Putin's War, Week 99. Not All Battlefields Are in Ukraine

CREDIT: Public Domain Image

The idea of a 99-week

 A European war with no end in sight definitely wasn't on my bingo card in late 2021, but here we are.

This update is going to be a bit on the light side because ground combat action was spotty, and a lot of political issues need to be addressed in more in-depth posts. 


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's speech at the World Economic Forum had a lot of good material that must be parsed. At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin and deputy chairman (and former prime minister and former president) Medvedev were saying that no compromise with Ukraine was possible. Chinese and Turkish banks have dropped Russian correspondent banks for fear of secondary sanctions, and the US and EU are near an agreement that will confiscate frozen Russian assets in the West and dedicate them to rebuilding Ukraine. Hungary is on the verge of being stripped of voting rights by the European Union.

In short, there is a ton of stuff going on, but little of it takes place on the battlefield, and I can't do justice in 100-word blurbs. Without being melodramatic, we are potentially at a 1938 moment, except with Austria resisting the Anschluss and Czechoslovakia fighting annexation. I don't mean this in terms of a general war in Europe, but I do see clouds forming over Francis Fukuyama's vision of the inevitable victory of liberal democracy. A loss in Ukraine effectively makes the EU the new "sick man of Europe," and as much as I detest a lot about the EU, that organization is better than an atomized collection of small states being purchased by China one at a time. How these other issues play out will do more than determine Ukraine's fate; they will also shape Europe's future.

Here are some of my past updates. For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Putin's War, Week 98.

Putin's War, Week 97. The Missile War Continues 

Putin's War, Week 96. Blowback From a Sunk Ship as Russia Launches Largest Missile Attack of the War 

Putin's War, Week 95. The Russian Air Force Takes a Beating as Disease Rips Through the Russian Army

Putin's War, Week 94. Putin Makes Shocker AnnouncementUSnd the War in Washington Goes Into High Gear 

Putin's War, Week 93. General Winter Hits the Brakes, Offensive Postmortems and Funding Fights

Putin's War, Week 92. Ukraine Gets Its Own Divine Wind and With Friends Like China, Who Needs Enemies 


PutiUSWar, Week 91. Mud and Snow Beats Fire and Steel, and TumbleweeUS Are Blowing Through Sevastopol

Putin's War, Week 90. Grain Corridor Reopens and Russia Hints at Another Major Retreat 

Putin's War, Week 89. Zelensky Gets an EU Invitation, the EU Looks East and the Russians Have a Timetable

Putin's War, Week 88. TIME Magazine and the Offensive GEUs a Postmortem blindside Zelensky 

Politico-Strategic Level

Iran Denies Supplying Rissia With Drones

This is the kind of thing that never ceases to amaze me

The Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said a “small number” of drones were supplied to Russia a few months before Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine on 24 February. He denied Tehran that was continuing to supply drones to Moscow.

As of October, well over 1,700 instances of Iranian drone use by the Russians in Ukraine had been documented. Either this guy is lying, or Iran has a huge weapons security problem.

Heating Failures Continue to Plague Russian Cities

In the last update, I did an overview of how converting civilian industry to military applications and the widespread conscription of blue-collar Russian workers has created a perfect storm of failure in the heating systems in many Russian cities. That trend is continuing and perhaps gathering velocity. I'm not as hopeful about the outcome of this because the Russians are extraordinarily passive people (the genetic code that allows independence of thought was mostly stamped out by Stalin) and ruled by people who loathe them.


BACKGROUND: Putin's War, Week 98. – RedState

Poland Will Allow Stationing of German Troops

Last update, I mentioned that Sweden is sending troops to Latvia. That followed an announcement that Germany was stationing troops in Lithuania. This week brought a bigger shock. Germany and Poland are in the process of negotiating the presence of German troops in Poland. 

Anyone who thinks that Russia is not a threat to NATO really needs to yank their head out of their fourth point of contact. Germany and Sweden aren't stationing troops outside their borders because it's a fad. Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, all frontline states facing Russia, aren't allowing foreign troops to be stationed on their soil because Taylor Swift sang a song about it.

Narcan for Copium Overdose

One of the perpetual stories spun by real Russians and Russia worshippers on social media (and the comments section here) is that the only reason for Ukraine's success is that Russia isn't trying. Earlier this week, the Russians lost two high-value airframes and claimed they were the victim of friendly fire rather than admit they had been shot down.

This video clip is from a major Russian television show.

