking.

Imaginably, there are many things Surovikin can now do under his new title that he could not do as Commander of the Aerospace Forces or commander of the Army Group “South” of the Russian Armed Forces engaged in the special military operation. Perhaps it might be more directly the case that they see something in the way in which Surovikin thinks. Much as with the commanders of air, ground, naval, and space components of  armed forces worldwide, one might presume in the abstract that intelligence preparation of the battlefield, providing predictive intelligence at the right time for use in planning and executing operations, has been a critical aspect of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces efforts to deliver information superiority to its chiefs, and wing and squadron commander’s operating forces over Ukraine. Perhaps in strategy sessions of the armed forces general staff on the Ukraine operation, he proved more familiar with the battlespace as it stands than his counterparts and was thereby tapped for the top Ukraine job. So, he was given the job.

Perhaps in a conversation, an opportunity as his interview with Surovikin for the Ukraine job, Putin expressed concerns about the outcome of the war and Surovikin offered words that provided some measure of relief for him. That would be the conversation leaders who were in desperate situations or facing uncertainty have had with commanders for centuries. In The Histories, Herotodus of Halicarnassus (c. 484 BC-c. 425 BC), the renowned Greek historian of the Hellenic period known for that aforementioned masterwork which mainly discusses the struggles between Greece and Persia. In Book VII, Chapter 234, section 1-3, Herotodus reconstructs a hypothetical conversation between the Persian King Xerxes, and his general and uncle,  Demaratus following the king’s conversation with counselors. He writes: “Xerxes then sent for Demaratus and questioned him, saying first, “Demaratus you are a good man. I hold that proven by the plain truth, for things have turned out no differently than you foretold. Now, tell me this: how many Lacedaemonians are left, and how many of them are warriors like these? or is it so with them all?” “My king,” said Demaratus, “the number of the Lacedaemonians is great, and so too the number of their cities. But what you would like to know, I will tell you: there is in Lacedaemon a city called Sparta, a city of about eight thousand men, all of them equal to those who have fought here; the rest of the Lacedaemonians are not equal to these, yet they are valiant men.” “And how, Demaratus,” answered Xerxes, “can we overcome those men with the least trouble to ourselves?” Come, disclose that to me, for you have been their king and know the plan and order of their counsels.”

Surely, Putin is aware that not even the threat or dismissal or assassination cannot coax brilliance on the battlefield from Russian Federation commanders who simply iack the faculty to do anything that could dramatically change the situation in Ukraine in Russia’s favor. Hoping Ukrainian commanders might drop some almighty clanger that will provide an advantage–friction in battle and that sort of thing–would be futile given they are doubtlessly being “advised” by the some of the best military minds that NATO’s 27 Member States can supply respectively. The assistance in terms of weapons systems, training, and gear alone from NATO Member States has been breathtaking. Putin must have accepted by now that the Russian Federation armed forces are just not good enough to successfully execute the special military operation he chose to launch on February 24, 2022. Perhaps he has muttered to himself in private that all the talent is I n the other side. The Russian Army rejoiced in reputation of the post-war and Cold War Soviet Army. it was an illusion. Putin fell for it. It is all very tragic, especially for the soldiers and civilians on both sides caught up in the fighting and dying.

An army can not change overnight. What Russian top commanders can do is ensure that the many parts of the Russian Federation’s Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, and Naval Forces work to their utmost in harmony to achieve success, but that still might not be enough to change the course of things. One should hardly expect to observe any maneuvers by Russian commanders to represent “an ingenious jesting with [the operational] art.” The Russians unit commanders in Ukraine continue to feign good intentions by ordering the use of overwhelming brute force, incredulously pretending they can muster any approximating power of that kind the field, with the respective objectives of overcoming Ukrainian strength now in what Putin has just recently declared Russian Federation territory. All those commanders are actually doing is sending their troops, the bulk of which are frightfully ill-trained and inexperienced, to near certain defeat. Numerous newsmedia reports in the West, impossible for any following the Ukraine War story to have missed, tell of field grade level commanders, gung-ho on the war and Putin, and eager to make their mark and possibly catch the attention of leaders Moscow, have sent their troops into better than questionable assault on well-armed and well-positioned Ukrainian units. Such assaults are being repulsed at the cost of extraordinarily high tallies of killed and wounded. Some Russian Army companies and battalions have been obliterated in this way. Many of those zealous commanders have ended.up on casualty.lists themselves. Surely such actions may later be found to be a main ingredient of a recipe for what may turn out to be a great military disaster. There may likely be a decisive clash ahead that will mark the end of the Russian presence in Ukraine, and end the myth that Russia is a conventional military power impossible to reckon with, a challenge to the combined forces of NATO.

The situation for Surovikin might in the end parallel that of the singular circumstances surrounding the renowned author of The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides, (c. 460 BC–400 BC). Thucydides once was an Athenian general who was subsequently sacked and exiled following his failure to defend the Greek city of Amphipolis in Thrace. (During his exile, he began compiling histories and accounts of the war from various participants on all sides.) As fate would have it, Thucydides was ordered to go to Amphipolis in 424 because, by his own account in Book 4, chapter 105, section 1, of The History of the Peloponnesian War (hereinafter referred to as the Peloponnesian War):  “He possessed the right of working the gold mines in that part of Thrace, and thus had great influence with the inhabitants of the mainland” He wrote in Book I, chapter 104, section 4: “The general who had come from Athens to defend the place, sent to the other commander in Thrace, Thucydides son of Olorus, the author of this history, who was at the isle of Thasos, a Parian colony, half a day’s sail from Amphipolis” The renowned Spartan general Brasidas, aware that Thucydides was on Thasos and had established considerable influence with the people of Amphipolis, and concerned over possible reinforcements arriving by sea, acted quickly to offer moderate terms to the Amphipolitans for their surrender, which they accepted. Consequently, when Thucydides arrived at Amphipolis, the city had already fallen under Spartan control. As Amphipolis was of considerable strategic importance to Athens, reports were received with great alarm. Thucydides became the target popular indignation among the Athenians. As was the usual decision in such circumstances, Thucydides was exiled for his failure to “save” Amphipolis.

Memores acti prudentes futuri. (Mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be.) As it was Thucydides’ fate, one might wonder whether Surovikin has been given a fool’s errand, destined to receive a mark of dishonor for failing to complete a mission that had become moot before he had even journeyed out to perform it. Whatever Surovikin manages to do, he will have to cut it a bit fine given the rapid progress of Ukrainian forces in reducing Russian gains, and their well-demonstrated ability to do a lot more. Ukrainian commanders have proven themselves to be formidable opponents by displaying amazing knowledge of their battle space, foresight and agility acumen, managing to block in one place, counterattack in another, withdrawing their units when conditions were most favorable more often than demanding troops hold on to untenable positions until they were forced to retreat in order to survive or surrender. The ability of Ukrainian commanders to think fast and soundly has been key to their relative success as time is always of the essence. They relentlessly seek to take ground and gain and retain the initiative. More often than not weaker Ukrainian units have been pitted against stronger Russian ones, stronger at least on paper. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying: “Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.” With continued expert advice and robust levels of assistance from the US and NATO, Ukrainian forces could potentially displace and destroy Russian forces at many points before winter sets in proper.

Putin (right) decorating Surovikin (left) with the Hero of the Russian Federation medal for his leadership of the Group of Forces in Syria. If one might consider the role politics might have played in the decision to appoint Surovikin commander of the joint group of troops in the area of the special military operation, it would seem on its face that Putin and the general should have a very harmonious relationship, hardly oil and water. Surovikin’s loyalty and reliability was apparent in his performance in Syria. Surovikin, obedient to the letter, followed through violently in Syria, getting the results that Putin demanded. Unlikely lost on Putin is the fact Surovikin, as a captain commanding an armored unit, was a defender of his beloved Soviet state in the truest sense during the 1991 coup d’état attempt launched by Soviet hardliners, driving through barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters. As noted in the discussion here on his military career, three men were killed in the clash, including one who was crushed.

The Role Played by Political Likes and Dislikes in Surovikin’s Appointment

In greatcharlie’s humble opinion, now is certainly not the best time in Moscow for anyone but Putin to worry about image or petty politics. It is a very odd situation that this persists in the midst of calamity. Even though there is a war going on in which Russia is not performing so well as an invader, image apparently still matters in Moscow. There are ceremonies, speeches in the Kremlin, scholarly foreign and national security policy conferences still being held around Russia all attendended via special invite only. For the elites, it is all more about status than security. The elites still want to improve their relative proximity to Putin and his inner circle. They want to know, who has what title, who is in charge of this or that, who has the lead, who takes orders from whom

To that extent, if one might consider the role of politics might have played in the decision to appoint Surovikin commander of the joint group of troops in the area of the special military operation, it would seem on its face that Putin and the general should have a very harmonious relationship, hardly oil and water. Surovikin’s loyalty and reliability was apparent in his performance in Syria. Surovikin, obedient to the letter, followed through violently in Syria, getting the results that Putin demanded. Unlikely lost on Putin is the fact Surovikin, as a captain commanding an armored unit, was a defender of his beloved Soviet state in the truest sense during the 1991 coup d’état attempt launched by Soviet hardliners, driving through barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters. As noted in the discussion here on his military career, three men were killed in the clash, including one who was crushed.

Certainly Surovikin is not starting from scratch, coming in from outside the centers of power. As mentioned, he served as the Commander of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces, a rung few have reached since, as aforementioned, the Russian Air Force, the Air and Missile Forces, and the Space Forces were placed under his responsibility. Few have demonstrated the ability to manage as many operational organizations as he has. Although one might point out that the Russian Air Force at war in Ukraine is the one for which he was responsible for many years. Perhaps its performance has been the least impressive among the armed forces.

The suggestion should not be ignored that Putin may be looking at Surovikin as a possible replacement for Russian Federation General of the Army Valery Gerasimov as Chief of General’nyy shtab Vooruzhonnykh sil Rossiyskoy Federatsii (General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), hereinafter referred to as the Russian Federation General Staff. To find support for that idea, one would only need to look at the condition of the Russian Federation Armed Forces and what the force he has been responsible for has produced in Ukraine. 

Gerasimov could be accused as having underperformed in keeping the armed forces prepared for war. On the eve of the special military operation’s launch, Russian forces situated near Ukraine’s border were still considered quite formidable. This belief was based not just on numbers and their fierce appearance, but on the assumption that Russia had undertaken the same sort of root-and-branch military reform that the US underwent in the 18-year period between Vietnam and its victory in the first Gulf War. Not all,, but many military analysts in the West speculated that the Russian operation would be something akin to a one act drama with an early curtain. The US Intelligence Community concluded that Kyiv would fall in days. Some European officials thought it might just hold out for a few weeks. 

However, starting on the first day of the of the invasion of Ukraine, all of the walls came down on the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Based on their overall performance in Ukraine, the forces that Russia sent into battle seemed almost counterfeit, poorly imitating what was expected by reputation. One could reasonably suggest  that in recent years their capabilities have been subject to hyperbole. As greatcharlie has stated in preceding posts, the Russian Federation General Staff was fortunate that they are not facing US forces. Copious amounts of supporting evidence for that argument has been presented on the battlefield daily in Ukraine. How the mighty have fallen. 

Negligentia sempre habet infortunam comitem. (Negligence always has misfortune for a companion.) Russian forces were not organized for war with precision. Units were not ready for battle. Soldiers had no idea of what to expect. Ukraine was allowed to use its strengths against Russian weaknesses. Ukraine’s smaller units were able to achieve relative superiority force on force initially in the field. One might have expected that occasionally good fortune would shine upon the relatively lightly-armed Ukrainian forces, and a Russian Army or Russian Naval Troops patrol rolling around or crossing into a danger zone might face ambush, a well-organized ambush, and losses would be suffered. With so many patrol ordered in the different avenues of attack by Russian forces, the greater the chance there would be losses. However, Ukrainian forces outrightly routed Russian units over and over on the battlefield and line of successes would force Russia to adjust its strategy.. The possibility of endsieg, victory against the odds, has become all the more real for the Ukrainians.

As discussed earlier to some extent, Putin surely felt the Russian Federation Armed Forces were well-trained and well-equipped to bring swift victory. To be fair, even to Putin, in practical terms, he mainly had the well-choreographed Zapad military and naval exercises to use as a measure of the Russian Federation armed forces effectiveness. The scenarios rehearsed in those exercises were apparently poor preparation for the invasion at hand. The scenarios rehearsed in those exercises were apparently poor preparation for the invasion at hand. There is also the issue that the Zapad exercises were not exactly all that they were made to appear to be in terms of demonstrating their actual strength and capabilities of the Russian armed forces, as well as the possibilities for their use. Imaginably, the truth was deliberately kept from Putin. No matter what was really going on at Zapad, their true value of the exercises can now be discerned by all. Military commanders simply during each exercise went through the motions with elaborate displays of firepower and mobility with little to no concern about how it would all come together in real world situations. The bigger and better Zapad exercises since 2017, lauded by the leadership of the Russian Federation armed forces, were surely “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Putin, himself, had regularly observed the Zapad exercises and everything seemed fine enough.

One NATO commander caught on to what had been happening at Zapad and other Russian military and naval exercises before the invasion and could predict Russian military action in Ukraine might prove for Moscow to be catastrophic. When he was commander of American naval forces in Europe and Africa, US Navy Admiral James Foggo had the duty to plan US military exercises recognized that planning the huge Russian exercises were enormous undertakings. As Russia was planning the Vostok exercises in September 2021 in Siberia, Russian Federation Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, declared it would be the largest since the Soviet Union’s Zapad exercise of 1981. It would involve 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships. However, Foggo discovered there was quite a bit of deception involved. Rather than actually field large numbers of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, a company of troops (150 at most) at Vostok, for example, was inflated and counted as a battalion or even a regiment (closer to 1,000). Single warships were passed off as whole squadrons.

How spectacularly did the illusion created by Russian commanders disintegrate when challenged by reality! It is a sad lesson for commanders in all armies to learn from. Beyond the seemingly deliberate desire to create an illusion of capabilities, the impression left is that the Zapad hoax over the years is that a certain disinvoltura apparently plagued the Russian Federation Armed Forces commanders, that has manifested itself at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. Clearly, Gerasimov was the main one who fed Putin’s illusion concerning the capabilities and  readiness of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Maybe Putin has reached a point at which he could see some benefit in making a change. The easiest way is to bring forward other faces from the Russian Federation General Staff. It is somewhat surprising that in the West, investigative journalists have not gotten the hint that Gerasimov is being slow-walked out the door and have not tried to pick up the scent of blood. Some may have. A good guess would be that Surovikin is being advanced piecemeal by Putin to where he wants him to be. Interestingly, the indications and implications of such would also be that Putin has the sense that he has a future as leader of Russia.

Removing Gerasimov would cause some stir, perhaps both plus and minus, even among Putin’s nationalist and ultranationalist following. He has been viewed as a very loyal Putin acolyte for nearly a decade. However, if Putin is acting in that direction, it would surely be “business as usual in the Kremlin” with regard to military commanders at all levels. Putin has already replaced a number of top commanders in its armed forces. In an October 8, 2022 story, RFE/RL expressed from available public reporting, a list of prominent Russian commanders that have been sacked. Reportedly, the head of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Daghestan, Sergei Melikov, wrote on Telegram on October 7, 2022, that North Caucasus native Lieutenant-General Rustam Muradov had replaced the commander of the Eastern Military District, Colonel-General Aleksandr Chaiko. The RBK news agency on October 7, 2022 cited sources close to the Russian military as saying Muradov replaced Chaiko without giving any details. Much of the Eastern Military District’s personnel are engaged in the special military operation in Ukraine, despite the fact that the district is based in Russia’s Far East. Muradov previously led troops in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, parts of which have been under Russia-backed separatists’ control since 2014. He also commanded Russian peacekeepers in Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

An October 3, 2022 RBK report stated that the commander of the Western Military District, Colonel-General Aleksandr Zhuravlyov, had been replaced shortly after dramatic Russian losses in northeastern Ukraine in September and the strategic city of Lyman in the Donetsk region had been recaptured by Ukrainian forces. In September 2022, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev replaced. General Dmitry Bulgakov as deputy defense minister in charge of logistics.  Curiously, Mizintsev is accused by the European Union of orchestrating a siege of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol early in the special military operation that reportedly killed thousands of civilians. In August 2022, state media outlets in Russia said the commander of the Black Sea fleet had been sacked after Ukraine carried out several successful attacks, including the sinking of Russia’s missile cruiser Moskva and the loss of eight warplanes in an attack on a Russian base in Crimea. As Ukraine continues to liberate settlements in its eastern region from occupying Russian troops, Moscow will likely continue to replace top commanders in its armed forces.

However, Putin apparently appreciates Gerasimov as a grand strategist, a military thinker of some talent. He has well-expressed, in military terms, the imaginings of Putin and his acolytes on the US ambition to conquer Russia for its abundant resources. Worth noting is the very strong and pertinent 2013 military statement which was noted in

noted in greatcharlie’s November 16, 2016 post entitled, “Belarus Allows Small Demonstrations Outside KGB Headquarters: As Belarus Curries Favor with the West, Can It Help Russia, Too?”. Far more than a military analysis on NATO expansion, the document which was the top secret Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation, assessed that future conflicts will be “Resource Wars.” The basis of that assessment was that the depletion of energy resources will soon become an ultimate world crisis and overtake regions. Severe shortages of oil, gas and other natural resources would cause their prices to steeply rise. Russia’s senior military leaders believed outside powers, primarily the US and its allies, may invade their country from several directions to physically grab territory and its resources. Putin accepted the threat assessment of the Russian Federation General Staff which as aforementioned essentially paralleled his own thinking, and signed the Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation into law on January 29, 2013. The notion that Russian borders were being threatened by the US and NATO and adequate defensive measures needed to be taken has nearly controlled Russian military thinking since the plan was developed. It might be reasonable to conclude that such thinking culminated, at least so far, into Moscow’s great blunder in Ukraine.

