Category Archive 'Analysis'

26 Mar 2022

The War So Far


24 Mar 2022

Will Russia Run Out of Tanks and Soldiers?


Brian Wang puts the situation into perspective.

There are estimates that Russia has lost 40,000 soldiers (killed or wounded) out of 190,000 after the first three weeks of the Russia-Ukraine war. Russia has 900,000 in the military but this includes Navy and Air Force. Russia has about 250,000-300,000 in the Army. Russia has 2 million in reserve but those are mostly x-conscripts and 14 million men of military age (18-30).

Independent UK and many other sources cite a senior NATO official estimate of up to 40000 Russian Casualties.

NATO and US estimates of 7000 to 15000 Russian war dead. (via AP).

According to Oryx, as of March 23, 2022, Russia has lost somewhere in the region of 279 tanks, of which 116 have been destroyed, 4 damaged, 41 abandoned. Some 118 have been captured. (via interesting engineering and other sources.

Putting more untrained people into this conflict will just get most of them killed. One of the Russian problems is the poor training of its military. The other aspect is that the death and wounded rates could go up if Russia commits to major urban warfare. If the supply line situation is as bad as some reports indicate then the 70,000 soldiers in the north could run out of ammo and food and collapse. This would mean a lot killed, wounded and captured.

Russia started the war with 1200 Tanks committed to the conflict. Russia had about 2800 active tanks. They had about 10,000 Soviet-era tanks in storage. Those tanks in storage were not modernized and are even more crappy that what Russia has been losing. Russia has lost 270-500 tanks already. All of Russia’s tanks are vulnerable to Javelin missiles. There are 17000 Javelin missiles in the Ukrainian army now.

Russia has lost 100 planes and Russian pilots are flying very defensively. They are trying to avoid getting shotdown instead of focusing on military objectives.

Putin/Russia should already cut a peace deal and withdraw. Losing the northern Army (70,000) would be an even greater catastrophe. Going into Kyiv or any other major city in urban combat would also ratchet up the losses.

It took Russia twenty years to make 2800 modern tanks.

The current pace of losses cannot be sustained for more than two more months. Four more weeks of losses at this pace is devastating as half of the soldiers they went in with would be injured or dead. Russia is already digging into defensive positions. Unless there is a significant improvement in strategy and tactics there is no way that even with 50,000 or 100,000 new conscripts or other force replacements would a second offensive be effective in taking Kyiv or other major Ukrainian cities.

It is even difficult to see how Putin/Russia could sustain a campaign with annual losses like the first month of this war.


20 Mar 2022

Conclusion: “Ukrainian Forces Have Defeated the Initial Russian Campaign of This War”


Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko of the Institute for the Study of War analyze the results so far and predict the next stage of the war.

March 19, 3 pm ET

Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war. That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine. That campaign has culminated. Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way. The doctrinally sound Russian response to this situation would be to end this campaign, accept a possibly lengthy operational pause, develop the plan for a new campaign, build up resources for that new campaign, and launch it when the resources and other conditions are ready. The Russian military has not yet adopted this approach. It is instead continuing to feed small collections of reinforcements into an ongoing effort to keep the current campaign alive. We assess that that effort will fail.

The ultimate fall of Mariupol is increasingly unlikely to free up enough Russian combat power to change the outcome of the initial campaign dramatically. …

Russian forces in the south appear to be focusing on a drive toward Kryvyi Rih, presumably to isolate and then take Zaporizhiya and Dnipro from the west but are unlikely to secure any of those cities in the coming weeks if at all. …

The Russian military continues to commit small groups of reinforcements to localized fighting rather than concentrating them to launch new large-scale operations. …

The culmination of the initial Russian campaign is creating conditions of stalemate throughout most of Ukraine. …

Stalemate will likely be very violent and bloody, especially if it protracts. …


09 Apr 2015

Tweet of the Week

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Hat tip to Walter Olson.

28 Jan 2010

Obama’s State of the Union Speech Analysed

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Cato Institute scholars demolish Obama’s State of the Union message point by point.

9:38 video

An amusing alternative commentary may be found in HuffPo‘s State of the Union drinking game.

Entire speech 1:09:20 video

Hat tip to Michael Lawler.

30 Jun 2009

George Friedman: The Real Story in Iran

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Stratfor’s George Friedman puts a regional analyst’s gloss on recent events in Iran, contending that current disorders really only represent a power struggle between competing Revolutionary Islamist factions, that the struggle for democracy depicted in the international media is a gross oversimplification pandering to Western stereotypes and wishful thinking, and that, whoever wins, Iran will not cease to be anti-Western, religiously bigoted and fanatical, a state sponsor of terrorism, and eager to use the development of nuclear weapons as a threat.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ran his re-election campaign against the old clerical elite, charging them with corruption, luxurious living and running the state for their own benefit rather than that of the people. He particularly targeted Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an extremely senior leader, and his family. Indeed, during the demonstrations, Rafsanjani’s daughter and four other relatives were arrested, held and then released a day later.

