Putin's War, Week 55. Russia Drops US Recon Drone, Ukraine Suffers From 'Loose Lips' as It Doubles Down on Bakhmut

AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

Politico-Strategic Level

This update will be much shorter than usual because there is a lot less new stuff going on. In an overview, combat operations continue at a low level. Both sides take and lose real estate daily, but no one is making any progress. Ukrainian tank crews are in training in Germany, the UK, and Poland. That training is drawing to a close. The battalions training on Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles in Germany are coming to the end of their instruction, and we should see them in action within the next month.


We’re just waiting for the bell to ring and the fighters to leave their corners.

Here are links to my most recent updates.

Putin’s War, Week 54. More NordStream Melodrama, Russia Shows Diplomatic Weakness, and the Bakhmut Flipflop

Putin’s War, Week 53. Zelensky Blows a Big Play, Moscow Dodges a Drone Attack, and Russia’s Spring Offensive Fizzles

Putin’s War, Week 52. US and China Face off, Prigozhin Goes for the Jugular, Mystery Weapon Strikes, and Happy Anniversary

Putin’s War, Week 51. Russia’s Slow-Mo Offensive Gets Underway

Putin’s War, Week 50. The Calm Before the Storm

Putin’s War, Week 49. Waiting for the Russian Offensive

Putin’s War, Week 48. The Logjam Breaks and the Leopards Are About to Roam the Ukrainian Landscape

Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army, and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms

Putin’s War, Week 46. Putin Shakes up the Army Command, Prigozhin Shows How It’s Done, and Western Tanks for Ukraine Are on the Way

Putin’s War, Week 45: Putin Declares a Cease Fire, Zelensky Gets Putin’s Terms for Peace, and if You’re Fighting a War, Leave Your Cell Phone Home

Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again… Prigozhin Makes His Move

Putin’s War, Week 43. Zelensky Visits the Front Lines and Washington, Putin Tries to Push Belarus Into War

Putin’s War, Week 42. Ukraine Gets the Nod to Strike Targets in Russia and Some Tools to Do It With

Many more are available at this link.

Poland Breaks Up Russian Sabotage Ring

Polish security services arrested, at last count, nine people alleged to be involved in a Russian sabotage ring. They were allegedly developing information on the railway lines used to move equipment to Ukraine. I doubt this is the only one. The mystery is why, a year into a very ugly war, the Russians are still afraid to strike at arms depots and transportation lines keeping Ukraine in the war.


Russia Knocks Out US Reconnaissance Drone

A couple of days ago, a pair of Russian fighters knocked down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. I posted about that incident here. The Black Sea Drone Incident Doesn’t Mean Escalation Unless the Russians Want It

Late yesterday, the Department of Defense released this video of the encounter.

It will be interesting to see how the next interception plays out. Will the Russians do it again, or will they go back to the way they have behaved in the past?

Wagner PMC Develops New Recruiting Territory

A few weeks ago, the Wagner PMC mercenary group was prohibited from recruiting in Russian prisons. It immediately responded to that challenge by opening recruiting offices at gyms and sports clubs. Now they are advertising on PornHub. This may make more sense than anything the Russians have done so far.

Vladimir Putin Imagines a World Without the Russian Federation

One striking thing about Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric is how it has morphed from “I’ll nuke your ass” to a whinging self-justification and excuse-making.

Everyone remembers the almost daily threats to use nuclear weapons and the discussion of “escalate to de-escalate” as Putin’s nuclear strategy. That got the bowels of those who admire Putin all squirty as they demanded that he be allowed to take what he wants because he has nukes. What hasn’t received as much attention is the shift in rhetoric. In an interview on Rossiya 1 TV, he publicly contemplated Russia’s collapse.

According to him, “if the West manages to make the Russian Federation collapse and to assume control of its fragments,” the Russian people may not survive as a nation.

“If we go down this path (of Russia’s collapse — ed.), I think that the fate of many peoples of Russia, and first of all, of course, the Russian people, may change drastically,” Putin said.


A few days ago, he made another of those statements that indicate a lot is going on behind the scenes, and little of it is good news for Putin.

The tone is not confident or bombastic. It is a man very worried about the state of affairs. As an aside, I don’t know why he’s so fixated on Georgia, but he returns to this “terrorists in the Caucasus” theme repeatedly. I think a war of opportunity has transformed into one that has put Putin’s rule at risk, and he’s smart enough to know that. I think he also knows that merely having nukes will not save him, and his Chinese overlord will not sanction Russia using one of them.

Operational Level

The past week has shown a marked drop off in activities by both sides.

There are anecdotal reports from both sides of ammunition shortages. I suspect both sides are beginning to feel a bit of a pinch in the supply chain — my assessment is that the Russians are feeling this much more than the Ukrainians because of the length and fragility of their logistics network— and they are husbanding artillery ammunition for coming operations.