Suggestions that Ministr Oborony Rossijskoj Federacii (Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation) General of the Army Sergei Shoigu has concerns over General Surovikin would be almost baseless. As Shoigu and Surovikin have interacted on countless occasions while he commanded Russian Federation Aerospace Forces. No friction between them has been publicly reported at least. Many new weapon systems critical to Russia’s strategic defense have been introduced by the Aerospace Forces under his leadership. One might in this case again harken back to 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union to give life to such a suggestion. At the time, Shoigu, fairly senior in the Russian Rescuers Corps, was a firm supporter of Boris Yeltsin, then President of the Russian Republic, leading protests against the coup d’etat that forced Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev from office. However, the fact that Surovikin and Shoigu were on opposing sides at the time should not hold much significance in an analysis. It 8s very unlikely that Shoigu has borne some grudge against Surovikin over the matter. While greatcharlie cannot swear that Surovikin’s rise is nothing to signify concerning Shoigu’s perch at the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, any suggestion that Surovikin’s appointment has meaning in that direction would seem by the by. The reality is that Shoigu’s role in the rise of Putin and his place in the regime is quite firm and rather singular.

One might recall that in 1999, Yeltsin became acutely aware that he was losing power in Russia, and his supporters were shifting to the opposition. Taking steps to ensure his legacy with less than a year left in office, Yeltsin, with the help of political allies, created a new party, with a new face, loyal to him: Unity. Shoigu, who was serving as Minister of  Ministestvo po Delam Grazhdanskoy Oborony, Chrezvychainym Situatsiyam i Likvidtsil Posledstviy Bedstviy (Ministry of the Russian Federation for Affairs for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters Emergency Situations also known as the Ministry for Emergency Situations) or EMERCOM, and part of Yeltsin’s successful re-election campaign in 1996, was named the leader of the pro-president party. He was partnered with Alexander Karelin. Elements of Unity’s economic policy were akin to Thatcherism. It included, for example, the promotion of low inflation, the small state and free markets via tight control of the money supply, and privatization. That said, Unity also supported the reliance on powerful police and security structures and media control. After parliamentary elections in 1999, Unity took a commanding position in the Duma. Having secured some control of the Duma, Yeltsin sought a successor for the presidency.

While Yeltsin called Shoigu “our greatest star,” he chose Putin. Yeltsin first saw promise in Putin when he selected him on July 25, 1998 to serve as head of the Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsi (Federal Security Service) or FSB. At the time, Putin was an unemployed deputy-mayor from St. Petersburg. He served at the FSB until August 9, 1999, when Yeltsin called him to the post of acting prime minister. Late that same month, there was a bomb blast in a luxury shopping mall by Red Square which was the first in a series of blast resulting in casualties. In September 1999, there were apartment bombings in Moscow, Buinaksk, Dagestan, and Volgodonsk, in Rostov. They collectively killed 300 Russian civilians and wounded hundreds more that were reportedly the responsibility of Chechen Islamic militants. Putin acted forcefully against the mall bombing, the apartment immolations, and a bold Islamic militant incursion from Dagestan into Chechnya, led by Shamil Basayev. The first of 100,000 troops were sent to the northern Caucasus within weeks. In a famous September 24, 1999 speech, Putin spoke with determination in explaining his approach to defeating terrorism: “We will pursue the terrorist everywhere. If they are in an airport, then, in an airport, and forgive me, if we catch them in the toilet, then we will waste them in the outhouse . . . The issue has been resolved once and for all.” Putin marked his rise in power by acting viciously against terror. Shoigu’s Unity Party then served as the instrument for Putin’s rise to the presidency. The Unity Party eventually entered into an alliance with the Fatherland-All Russia political bloc. The Party later morphed into United Russia, the country’s current ruling party that rubber stamps Putin’s initiatives in the Duma. Putin has remained in power by confounding insincerity, and he does not suffer fools lightly. Having observed him closely, Putin obviously feels Shoigu well-serves his needs. Shoigu was neither in the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (the Committee for State Security) or KGB nor worked in St. Petersburg with Putin. He has been able to make use of his own unique sensibilities to understand his leader’s thinking and feelings. An informed guess by greatcharlie is that Shoigu is unlikely going anywhere, anytime too soon.

As remarked earlier, it is not publicly known which particular aspects of Surovikin’s military background, as seen through the singular lenses of his superiors, took on significance in the decision to select him to tackle the “Ukraine conundrum.” Perhaps those aspects would not be those leaders of other countries might seek in an ideal overall commander of a military campaign. Recalling here how Putin acted in Chechnya when brand new to the post of Russian Federation President, it would not be difficult to understand why Surovikin, with his background, would be the commander he would want handling Ukraine.

One might wonder whether Surovikin (above) has been given a fool’s errand, destined to receive a mark of dishonor for failing to complete a mission that had become moot before he had even journeyed out to perform it. Whatever Surovikin manages to do, he will have to cut it a bit fine given the rapid progress of Ukrainian forces in reducing Russian gains, and their well-demonstrated ability to do a lot more. Ukrainian commanders have proven themselves to be formidable opponents by displaying amazing knowledge of their battle space, foresight and agility acumen, managing to block in one place, counterattack in another, They relentlessly seek to take ground and gain and retain the initiative. More often than not weaker Ukrainian units have been pitted against stronger Russian ones, stronger at least on paper.

Surovikin: The Prospective Savior of Russia?

It is very possible that Putin, Shoigu, Gerasimov, and the others on the Russian Federation General Staff authentically feel there is a real chance that under Surovikin’s command, Russian forces can beat back Ukrainian forces tearing through their lines, gain and retain the initiative, and somehow obviate the effects of US, NATO, and other foreign military assistance to Kyiv. The initial Western newsmedia commentaries of what Surovikin would bring to war as the new joint commander of Russian forces was that he would bring “his violent Syria playbook closer to home.” Reporting focused on a rush of heavy rocket attacks against civilian targets across Ukraine. Naturally, Surovikin’s main challenge in Ukraine, will be to solve the structural problems plaguing the Russian military as it faces fierce Ukrainian forces hell bent on liberating every speck of Ukrainian sovereign territory. Many Western Military experts have expressed that view.

Yet, equally naturally, Surovikin has the grand opportunity to apply his thinking–within the limits of the Russian government system–of what has been done wrong, what has been done right, and what can best be accomplished. As broached in-brief earlier, Surovikin may have expressed a singular interpretation of the battlespace. To be succinct and express it as it might still be taught in military educational institutions at the command and staff level, the battlespace is the mental picture a commander establishes in order to analyze and choose courses of action to apply his military assets in relation to time, tempo, and depth. Perhaps Surovikin’s superiors at this point are hoping that his way of thinking will make a difference on the battlefield and they may be turning to him as a last, best resort. Moreover, it could be that the results of the ongoing Ukrainian drive in fact proved Surovikin’s conceptual view of the situation in what was previously his southern front and his neighboring eastern front were correct. He may have expressed what turned out to be the best understanding of how factors as the strengths and weaknesses of Ukrainian forces to include new weapon systems being introduced via Western assistance. He may have sounded the alarm that firepower in particular would allow them “the upper hand” on the battlefield. He may have demonstrated a better understanding, reliable intimations, on how, where, and when to apply the combat power of Russian forces. He may have assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Russian forces and, since their power has dwindled so dramatically, how they could be more effectively and perhaps economically mustered, how those forces could be better protected, and how they might be able to take a stab at making some respectable gains more immediately. Much as noted previously, being commander of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces, since 2017 has perchance allowed Surovikin to gain experience, an expertise in managing multidimensional aspects of warfare to create a harmonious or synergistic whole. To that extent, he conceivably would lend an expertise applicable to managing the multidimensional aspects of air, sea, space, land, and information operations in his planning and execution of military operations.

Concerning Russian Federation Aerospace Forces specifically, more than simply contributing to the Ukraine campaign as the situation stands as of this writing, they could play an effective role, indeed have a multiplier effect. With his experience as Commander of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces, Surovikin presumably would know best how to manage all assets of the force to strike strategically and tactically to make a positive difference in the war effort. Strategically, destroying Ukraine’s ability to construct weapons and disrupting its supply of weapons from external sources would likely be a priority. Tactically, a priority would likely be coordinating efforts by Russian Federation Aerospace Force assets with ground forces currently facing great pressure or extremely challenging situations almost everywhere on the frontlines from well-armed, well-supplied, and highly-motivated Ukrainian forces.

Dediscit animus sero quod didicit diu. (The mind is slow in unlearning what it has been long learning.) For many, it might understandably be difficult to conceive exactly how under the same leadership, with an additional title, the situation could be altered for its better. With specific regard to the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces, large scale exercises of recent years appear to have been nothing more than staged acts, performances that presented illusions about the capabilities of its different branches. Indeed, those performances were full of sound and fury, but reality signified nothing. In the Ukraine campaign, the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces so far have had little impact to the degree that they were present. The Russian Federation Aerospace Forces have been near nonexistent relative to its size, supposed power, and the expectations of military analysts worldwide. Its best fighters and fighter-bombers have been regularly blasted out of the skies by Ukrainian forces using both pricey sophisticated air defense weapons systems gifted to Kyiv by Western powers and shoulder fired rockets operated by individual soldiers in the field. Russian Federation Ground Forces could be assessed as fighting much as one of a third tier power, seemingly lacking sophisticated aircraft and possessing no close air support assets, and they have resultantly suffered losses the same as an trained observer might expect of a type of third tier force against a high-tech force of a military superpower. In this case, it would appear that with the combined support of the US, the United Kingdom, EU, and NATO member countries, Ukraine, to a degree, is fighting much as that very sort of military superpower described. As greatcharlie has stated in preceding posts, one could only imagine the loss Russian Federation forces would have suffered if they had clashed directly with US forces. If any units sent into battle under that scenario would have been spared, it would have been purely a matter of happenstance.

Still, Putin would unlikely put all of his hopes in the hands of these military men. To go a bit further with the hypothetical, perhaps during one of his summit meetings and bilateral talks with Putin, People’s Republic of China President and Communist Party of China Party Secretary Xi Jinping diplomatically and encouragingly shared the suggestion that he might adopt “a new way of thinking about warfare.” Perhaps he discussed the concept of combined warfare without boundaries emphasizing that a complementary level of energy be placed on matters that could not only greatly influence, but even more, have a decisive impact on its outcome. While it may also include the use of armed force, under the concept of combined warfare without boundaries prioritizes the use of non-military forms of warfare: psychological, media, information, technology, cyber, financial, political, social, and espionage. The aim of combined warfare without boundaries is to weaken the US internally and to exploit its vulnerabilities. Since under combined warfare without boundaries the battlefield is everywhere, everything can be weaponized. On a short list of things weaponized, Xi could have told Putin in this hypothetical situation that, optimistically, there still was time to put things right, but certainly there was no time to waste. It is all hypothetical, imagined from the abstract.

In the past, the activities undertaken as part of combined warfare without boundaries would have fallen under the category of intelligence. Perhaps, they still do. Intelligence services engage in open and clandestine, and covert activities, using appropriate tools and available resources, to create or exploit opportunities to act in support of the policies and the interests of their countries. As part of those activities, the everyday can often become weaponized. Putin is perhaps the most prominent Russian intelligence doyen around today having served in the KGB and as head of the FSB. He would very likely see value and potential in that tack, and would surely have a stream of ideas on what he could do away from the battlefield in a robust way. 

Under such a scenario, one could reasonably expect his mind to harken back to the heady days of the Cold War when he served as an officer in the KGB in the former Deutsche Democratische Republik (German Democratic Republic, also known as GDR or East Germany). Putin and his KGB comrades cooperated–“oversaw”–the work of their HVA counterparts who were infiltrating West Germany and countries beyond in the West to not only collect intelligence but to a great extent prepare as best as possible for a likely conflict between Warsaw Pact forces and NATO Member States in Central Europe. For 34 years, Generaloberst Markus Wolf was the very successful head of GDR’s foreign intelligence service Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance), commonly referred to as the HVA. With frightening efficiency, he developed an array of tactics, techniques, procedures and methods for operating against his Western opponents in advance of any eventual conflict in Europe between East and West, or to break down the societies of opponents of the Eastern Bloc. Throughout the Cold War, his agents poured into West Germany and when possible countries beyond, secured positions, reported about, and influenced the activities of a multitude of organizations in a broad spectrum of areas, social, political, diplomatic, military, commercial, financial, scholarly,  scientific, and informational. (For those interested in more on Wolf and the HVA, see the November 13 2019 greatcharlie post entitled Book Review: Markus Wolf, Man without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster (Times Books, 1997) for a bit more detail on the matter.)

With a dearth of good ideas, some interest could possibly arise in mining benefit from what might seem as an outre thought on first impression. If such a hypothetical exchange on the matter of combined warfare without boundaries were at all true, and under such a scenario, Putin might have put any thought into the matter, he would likely have begun to think beyond the battlefield in a big way. Some might suggest that Putin already was engaged in such activities as observed in Russia’s hybrid warfare attacks in Europe which began in 2014.

Hybrid warfare has been associated with Gerasimov who developed what has been dubbed the Gerasimov doctrine. The Gerasimov Doctrine, an operational concept for Russia’s confrontation with the West, is also a whole-of-government concept that combines military power and soft power across many domains, transcending boundaries between peace and war. However, there is a distinction between combined warfare without boundaries and the Gerasimov Doctrine. When combined warfare without boundaries is applied, the purpose is not to prepare or support the use of force. What is accomplished by non-military means should offset the use of force. To that extent in Ukraine, what is transpiring on the battlefield should not be looked upon as determining the final outcome of the confrontation. 

In a robust application of some simulacrum of combined warfare without boundaries, alterations in a few aspects of Russia’s behavior would likely signal the change. There would likely be greater emphasis on garnering assistance from allies with the wherewithal to contribute assets of high value. That list of allies would likely include: China, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, and perhaps Cuba. Applying combined warfare without boundaries, top diplomats of Ministerstvo Inostrannykh del Rossijskoj Federacii (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation) would approach each to secure the maximum level of assistance. Reports surfaced in September 2022, that Russia was in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea to use in Ukraine. That information was reportedly sourced from the US Department of Defense. In August 2022, US officials disclosed that Russia received shipments of Iranian-produced drones. 

Top diplomats would also be tasked with keeping the negotiations door open without leaning too far that way as to encourage bolder action on the battlefield by Kyiv and its NATO backers. It may be the case that when Western representatives approach Putin about peace, he may very well get the sense that he is slowly wearing down their countries and Ukraine. Thereby, his resolve to fight on may be strengthened.

As part of Putin’s twist on an hypothetical implementation by him of a combined warfare without limits strategy similar to that of China might be to green-light direct action of a calibrated nature in a top tier Western country whose foreign and national security bureaucracies surely will not be expecting but actually should have been prepared for once the Ukraine war ignited over some preposterous reasoning began.

Russian Federation intelligence services would be called upon to collect all they can on the level of will Western countries possess on investing in the war: concerns expressed in capitals on capping assistance expenditures, Ukraine’s use of all forms of assistance, and the effects of Moscow’s nuclear threats. Sweet to the ear of Putin would surely be any true Intelligence collected that shows some decay in the united front of the NATO Member States. As the situation stands now, it would seem illusory for the Kremlin to put hope in some deterioration of Western unity or loss of will or concern over the drain funding the war has had on national budgets or an actual pull back of support for Kyiv. Further, if the Russian Federation could hastily organize and task Its respective intelligence services to impact Western countries lined against it in some significant way as to influence events in Ukraine, there would unlikely be enough time to get any operations going before events on the battlefield rendered their fruits meaningless.

As for the Russian Federation Armed Forces, they would still be implored to hold on territory gained. However, in the use of their weapon systems, they would need to be a bit more creative. In the May 30, 2022 greatcharlie post entitled, “Putin the Protector of the Russian People or the Despoiler of Ukrainian Resources: A Look at War Causation and Russian Military Priorities in Ukraine”, it was suggested that ideally for Putin, inhabitants of Ukrainian cities and towns will be displaced due to Russian attacks at such a level that the cities and towns themselves would more or less resemble the southern portion of the city of Famagusta in Cyprus or the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France. (Given results, it almost seems as if Russian engineering officers, artillery officers, air power officers, and ordnance officers, have drawn up plans for the systematic demolition of Ukrainian cities and towns, district by district, block by block, using ordnance fired from a variety of weapon systems.) The intermittent attacks on populated areas may indeed have some psychological warfare, punitive, or perhaps even a tactical purpose. Yet, something of far greater conception may be behind them. Perchance Russian commanders, as part of a preconceived plan, seek to displace Ukrainians from their homes, out of the cities and town through “massive evacuations” to make them easier to “manage,” easier to control. Surely, Putin would appreciate having the West finance and supply for their care on the other side of the Dnieper River. Destroying certain parts of cities and towns would also make them far less desirable. At the time of this writing, UN estimates are that over 4.1 million Ukrainians have moved into other countries. When Ukrainians move west, the better things become concerning Putin’s likely plans for Ukraine. In that same May 30, 2022 post, it was imagined that following the capture of Ukrainian cities and towns, “There might be the chance that citizens of the Russian homeland would be ‘invited’ to relocate and settle in those cities and towns to participate in their reconstruction and, particularly in the southeast, reside in cities and towns in order to reconstruct and work at ports on the Azov Sea and in the many mineral mines. Veterans of the military operation who were so inclined could be invited to relocate to the cities and towns they ‘liberated,’ in effect to enjoy the spoils of the war.”

