Looky, looky here at this shit show


I was suspicious that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine might not be the cakewalk on Kyiv that so many seemed to expect because I felt the ratio of forces was wrong.[1] As I rapidly realized when I went to check on that theory, my understanding was oversimplistic,[2] but it seems—take this with a salt shaker full of salt—that things might not be going to plan for Putin.[3]

Be suspicious. Be very suspicious. If David Halberstam’s account of Vietnam War reporting[4] isn’t enough, then consider the Pentagon’s insistence up to near the end that the U.S. could win in Afghanistan.[5] It gets worse when reporters embed with troops, as in the Iraq War. An awful lot of hubris makes its way into war reporting. And, to be fair, Luke Harding is, himself, cautious:

It is too early to describe the Kremlin’s operation to seize and subjugate Ukraine as a failure. The war has only just started. [Vladimir] Putin may yet prevail. The Russian military enjoys overwhelming superiority over Ukraine’s armed forces. It has numerous combat aircraft, a vast navy and 150,000 deployed troops.

And yet by Saturday, it was clear Putin’s blitzkrieg operation to remove Ukraine’s pro-western government had run into unexpected difficulties. Evidently, there were logistical issues. Re-supplying troops in a vast enemy country was proving a challenge.[6]

Harding reports Ukrainian civilian accounts of Russian equipment running out of fuel, Russian soldiers who don’t know where they’re going or why, Ukrainian resistance that Russians had apparently not prepared for. Like he says, the operation might still succeed. And the Russians seem to have had more success in the south of Ukraine.[7] But very much for the moment, it looks like a first class shit show and if Putin means for the world to fear Russia, well, this is a fucking embarrassment, a failure of command and control, a failure of logistics, and a failure by sheer hubris.

And I’m sure a lot of folks are going to want to know how the fuck that happened.

Anne Applebaum, “There Are No Chamberlains in This Story,” Atlantic, February 20, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/munich-security-conference-chamberlain/622872/

John Hudson and Missy Ryan, “U.S. claims Russia has list of Ukrainians ‘to be killed or sent to camps’ following a military occupation,” Washington Post, February 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/02/20/ukraine-russia-human-rights/

David Ignatius, “Surprising cracks, if small ones, appear in Kremlin support for Putin on Ukraine,” Washington Post, February 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/21/putin-ukraine-invasion-kremlin-support/

Dan Sabbagh and Rowena Mason, “UK says ‘serious doubts’ exist within Russian military about invading Ukraine,” Guardian, February 21, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/21/uk-says-serious-doubts-exist-within-russian-military-about-invading-ukraine

Ann M. Simmons, Yaroslav Trofimov, and Matthew Luxmoore, “Putin Orders Deployment of Troops to Breakaway Regions in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-alleges-ukrainian-incursion-kyiv-says-moscow-makes-up-fake-incidents-11645453512

Jon Allsop, “The weight of words in the Russia-Ukraine story,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 22, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/russia_putin_recognition_ukraine.php

Philip Bump, “‘Genius,’ ‘Savvy’: Trump reacts to Putin’s moves on Ukraine exactly as you’d expect,” Washington Post, February 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/22/trump-reacts-putins-invasion-ukraine-exactly-youd-expect/

Anthony Faiola, “The moment when Putin got real,” Washington Post, February 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/02/22/putin-speech-analysis-ukraine-russia/

Julia Ioffe, “Will Putin Get His World War III?” Puck News, February 22, 2022, https://puck.news/will-putin-get-his-world-war-iii/

Frank Jordans, “Ukraine-Russia: Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” Associated Press, February 22, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-business-germany-europe-berlin-79e3dafb0d231f6a033613b7dab78cdf

Andrew Restuccia and Tarini Parti, “White House Calls Russian Moves an Invasion After Initially Refraining From Using Term,” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-calls-russian-moves-an-invasion-after-initially-refraining-from-using-term-11645549648

Eli Stokols and Tracy Wilkinson, “Biden announces sanctions against Russia for invasion of Ukraine,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-02-22/biden-allies-taking-calibrated-approach-in-response-to-putin-as-russian-tanks-invade-ukraine

Ann M. Simmons, Alan Cullison, and Yaroslav Trofimov, “Russia Begins Military Operation in Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-shifts-to-war-footing-tells-citizens-to-leave-russia-11645616181

Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu, “Top senator warns Putin cyberattacks could trigger bigger war,” Axios, February 23, 2022, https://www.axios.com/mark-warner-putin-cyber-attacks-ukraine-40c5e959-5093-4d79-bf24-8d4731edb293.html