Why Things Are Moving Slow in a Single 13-Second Video

Spring thaw is beginning. Unimproved roads are impassable. Off-road travel looks like this as soon as the sod is broken. While some tactical vehicles (with competent drivers) can manage, the wheeled vehicles bringing up fuel and ammunition are channelized onto paved roads.


Russia Complains of Satellite Jamming

Satellites are the backbone of today’s military operations. Without access to satellites, a lot of smart weaponry doesn’t work. Infantry lieutenants are deprived of their GPS access and have to use a map and compass…and we all know how that ends up. Russia is complaining that “territories adjacent” to Russia are attacking its satellites. There isn’t a lot more to the allegation than that. If true, this is a significant development. If state actors are doing this, it is a high-risk activity. If non-state actors are responsible, then this is a wake-up call to everyone.

Combat Operations

Press Crew Films Ukrainian Igla Team In Action

This is the result.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)

How Not to Do It

This video is making the rounds. In it, a Ukrainian tank, guided by a drone, rolls up on a Russian trench line and demolishes it.

What’s missing? A tactical reason for doing it. Killing the other guys always has some merit, but to win, you have to have a purpose. There is a singleton tank. That is a recipe for disaster, as tanks should work in pairs at least. On Russian anti-tank weapon would have changed everything. There is no infantry support. Once the tank finishes shooting, it retreats, and the Russians re-occupy the trench. Yes, it was bold and daring. Yes, it killed some Russians. But it put a tank at grave risk for no reason. If I were this guy’s company commander (or first sergeant), I would have kicked his ass when he got back.


Replay this scene with four tanks and a dozen infantry carriers. The tanks demolish the defensive strongpoints. The infantry dismount, supported by heavy machinegun fire from the carriers. They clear a couple hundred meters of trenches and set up blocking positions to stop a counterattack. Now you’ve got the beginning of a tactical penetration of the first enemy defensive belt.

The Russians have shown that they couldn’t do that on their best day, February 24, 2022. The Ukrainians did put it together in September-October. But their command system seems to be terribly inconsistent.

Northern Front


Doubling Down in Bakhmut

The Ukrainian military seems to be very serious about holding Bakhmut. This level of public declaration indicates that either Ukraine knows it can hold or there will be a lot of egg on lots of faces when it falls.

According to the New York Times, the Ukrainians are burning through artillery ammunition at a higher rate than the Russians.

There are undoubtedly several factors at work here. First, the Russians have a lot of difficulties moving artillery ammunition forward, and the rate of fire by Russian guns over the past year indicates that many of them are unserviceable. Combine those with top-of-the-line counter-battery radar systems that are beginning to appear, and one would expect the Russians to shoot a lot less.

I understand that the Ukrainians want to reduce casualties, and one way of doing that is by using lots of artillery. But in this battle, I have another question. The Washington Post ran a story that quoted a battalion commander complaining about the training level of replacements and ammunition supplies. He has rightfully been fired.


The commander claims he said what he did to bring attention to problems. Apparently, it never occurred to him that Russians can read. As to the specifics, neither the reporter nor I can verify the information. Even if it is true, the plural of anecdote is not data; we don’t know if it is a systemic problem or an isolated one. No matter, the lack of discipline that lets a military commander discuss confidential information with anyone outside his reporting chain, much less a reporter, is difficult to imagine. That kind of indiscipline is never isolated to a single thing. You will find it in every area of his battalion. My question is, how many more commanders are there like him? How much artillery fire is directed against enemy guns, supply points, troops concentrations, and headquarters, and how much is used to churn heavily-churned mud on the Russian trenches?

Southern Front


Ukrainian Partisans Kill Prominent Collaborator

Ivan Tkach, a prominent member of the Russian occupation government in Melitopol, was blown up in his car on Tuesday. The killing of lower-level collaborators and internal security forces is a daily affair. Unfortunately, only the most prominent ones get reported.

Rear Areas


FSB Border Headquarters in Rostov-on-Don Flames Up

The jury is out on the cause of this fire. I’m flagging it because it is the headquarters for FSB operations on the Ukraine-Russia border, and ammunition was stored in the building. No matter, it will impact Russian security operations for a while.


What’s Next?

You’re probably as tired of reading it as I am of writing it. We’ll see how the summer shapes up when the new units arrive from training in the West. We should see significant action and ground gains if the Ukrainian command groups can orchestrate artillery, air defense, armor, and infantry as a combined arms team. Right now, I’d say the Ukrainian Army’s biggest challenge is to find commanders who can coordinate these elements, put them in the right place, and get rid of the deadwood still locked into the Soviet way of war.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.


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