Hypothetically under an overarching combined warfare without boundaries concept insisted upon by the Kremlin, Russian forces would act more directly to break the will of the Ukrainians throughout the country. While propaganda would likely have limited effect, there would be the possibility of attempting to break the morale of the Ukrainian people and as important, their will to fight on. To that extent, Ukrainian civilian infrastructure would be targeted with the purpose of terrorism the population, albeit the of terrorizing civilians in this manner would be a war crime. As of this writing, Russian forces reportedly have been bombing Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure, to include energy facilities. As put by Amnesty International, the intent of these attacks–somewhat in line of combined warfare without boundaries–is “to undermine industrial production, disrupt transportation, sow fear and despair, and deprive civilians in Ukraine of heat, electricity and water as the cold grip of winter approaches.”

Surovikin (center), Gerasimov (left), and Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff (right). It is very possible that Putin, Shoigu, Gerasimov, and the others on the Russian Federation General Staff authentically feel there is a real chance that under Surovikin’s command, Russian forces can beat back Ukrainian forces tearing through their lines, gain and retain the initiative, and somehow obviate the effects of US, NATO, and other foreign military assistance to Kyiv. It could be that the results of the ongoing Ukrainian drive in fact proved Surovikin’s conceptual view of the situation in what was previously his southern front and his neighboring eastern front were correct. He may have expressed what turned out to be the best understanding of how factors as the strengths and weaknesses of Ukrainian forces to include new weapon systems being introduced via Western assistance. He may have sounded the alarm that firepower in particular would allow them “the upper hand” on the battlefield. He may have demonstrated all along a better understanding, reliable intimations, on how, where, and when to apply the combat power of Russian forces. He may have assessed the strengths and weaknesses of Russian forces and, since their power has dwindled so dramatically, how they could be more effectively and perhaps economically mustered, how those forces could be better protected, and how they might be able to take a stab at making some respectable gains more immediately.

Surovikin: The Invaluable Multilateral Operations Expert

The renowned 19th century Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde explained: “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” Surovikin surely gained experience with multilateral operations as a result of his experience in Syria. Ukraine has doubtlessly put him in contact with operational commanders of allies assisting Russia in various ways. Given the DPRK’s arms shipment to the Russian Federation Armed Forces and persistent murmurs of its troops assisting the Russian with the deployment of their troops, the DPRK’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Staff, with the permission of DPRK Chairman Kim Jung-un, by now surely has observers on the ground in Ukraine, examining everyday of the conflict and gleaning every lesson possible. Surely, those lessons learned will manifest in alterations of DPRK armed forces tactics, perhaps even the configuration of certain units, and use of their weapon systems to create whatever advantages they could possibly muster as well as mitigate any apparent weaknesses across the board. That might also include any structural changes their system of government might allow. From the Russian side, the work entailed in establishing interoperability with DPRK ordnance might be developed as a foundation for further areas and levels of cooperation. 

It was suggested at the time when the situation for the Russian forces in the Donbass began to seriously deteriorate that Kim might send 100,000 troops  of the KPA to Ukraine. On first impression, one might view such talk as part of Russia’s political warfare operations. If their suggested deployment should occur, the DPRK expeditionary force could potentially accomplish enough to offset the somewhat grandiose plans of Kyiv to raise a force of 1,000,000 soldiers to eradicate Russian forces from Ukrainian territory, to include the liberation of Crimea. The DPRK’s military is reported to be the world’s fourth largest, with nearly 1.3 million active personnel, and an additional 600,000 serve as reserve soldiers. Noteworthy is the fact that the DPRK has also offered to send over 1,000 workers to assist Russia in rebuilding postwar Ukraine. It has also been reported that Moscow would provide energy and grain in return for the deployment of DPRK troops. According to UN Resolution 2375, passed in 2017, countries are prohibited from supplying the DPRK all condensates and natural gas liquids (paragraph 13). UN Resolution 2397, passed in 2017, limits the annual amount of crude and refined petroleum that can be provided to North Korea (paragraphs 4 and 5). The former resolution also precludes any joint ventures or cooperative entities with North Korea (paragraph 18). The latter resolution reiterates the prohibition of any DPRK national from earning income in other states (paragraph 8). At this point, it would be unreasonable to think that such UN Resolutions have any meaning. Russian forces in Ukraine are already receiving the DPRK weapons shipments. As for prohibitions on the DPRK regarding arms shipments, its military assistance to Russia would also violate UN resolutions. UN Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, prohibits North Korean exports of heavy weapons, such as tanks, artillery, and missiles, and requires UN member states to prevent their transfer (paragraph 8). UN Resolution 1874 (paragraph 9), passed in 2009, and UN Resolution 2270 (paragraph 6), passed in 2016, expanded the export ban to include all DPRK arms, including small arms and light weapons, as well as “technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms or materiel.” Further, under UN Resolution 2270, paragraph 8), the DPRK is also prohibited from any military exports that “support or enhance the operational capabilities of armed forces of another Member State.” Pyongyang has established a record of totally disregarding UN Resolutions.

Napoleon is quoted as saying: “Unity of command is essential to the economy of time. Warfare in the field was like a siege: by directing all one’s force to a single point a breach might be made, and the equilibrium of opposition destroyed.” If DPRK troops, conceivably a combined arms force, were deployed to Ukraine, they would likely be applied as a decisive unified force on the battlefield, rather than separating them into individual units and dole them out as replacements for battered and tattered Russian battalions  Under the latter scenario, the likely command, control, and communications problems might be enormous. Further, the fact that Russian and DPRK have not trained together, at least in recent years, in such great numbers, surely would almost immediately become apparent despite Surovikin’s best efforts. How he would manage that would likely require summoning up answers from the depths of his knowledge, experience and talent. Perhaps the common wisdom is that if Surovikin is hoping to make any decisive moves, they would be planned for the Spring of 2023. However, there is the possibility that he plans to act in the mid-to-late Winter when weather conditions might obviate advantages provided to Ukrainian forces through the use of drones. Astonishingly, Russian forces seem to lack the appropriate equipment to monitor the skies electronically or a frightful lack of competence to do so.

One might recall weather was a key factor in the planning of Germany’ Oberkommando der Wehrmacht for its Ardennes Offensive that was launched on December 16, 1944. As the attack was envisioned, a heavy winter storm would prevent Allied attempts to provide air support and resupply to beleaguered US troops caught head on in the German armored and mechanized rampage through Belgium and Luxembourg, determined to reach the sea at Antwerp. For several days during the offensive, considerable progress was made, causing a huge bulge westward on the US frontlines. The battle was thereby given the name the “Battle of the Bulge.” Eventually, the winter storm that was vital to the German advance cleared enough for Allied air assets to fly in and have a devastating impact against the German attackers. They also managed to deliver much needed supplies–manna from heaven–to US troops. Certainly, it is possible that the drone technology Ukrainian forces possess might be able to overcome any challenges caused by weather conditions. If not, such technologically equipped drones could perhaps be rapidly supplied to them by Western powers

Though DPRK troops hypothetically sent into Ukraine would certainly be prepared to do business and make a good showing on behalf of their Dear Respected Comrade [Kim], it is possible that the hypothesized DPRK force could unexpectedly find themselves caught in a situation with Ukrainian forces similar to what their Russian comrades had in Kyiv and Kharkiv. After all, this hypothetical DPRK expeditionary force, imaginably combined arms,  could hardly expect more close air support from the Russian Federation Aerospace Force than Russian troops have received. They might deploy their own fighters and attack helicopters and fly them out of Crimea or even the Donbas only to find the skies over Ukraine no safer than the Russian pilots had. A disastrous assistance effort to support an ally that comes to mind is that of the British Army which sent a force under Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore into Spain to support the United Kingdom’s Spanish allies against the forces of Napoleon in 1809 during the Peninsular War. The French campaign, initially led by Napoleon himself, defeated the Spanish armies. Moore attempted to attack the French force, a corps under Marshal of the Empire Jean de Dieu Soult with the objective of diverting it. The strength of Moore’s forces was 16,000, which included 15,000 infantry and 9 to 12 guns. Soult’s corps in near parity included 16,000 troops, of which 12,000 were infantry, 3,200 were cavalry. He also had 20 guns

When the plan as conceived failed. Moore withdrew his force, but Soult’s corps relentlessly pursued it. The British retreat, under harsh winter conditions, took Moore’s force across northern Spain while their rearguard fought off repeated French attacks. Both the British and French troops suffered from the severe weather. With the exception of the elite Light Brigade under Robert Craufurd, much of the British force suffered from a loss of order and discipline during the retreat. Having managed against tremendous odds to reach the port of Corunna on the northern coast of Galicia in Spain, a few days ahead of the French, Moore’s troops found their transport ships had not arrived. When the fleet arrived a couple of days later, Soult’s forces also arrived and launched an attack on the British who were embarking. The British had no choice but to fight another battle before leaving Spain, the Battle of Corunna. In the fight which took place on January 16, 1809. Moore’s force repeatedly repulsed attacks from Soult’s force until nightfall, when both sides disengaged. However, during the battle, Moore was mortally wounded, but he died after learning that his men had successfully repelled the French attacks. That night, British forces resumed their embarkation. The last troops sailed away in the morning under French cannon fire. Soult would capture the port cities of Corunna and Ferrol. The outcome of the withdrawal of British forces from Galicia was the fall of northern Spain to the French.

Perchance General Surovikin would also has the solution to avoid a similar catastrophe. Perhaps the hypothetical intervention by DPRK troops would more resemble that of the Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. As it is fairly well-known, during the battle, over 30,000 Prussians under General Der Infanterie Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr Graf Bulow von Dennewitz and General-Leutnant Otto Karl Lorenz von Pirch shaped the outcome at the Battle of Waterloo. The Prussians desperately sought to capture the strategic point of Plancenoit on the right flank of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Army. Much of the Prussian’s fight against the 10,000 French defenders in Plancenoit was in the streets of the town itself. Though the battle at Plancenoit was to be hard fought, the Prussians eventually overran the French right, causing the French army to turn and flee. Their success sealed the fate of Napoleon. The Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian Army, Generalfeldmarschall Gerhard Leberecht von Blücher was famously to meet British Army Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington on the battlefield between 9:00PM and 10:00PM, close to the Belle-Alliance farm, where history records, the Prussian general conjured up in French: “Quelle affaire !” Given the battering the Allied army had received throughout the day, the relatively fresh Prussian troops were to take the lead in pursuing the fleeing French troops. The Prussians had neverthless lost 7,000 men. Napoleon’s carriage was to be seized by Prussian cavalry at Gemappes, and the routed French were to be given no quarter by the furious Prussian pursuit. Blücher’s advance guard was finally to reach the outskirts of Paris on June 29, 1815. With Napoleon’s abdication on June 22, 1815, the war would officially end upon the signature of the Convention of St-Cloud on July 3, 1815.  Surely, this would be the sort of outcome that Moscow and Pyongyang would be hoping for.

Surovikin (left), Shoigu (seated right), and Russian Federation Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy (center). Surovikin gained considerable experience with multilateral operations as a result of his experience in Syria. Ukraine has doubtlessly put him in contact with operational commanders of allies assisting Russia in various ways. Given the DPRK’s arms shipment to the Russian Federation Armed Forces and persistent murmurs of its troops assisting the Russian with the deployment of their troops, the DPRK General Staff, with the permission of Kim, by now surely has observers on the ground in Ukraine, examining everyday of the conflict and gleaning every lesson possible. Surely, those lessons learned would manifest in alterations of DPRK armed forces tactics, perhaps even the configuration of certain units, and use of their weapon systems to create whatever advantages they could possibly muster as well as mitigate any apparent weaknesses across the board. That might also include any structural changes their system of government might allow. From the Russian side, the work entailed in establishing interoperability with DPRK ordnance might be developed as a foundation for further areas and levels of cooperation. It was suggested at the time when the situation for the Russian forces in Ukraine began to seriously deteriorate that Kim might send 100,000 DPRK troops to Ukraine. Surely, Surovikin would be best suited to manage a multilateral effort with the DPRK.

The Way Forward

Ultimately, it was Putin who created the Ukraine War. Still, commanders are responsible for what was happening to young soldiers in the field. Surovikin expectedly understands the situation in Ukraine. He has been part of the military decisionmaking on the special military operation from its inception. The loss in troops and materiel in Ukraine even to the of top Russian Federation commanders’ eyes must also be absolutely astounding. They are after all only human. All of the ills of the forces they have led have been exposed to the world. The walls have come down. 

Included among root causes for troubles that have surfaced, with which Surovikin or anyone who might come after him must contend, are extremely poor soldier discipline and terrible fieldcraft. Training has likely been lax for decades. Leadership has likely been poor at the lower level leadership for just as long. It is unlikely that senior leaders were circulating or doing so in a meaningful way. One might presume there was a lack of standards particularly among the ground forces and very low morale. If morale was not low in the past, it is surely low now. Russian military technology appears crude as well as corroded in some cases. The world is not discovering how capable NATO has been to confront what was formally understood to be a Russian military juggernaut. Indeed, the world is seeing just how corroded the Russian system is and how that corroded system likely for years had grabbed hold of and mangled the armed forces. What has been manifested from that system in Ukraine has been a longtime in development. Weapons systems which are designed for US military and naval personnel to go to war and win must be robust. This approach is in stark contrast to that of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. An army that operates under the archaic notion that troops are expendable and can be casually sacrificed to achieve objectives will be overcome and overrun in the present era. No one should knowingly be sent to war without being given every chance with regard to their survival and the performance of their equipment.

The above are symptoms of an affliction of corruption that has beset and poisoned authoritarian regimes throughout history. Embezzlement becomes ubiquitous, the powerful feel entitled to spoils befitting their rise. And their countries are bled dry strength and wherewithal stealthily and it is all uncovered in unexpected crises. In every way, the Russian Federation Armed Forces appear to have all along been a paper tiger, emblematic of the very flawed government they serve. William Shakespeare, in Sonnet 66 (1609), provides a short list of ingredients that best describe the realities of authoritarian regimes so appropos concerning the thinly veiled current one of Russian Federation. In the third quatrain, he writes: “And art made tongue-tied by authority, / And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill, / And simple truth miscalled simplicity, / And captive good attending captain ill.”

Putin the Protector of the Russian People or the Despoiler of Ukrainian Resources: A Look at War Causation and Russian Military Priorities in Ukraine

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin could be viewed as a true black box if ever a national leader could be viewed as one. Given that, finding ways to deal effectively with Putin has been made far more challenging. Doing so has been made more difficult by the fact that Putin, while generally in the West as rebarbaritive, even murderous route, is recognizably a calculating and calibrated thinker. Regarding Ukraine, he has seemingly been acting well-off the mark. Taking on the persona of the defender of Russian people everywhere and scourge of fascism, he insists that his cause in Ukraine was pure and just in his address announcing Russia’s special military operation on February 24, 2022. However, the basis for Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine may very likely been founded on some plan of far greater conception than the rescue of, and retribution on behalf of ethnic-Russians as he announced.

Long after its end, the war in Ukraine will likely persist in the collective memory of the world as a tragic waste of human lives and the shape of things to come, future challenges and horrors countries should expect to face, now that lower, cost high tech tools can be employed copiously on the battlefield. Machine guns, grenades, mortars, tanks, mechanized vehicles, heavy artillery and rockets are joined on the one hand by a set of small remotely piloted drones that keep watch over the battlefield while another set delivers heavy blows with their accurately targeted deployable ordinance. If an army does not have them or cannot counter them, its troops and equipment will face grave problems when sent to war. In the initial weeks of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian forces left the Russians sitting down hard at the door steps of their cities. The Ukrainians have fought the Russians with strength, endurance, and bitterness. How long the Ukrainians will remain favored by Tyche is unknown. As the war progresses, Russian efforts, now focused in East and southeast Ukraine appear to have met with some success despite fierce resistance by determined defenders.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin could be viewed as a true black box if ever a national leader could be viewed as one. Given that, finding ways to deal effectively with Putin has been made far more challenging. Doing so has been made more difficult by the fact that Putin, while viewed generally in the West as often taking a rebarbaritive, even murderous route on matter, is recognizably a calculating and calibrated thinker. However, with regard to Ukraine, he has seemingly been acting well-off the mark. Taking on the persona of the defender of Russian people everywhere and scourge of fascism, he insists that his cause in Ukraine was pure and just in his address announcing Russia’s special military operation on February 24, 2022. Nevertheless, the basis for Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine may very likely been founded on some plan of far greater conception than the rescue of, and retribution on behalf of ethnic-Russians as he announced. In pursuit of what may have been some Delphian objective, Russia’s military and naval commanders, instruments of the Kremlin’s hypocrisy, nearly poured a quarter of Russia’s forces down the drain.

