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Uh so has Debaltseve fallen?

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BTW, the analysis I just wrote (even if flawed) is exactly the sort of thing missing from the uninformed reporting from Western media watching Ukrainian forces streaming out of Debaltseve. You won't see this sort of reporting from the Maidan type websites either. And CERTAINLY you won't see it from Russian and separatist media sources. It is also the sort of analysis that you won't see from a Ukrainian or separatist soldier after he just spent a harrowing few weeks under fire and seeing his friends killed.

Which is why anybody who thinks they can get a sense of the military picture by reading some media reports, looking at a few blogs, or watching a few YouTube videos is sadly mistaken. These things are sources for analysis, not analysis itself.

Unfortunately, there are not many credible analysis being performed yet. Usually that follows after the conflict is complete and researches/analysts get involved.

Steve

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There is a reason why math is important.

Try telling that to the average primary school child :)

While numbers are only part of the picture, in military specific analysis numbers are very important. Having said that, even though the data appears to show that Ukraine's military performance was quite good compared to the separatist/Russian performance, it is not decisive or conclusive. No matter how good or bad this battle was for the respective sides, it is still just a single battle in an already long war.

People who say things like "Russia kicked Ukraine's butt" obviously do not understand either the numbers or warfare in general. Because Ukraine most likely came off much better in this battle, but this battle might not matter in the end either way. Declarations of "butt kicking" are definitely premature (and immature).

Steve

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One thing that eludes may understanding (which is not very powerful anyway): Is the Ukrainian air force so crippled/underfunded that has no impact in situations like this? to help prevent encirclement? to help in an orderly retreat?

 

On thing is to pretend every separatist is born, armed and trained in his native land, another is to pretend they had an air force laying around, usually if one side has air superiority and the other nothing, it doesn´t go well for the side lacking aircrafts

 

Have so many AAA systems been funneled through Russia that prevent the air force to do anything meaningful?

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Good enough to shoot down an airliner.

Ukraine was losing aircraft on a somewhat regular basis and if anything, the air defenses by Russia have been beefed up. Between manpads and actual AD systems, the Ukrainian Air Force is simply overmatched.

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Have so many AAA systems been funneled through Russia that prevent the air force to do anything meaningful?

Yes. When Ukraine began using its airforce, not just for combat but for transport, the separatists were definitely feeling the pinch. The very first battle for the Donetsk airport is a prime example, but there was also a checkpoint (off the top of my head I don't remember where) that was decimated with about 20 or so separatists killed. Ukraine was also using aircraft to reinforce key areas quickly and without risk of ground engagements. In particular the Luhansk airport and the border crossings in Luhansk.

Magically, as if out of thin air, ZSU-23 and MANPADs started showing up quickly and in significant numbers. Ukraine lost a significant number of aircraft in a short period of time, in particular a transport with c.50 paratroopers onboard. Since then a number of more advanced "plausible deniability" (i.e. Ukraine also uses them) systems have entered into Ukraine from Russia, but more recently the highest end Russian anti-aircraft systems have been deployed to the Debaltseve and Mariupol areas. Apparently in response to limited airstrikes by Ukrainian attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft earlier in January. The UK this past week published a report specifically about the arrival of these systems.

The combination of prolific supply of MANPADS and advanced mobile anti-air systems has made it ill advised for Ukraine to engage in offensive air to ground missions.

Steve

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This has been a really interesting discussion for me so far.

 

some questions came to my mind: Steve, do you have a up to date OOB for the Ukrainian Army? I searched around and only came up with stuff that looked like the one Wikipedia has. Which leads me to my first question: how come that the Ukrainian Army had so many different units there? If i compare it to the Wiki i get that the fighting involves units from all three army corps? In a wargame you would be severly punished for doing so, one would probably run into stacking limit anyway...

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I see things a bit differently concerning the importance of the ground held by both sides. Maybe I am looking at it from the wrong angle, but the way I see it, the onus is on the loyalists to recapture the lost territory. A status quo with a chunk of land out of Kiev's control would be in favor of the separatists because if the current situation doesn't change significantly, sooner or later the Ukrainian government might be forced to recognize a fully independent or semi autonomous state of Novorossiya or Donbass or whatever you want to call it.

 

In other words, the longer the current situation lasts, the more likely it is to become a de facto state.

 

Obviously it is too early for that outcome yet. A lot of things might change and in any case the situation is not ripe enough for a political settlement; there needs to be more suffering and dying.

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The OOB changes constantly.