Jon Allsop, “Propaganda, confusion, and an assault on press freedom as Russia attacks Ukraine,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 24, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/propaganda-confusion-and-an-assault-on-press-freedom-as-russia-attacks-ukraine.php

Miriam Berger, “Putin says he will ‘denazify’ Ukraine. Here’s the history behind that claim,” Washington Post, February 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/putin-denazify-ukraine/

Julian Borger and Angelique Chrisafis, “Decision to invade Ukraine raises questions over Putin’s ‘sense of reality,’” Guardian, February 24, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/24/putin-russian-president-ukraine-invasion-mental-fitness

Shira Hanau, “Declaring war on Ukraine, Russia’s Putin cites goal of ‘denazification’ of country with Jewish president,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 24, 2022, https://www.jta.org/2022/02/24/global/declaring-war-on-ukraine-russias-putin-cites-goal-of-denazification-of-country-with-jewish-president

Chico Harlan and Taylor Telford, “Stocks claw back after Russia’s attack on Ukraine roils markets,” Washington Post, February 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/24/ukraine-europe-markets-russia/

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s New Iron Curtain,” Puck News, February 24, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-new-iron-curtain/

Matthew Karnitschnig, “How Germany helped blaze Putin’s path into Ukraine,” Politico, February 24, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/how-germany-helped-blaze-vladimir-putin-path-into-ukraine/

Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Landay, “Explainer: Why Russia and Ukraine are fighting for Chernobyl disaster site,” Reuters, February 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/why-russia-ukraine-are-fighting-chernobyl-disaster-site-2022-02-25/

Reuters, “Factbox: How Ukraine’s armed forces shape up against Russia’s,” February 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/how-ukraines-armed-forces-shape-up-against-russias-2022-02-01/

Reuters, “Oil soars past $105 as Russia’s attack on Ukraine rattles markets,” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/2/24/oil-soars-past-105-as-russias-attack-on-ukraine-rattles-markets

Adario Strange, “Kyiv or Kiev? How to pronounce the name of the capital city of Ukraine and why,” Quartz, February 24, 2022, https://qz.com/2133021/this-is-why-the-name-of-ukraines-capital-is-kyiv-not-kiev/

Robin Wright, “Putin’s Historic Miscalculation May Make Him a War Criminal,” New Yorker, February 24, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/putins-historic-miscalculation-may-make-him-a-war-criminal

Yuras Karmanau et al., “Ukraine’s capital under threat as Russia presses invasion,” Associated Press, February 25, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-vladimir-putin-volodymyr-zelenskyy-boris-johnson-business-08f569df695831ee467979527ea2e241

Farrah Tomazin, “Biden calls invasion ‘a dangerous moment for freedom around the world,’” Sydney Morning Herald, February 25, 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/biden-calls-invasion-a-dangerous-moment-for-freedom-around-the-world-20220225-p59zk0.html

Adam Gabbatt, “Tucker Carlson leads rightwing charge to blame everyone but Putin,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/feb/25/tucker-carlson-fox-news-russia-putin

Luke Harding, “How Ukrainian defiance has derailed Putin’s plans,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/how-ukrainian-defiance-has-derailed-putins-plans

Reuters, “Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now,” February 26, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-russia-what-you-need-know-right-now-2022-02-26/

Emily Schultheis, “Ukraine invasion: What to know as Russian forces target Kyiv,” Associated Press, February 26, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-conflict-updates-today-c489b6f56d84f9483802dc3f142cbc8e

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin is a fool,” Not Housebroken, February 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/01/24/vladimir-putin-is-a-fool/
  2. [2]Paul K. Davis, “Aggregation, Disaggregation, and the 3:1 Rule in Ground Combat,” National Defense Research Institute, 1995, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA302819.pdf
  3. [3]Luke Harding, “How Ukrainian defiance has derailed Putin’s plans,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/how-ukrainian-defiance-has-derailed-putins-plans
  4. [4]David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000).
  5. [5]Craig Whitlock, “At war with the truth,” Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/
  6. [6]Luke Harding, “How Ukrainian defiance has derailed Putin’s plans,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/how-ukrainian-defiance-has-derailed-putins-plans
  7. [7]Luke Harding, “How Ukrainian defiance has derailed Putin’s plans,” Guardian, February 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/how-ukrainian-defiance-has-derailed-putins-plans

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