In each attempt to tackle the subject of Ukraine’s invasion, greatcharlie has sought to dive a bit deeper into Putin’s mind to better understand how he thinks and additionally offer not just insight on decisions he has made but foresight on decisions he might make in the immediate future and shape of future events. While it may be difficult for some in the West to accept Putin feels he has achieved great gains in Ukraine, looking at the situation from his perspective creates some clarity concerning that. Putin may also have reason to hope the situation on the battlefield may turn considerably in Russia’s favor. This essay is relatively brief and could hardly squeeze the issue dry so to speak, in order to put one in the full picture of Putin’s thinking. The hope, however, is to present some new ideas and insights that may lead readers, hopefully some practitioners in the field of foreign and national security policy analysis and decisionmaking to develop new lines of thought on how to proceed concerning this pressing issue. Duc In Altum! (Put out into the deep!)

Few officials, analysts, or news media commentators in the West would comfortably contend with the suggestion that Putin’s special military operation was less about protecting the Russian people and denazification than asserting his power against–at least in terms of size–his smaller neighbor. Nevertheless, in his national broadcast on Russian television on February 24, 2022 announcing his special military operation against Ukraine, Putin did his best to at least create the impression that the former was true. Still, it was certainly unreasonable for Putin to think Ukrainian forces were so weak that they could not even figuratively brush a harassing fly off their nose. Allowing Russia to walk into Ukraine the first time in 2014 has doubtlessly tormented leaders in Kyiv since, believing it was a gross error. For Kyiv to allow Russia to walk into Ukraine a second time would surely have been an historical act of gross negligence.

Revisiting Putin’s February 24, 2022 Speech

In two preceding post, greatcharlie has examined Putin’s February 24, 2022 televised speech on Ukraine, in which laid out the reasoning behind his decision to invade Ukraine. February 24, 2022 broadcast speech on the special military operation in Ukraine. Working under the aphorism that “there is always a good soup in an old chicken,” greatcharlie looks at it again with the aim of highlighting additional pertinent points, with the hope shedding additional light upon patterns in Putin’s decision-making. At the crux of his reasoning for starting the war is Putin statement that he acted “to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime. To this end, we will seek to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, as well as bring to trial those who perpetrated numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.” Putin surely wanted that “rescue and retributive” aspect of his speech to reverberate among listeners both at home and abroad. Yet, rather than a rescue operation, the indications and implications of his speech likely remained uncertain among those aware of patterns in his thinking. On the one hand, he may have thinly veiled his intention to conquer Ukraine entirely. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying: “We should always go before our enemies with confidence, otherwise our apparent uneasiness inspires them with greater boldness.” On the other hand, rather than the whole ball game, he might of had some yet to be revealed objective which was in his view, worthy of the sacrifice of the men and women of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. There were too many missing pieces to allow one to be certain.

Quite prescient in Putin’s mind, as expressed in his February 24, 2022 address, appeared to be the Soviet ties between the Russian and Ukrainian people during World War II. At least outwardly, Putin convincingly gave the impression that he was hooked on the idea that among the officers, men, and women of the Ukrainian armed forces there was a lingering sense of Soviet unity equal to his own. Putin would go as far as to implore the Ukrainian armed forces to submit to his will and allow Russian troops to again simply march into their country. Putin can surely tell the difference between real and unreal. He has not managed to stay in power since 2000 by engaging in Quixotic pursuits. Still, there appeared to be a singular emotional commitment on his part to the ideas of Russian-Ukrainian unity and the fealty of the officers, men, and women of the Ukrainian armed forces to Moscow, to him, that it apparently was made a feature of his war plan. Putin “appealed” to members of the Ukrainian armed forces as follows: “I would also like to address the military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Comrade officers! Your fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers did not fight the Nazi occupiers and did not defend our common Motherland to allow today’s neo-Nazis to seize power in Ukraine. You swore the oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people and not to the junta, the people’s adversary which is plundering Ukraine and humiliating the Ukrainian people.” Putin continued: “I urge you to refuse to carry out their criminal orders. I urge you to immediately lay down arms and go home. I will explain what this means: the military personnel of the Ukrainian army who do this will be able to freely leave the zone of hostilities and return to their families.” Lastly, he stated: “I want to emphasize again that all responsibility for the possible bloodshed will lie fully and wholly with the ruling Ukrainian regime.” Il a une araignée au plafond.

The Combat of Saint-Cast and Putin’s Delusion

What Putin seemed to expect in February 2022, having surprisingly announced the “surprise” invasion–the special military operation–was being launched, was to shape and ensure through his words a situation similar to 2014 when Russian troops, dubbed the “green men”, moved without warning and somewhat stealthily into Crimea and the Donbas. To that extent, in his mind, the result of his address, particularly the points of which he spoke directly to the Ukrainian armed forces, should have been something akin to the legend of “The Combat of Saint-Cast”. The legend, judged by some historians to be a “Victorian confabulation,” is admirably discussed in Lewis Spence, Legends and Romances of Brittany (Pinnacle Press, 2017), As the story goes, In 1758 a British army was landed upon the shores of Brittany with the object of securing for British merchant ships safety in the navigation of the Channel and of creating a diversion in favor of the German forces, then our allies. A company of men from Lower Brittany, from the towns of Tréguier and Saint-Pol-de-Léon, says Villemarqué, were marching against a detachment of Scottish Highlanders. When at a distance of about a mile the Bretons could hear their enemies singing a national song which resembled “The Garb Of Old Gaul”.  “The Garb Of Old Gaul” (also known as Auld Gaul) is an 18th-century patriotic Scottish march. The title “Garb of Old Gaul” refers to the traditional Highland dress, ancient Gaul being thought of at the time as the heartland of the Celtic peoples. “The Garb Of Old Gaul” begins: In the garb of old Gaul with the fire of old Rome, / From the heath cover’d mountains of Scotia we come, / Where the Roman’s endeavour’d our country to gain, / But our ancestors fought, and they fought not in vain.

Spence reports in Legends and Romances of Brittany: “at once they halted, stupefied, for the air was one well known to them, which they were accustomed to hear almost every day of their lives. Electrified by the music, which spoke to their hearts, they arose in their enthusiasm and themselves sang the patriotic refrain. It was the Highlanders’ turn to be silent. All this time the two companies were nearing one another, and when at a suitable distance their respective officers commanded them to fire; but the orders were given, says the tradition, ‘in the same language,’ and the soldiers on both sides stood stock-still. Their inaction, however, lasted but a moment, for emotion carried away all discipline, the arms fell from their hands, and the descendants of the ancient Celts renewed on the field of battle those ties of brotherhood which had once united their fathers.” Unlike the Scots and Bretons nearly 265 years ago at Saint-Cast,  Russian and Ukrainian troops had no problem firing upon each other. The ties of brotherhood were not renewed on the battlefields of Ukraine.  Perhaps, the first verse edited for present circumstances might be altered to the following: “When the Russians sic [Romans] endeavored our country to gain, / Our ancestors fought, and they fought not in vain.”

Soldiers of the Soviet Union (above), likely from a mix of the then 16 union republics, on the attack during World War II, armed with PPSh-41 “burp guns”. Most prescient in Putin’s mind during his February 24, 2022 address appeared to be the Soviet ties between the Russian and Ukrainian people during World War II. At least that seemed to be his strongest selling point. Putin put much into his perception of an unwavering sense of comradeship between the Russian and Ukrainian people’s as former Soviet citizens. Putin convincingly gave the impression that he was hooked on the idea that among the officers, men, and women of the Ukrainian armed forces there was a lingering sense of Soviet unity equal to his own, Putin would go as far as to implore the Ukrainian armed forces to submit to his will and allow Russian troops to once again simply march into their country.

Putin surely appeared quite confident about his assessments of the situation and forecasts of how events would unfold. Yet, one should always expect the unexpected. It would have been daylight madness for Putin to think Ukrainian forces were so weak that they could not even figuratively brush a harassing fly off their nose. Passivity should hardly have been expected of Kyiv the second time by anyone thinking clearly in the Kremlin. Allowing Russia to walk into Ukraine the first time in 2014 has doubtlessly tormented leaders in Kyiv since, believing it was a gross error. For Kyiv to allow Russia to walk into Ukraine a second time would surely have been an historical act of gross negligence. Herodutus of Halicarnassus (c. 484 B.C.-c. 425 B.C.), was a renowned Greek historian of the Hellenic period, referred to as “the father of history” and known as for The Histories, his masterwork which mainly discusses the struggles between Greece and Persia. In Book 7, Chapter. 226 of The Histories, Herodotus provides an anecdote about Dianeces, who he describes as the bravest Spartan, pertinent to Putin’s likely reaction to reports indicating the Ukrainians were better prepared than he imagined. He writes: “Before battle was joined they say that someone from Trachis warned him [Dianeces] how many Persians there were by saying that when they fired their bows, they hid the sun with the mass of arrows. Dianeces, so the story goes, was so dismissive of the Persian numbers that he calmly replied, “All to the good, my friend from Trachis. If the Persians hide the sun, the battle will be in shade rather than sunlight.”

There may have been those in the Russian Federation Armed Forces who did not agree that Ukraine would rollover for Russia much as it had in 2014. However, once that fantastic position was generally accepted by Putin and his chief advisers, there was no room left to contradict it. François-Marie Arouet (November 21, 1694–May 30, 1778), most famous under his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer, philosopher, and leading writer of the enlightenment. Voltaire was recorded as stating in “Catalogue pour la plupart des écrivains français qui ont paru dans Le Siècle de Louis XIV, pour servir à l’histoire littéraire de ce temps,” Le Siècle de Louis XIV (1752): “Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort.” (It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.)

It was discovered a few weeks into its special military operation in Ukraine that a good amount of what one organization among the Russian intelligence services had provided Putin was pure fabrication. That was revealed to the world by the Russian government itself. Yet, that revelation had no impact on the prosecution of the war. No troops were withdrawn. No discernable urgency was placed on reaching a negotiated peace. In greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post entitled, “Brief Meditations on the Role of Deception, Deceit, and Delinquency in the Planning, Preparations, and Prosecution of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”, it was discussed that there is the possibility that Putin, knowing what he knows, experienced as he is, wanted to be deceived because he so badly wanted to invade Ukraine and needed to show his decision could not be viewed as reckless, but rather based in reason that would be generally accepted.

Putin also expressed in his February 24, 2022 address what might have posed a conscious or subconscious snag in his confidence over success in Ukraine. That was his concern over the West’s level of assistance to, and influence upon Kyiv since the collapse of the government led by his stern ally former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Putin indeed discovered after the invasion that the assistance that the West had been providing Ukraine, to include training and equipping its forces to meet Russian aggression on which former US President Donald Trump was impeached, turned out to be far greater in degree and quality than Putin likely ever imagined.

Putin reflecting (above). One might suggest Putin’s military priority Ukraine aligns with his spoken political goal, the elimination of Ukraine as a military, economic, and political ally of the West and the reduction of Ukraine as a military ally and obviation of the country from as a potential military threat to Russia. Yet, one cannot possibly be absolutely certain of Putin’s priority with any genuine expression from him to confirm the idea as true. It was stated by the aforementioned Polybius in The Histories that “true policy does not regard only the immediate necessities of the hour, but must ever look still more keenly to the future.” To that extent, one might also suggest that with Putin and his advisers having a mind to the future, precepts of economic warfare, which have shaped Russian military doctrine, played a considerable role in decisionmaking in the Kremlin on Ukraine.

A Second Look at the Ukraine War’s Causation

In his Dialogue xiv, Le Chapon et la Poularde (1763); reported in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), Voltaire states: “Ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et n’emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées.” (Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.) As the situation has developed in Ukraine, it would seem that has been a goal. However, at least in terms of conquering territory in Ukraine, to the degree that Moscow can, it is possible that Russian aims were of far greater yet at the same time, very traditional in nature. Theorizing on the possibility of war during the period now realized as the run up to invasion, greatcharlie indicated in its January 25, 2022 post entitled,Resolving the Ukraine Crisis: How Better Understanding Putin and the Subtle and Profound Undercurrent Influencing His Thinking on the West Might Help”: “the main objective of the deployment of Russian forces would be to create a sufficient buffer in Ukraine between Russian and ‘ever expanding NATO forces.’ In performing this task, Russian forces would ensure territory and forces that might remain in Kyiv’s control would be of less utility to NATO as potential a launching pad for a ground attack on Russia and could not be used as part of a larger strategy to contain Russia at its own border. Since then, Putin has doubled down regarding such rhetoric. During the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, 2022, Putin claimed that Kyiv was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. He asserted there were parallels between the Soviet Union’s struggle against Nazi Germany and Russia’s current confrontation with Ukraine, the west and NATO. Further, with words somewhat more acerbic and accusatory than in his February 24, 2022 address, Putin stated US was assisting forces with historic links to the Nazis, who were planning to terrorise the Donbas and invade Crimea. As Russian soldiers were defending historical territory that belonged to the motherland, Putin exclaimed they were “fighting for the same thing their fathers and grandfathers did”.

One might suggest Putin’s military priority Ukraine aligns well with his spoken political goal, the elimination of Ukraine as a military, economic, and political ally of the West and the reduction of Ukraine as a military ally and obviation of the country from as a potential military threat to Russia. Yet, one cannot possibly be absolutely certain of Putin’s priority with any genuine expression from him to confirm the idea as true. In his work also entitled The Histories, Polybius (c. 200 B.C.-c. 118 B.C.), the renowned Greek “pragmatic historian” and intriguingly an eyewitness to the siege and destruction of Carthage accompanying none other than Cornelius Scipio Aficanus as one of his commanders, well-covers the Punic Wars. In it, Polybius states that “true policy does not regard only the immediate necessities of the hour, but must ever look still more keenly to the future.” To that extent, one might also suggest that with Putin and his advisers having a mind to the future, precepts of economic warfare, which have shaped Russian military doctrine, played a considerable role in decisionmaking in the Kremlin on Ukraine. While there are other documents, expressions that are reveal how such ideas have had an impact, the one in which greatcharlie is best familiar with is what was called the “Top Secret” 2013 Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation.

The 2013 plan was developed in response to Moscow’s concerns with NATO expansion and Putin’s sense that the Russian Federation stands vulnerable to the US “tricks” and noted In greatcharlie’s November 16, 2016 post entitled, “Belarus Allows Small Demonstrations Outside KGB Headquarters: As Belarus Curries Favor with the West, Can It Help Russia, Too?”. That 2016 post noted that on February 14, 2013 at a conference called “Russia’s Military Security in the 21st Century,” the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, provided a glimpse of Russia’s official assessment of future wars it may face as outlined in the top secret Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation. He explained that the Russian Federation General Staff believed future conflicts will be “Resource Wars.” Indeed, he further explained that they concluded the depletion of energy resources will soon become an ultimate world crisis and overtake regions. Severe shortages of oil, gas and other natural resources would cause their prices to steeply rise. The senior military leaders also foresaw outside powers, primarily the US and its allies, may invade their country from several directions to physically grab territory and its resources. The Kremlin has accepted the threat assessment of the Russian Federation General Staff. Putin signed the Plan of Defense of the Russian Federation into law on January 29, 2013. The plan apparently guided Russia’s defense spending in 2016 which exceeded 6 percent of Russia’s GDP, along with national security and federal law enforcement budgets totaling an additional 3 percent. The plan has also guided the Russian military build-up in the Arctic, the Pacific, the Baltic, in Crimea and on the Ukrainian border. The Syria expedition was also part of that picture. Russian Federation Defense Minister, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, when announcing the massive strategic military exercises, Zapad 2017, explained on November 2, 2016: “The US and NATO are actively increasing their offensive potential, building new bases and developing military infrastructure, undermining international stability, and attempting to impose their will by economic sanctions and use of military force. A propaganda information war is raging.” Shoigu further stated that Russian borders were being threatened and adequate defensive measures are being taken.” All of these ideas based on defending against Russia’s main opponent, the US and the West, run contrary to notions in the Western governments on the need to combat climate change, the move away from fossil fuels via public policy. One might presume, however, that in Moscow, such notions emanating from the West are beside the point.

Praeterea qui alium sequitur nihil invenit, immo nec quaerit. (Besides, he who follows another not only discovers nothing but is not even investigating.) Admittedly, on matters concerning economics, greatcharlie, not being steeped in them, figuratively goes out into a darkness in the midst of which it “does walk with an assured step.” Economists and historians alike hopefully might charitably read this bit with an open mind and aqua vitae on hand.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote that the main source of instability in the international system would be capitalist globalization, more specifically the conflict between two classes: the “national bourgeoisie” and the “cosmopolitan proletariat.” Historical materialism would be Marxism’s guideline in understanding the processes both in domestic and international affairs. Thereby, from the perspective of Marx, human history amounted to a struggle to satisfy material needs and to resist class domination and exploitation. Surely greatcharlie dates itself by relying on Bernard Brodie for support in this portion of its discussion as it has relied upon his work over the last 40 years. However, in his War and Politics (Macmillan, 1978), the renowned military strategist and proponent of the strategy of deterrence, known affectionately as “the American Clausewitz”, explained the Marxian theory of war causation has an explicit historical limitation. One might read into the Marxian philosophy a general emphasis on the economic interpretation of history that would seem to favor the notion that all wars are due primarily to economic causes. Marx’s main theoretical preoccupations were with the period of history marked by fully developed capitalism. Marx was uninterested in what were the respective causes of wars before that period of history. Nevertheless, his claims concerning the application of his ideas within that period were all-embracing. According to Marx, all important wars and important international conflict during that period resulted from the existence of the capitalist form of society. One might discern a theoretical weakness from the outset, as one sees no conspicuous increas,e in frequency of wars historically following the emergence of what Marx would call fully developed capitalism. On the other hand, Brodie concluded, there is no obvious reason why wars should not have distinctively different causes at different phases of world history. Intriguingly, such dialectic disagreements concerning old Soviet Marxism and Western capitalism have hardly been amplified in the West as a major cause for the dysfunctional relationship between it and Putin’s Russia. Nevertheless, when one hears from Putin, those disagreements are made more apparent. In less promoted, lesser known tracts and speeches, Putin stated as much beginning as early his first year as Russian Federation President. (Please see Putin’s December 31, 1999 essay, “Russia at the Turn of the Millenium”, that appeared on the website of the Russian Federation government. Putin’s expression as this type are discussed in greater detail in greatcharlie’s June 18, 2019 post entitled, “Why Putin Laments the Soviet Union’s Demise and His Renewed “Struggle” with the US: A Response to an Inquiry from Students”.)