Rafsanjani represents the class of clergy that came to power in 1979. He served as president from 1989-1997, but Ahmadinejad defeated him in 2005. Rafsanjani carries enormous clout within the system as head of the regime’s two most powerful institutions — the Expediency Council, which arbitrates between the Guardian Council and parliament, and the Assembly of Experts, whose powers include oversight of the supreme leader. Forbes has called him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Rafsanjani, in other words, remains at the heart of the post-1979 Iranian establishment.

Ahmadinejad expressly ran his recent presidential campaign against Rafsanjani, using the latter’s family’s vast wealth to discredit Rafsanjani along with many of the senior clerics who dominate the Iranian political scene. It was not the regime as such that he opposed, but the individuals who currently dominate it. Ahmadinejad wants to retain the regime, but he wants to repopulate the leadership councils with clerics who share his populist values and want to revive the ascetic foundations of the regime. The Iranian president constantly contrasts his own modest lifestyle with the opulence of the current religious leadership.

Recognizing the threat Ahmadinejad represented to him personally and to the clerical class he belongs to, Rafsanjani fired back at Ahmadinejad, accusing him of having wrecked the economy. At his side were other powerful members of the regime, including Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, who has made no secret of his antipathy toward Ahmadinejad and whose family links to the Shiite holy city of Qom give him substantial leverage. The underlying issue was about the kind of people who ought to be leading the clerical establishment. The battlefield was economic: Ahmadinejad’s charges of financial corruption versus charges of economic mismanagement leveled by Rafsanjani and others.

When Ahmadinejad defeated Mir Hossein Mousavi on the night of the election, the clerical elite saw themselves in serious danger. The margin of victory Ahmadinejad claimed might have given him the political clout to challenge their position. Mousavi immediately claimed fraud, and Rafsanjani backed him up. Whatever the motives of those in the streets, the real action was a knife fight between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani. By the end of the week, Khamenei decided to end the situation. In essence, he tried to hold things together by ordering the demonstrations to halt while throwing a bone to Rafsanjani and Mousavi by extending a probe into the election irregularities and postponing a partial recount by five days.

The key to understanding the situation in Iran is realizing that the past weeks have seen not an uprising against the regime, but a struggle within the regime. Ahmadinejad is not part of the establishment, but rather has been struggling against it, accusing it of having betrayed the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The post-election unrest in Iran therefore was not a matter of a repressive regime suppressing liberals (as in Prague in 1989), but a struggle between two Islamist factions that are each committed to the regime, but opposed to each other.

The demonstrators certainly included Western-style liberalizing elements, but they also included adherents of senior clerics who wanted to block Ahmadinejad’s re-election. And while Ahmadinejad undoubtedly committed electoral fraud to bulk up his numbers, his ability to commit unlimited fraud was blocked, because very powerful people looking for a chance to bring him down were arrayed against him.

The situation is even more complex because it is not simply a fight between Ahmadinejad and the clerics, but also a fight among the clerical elite regarding perks and privileges — and Ahmadinejad is himself being used within this infighting. The Iranian president’s populism suits the interests of clerics who oppose Rafsanjani; Ahmadinejad is their battering ram. But as Ahmadinejad increases his power, he could turn on his patrons very quickly. In short, the political situation in Iran is extremely volatile, just not for the reason that the media portrayed.

Rafsanjani is an extraordinarily powerful figure in the establishment who clearly sees Ahmadinejad and his faction as a mortal threat. Ahmadinejad’s ability to survive the unified opposition of the clergy, election or not, is not at all certain. But the problem is that there is no unified clergy. The supreme leader is clearly trying to find a new political balance while making it clear that public unrest will not be tolerated. Removing “public unrest” (i.e., demonstrations) from the tool kits of both sides may take away one of Rafsanjani’s more effective tools. But ultimately, it actually could benefit him. Should the internal politics move against the Iranian president, it would be Ahmadinejad — who has a substantial public following — who would not be able to have his supporters take to the streets.

The question for the rest of the world is simple: Does it matter who wins this fight?…

(T)here was no democratic uprising of any significance in Iran. Second, there is a major political crisis within the Iranian political elite, the outcome of which probably tilts toward Ahmadinejad but remains uncertain. Third, there will be no change in the substance of Iran’s foreign policy, regardless of the outcome of this fight. The fantasy of a democratic revolution overthrowing the Islamic Republic — and thus solving everyone’s foreign policy problems a la the 1991 Soviet collapse — has passed.

Depressing, and he may be right.

Read the whole thing.

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