Thoughts on Ukraine.
WTF was going on with Prigozhin and the whole Wagner coup/mutiny/whatever-it-was? I’ve avoided writing about this because I simply could not figure it out. Nor could anyone else.*
We do know this – Prygozhin suffered a “catastrophic success.”** He never expected to find himself 175 miles from Moscow facing no organized opposition. He had no plan to proceed because he never expected to be in that position…
That is the best explanation for the weird “never mind, back to regular programming” response from both Putin and Prygozhin. Whatever the real game was, no-one expected it to come to that combination of pieces on (or signally failing to show up on) the board. The main (non)-event was the stunning absence of any organized resistance to Wagner. You get a feeling a whole lot of people-in-power dropped their phones in a toilet and simply disappeared for a few days.
That non-response undermines the Putin system in ways that cannot be undone. Showing how deep the rot goes. But we already knew that after 12 months of Russia losing this war. Maybe Putin also now understands that? “Catastrophic Success” is a bad outcome for all parties involved…
- ** “Catastrophic Success” – I wish I’d come up with that framing myself and I don’t remember who did.
- *Why did the coup discussion fade so fast? People hate to talk about complicated things where they feel more uncertain than clever and confident… (like people avoid talking about the magical Fed’s real-world powers and role in the economy… but I digress :-p).
Why are people still avoiding the obvious? The Russians lost big about 6-12 months ago. The remaining question is does Ukraine win big or win small?
I’m keep running into people and commentators who just keep re-narrating the conflict and moving the goalposts in order to avoid admitting they were…. wrong. (Kind’ve like people keep re-narrating the “just follow the Fed – the yield curve is infallible” narrative, but I digress :-p). In real-world terms, Russia is a massively weaker than 18 months ago. In terms of global perception, Russia, has kicked itself out of the “great power” league and might well be heading to “failed petro-state” with no stop in the “middling power” game.
- Great Foreign Affairs article here on the Western Analysts failures before the war and (less forgivable) doubling down on their (wrong) analysis since. Written by a guy who did get it right… (Kind’ve like many analysts have just doubled down on their prior Fed-centric narratives, but I digress… :-p )
Will Ukraine win big or small? Napoleon apocryphally wanted generals who were lucky more than he wanted generals who were smart. In the counteroffensive, Ukraine is so far guilty of “not getting lucky.”
So they are slugging away at artillery pieces and ammo dumps and hoping to break the line somewhere. That hopefully sparks a localized collapse that hopefully converts into a general collapse. What we saw around Kharkiv and Lyman/Izium. Ukraine do seem to be managing steady progress without awful casualties. They’ve got at least 3-4 months of decent weather to keep plugging away. So there’s hope. Hope and luck is all you’ll ever get…
- I ran into a good description of Ukraine’s current strategy – Send a small infantry attack. Look to see what artillery and other fire-support gets activated to repel it. Rapidly prioritize those locations and blast them before they can move to new cover. The pinprick infantry attacks are just to flush out the Russian artillery out of cover. Which is a really grim insight into how non-armchair, non-Hollywood wars actually proceed. Ugh.
So we wait…