To delve further with regard to Marx and war causation, in later years, a school of advocates, quite different from him and his Orthodox followers, even to the extent that they did not regard themselves as Communists, furthered Marxian theory, with what was dubbed neo-Marxian theory. They theorized that neither stupidity nor chauvinism or individual psychological quirks or wrong-headed ideologies among substantial numbers of people may have accounted for most of the wars of the modern era. Instead they have put the blame entirely on one emotion, that of personal greed, and have shifted primary guilt from the institution of capitalism to the individual capitalist. The latter has to be rich enough to be extremely influential politically and corrupt enough to use his political influence to advance his own profit at whatever cost to the nation. To that extent, it is worth noting that in a December 24, 1946 an address at the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree at the White House, US President Harry S. Truman stated: “Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles.”

In greatcharlie’s February 4, 2022 post entitled, “Recherché Pieces of the Putin Puzzle That May Serve To Better Enable Engagement with Him as Either an Adversary or a Partner Regarding Ukraine”, it is noted that Putin has stated more than once that he believes the US is run by unseen power brokers, individuals with unmatched business interests. These individuals, who would likely be categorized by Putin as the aforementioned “independent capitalist”, Putin would likely submit, have accounted for most US wars and others in the modern era. They have a singular degree of political influence and use their political influence to advance their own profit at whatever cost to the country. On the official website of the Kremlin is the transcript of a May 29, 2017 interview Putin provided the French publication Le Figaro. In it, Putin depicts those who, in his view, pull the strings of US presidents. He states: “I have already spoken to three US Presidents. They come and go, but politics stay the same at all times. Do you know why? Because of the powerful bureaucracy. When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits, just like mine, except for the red tie, since they wear black or dark blue ones. These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes. This is what happens with every administration.” Putin went on to say concerning US presidents: “Changing things is not easy, and I say this without any irony. It is not that someone does not want to, but because it is a hard thing to do.” During a June 11, 2022 interview in Moscow with NBC News, Putin was told Biden viewed him as a leader of autocrats, who is determined to undermine the liberal democratic order. The interviewer asked Putin if it was true. In response, Putin vaguely referenced unknown parties who he believes are iInfluencing perspectives of Russia’s bilateral relationships and himself. Putin stated: “Well, I don’t know. Somebody presents it from a certain perspective. Somebody looks at the development of this situation and at yours truly (THROAT CLEARING) in a different manner. All of this is being offered to the public in a way that is found to be expedient for the ruling circles of a certain country.”

Putin (above) holds a doctorate in Economics from Leningrad State University. Long before he became the legendary Russian President that he is today, Putin was a doctoral candidate at Leningrad State University (now the University of St. Petersburg). Putin’s 1997 thesis was titled “Strategic Planning of the Reproduction of the Mineral Resource Base of a Region Under Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations.” Putin’s research made him quite knowledgeable about the resources of countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. He would be very aware of Ukraine’s wealth in minerals, particularly in the eastern and southeastern regions. Ukraine in fact holds approximately 5 percent of the world’s mineral resources. Perhaps in his mind he imagined how future generations of Russians could benefit greatly through the possession of such resources. That would be one more piece of his legacy, the legacy of Putin’s Russia.

Putin the Mineralogist

Long before he became the legendary Russian President that he is today, Putin was a doctoral candidate at Leningrad State University (now the University of St. Petersburg). (A fuller discussion of that period of Putin’s life can be found in greatcharlie’s March 31, 2017 post entitled “Book Review: Vladimir Putin, First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia’s President (Public Affairs, 2000)). The rector at the St. Petersburg State Mining University as of this writing, Vladimir Litvinenko, chaired the committee that awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin his doctorate in Economics in 1997. He recently stated that Putin’s thesis was titled “Strategic Planning of the Reproduction of the Mineral Resource Base of a Region Under Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations.” Putin’s economic studies, at what was then Leningrad State University, were most likely heavily doused in Marxian theory. Even more pertinent here, his research made him quite knowledgeable about the resources of countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. He would be very aware of Ukraine’s wealth in minerals, particularly in the eastern and southeastern regions. Indeed, Ukraine has a large supply of many valuable mineral and raw material resources. Ukraine in fact holds approximately 5 percent of the world’s mineral resources. Its significant mineral resources include: iron ore, coal, manganese, uranium ore, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury. As for stocks of iron, manganese, titanium and uranium ore Ukraine is ranked first among European countries. As for mercury ore reserves, it is second only to Spain. It seems, Putin wants it all for Russia. Perhaps in his mind he imagined how future generations of Russians could benefit greatly through the possession of such resources. That would be one more piece of his legacy, the legacy of Putin’s Russia.

Putin the Despoiler

As for the amounts of these resources that have fallen into Russia’s hands, coal, the main fossil fuel of Ukraine, is mined in the Donetsk and Lviv-Volyn basins. The Donetsk Basin is the largest in Ukraine. It is located within the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts–provinces. At the time of this writing Luhansk oblast has essentially fallen to Russian troops and their attacks in the Donetsk oblast have intensified. A titanium ore deposit exists in Dnipropetrovsk oblast which reportedly has virtually unlimited reserves. Titanium is used in constructing rockets, submarines, making synthetic rubber,artificial rubies, sapphires, and products of that nature. Dnipropetrovsk oblast borders Donetsk oblast to the west, and its capture may be a likely follow-on objective of the Russian drive into Ukraine. Raw materials for aluminum production include nephelines in the Azov Sea area and boxites in the Vysokopillya deposit in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast. These areas are mainly under Russian control or, as aforementioned, may soon be. 

Ukraine reportedly has modest recoverable resources of uranium, recorded to be 225.000 tU in IAEA Red Book 2011. Uranium mining began in 1948 at Pervomayskoye in the Crimea, and 65.000 tU have been produced. Records indicate production reached about 1.000 tU/yr. Records indicate that it reached 960 tU in 2012 and 922 tU in 2013. Production was forecasted to increase by 2014-2015. 

There are oil and gas deposits in Ukraine, however, their reserves are not significant. Reportedly, reserves of these fossil fuels were depleted during the Soviet period. Ukraine has Europe’s third-largest shale gas reserves at 1.2 trillion cubic meters. There have been two potentially large shale gas fields. One is the Yuzivska gas field located in the Donetsk oblast and Kharkiv oblast. In 2013 the government of Ukraine reached a sharing agreement on shale gas produced at Yuzivska and Oleska with Dutch Shell and US Chevron. That in itself would be enough to convince Putin that there has been a longstanding interest within the US in Ukraine’s shale gas resources.

When it annexed Crimea in 2014, Russia managed to capture a considerable portion of Ukraine’s energy resources, to include the complete loss of its Black Sea gas fields. By Ukraine’s own statistics collected before the February 24, 2022 invasion, resources in the northwestern part of the Black Sea shelf were estimated at 495.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 50.4 million tons of oil and condensate. In the Kerch area, resources were estimated at 321.2 billion cubic meters of gas and 126.8 million tons of oil and condensate. In the continental slope, resources were estimated at 766.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 232 million tons of oil and condensate. The total gas potential of the Black Sea shelf was estimated at 2.3 billion tons of fuel. It is approximately 40 percent of total gas deposits in Ukraine. Though the industry requires large investments, the development of The Black Sea deposits was viewed as a possible means by which Ukraine could effectively reduce its dependence on gas supplies from Russia.

Besides having them is keeping them from others, another considerable benefit of capturing the natural resources in eastern and southeastern Ukraine was keeping the West from having access to them. Thereby, by securing Ukraine’s oil and gas resources, its mineral mines, and large ports, Putin likely feels he has taken a huge step in the direction of making Ukraine undesirable to the West. Only in ground combat, extracting Russian forces from Ukraine by force of arms, would the situation be potentially altered. It is very likely Putin postulated a while back that there is in fact nothing so special, so endearing about the Ukrainians that would cause Western powers to take such an interest in them. He likely felt certain that it is Ukraine’s proximity to Russia, making an ideal potential base for attack against it, its natural resources and its ports on the Black Sea and the Azov Sea which makes it so attractive.

In “Master of the Secret World: John Le Carré on Deception, Storytelling and American Hubris” by Andrew Ross, in Salon (21 October 1996), a quote is provided from the great British spy novelist John Lé Carre that is most apposite to what is discussed here. Le Carré stated: “In every war zone that I’ve been in, there has been a reality and then there has been the public perception of why the war was being fought. In every crisis, in every confrontation that has come my way, the issues have been far more complex than the public has been allowed to know.”

A map of Ukraine’s east and southeast (above), displaying the resource rich Donetsk, Luhansk, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts and the Azov Sea. A great amount of Ukraine’s natural these resources that have fallen into Russia’s hands, coal, the main fossil fuel of Ukraine, is mined in the Donetsk and Lviv-Volyn basins. The Donetsk Basin is the largest in Ukraine. It is located within the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts–provinces. At the time of this writing Luhansk oblast has essentially fallen completely to Russian forces and their attacks in the Donetsk oblast have intensified. A titanium ore deposit exists in Dnipropetrovsk oblast which reportedly has virtually unlimited reserves. Titanium is used in constructing rockets, submarines, making synthetic rubber, artificial rubies, sapphires, and products of that nature. Dnipropetrovsk oblast borders Donetsk oblast to the west, and its capture may likely be a follow-on objective of the Russian drive into Ukraine. Raw materials for aluminum production include nefelines in the Azov Sea area and boxites in the Vysokopillya deposit in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast. These areas are under Russian control or, as aforementioned, may soon be.

Have the Russian Federation Armed Forces Recovered after Earlier Failures?

Prewar in the West, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was speculated upon by many commentators to be something akin to a one act drama with an early curtain. Many were seemingly married to the idea that the Russian armed forces were ten feet tall. The danger ostensibly posed by Russian forces was worthy of a 2 percent expenditure on military articles pertinent for battle and training and maintaining their armed forces every year by NATO Members. Despite all that transpired, on February 24, 2023 the walls came down on what was supposed to be a Russian military juggernaut. So rapidly did Ukrainian forces discover and exploit the weakness of Russian forces wherever they could find them. Aux innocents les mains pleines. To be frank, the Russian Ground Force was very plainly outmatched by the Ukrainian fighters and lost in cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv. The General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were left with few good options but to pull back from the Kyiv as well as the Chernihiv regions regroup elsewhere. That elsewhere has been inside Ukraine, across the east, southeast and southern borders. Those forces and their movements have been aggregated and have formed a solid front. 

As expressed in greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post, anyone trying to paint a picture of what was happening in the Russian command over the Ukrainian security operation would accurately produce an ugly daub. What has been discovered since the invasion began is that Russia had been running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central commander on the ground to coordinate air, ground and sea units. Reportedly, that tack assists in explaining why the invasion struggled against an unexpectedly stiff Ukrainian resistance, and was plagued by poor logistics and flagging morale. In situations that require flexibility, innovation, thinking through problems, unit commanders at the squad, platoon, company, and even battalion levels in advanced armies are instructed to improvise and adapt. Since that is not taught and trained into the officers and noncommissioned officers of the Russian Army, once in contact with an opponent, units up to the battalion level–the battalion being the main tactical formation of the a Russian Army–tended to suffer greatly. Often commanders of many units handled their troops and equipment as if they were participating in an exercise–parking companies and battalions of T-90 tanks and BMP armored personnel carriers on open roads without air cover or organic antiaircraft systems providing security–rather than moving in strength behind enemy lines in a shooting war. Disorganized assaults reportedly also contributed to the deaths of several Russian generals, as high-ranking officers were pushed to the front lines to untangle tactical problems that Western militaries would have left to more junior officers or senior enlisted personnel.

From what can be seen in broadcast and online videos, albeit most provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, no security was set up for units not in contact with their opposing forces in forward battle areas. There were visibly no pickets for armored and mechanized units while halting on roads, no moving pickets, no flank security, no air defense even watching the skies with heavy machine guns. This was the case despite foreknowledge that Ukrainian tank hunters with javelins and Turkish drones were lurking on the ground and in the air in their vicinities. Javelins and stingers provided to Ukrainian forces by the West were exploited to the point at which they had a multiplier effect on the battlefield. To that extent, a popular feature in the broadcast and online newsmedia on the Ukraine War are videos of formations of Russian T-90s and BMPs being identified and destroyed by Ukrainian drones or being hit by Ukrainian troops using javelins. Highways, roads, and even trails were seemingly used as a means to locate Russian armored and mechanized units, which were naturally traveling in the direction toward Ukrainian lines on them. Suffice it to say, practically the whole world via the international newsmedia learned this was the situation in the field. No amount of spin by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense could alter the truth of what was witnessed. Russian commanders at the company and battalion levels virtually sabotaged their units as a result of their repeated delinquencies. 

The annual, immense Zapad exercises of the Russian Federation armed forces, much touted by Moscow, clearly were not exactly all that they were made to appear to be in terms of demonstrating their true strength and capabilities of the Russian armed forces, as well as the possibilities for their use. Putin, himself, had regularly observed the Zapad exercises and everything seemed fine enough, but it was not. Military commanders simply went through the motions with elaborate displays of firepower and mobility with little to no concern about how it would all come together in real world situations. This aspect is discussed in greater detail in greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post. In the end, the Russian armed forces fought the way they practiced. Commanders were left with no other way to do things. All the illusions created by the well-choreographed military drills were disintegrated in the light of reality.

The deficiencies and delinquencies of a commander or a group of commanders can become consistent enough to become predictable. Such shortcomings, when left uncorrected, can be well-exploited by a discerning opponent and can serve to determine the outcome of a campaign.

Discussing, in The Histories, the deficiencies and delinquencies of Hannibal, the great Carthaginian commander of the Second Punic War, whom he refers to as “Hanno,” Polybius notes that the Carthaginian commander had achieved regular success in defense. In fact, he states “duly he showed considerable ability, but he was quite a different man at the head of a sally in force: he was not sagacious in his use of opportunities, and managed the whole business with neither skill nor promptitude.” Polybius supports his view reviewing Hannibal’s failed first expedition to relieve Utica, during which he claims Hannibal very nearly brought the besieged, as well as himself, to utter destruction. He brought from Carthage catapults and darts, and in fact all the apparatus for a siege; and having encamped outside Utica undertook an assault upon the enemy’s entrenchment. Polybius notes “The number of his elephants, of which he had as many as a hundred, struck terror into the enemy.” He reports: “The elephants forced their way into the camp, and the enemy, unable to withstand their weight and the fury of their attack, entirely evacuated the position. They lost a large number from wounds inflicted by the elephants’ tusks; while the survivors made their way to a certain hill, which was a kind of natural fortification thickly covered with trees, and there halted, relying upon the strength of the position.” However, having achieved all of that Polybius says Hannibal made poor a use of the advantage he created. 

Polybius determined that Hannibal, “accustomed to fight with Numidians and Libyans, who, once turned, never stay their flight till they are two days removed from the scene of the action, imagined that he had already put an end to the war and had gained a complete victory.” He then was remiss, and gave little attention afterward to his men, or about the camp generally, but “went inside the town and occupied himself with his own personal comfort.” However, mercenaries among his opposition, who had fled in a body on to a hill within close proximity to Hannibal’s camp, had been trained in the daring tactics of the Barcas according to Polybius. (Barca was Hannibal’s family name. His father Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginians during the First Punic War.). Polybius suggests those mercenaries were also accustomed from “their experience in the Sicilian warfare to retreat and return again to the attack many times in the same day.” Once they discovered Hannibal “had left his army and went into the town, and that the soldiers, owing to their victory, were behaving carelessly, and in fact slipping out of the camp in various directions: they accordingly got themselves into order and made an assault upon the camp; killed a large number of the men; forced the rest to fly ignominiously to the protection of the city walls and gates; and possessed themselves of all the baggage and apparatus belonging to the besieged, which Hanno had brought outside the town in addition to his own, and thus put into the hands of the enemy.” Polybius notes that “this was not the only instance of his incompetence.”