MORE INFO: Russia Loses Two High Value Aircraft Near Ukraine and the Theories Abound

Operational Level

The rhythm of the last couple of months continues. Ukraine's focus is on sustaining existing units and raising new ones. Their combat priorities are definitely on deep battle targets: surface-to-air missile systems, radar early warning units, logistics and communications nodes, and command and control facilities. This was a direct cause of Ukraine's downing of Russian airborne early warning and an airborne command post aircraft earlier in the week. They have successfully challenged Russia for dominance in the southern Black Sea, and grain exports after the end of the Black Sea Grain Initiative exceeded those during it. A multi-national naval force is currently clearing mines in the area.


The Russians seem convinced that the constant infantry attack on the Ukrainian line will create an opening somewhere that will allow for offensive action, or, at least, it will result in Russia attaining mastery of all of the historic Donbas. As Russia is maintaining a peacetime conscription status, it is difficult to see how it will be able to increase the number of men it has in Ukraine. Estimates indicate that Russian conscription is barely keeping pace with combat losses plus discharges. Russia's cyclical missile barrages of Ukrainian cities don't seem to be terribly effective. Last year, the Russians focused on the Ukrainian power grid. They haven't done that this year, and one can only assume it is because they realize the Ukrainian grid is more resilient than they had anticipated.

Antique Russian Missiles Recalled to Service

People can talk all they want about Russia's defense industrial base, but if you are pulling early 1960s tanks and artillery out of storage and buying ammunition from North Korea, things are not going well. The same is true of missiles. If that missile was a person, it could draw Social Security and be fixed under Medicare.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

More on the T-90 vs. M-2 Bradley Knife Fight

Last week, I posted a longish video clip of an engagement between a Russian T-90 tank, the so-called "Breakthrough Tank," and two M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. In my opinion, the M-2s are using the depleted uranium sabot round (M919). On paper, this looks like a gross mismatch. In real life, not so much. This video is taken by a different drone and shows how it's not the dog in the fight; it's the fight in the dog.


BACKGROUND: Putin's War, Week 98. – RedState

A Technique

Over the last year, I've commented on the difference in Ukrainian and Russian vehicle recovery operations. Where there are numerous instances of Ukrainian troops fighting to recover disabled vehicles and investments being made in repair shops in Ukraine, Russia tends to abandon disabled vehicles. The Ukrainians have drone teams assigned the mission of destroying disabled Russian vehicles to prevent their recovery. 

What this shows is an M2 Bradley using a broken-down BMP-2 for close-range "target practice." The gunner gets to shoot the chaingun, the driver gets to maneuver, and the BMP-2 gets destroyed. But I'm not sure it is the best technique for the job at hand.

Never Give Up

I've featured quite a few videos of drone vs. human combat. They usually don't end well for the human. This one is a Russian soldier in a face-off with an FPV drone.

Digging In

When I was a young officer, the Infantry School close combat mantra was, "If you can be seen, you can be hit; if you can be hit, you can be killed." This is definitely true in Ukraine. Drones provide nearly omnipresent observation of the battlespace. The accuracy and lethality of modern weapons ensure nothing on the battlefield is invulnerable. This is a Russian 152mm self-propelled gun emerging from a bunker to engage targets. 


It's a good first step, but unless the entrance is camouflaged and some effort is taken to erase the tracks at the entrance, this gun will be found by drones and destroyed.

Northern Front

There has been minimal combat action in this sector.



The position of the front lines remains static. The Russians are reportedly sending repeated assaults on Ukrainian fortifications.



The Russians made some minor gains near Bahkmut.


The position of the front lines remains stable.

Southern Front


Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

The momentum in the Robotyne area seems to be returning to favor of the Ukrainian army. Not only is the volume of Russian attacks in this sector a fraction of what we've become accustomed to, but for the first time in weeks, the Ukrainians have made small gains. The most significant event is that Ukrainian close air support has been used. This is a rarity.


The position of the front lines remains stable.

Rear Areas


Sevastopol Without Electricity

Most of Sevastopol is without electricity. There is no indication that Ukrainian action is involved. The most likely causes are aging equipment, deferred maintenance, and a shortage of repair parts and skilled labor.


What's Next

I think the next month or so will look a lot like the last couple. The Ukrainians will continue to fight a war of attrition. They may make a few opportunistic gains but don't look for a major offensive. The Russians will continue to hammer way all along the front line. I think we can expect Ukriane's deep battle to continue and for it to start showing dividends as targets in Crimea and Belgorod are brought under fire. 

When Congress comes back into session, we'll better understand what will happen regarding US military aid.


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