A woman (above) walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, outside Kyiv, in April  2022. As expressed in greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post, anyone trying to paint a picture of what was happening in the Russian command over the Ukrainian security operation would accurately produce an ugly daub. What has been discovered since the invasion began is that Russia had been running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central commander on the ground to coordinate air, ground and sea units. Reportedly, that tack assists in explaining why the invasion struggled against an unexpectedly stiff Ukrainian resistance, and was plagued by poor logistics and flagging morale. In situations that require flexibility, innovation, thinking through problems, unit commanders at the squad, platoon, company, and even battalion levels in advanced armies are instructed to improvise and adapt. Since that is not taught and trained into the officers and noncommissioned officers of the Russian Army, once in contact with an opponent, units up to the battalion level–the battalion being the main tactical formation of the a Russian Army–tended to suffer greatly.

Problems Rest at the Commander’s Doorstep

Moscow could not hide the fact that Russian forces were in trouble in Ukraine. With much fanfare,, by March 29, 2022, it was announced by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense that it was shifting its focus to expanding the territory held by pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donbas region. The Russian Federation Defense Minister, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu stated hours before the talks the “main goal” was now the “liberation” of Donbas. This shift left little doubt in the minds of observers outside of Russia that an apparent initial plan to move rapidly to capture major cities in Ukraine and replace the national government had failed or at least had not gone as planned. That surely signaled that big problems might lie ahead for them. There was an attempt to spin the matter as a success. As aforementioned, a big part of that was to omit any discussion of the terrible costs in troops, materiél, and treasure for the military’s blunders. As the matter was laid out by the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, head of the General Staff’s main operations administration stated “The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been carried out.” He further stated: The combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces have been substantially reduced, which allows us to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal: the liberation of Donbas.” Clearly, the focus of Rudskoy’s spin was an effort to convince that efforts to encircle key Ukrainian cities as Kyiv and making them subjecting them the multiple airstrikes and artillery onslaught was to pin down Ukrainian forces elsewhere in the country in order to allow Russian forces to focus on the east. Thinking reasonably, one might imagine that Putin would unlikely be willing to begin a new adventure for greater gains eastward. Still, casting reason aside, there remains the chance that he still wishes to capture Kyiv and Kharkiv, and add to that Odesa. He may be insisting upon those actions and engaged in the process of planning them with his generals.

At first blush, many Western military analysts generally foresaw the shift in Russia’s approach as an effort by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation might have in mind trapping Ukrainian forces situated in eastern Ukraine roughly between the Donbas and the Dnieper River. Executing a two pronged attack, with one force moving north to south, the other moving south to north, Russian forces could potentially move to cut those forces off from the rest of Ukraine and their comrades defending larger cities and new units being trained in the western part of the country. Once the Ukrainian forces were cut off, the Russians would then seek to kill it.

It is still unclear whether Russian forces have recovered from the theater of errors in the first phase of the special military operation. It would be difficult enough to change tactics, techniques and procedures broadly for a force in constant contact with an opponent at multiple points, especially when initiative and independent thinking is not emphasized. Having a good portion of those forces somewhat battered and tattered would make carrying out such adjustments far more difficult. Indeed, turning the corner would be a terribly hard thing to do, not only in terms of reshaping and executing a better plan, tactics, and performing better, but in terms of motivating the troops to fight and win despite what had already transpired in the disastrous drives against Kyiv and Kharkiv. Russian Federation commanders and planners were surely clear eyed about all that. It is likely that there was likely an unspoken, private fear within the forces fighting in Ukraine that victory was out of reach. The early phases had gone too poorly to dismiss, just shrug off. Interestingly, if one lives with failure too long, one sometimes forgets what success is or how to achieve it.

The Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was quoted as saying: “Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.” On April 9, 2022, Russian Federation General of the Army Aleksandr Dvornikov was appointed commander of the special military operation in Ukraine. The sort of leader, thinker, manager, and commander that Dvornikov is mostly known from what Russia’s Ministry of Defense has released, all of it being very positive. On April 10, 2022, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) dispassionately described Dvornikov with the following: “Dvornikov, 60, served in Chechnya in the 1990s and in 2015 became the first Russian commander to lead military operations in Syria. Since 2016, he has overseen the southern military district, which includes Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russia in 2014.” RFE/RL continues by stating: “Dvornikov has a notorious reputation for his conduct of the war in Syria, where Russia bombed civilian districts. Putin awarded Dvornikov the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards, for his work in Syria.” It was likely hoped that Dvornikov’s presence at the helm of the special military operation would have a steadying effect throughout the armed forces. Dvornikov has become quite a figurehead for the Russian Army cutting a tough as nails image, captivating Russian soldiers and officers alike, raising morale to some degree, albeit modest perhaps, by his presence. The big question is whether he can make a difference.

If Russian forces can manage to completely dislocate Ukrainian forces in the Donbas and push them out of and away from the region and more importantly away from the Russian border, it would be an enormous relief for Shoigu, Gerasimov and Dvornikov. However, their problems would hardly be over. A well-armed, well-trained, and well-experienced Ukrainian military staring down at Russia for years to come, if that hypothetically would be the outcome of a negotiated peace, would be the last thing that they would want to leave in place. More than that, it would surely be the last thing that the Russian Federation President would want to leave behind. That may turn out to be a problem that the world will need to contend with.

As it is discussed in greatcharlie’s April 30, 2022 post, Russian Federation commanders and planners are aware that in the fights for urban centers, the ground forces of allies could do more than simply chisel away at enemy lines. Numerical advantages are not rare on the frontlines, yet Russian forces, if they choose to economize in less active areas, could develop superiority at points of their main efforts. An attacker, after concentrating quickly, can normally strike hard at an unexpected place and time to throw the defender off balance. Once the attack is underway, the attackers’ chance of success can be improved if he moves fast, aggressively pressing every advantage, and if the attacker capitalizes on opportunities to destroy the enemy’s forces and the overall coherence of his defense. Russian forces have appeared either too sluggish or to wreck less to accomplish any of this.

Russian Federation commanders and planners also know air power can greatly impact enemy moves in urban centers. If forced to move quickly in the face of Russian air power, an enemy commander would be allowed less time to ensure his unit’s concealment. It could cause him to move when conditions would not impede aircrews’ search of his unit. Rapid movement could also decrease the effectiveness of his air defense systems, allowing aircrews greater freedom to search for his unit, increasing the chance for it to be spotted. So far in Ukraine,  over 95 percent of the Russian Federation Aerospace Force flies 200 sorties a day, and according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, 57 Russian aircraft and 7 Russian drones [unverified] have been downed. However, in response to the Ukrainian air defense threat, Russian aircraft are not evading by flying sorties at 15,000 to 20,000 feet as they had over Syria. Russian aircraft are remaining above Russian airspace and firing air launched cruise missiles into Ukraine. Since aircrews cannot identify targets across the border, airstrikes are made in areas where air intelligence reports the enemy is located. In attacking urban centers, that will always result in collateral damage in the form of civilian deaths and injury and the destruction of nonmilitary structures.

Les portes de l’avenir sont ouvertes à deux qui savent les pousser. Of course, Ukrainian forces will try to have some say in how things turn out for Russian forces in their country. Before Russian forces can do any of that the Ukrainian armed forces would surely like to launch a counteroffensive to drive them out of their country. Given the need for speed to play a role–Ukrainian forces have an uncanny ability to stay a step ahead in the action reaction cycle despite the small amount of experience maneuvering significant sized units on the battlefield that any Ukrainian commanders have had over recent years. One would need to go back to the invasion of Afghanistan decades ago, to point to such an opportunity. A huge issue for the Ukrainian armed forces at this point is fatigue. So much has been asked of so few for so long who were truly fighting, and albeit achieving success, against an opponent well above their weight class. The spirit may be willing to go on but the flesh may not be. Occasio non facile praebetur sed facile ac repente amittitur. (Opportunity is not easily offered, but it is easily and suddenly lost.)

Russian Federation General of the Army Aleksandr Dvornikov (above). On April 9, 2022, Russian Federation General of the Army Aleksandr Dvornikov was appointed commander of the special military operation in Ukraine. The sort of leader, thinker, manager, and commander that Dvornikov is mostly known from what Russia’s Ministry of Defense has released, all of it being very positive. It was likely hoped that Dvornikov’s presence at the helm of special military operation would have a steadying effect throughout the armed forces. Dvornikov has become quite a figurehead for the Russian Army cutting a tough as nails image, captivating Russian soldiers and officers alike, raising morale to some degree, albeit modest perhaps, by his presence. The big question was what to do.

Can a Hastily Deployed Force Recover from Initial Errors and Win a Campaign?

With the intent not to oversimplify, the conundrum Russian commanders face in Ukraine at first glance reminded greatcharlie of the circumstances British forces dealt with during the Boer War. If readers will allow greatcharlie to provide a short overview of the conflict’s genesis, the war began as two Boer Republics the South African Free Republic and the Orange Free State wanted to stemmed British expansion and influence in Southern Africa, especially in the Boer Republic in which large gold deposits were discovered. British citizens from the Cape Colony were denied rights, such as the right to vote and treated as invaders by the Boers. British citizens protested to British authorities in the Cape Colony who in response sought to negotiate with the Boers, but those talks failed. The Boers then began attacking British outposts. British battalions and regiments were hastily mustered and sent to South Africa. Indeed, the British force sent to cope with it was a force acutely less advanced technologically, militarily, intellectually and had drastically less opportunity to organize for military action than the Russian armed forces that invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Once British forces landed in South Africa, a large portion of it concentrated at the garrison town of Ladysmith. On October 30, 1899, a seizable force sallied out to engage Boer armies which were slowly surrounding the town. The result was a disaster for the British. Summarizing what occurred, omitting a discussion on the maneuvers, it is pointed out here how singular deficiencies of artillery and infantry in terms of tactics, techniques, and procedures caused British forces to face severe challenges. 

Regarding British artillery, Its role was somewhat marginalized in the fight. The fire of British guns was not as productive as that of the Boer StaatsartillerieBritish artillery came under accurate and effective fire from the Boers’ field guns, which were fought as individual gun detachments, and were quickly moved between emplacements before British guns could find their range. British field guns did occasionally hit their mark, silencing Boer guns, but not often enough to be called effective. Due to poor reporting on their opponent’s whereabouts, the fire of British guns was often wasted. British guns were deployed as they had been drilled to do, in neat rows of six without using cover from artillery or even rifle fire. Thereby, British gun batteries were regularly incurring casualties.

Regarding British infantry, establishing fire discipline through fusilade by command and movement as a team, no matter how trying the situation, were practices driven into British soldiers through excellence of drill. However, that product of excellence in the drill square and a practice that was effective and successful in battle for the British Army around the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, was liability against the Boers. (In a few short years ahead, on battlefields in Belgium and France, that practice will have no place whatsoever among British troops.) The Boers, although attacking in organized groups, moved independently, rapidly sought cover where they could find it, and fired at targets where they saw them. Since the British infantry relied on drill, they were firing volleys on the command of an officer. By the time the order had been given, the intended target was safe behind cover, while the British soldiers were exposed to fire. Unable to maneuver against or attrite the Boer’s in any effective way combining fire and movement, most often British troops fought their static, fighting in place, suffering heavy casualties, running low on ammunition and supplies, and facing exhaustion. In the end, the British fell back into Ladysmith. An isolated detachment of 800 men was forced to surrender.The day was subsequently termed “Mournful Monday”. The Boers, however, did not immediately take advantage of their victory by proceeding towards the strategically important port of Durban. Instead, they began a siege of Ladysmith. Following a near unrelenting, ferocious struggle to break through to Ladysmith by British regiments and battalions, it was relieved after 118 of that siege. In the end, the overwhelming power of the regiments and battalions of professional military officers and soldiers of the British Army quelled a brutally waged guerilla warfare campaign and overcame all other incumbrances–as aforementioned, some unknowingly self-inflicted–and defeated the rebellious Boers.

It is highly unlikely that Russian commanders studied the British Army’s experience during the Boer War before crossing into Ukraine. However, in a similar way to the ultimately victorious British forces, they likely hope now that overwhelming force and firepower applied effectively and rapidly can achieve immediate results that cannot be so easily responded to or countered by Ukrainian forces. In terms of creating opportunities and options for their political leadership, great gains by Russian forces might support any demands made for compromise from Ukrainian representatives at the negotiation table. Perhaps they may have created opportunities and options for something else.

Dvornikov at war (above). Dvornikov likely hopes now that overwhelming force and firepower applied effectively and rapidly can achieve immediate results that cannot be so easily responded to or countered by Ukrainian forces. In terms of creating opportunities and options for their political leadership, great gains by Russian forces might support any demands made for compromise from Ukrainian representatives at the negotiation table. Perhaps they may have created opportunities and options for something else.

What Will Putin Do with Russia’s Ill-gotten Gains in Eastern Ukraine?

Ukrainian cities and towns have drawn the brunt of Russian forces’ destructive capabilities. It was forecasted in greatcharlie’s February 10, 2022 post entitled, “Commentary: The Choice of War or Peace Between Russia and Ukraine Rests on the Ability of Parties to View Each Other Differently”, in captured Ukrainian cities and towns. Ukrainian civilians, as well as any insurgents mixed among them, might be hemmed into zones by Russian forces. In a horrific twist, the more difficult zones would be better defined as killing zones, in which “cooperative Ukrainians would be separated from more difficult ones. Insurgents in those zones would be required to punch above their weight, likely against the Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) or FSB as well as the Vozdushno Desantnye Voyska (Russian Airborne Forces) or VDV, battered and tattered after fights in the initial stages of the invasion, and other well-suited Russian Federation Army units. They would perhaps need to do that long past the point when reasonably the towel might be thrown. Russian forces could be best informed of how to effectively use such a method by its allies in Beijing. Paramilitary police units of the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Public Security have developed an expertise in this sort of thing. To that extent, an arrangement might be made with Beijing to provide “a sufficient number of advisers” under the control of the Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff-Military Intelligence) or GRU, to assist in the prospective zones. (Putin would likely love to have the Chinese involved in some fashion. He would prefer to share claim to such villainy with China.) It all may seem fanciful, too imaginative, but one must consider the absolute madness of the current circumstance itself, and judge this possibility in that context.

Ideally for Putin, inhabitants of Ukrainian cities and towns will be displaced at such a level that the cities and towns themselves would more or less resemble the southern portion of the city of Famagusta in Cyprus or the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France. (Given results, it almost seems as if Russian engineering officers, artillery officers, air power officers, and ordnance officers, it would seem, are regularly drawing up plans for the systematic demolition of Ukrainian cities and towns, district by district, block by block, using ordnance fired from a variety of weapon systems.) The intermittent attacks on populated areas may indeed have some psychological warfare, punitive, or perhaps even a tactical purpose. Yet, something of far greater conception may be behind them. Perchance Russian commanders, as part of a preconceived plan, seek to displace Ukrainians from their homes, out of the cities and town through “massive evacuations” to make them easier to “manage,” easier to control. Surely, Putin would appreciate having the West finance and supply for their care on the other side of the Dnieper River. Destroying certain parts of cities and towns would also make them far less desirable. At the time of this writing, UN estimates are that over 4.1 million Ukrainians have moved into other countries. When Ukrainians move west, the better things become concerning Putin’s likely plans for Ukraine. 

There might be the chance that citizens of the Russian homeland would be “invited” to relocate and settle in those cities and towns to participate in their reconstruction and, particularly in the southeast, reside in cities and towns in order to reconstruct and work at ports on the Azov Sea and in the many mineral mines. Veterans of the military operation who so inclined could be invited to relocate to the cities and towns they “liberated,” in effect to enjoy the spoils of the war. (Putin must hope that future world events, fate and fortune, will cause sanctions to be lifted just enough that international markets will be open again to Russian products. Not such a fanciful notion, noting again that the current US administration reportedly has turned to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and others to increase production of oil for markets after heavily sanctioning the regimes and industries of those countries, in some cases for years. Some may even be allowed to develop nuclear power plants and reap benefits from uranium production.) In the same vein, Kyiv, if eventually captured–as of the time of this writing that seems doubtful–would imaginably be transformed into a center of Russian Othodox theological study. The return of displaced Ukrainians, an ineluctable issue of any peace negotiations, will likely be difficult to sort out with Moscow. If parts of Ukraine unavoidably must remain in control of Russia at the time of ceasefire or peace talks, how the issue of returnees is settled will doubtlessly influence the speed of reconstruction in certain districts of cities and result in limited numbers of displaced being accepted. Imaginably for Moscow, ethnic-Russians would perhaps be given priority for what it might tacitly consider to be “naturalization.” 

Returning to Polybius, in The Histories, he describes the Roman invasion of Africa in 256-55 BC during the First Punic War, commanded by the ruthless and vengeful M. Atilius Regulus, which resulted in a singular disaster. As the story goes, Carthage lost over 90% of its forces as the Romans achieved a string of successes. The Carthaginian commander was taken prisoner by Regulus. Polybius explained that Regulus had the opportunity to end the war on very favorable terms, however, in 256, the Roman commander pushed his luck and demanded overly harsh terms of surrender. This drove the Carthaginians to fight him again in a battle that ended in a complete Punic victory. The situation on the battlefield was reversed, and the Roman army was nearly annihilated. The outcome was that Africa was freed from the constraints of occupation. Regulus was severely punished, but Rome from that point was put on the defensive. Polybius ends his account of Regulus there. Modern historians report that the First Punic War was fought for another 14 years, wearing down both sides. Rome eventually forced Carthage to surrender after the Battle of Aegates Islands in March 241 BC, on terms lighter than those Regulus had proposed.

Polybius offers a lesson that both Russia and Ukraine might learn from the ill-considered and brash actions of Regulus in the The Histories. He states: “This event conveys many useful lessons to a thoughtful observer. Above all, the disaster of Regulus gives the clearest possible warning that no one should feel too confident of the favors of Fortune, especially in the hour of success.”

Novotoshkivka (above), a small village about 16 miles southeast of Severodonetsk, in Luhansk. Ideally for Putin, inhabitants of Ukrainian cities and towns will be displaced at such a level that the cities and towns themselves would more or less resemble the southern portion of the city of Famagusta on Cyprus or the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France. The regular attacks on populated areas may indeed have some psychological warfare, punitive, or perhaps even a tactical purpose. Perchance Russian commanders, as part of a preconceived plan, seek to displace Ukrainians from their homes, out of the cities and town through “massive evacuations” to make them easier to “manage,” easier to control. Surely, Putin would appreciate having the West finance and supply for their care on the other side of the Dnieper River. When Ukrainians move west, the better things become concerning Putin’s likely plans for Ukraine.

The Way Forward

Putin has created a national security emergency for Russia by invading Ukraine. He realizes Russian forces are performing poorly on the battlefield. He knows that he was not provided the opportunity to give a victory speech in Kyiv. He is aware of the immense drain his special military operation has placed on his military resources. The situation is far from satisfactory. It is a wonder if national leaders in the West, and the foreign and national security policymakers in their respective cabinets at all foresaw this outcome. If so, in all seriousness, they surely should have done more in response the urgent need to “save Putin from himself.” As the situation stands, Russia and Ukraine remain in conflict, and the West is remaining outside of the fighting, but supplying Kyiv with what it needs to handle and possibly completely defeat invading Russian forces. That has been forecast as being a long rather drawn out process in which casualties will continue to mount on both sides. However, in war, things do not always turn out the way one might expect. In viewing the situation in the way just described, from the outside of the policymaking and decisionmaking process of every Western country, it appears to greatcharlie that the West has engaged in a bit of self-deception. A blinddpot appears to have been created, fostered by the sense of security, comfort, due to the unity resulting from long-standing bilateral d multilateral ties, at least among the major industrialized powers, membership in NATO, of course, EU membership, and memberships in a variety of regional organizations. The fact is, as aforementioned, Russia is facing a national security emergency and that is a huge problem for the West because from the lens of Moscow, the West is at the center of its problems and has exacerbated them. 

As far as Moscow is concerned, things have not gone as they were supposed to for Russia in Ukraine. It is unlikely, but nonetheless possible that some genius for war in Russia may emerge and turn the situation on the ground immensely and Russia will move unstoppably to the Polish border. That would settle the matter in the most unfortunate way. However, if the situation collapses for Russia in a profound way his response will include retribution against the West. To that extent, the better Ukraine does on the battlefield offensively, the more dangerous the situation becomes for the West and the world. Just viewing a handful of video clips on the death and destruction levied on Ukraine, a country in relative peace–the Donbas excepted, should not leave anyone to think the one responsible would hesitate to bring worse to the rest of the world. It would seem enough to remind those who have forgotten that Russia is a nuclear superpower.

At the moment, again due to Putin’s choice to invade Ukraine, everyone is actually in the same bucket. Ensuring Putin is unable to worsen the situation certainly requires action, training and equipping and assisting Ukrainian forces with combat support so they can halt and push back Russian forces. Actively working to increase the degree of emergency Russia faces makes the world itself less secure. Again, all parties to the conflict, Ukraine, Russia, and the West are all the same bucket. No one will get out if there is no cooperation, some agreement. To be frank, without any intention to insult, greatcharlie states that to believe anything else would be to delude oneself. 

The idea that fighting in Ukraine can be allowed to go on until some stalemate, some situation on the ground will force the warring parties to negotiate is a lost proposiition. For Russia, its an emergency and perhaps for Putin, the last gasp of power. He cannot lose, he cannot turn back so easily. Ukraine, a country that was once a Soviet republic drew a bad card being so abundant  resources and bordering Russia. It wanted the freedom to decide to join NATO and the EU. It rejected terms that it declare its neutrality. All of that was reasonable, but its insistence on these matters facing Russia under its current leadership could only lead to problems to say the least. There must be a starting point for Ukraine to rebuild, rejuvenate itself. There must be a pot in which Putin must be enabled to stop fighting. The opportunity to forge the best possible peace before the killing began has been long since lost. However, there remains the opportunity to create the framework for an evolving peace that will allow both sides to end hostilities.A robust effort must be made in that direction for the sake of everyone. Potiusque sero quam numquam. (It is better to do something late than never.)

Brief Meditations on the Role of Deception, Deceit, and Delinquency in the Planning, Preparations, and Prosecution of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

A T80BV tank of the Russian Naval Troops, featuring the distinctive “Z” marking and explosive armor (above), sits on the side of a road after being destroyed by Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk province in February 2022. Due to his confidence in the capabilities of his Russia’s armed forces and intelligence services, Putin unlikely believed Ukrainian forces would pose too much a problem. In a pinch, Putin perhaps believed there might be ingenious maneuvers and techniques that would see Russian forces through and thereby lead Russia to inevitable success. That would hardly be a reasonable schema, and indeed, perhaps the last thing one might consider. However, it may be the case that Putin was not thinking or acting reasonably before the invasion and perhaps he hoped to be covered by some miracle. Through this essay, greatcharlie has sought to briefly consider the thinking within, and actions directed from the top floors of the headquarters of the Russian Federation intelligence services and the general staff of the armed forces before the invasion and during to a degree. It highlights a few of the points at which leaders of those national security bureaucracies served Putin poorly.

While Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s February 24, 2022 televised address made just hours before the invasion of Ukraine was not a comprehensive expression of his ideas and theories to include subjects neo-Nazis and Ukrainian sovereignty called attention to here, although in declaring the right to move Russian forces into Ukraine, he plainly indicated that he did not recognize the sovereign rights of the country. He put before his audience a review of his sense of the threat to Russia from the West, more specifically the threat from the US. Looking back, one might argue that Putin cut a foolish figure, speaking so boldly about the actions and intentions of Russian forces and the notion that Ukrainian forces should lay down their arms. 

Putin surely had too much imagination to expect the Ukrainians not to respond to a Russian invasion the second time around. Certainly, Putin learned long ago that there are patterns one can discern that establish order in the human mind. Awareness of that should have factored into calculations on moving against Ukraine. Placidity should hardly have been expected of Kyiv by anyone thinking clearly in the Kremlin. Allowing Russia to walk into Ukraine the first time in 2014 doubtlessly had tormented leaders in Kyiv since, believing it was a gross error. For Kyiv to allow Russia to walk into Ukraine a second time would surely have been an historical act of gross negligence. Putin was always concerned with Western influence on Ukraine in essays, speeches, and interviews. Perhaps it could be said that Putin had too little imagination to recognize how much the West was involved in correctly preparing the Ukrainians for the possibility of a Russian invasion. In reality, the influence that the West had on Ukraine, something he was so concerned with, likely turned out be far greater than he ever imagined.

In setting unrealistic expectations, one sets oneself up for hurt. Never choose illusion over fact. Illusions disintegrate when confronted by reality, confronted by truth. A leader with unrealistic expectations regarding an enterprise can often be the cause of problems from the start. Presumably due to his confidence in the capabilities of Russia’s armed forces and intelligence services, Putin could not imagine Ukraine would pose too much a problem. In a pinch, Putin perhaps believed there might be ingenious maneuvers and techniques that would see Russian forces through and thus lead Russia to inevitable success. That is hardly a schema, and indeed, perhaps the last thing one might reasonably consider. However, it may be the case that Putin was not thinking or acting reasonably before the invasion. What proved to be truer than anything else was the aphorism that anything which can go wrong will go wrong. That is especially true when the lack of preparedness, readiness, and awareness are stark factors in an undertaking. To bend, to retreat back away from the matter of Ukraine is impossible.

Some questions do not have available answers, and one must learn to live with that. Through this essay, greatcharlie has sought to briefly consider the thinking within, and actions directed from, the top floors of the headquarters of the Russian Federation intelligence services and the general staff of the armed forces before the invasion and somewhat during. It highlights a few of the points at which leaders of those national security bureaucracies served Putin poorly. It hopefully provides readers with insights on what may be the tone within the meeting rooms of those bureaucracies and thinking somewhere deep inside top officials. Many of the latest public sources on prewar thinking in Moscow have been utilized for the discussion. However, much within the essay has been conceptualized in the abstract. In public statements, optimism, the best and most available elixir for defeatism, has been employed liberally. Yet, presumably, senior commanders of Russia’s armed forces and executives in the intelligence services concerned may be feeling a bit stuck and stagmating, clutching at straws, and listening to the wind. Given all that has transpired, perhaps those feelings are well-earned. Some current and former military commanders and military analysts in the West observing Russia’s situation must be able to appreciate the predicament of Russian officials given the experience their armies and national security bureaucracies recently in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Omnia præsumuntur rite et solenniter esse acta. (All things are presumed to have been done duly and in the usual manner.)

Putin (above) in the Kremlin attending a meeting with his advisers. Putin, the final authority on all matters that concerned the invasion, the ultimate decisionmaker, believed assessments on conditions in Ukraine produced by the Russian intelligence services, Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (Foreign Intelligence Service) or SVR, Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff-Military Intelligence) or GRU, and Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsi (Russian Federation Federal Security Service) or FSB augured well with regard to taking military action. Perchance, he never thought that much of it was faulty, perhaps even rubbish.

Blindness Bordering on Madness

In The Civil War, Book III, 68, the Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar writes: Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit. (Fortune, which has a great deal of power in other matters but especially in war, can bring about great changes in a situation through very slight forces.) The undeniably disastrous initial results of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appear to stem from challenges faced in the planning of the “special military operation.” As noted earlier, Putin, the final authority on all matters that concerned the invasion, the ultimate decisionmaker, believed assessments on conditions in Ukraine produced by the Russian intelligence services, Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (Foreign Intelligence Service) or SVR, Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye Generalnovo Shtaba (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff-Military Intelligence) or GRU, and Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsi (Russian Federation Federal Security Service) or FSB augured well with regard to taking military action. He never thought that much of it was faulty, perhaps even rubbish. As he should have been aware, in the intelligence industry, the only truth unfortunately is that which those at the top declare it to be.

As for his military forces, Putin surely felt they were well-trained and well-equipped to bring vistory. To be fair, even to Putin, in practical terms, he mainly had the well-choreographed Zapad military and naval exercises to use as a measure of the Russian Federation armed forces effectiveness. The scenarios rehearsed in those exercises were apparently poor preparation for the invasion at hand. The scenarios rehearsed in those exercises were apparently poor preparation for the invasion at hand. There is also the issue that the Zapad exercises were not exactly all that they were made to appear to be in terms of demonstrating their true strength and capabilities of the Russian armed forces, as well as the possibilities for their use. The truth was likely concealed from Putin.

For his own part, he indubitably sought to glean as much as he could about Western actions and intentions by interacting with foreign leaders and officials, and applying that to calculations on probable responses to an invasion of Ukraine. (Without any intention of finger pointing, greatcharlie can only imagine what may have been said in camera and hope nothing uttered off-handedly had no influence in the wrong direction.) Putin was able to not only learn more about but confirm his understanding of what cards the West was holding to use against Russia in case he moved ahead with the invasion. He likely believed at that time that his intelligence services had provided him with a picture of Ukraine that indicated he could proceed with confidence and some assurance. The variable of intelligence seems to have been the weakest link of the chain given ceratin revelations, some discussed here.

The indications and implications of it all for Putin were that he could get all that he wanted. Putin could deal a devastating blow to what he perceived to be the expansionist plans of the US and West.  As important perchance would be having the opportunity to act as a sort of avenging angel of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, a protector of the Russian Orthodox church–a holy warrior, a defender the Russian people and all that is Russian. It is possible that Putin genuinely believes he serves in that role. Putin was so comfortable with the whole matter to the extent he left it to the world to see who he is and what he is doing, and how others might feel or respond was either of no concern or of little real interest to him.

Assumedly, the compounded impact of the intelligence failures and military blunders has doubtlessly had a chilling effect on the thinking of Gospodin Vladimir Vladimirovich with respect to political stimmung at home beyond the Ukraine matter. That likely in turn has added to Western anxieties concerning his mental state.

Putin (left) observes Zapad Exercise alongside Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov (right). As for Russia’s military and naval forces, Putin surely felt they were well-trained and well-equipped to bring vistory. To be fair to Putin, in practical terms, he mainly had the well-choreographed Zapad military and naval exercises to use as a measure of the Russian Federation armed forces’ effectiveness. The scenarios rehearsed in those exercises were apparently poor preparation for the invasion at hand. There is also the issue that the Zapad exercises were not exactly all that they were made to appear to be in terms of demonstrating their true strength and capabilities of the Russian armed forces, as well as the possibilities for their use.

The Intelligence Services

Qui ipse si sapiens prodesse non quit, nequiquam sapit. (A wise man whose wisdom does not serve him is wise in vain.) Perhaps Putin would been better of seeking assistance from an intuitive empath, who, allegedly with confidence bolstered by assistance from spirits, likely would have been better able to predict the response of the Ukrainians to a Russian invasion. Putin is far more than just familiar with the workings of Russian’s intelligence services. It is well-known that he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the in the Soviet Union’s Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (the Committee for State Security) or KGB. Some commentators and analysts prefer to emphasize that his behavior is reflective of the nature of that erstwhile organization’s cold-blooded reputation, brutish methods, and the sinister mindset of its leadership. He was appointed by President Boris Yeltsin as director of the FSB, during which time he reorganized it and dismissed several top personnel. Yet, knowing that problems can exist not only with the behavior of personnel as well as the leadership of the intelligence services, and knowing that reporting from them should be examined with a fine-tooth comb, especially concerning a matter of utmost importance as Ukraine, he seemed to proceed, accepting whatever was handed to him with a blindness that bordered on madness. Whatever his inner voice may have saying, he closed his ear to it. 

Of course, there is the possibility that Putin, knowing what he knows, experienced as he is, wanted to be deceived because he so badly wanted to invade Ukraine and needed to show his decision could not be viewed as wreckless, but rather based in reason that would be generally accepted. Conceivably, Putin may have recognized that there would be no need for him to potentially light the fuse of a figurative political bomb by trying to explain why he took the risk of invading Ukraine knowing Russian forces might face considerable challenges where there were self-crafted patsys in the intelligence services that he could “learn” to be the cause for his “miscalculation.” A most trusted aviser could serve to uncover the malfeasance and identify the patsys involved and present the wrongdoer and the report of their crimes to Putin all tied with a neat bow. The many aspects that could potentially be part of such a line of analysis that cannot be broached in this brief essay. Indeed, greatcharlie is not absolutely certain it possesses the faculty to properly parse out, in the abstract, all of intricacies and psychological angles involved in the round. (Sometimes that sort of tricky approach suggested here works, sometimes it does not. Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte, KB, also known simply as Admiral Nelson, the renowned 18th century British flag officer in the Royal Navy is best known for his victory at the Battle of the Trafalgar in 1805. However, he became a national hero long before then due to his prowess as a naval tactician. In 1801, Nelson destroyed the Danish Navy at the Battle of Copenhagen. During the battle he was sent a signal to break off action by the Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Nelson supposedly put his telescope to his blind eye and told to his Flag Lieutenant, “You know Foley I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.” It is unlikely Nelson had a plan for covering himself in case his bit of jiggery-pokery failed.)

When directed by Putin to place greater emphasis on Ukraine, it may very well have been the case that intelligence collected prior to the capture of Crimea in March 2014 was recycled and used as a yardstick to parse out falsehoods on Ukraine. It would not be the first time that a sophisticated intelligence service of an advanced industrialized power engaged in such behavior and subsequently led to a large-scale military action that might have be averted otherwise. That is a hard saying. Perchance many other top officials in the Russian intelligence services never imagined Putin would invade Ukraine full-scale. As is the case, such ignorance often dissolves into tragedy.

Je m’en fiche! When asked to provide assessments on the situation there, they apparently sought to simply placate Putin, responding to his sentiments on Ukraine. The benefit of taking such a risk would be to stay in his good graces. Thus, they substituted what they understood he believed to be true feeling Putin would brook anything else. It is possible that some took this step not out of delicacy toward him but rather due to contempt. To reach a position of such influence in Putin’s government, one would image such a flaw in character would have been twinkled out much earlier. Apparently, none of the intelligence services presented anything to contradict that information to the extent that it caused Putin any pause. Their assessments were illusions without substance, appearances only. The result was a catastrophe for all involved. The problem can by no means eased out of the way. There was no possibility to put the toothpaste back into the ttube. Those left at the top of their respective intelligence services know they serve at the pleasure of Putin and his whims. The best way for them to survive at this point is to look good, focus on the US, find moles, leaks, and seek help that might make a difference from allies as the Chinese. They know that it would be a mistake to show up at any National Security Council meeting in the Kremlin with nothing to say.

Alexander Bortnikov director of the Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsi (Russian Federation Federal Security Service) or FSB. Although it is not parsed out here, there is the possibility that Putin, knowing what he knows, experienced as he is, wanted to be deceived because he so badly wanted to invade Ukraine and needed to show his decision could not be viewed as wreckless, but rather based in reason that would be generally accepted. Conceivably, Putin may have recognized that there would be no need for him to potentially light the fuse of a figurative political bomb by trying to explain why he took the risk of invading Ukraine knowing Russian forces might face considerable challenges where there were self-crafted patsys in the intelligence services that he could “learn” to be the cause for his “miscalculation.” A most trusted aviser could serve to uncover the malfeasance and identify the patsys involved and present the wrongdoer and the report of their crimes to Putin all tied with a neat bow.

Carelessness or Conspiracy?

Some intelligence services apparently did more in the direction of providing fabrications than others.. From what can be gathered from newsmedia reports about its findings, the FSB foreign intelligence service seemed to have laid it on thick. There were allegedly many unproven torrid statements on the nature of Ukrainian society made concerning the destructive impact of the West on the culture, morality, spiritually, self-image of the people, ultranationalists, and the leadership in Kyiv, and the Ukrainian people’s willingness to stand fast against an invasion. 

According to Western newsmedia reports, the head of FSB foreign intelligence service, the organization’s 5th service, Sergey Beseda, was been placed under house arrest. Arrested with Beseda was his deputy and head of the operational information department, Anatoly Bolyukh. The 5th Service is a division that was established in 1998, when Putin was director of the FSB, to carry out operations in the countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Its mission was to help ensure those countries remained within Russia’s orbit. Western commentators initially alleged the accusations were made against the officers because there was a search on in Moscow to find scapegoats to blame  for the “poor progress” of the Ukraine invasion. However, as the FSB is under the control of one of Putin’s most faithful and most dangerous officials, Alexander Bortnikov, it is more likely that the FSB head, himself, had determined that there were problems with the intelligence officials’ actions. Indeed, firstly, Beseda and Bolyuhk had been charged with the embezzlement of funds allocated for subversive and undercover work in Ukraine, as well as false information. Embezzlement is an ill that can plague even the most esteemed intelligence service at all levels. Some sardonically call it “creating a second retirement fund.” It was reported secondly that Beseda and Boyuhk had cooked up intelligence suggesting that Ukraine was weak, riddled with neo-Nazi groups, and would give up easily if attacked. Beseda and Boyuhk were apparently among those in the intelligence services who gambled that there would not be an invasion and lost. The criminal actions by the two intelligence officers were acts of madness. Rather than allowing Bortnikov to handle the matter in his usual fashion, Putin initially chose to have the officials placed under house arrest and allow for a fuller investigation of the matter. He likely wanted to determine the depth of the disloyalty and infidelity of Beseda and Bolyuhk and discover whether were acting on behalf of another country’s foreign intelligence service.

It could have reasonably be expected that within the FSB, some investigation was likely launched to identify any possible intelligence leaks that occurred before the invasion began. Some proposal surely would be made for the broader exploitation of whatever they might have discovered. Such an investigation would very likely start with a discrete look at those who may have put a foot wrong in the intelligence services. Presumably, there was no penetration by the West of a kind that any standard counterintelligence investigation might have the slightest potential to uncover immediately or identify clearly. Nevertheless, if some potential activity might have been discovered under such a hypothetical probe suggested here, it could potentially have been of enough significance to convince Moscow that it had some influence the initial outcome of the invasion and influence follow-on efforts by Russian forces in the field against Ukraine. 

To go a step further, delving into the realm of conjecture, there is the possibility that plans for the Russian invasion were captured by Western intelligence. However, given the performance of Russian forces so far, there was clearly a strategy and resources mismatch. Results in the field have spoken volumes about what Russian forces can and cannot do. The conquest of Ukraine was something Russian forces could not have accomplished, factoring in the tenacity and will of Ukrainian forces, even on their best day or should have even contemplated. Of course, the successes and movements of Ukrainian forces will have greater influence on how Russia forces proceed.

In the end regarding the FSB scandal, Putin engaged in the process of elimination in the truest sense of the term. Nearly 150 FSB officers were reportedly dismissed from the service, including Beseda and Bolyuhk who were already under arrest. The head of the department responsible for Ukraine was sent to prison. Gravis ira regum [est] semper. (The wrath of kings is always severe.)

Sergey Beseda, head of FSB foreign intelligence service, the organization’s 5th Service. The 5th Service is a division that was established in 1998 to carry out operations in the countries that were formerly republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Beseda and his deputy Anatoly Bolyuhk had been charged with the embezzlement of funds allocated for subversive and undercover work in Ukraine, as well as false information. It was also reported that Beseda and Bolyukh had cooked up intelligence suggesting that Ukraine was weak, riddled with neo-Nazi groups, and would give up easily if attacked. Beseda and Boyuhk were apparently among those in the intelligence services who gambled that there would not be an invasion and lost.

Looking Good Rather Than Being Good: Finding Work To Do

Leading up to the invasion, Washington supposedly plucked a spate of information from classified intelligence on the actions and intentions of Russian forces deployed near the border with Ukraine and inside Belarus and provided to newsmadia houses from reporting and offered in official government statements. By the time the invasion began, real-time reports of movements of Russian forces were being reported daily. The purpose of this step, among others, was to indicate to the world that an invasion was around the corner, Putin was acting aggressively, and the world needed to unite concerning sanctions and all other economic measures to make any action by Putin unprofitable. This schema of using real-time intelligence from exquisite technical collection capabilities of the US Intelligence services to forewarn of what was coming next was declared as a unique and skillful approach to information warfare by US newsmedia commentators friendly to the administration of US President Joe Biden. It ostensibly would serve to stymie the Kremlin’s ability to effectively calculate and establish plans, and stripped Putin of any chance of acting with surprise. The outcome of that effort is now quite clear for all to see.

Tanto est accusare quam defendere, quanto facere quam sanare vulnere, facilius. (It is just so much easier to accuse than to defend, as it is easier to inflict than to heal a wound.) Readers are asked to indulge greatcharlie as it moves further on this point. Surely, if that US effort had continued, as well as the relative peace, it is likely that the SVR and GRU, much as the FSB, among other things, would have tried to dress-up false pieces of information, chicken feed of a sort, moved it back and forth through channels of communication, through encrypted signals, to determine, off of a long list questions, what the US Intelligence Community and its Western partners are listening to, their preferred source, and what US cryptologists had broken into. Nonetheless, an investigation was doubtlessly launched.

More than that, the Russian intelligence services might look for and discover other secure channels were being monitored from the outside and the encrypted messages of their services were being read. If foreign penetration was not discovered authentically, it might even be fabricated. As alluded to earlier, other Russian intelligence services were apparently reporting nothing prewar that definitively contradicted what the FSB was reporting. Going further down the path of deception might appear counterintuitive. Surely, it is not a prescribed practice in any intelligence service. However, despite the risk, continuing to please Putin would possibly be seen as the best chance for survival. The hope of greatcharlie at this point is that its readers will remain willing to follow along, even stumble along, with its cautious discussion of this novel idea.

The discovery of some penetration, or a bit of fabrication about a penetration, would create the requirement to dig further. Imaginably, the alleged compromised channel or channels would not be shut down immediately. Chicken feed would likely be sent along the channel. Specific movements in the field might be ordered to confirm information was being pick-up on the outside or sent from within. To ensure they would grab attention, the movements ordered would be those of some importance to the overall Russian operation in Ukraine As things have gone, reports of Russian plans to move might appear in the Western newsmedia before they have even begun or have been completed. SVR and GRU counterintelligence services would likely also look at all communications made on particular channels and codes use, and among several Western actions, match them up with Western movements, statements, urgent communications between allies outside of normally scheduled ones, and if the capability actually exists, monitor collection requirements of Western intelligence officers in the field by exploiting counterespionage and counterintelligence successes. Any move by Ukrainian forces which SVR and GRU counterintelligence might discern was likely impacted by an awareness of Russian Federation plans and intentions would also be heavily reviewed. Russian intelligence services would not have been enabled to possibly take such steps if the West had not taken the tack of releasing publicly, freshly collected information and intelligence assessments that normally would have been marked classified. As suggested earlier, perhaps, something disturbing was found. 

On its face, at the full distance of the journeys of exploration by SVR, GRU, and FSB counterintelligence, for Putin it would be unpleasant and disappointing to find that US. Intelligence Community had successfully managed to penetrate the Russian intelligence services at such a high level. However, if SVR, GRU, and FSB counterintelligence hypothetically ran through all the intelligence dumps from the West on Russia’s plans for Ukraine and reviewed the aggregate of past communications sent and actions taken and some network or group of disassociated individuals providing information or making it accessible was uncovered, Putin, himself, would want to roll it up, hide and hair, as well as furtively exploit it for the maximum counterintelligence gain.

More than troubling technical defeat for Russian intelligence services, for Putin, the political implications of the possibility of a US operation to mislead Moscow about Ukraine would be considerable and perhaps work in Russia’s favor. Any US effort to convince the Kremlin that Ukraine was vulnerable to attack would  reveal the intention of the US to dangle the country as low hanging fruit for Russia to grab militarily. Kyiv might be reviled by the idea that the Ukrainian people were used as a goat tethered to a tree along the riverside as the lure for a blood-thirsty Russian tiger. To that extent, Kyiv might conclude that was calculated well-beforehand that if war came, the Ukrainian people would be intentionally used as fodder to wear Russian forces down. As it turned out, the Ukrainians fought admirably as the well-armed, well-trained proxies of the West. They have gnawed voraciously at Russian forces. Still, at the nub of the matter for Putin would be showing the Ukrainian that the war could have been avoided, he would insist that the war was sought by the US, and that there was no true intention by the West to pursue peace. Looking at all the devastation and destruction in the country, Kyiv would hardly be open to much that Putin might say. However, Putin might hope despite everything to a score political warfare victory and convince Kyiv not to stand so closely on the side of West. (Readers should note this partial analysis of the Ukraine war’s causation is not compatible with greatcharlie’s belief at all. The theory was certainly not offered with the intention by greatcharlie to speak against the national interest.)

 

People’s Republic of China Minister of State Security, Chen Wenqing (above). On a closely associated intelligence issue, there is the matter of Washington’s decision to share intelligence with Beijing on preparations by Russian forces for the attack on Ukraine and evidence supporting the likelihood of an attack which Washington shared with Beijing prior to the actual invasion. Washington was clearly groping for alternatives, given it was unable to see any good options. The Chinese would hardly have done anything to influence Russia’s position on the Ukraine as the US wished. The entire schema likely revealed to the Chinese the level of desperation in Washington to find answers to the Russian invasion threat. It may have been the case that Washington’s very apparent pre-invasion fears that Russian forces would rapidly overpower Ukraine stoked Putin’s unwarranted confidence.

Dealing With Beijing

On a closely associated intelligence issue, there is the matter of Washington’s decision to share intelligence with Beijing on preparations by Russian forces for the attack on Ukraine and evidence supporting the likelihood of an attack which Washington shared with Beijing prior to the actual invasion. Washington was clearly groping for alternatives, given it was unable to see any good options. It may have been the case that Washington’s very apparent pre-invasion US fears that Russian forces would rapidly overpower Ukraine stoked Putin’s unwarranted confidence. 

Washington should have understood that leaders of the Communist Party of China and People’s Republic of China Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials did not come in with yesterday’s rain and would vigorously review the information before doing anything with it. To confirm that the US was truly sharing valuable information–one cannot be so sure that Beijing was not already in possession of it, the Communist Party of China would  involve the best counterintelligence capabilities of the People’s Republic of China PLA Central Military Commission (CMC) Joint Staff Department Intelligence Bureau and Ministry of State Security. The head of MSS foreign counterintelligence, Dong Jingwei, a favorite of Xi, was once the subject of what his organization likely presumed to be an apparent US counterintelligence effort in which reports were leaked to the newsmedia that he had defected to the US along with his daughter. (See greatcharlie’s June 30, 2021 post entitled The Defection That Never Was: Meditations on the Dong Jingwei Defection Hoax.”) Imaginably, to the MSS foreign counterintelligence service, the potential benefits of the US Intelligence Community from promulgating false information on Dong would be clear. Top officials and managers in Beijing likely would have concluded that a goal could have been the breaking of morale among the alleged 25,000+ Chinese intelligence officers and operatives in the US. Hearing the false report of the MSS counterintelligence head’s defection might have stirred some disgruntled or disillusioned Chinese civilian or military intelligence officers and operatives to do the same. There might have been the presumption that the information was designed to unnerve a specific Chinese intelligence officer or operative that was being targeted by US counterintelligence services. Surely, the use his “good name”, putting his loyalty to China, to the Communist Party of China, and his comrades at MSS in question, enraged the infamous Dong. When the US presented its intelligence information on the build up and activities of Russian forces near Ukraine, Dong surely viewed it with skepticism and viewed the gesture as some ploy. His position on the matter would surely help shape the position the Communist Party of China’s leadership on the matter. The Chinese would hardly have done anything to influence Russia’s position on the Ukraine as the US wished. The entire schema likely revealed to the Chinese the level of desperation felt in Washington to find answers to the Russian invasion threat. 

Additionally, hardline Communist Party of China officials may have viewed the gesture as an effort to impress Beijing with the prowess of US intelligence capabilities, and to that extent issue a subtle warning. In the end, both PLA Major General Chen Guangjun, Chief of CMC Joint Staff Department Intelligence Bureau and Minister of State Security Chen Wenqing likely recognized the easiest and beneficial way to confirm the validity of the intelligence and enable China to better understand US intelligence human and electronic collection capabilities would be to share the information with their counterparts in Russia’s SVR, GRU, and FSB. Evidently, after the gifted US intelligence moved up through appropriate Communist Party of China channel, People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping green-lit presentation of the information to Moscow. Getting Russian confirmation on the validity of the information would be important. 

Conceivably, Moscow believes that whatever China might have about the US is likely genuine. One might presume, there is some history of intelligence sharing has been established. Perhaps the greatest caveat for the Russians concerning what Beijing had to share would be the knowledge that officials in Communist Chinese foreign and national security bureaucracies absolutely detest the US and conclusions of Chinese intelligence services might very well be colored at certain points by such strong feelings. Yet, as important would be using the opportunity to strengthen China’s position at the intelligence table with its ostensible ally Russia, garner appreciation directly from the Kremlin, and perhaps encourage Moscow to provide a regular stream of information from its human and electronic intelligence sources concerning US military plans and activities in China’s area of interest. It would satisfying for Chinese intelligence to acquire information from Russia that could significantly add to what China already knows and is trying to keep track of. The Chinese also would not mind having the Russians eating out of their hands and the Russians would not put themselves in that position.

The Chinese, knowing what they seem to just know in some way about the daily inner workings of the US Intelligence services– the result of which their intelligence services seemingly operate with impunity and comfortably in the US supposedly in the tens of thousands–would presumably see the Russian intelligence service as just one big leaky ship. Surely, the respective headquarters of the MSS and the PLA’s Joint Staff Department Intelligence Bureau in Beijing would be hesitant to share anything with headquarters of the SVR Russian civilian foreign intelligence and GRU military intelligence services both based in Yasenevo that might be of the utmost importance to China’s security. One might safely wager that the Chinese were somewhat aware of the deficiencies of foreign intelligence service of the FSB Russia’s domestic security organization given any experiences with it. Beijing, knowing how tense the situation was regarding Ukraine, particularly as it concerned Putin, would have recognized that it would have been counterintuitive to do anything that might stir the pot, muddy the waters with regard to what the Kremlin understood about what the US was doing. Surely, Beijing has strived to avoid playing a part in bringing the world closer the nuclear Armageddon. That would be the rational choice.

The Wagner Group was first called into action on behalf of the Russian Federation government in March 2014 during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. They were among the “green men” who marched in the region unopposed. Nearly 1,000 members of the Wagner Group also supported ethnic-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukraine which have have since declared themselves the independent Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Experts in Russian military affairs suggest that the Wagner Group is funded and directed by the GRU. The organization’s base is located in Mol’kino, in Southern Russia, within close proximity to a Russian Army base, perhaps to allow for better control and oversight.

Deflecting: An Possible Effort To Feed Into Kremlin Paranoia About the US

Additionally, it is very likely that some in the Kremlin, perhaps only in private thoughts, may have concluded by now that the Ukrainians could hardly have been so lucky against Russian forces on their own. They may have had intimations, that much of their success was really due to assistance from, and the “handiwork” of, the same well-trained folks who have done among many things, lent significant support to the forces of the late General Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance in their fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, swept away the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, drove the campaign that destroyed the so-called Islamic Caliphate that cut across Syria and Iraq that was created by the ISIS terrorist organization, and while in that fight destroyed in self-defense, a formation of Russian private military contractors from the infamous Gruppa Vagnera (Wagner Group) in Syria as well. Without direct evidence, however, such imaginings, even in the Kremlin, can only have life in the realm of conjecture. Perchance the Russian Federation General Staff has the GRU investigating that foreign military advisers are covertly on the ground assisting Ukrainian forces, planning operations, controlling maneuvers and supporting attacks. The SVR would also likely reach out to its sources world wide to discover if any evidence or hints exist that such covert operations are underway. If the GRU and SVR are actually studying the matter, their conclusions, either confirming or refuting the possibility, would surely be startle consumers of the information.

The Wagner Group was first called into action on behalf of the Russian Federation government in March 2014 during Russia’s annexation of Crimea. They were among the “green men” who marched in the region unopposed. Nearly 1,000 members of the Wagner Group also supported ethnic-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukraine which have have since declared themselves the independent Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Experts in Russian military affairs suggest that the Wagner Group is funded and directed by the GRU. The organization’s base is located in Mol’kino, in Southern Russia, within close proximity to a Russian Army base, perhaps to allow for better control and oversight. Reportedly, just before the