To answer your questions, one of the interesting aspects of modern warfare is that the units involved in fighting tend to be quite small. US military tends to operate in brigades which consist of 3 battalions and support units. This is smaller than in previous wars. Further difference is the battalions can be from different brigades, but the structure remains mostly the same. This is the entire purpose of the "modular" BCT system. In computer terms, the new US military is "plug and play". Look at the various OOBs from Afghanistan, in particular, to see this in action.

In the case of Ukraine, both sides are using mostly battalion sized forces at any given time. When the force takes too many casualties it is rotated out, but unlike earlier times the new battalion rotating in is likely to be from a different organization. In fact, from the rotations I've seen it's just about never this way.

There are a couple of reasons for this and they are, oddly enough, similar on both sides.

For Ukraine they started the war with a gutted and neglected military. This was a deliberate policy started under Yanukovych as it allowed him and his cronies a source for syphoning off money, but it also pleased Russia. Why would Russia want a strong Ukrainian military? It was only after Ukraine contributed to Iraq and Afghanistan did it find out how embarrassingly bad its military was. So it began small steps to improve a very small portion of its military specifically for peace keeping operations. This worked pretty well and I actually know a guy who helped train the junior officers in the NATO way of doing things (as opposed to Soviet).

Because of this legacy of corruption, ineptness, and inattention the Ukrainian units on paper were barely functional. After the war started they reorganized so that the best (or only!) equipment of the unit was put into the field with the best (or only!) soldiers at its disposal. This was far lower than whatever the authorized strength of the parent unit (Brigade usually) was.

In war a Regiment/Brigade usually conducts operations with 2 battalions up and 1 back, but all at the front. In Ukraine's case it had 1 battalion up and 2 in barracks or in non-combat blocking positions. Over time the rest of the force has been built up from scratch (sometimes) and rotated in. So now it is 1 or 2 battalions up, 1 or 2 battalions back getting ready for combat for the first time or (increasingly) getting outfitted with better equipment for the next rotation.

The thinking here is sound. Each larger formation is gaining combat experience with a smaller, more manageable subset of the whole. It is a lot easier to manage a battalion's logistics and leadership than a brigade's. It also allows the combat experience to be gained and then transferred without the other units being exposed to the dangers of combat.

The downside of this is that mid level coordination is not very good. It's getting much better, as the withdrawal at Debaltseve proves, but it is still way below what NATO would consider good. And senior levels are also getting better, though they were the ones most riddled with corrupt and inept officers. Or worse, on Russia's payroll or at least sympathetic to Russia. The purge of officers and staff at this level has been ongoing, so it is improving.

On the Russian side, they are doing the same thing for sorta similar reasons. They have been combing a Regiment/Brigade to get sufficient numbers of contract soldiers concentrated into company and battalion sized units because sending in conscripts is problematic for a bunch of reasons. Because even the best units have a mix of conscripts, the shifting of personnel is necessary to have units fully filled out with personnel. The lesser quality units are even more problematic since they have higher proportions of conscripts. There was an article about a rapid reaction force in the Caucuses that used to be highly trained, highly professional anti-terrorist (i.e. protecting against Islamic militants) which is now almost exclusively conscripts because the contract soldiers were moved into "Rostov" (i.e. Ukraine, sooner or later).

The militias, on the other hand, are a mess. They seem to be based around a battalion concept, with a few being larger sized, but they are too diversified to generalize. Lately, however, many have been used for cannon fodder by Russian leadership. This is evidenced by their tactics, their casualties, and the fact that they openly accuse Russia of using them as cannon fodder. Others were never more than roadblock managers, still others were nothing more than bandits praying on locals. Russia has tried to eliminate the latter, in part by pushing them against Ukrainian lines to find out where the artillery registration points and minefields are. The Red Army did the same thing with the Ukrainian and Belorussian partisans after the 1944 summer offensive.

Er, that turned out to be a long answer :) Hopefully a useful one.

Steve

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I see things a bit differently concerning the importance of the ground held by both sides. Maybe I am looking at it from the wrong angle, but the way I see it, the onus is on the loyalists to recapture the lost territory. A status quo with a chunk of land out of Kiev's control would be in favor of the separatists because if the current situation doesn't change significantly, sooner or later the Ukrainian government might be forced to recognize a fully independent or semi autonomous state of Novorossiya or Donbass or whatever you want to call it.

Yes and no. Eventually the Ukrainian government ("loyalist" is a term used for a civil war, which this is not) will have to recapture this ground or come to a negotiated settlement of some sort. True. However, Ukraine doesn't have to recapture or hold any specific piece of ground right now. It can afford to lose a piece of ground more than once provided eventually it takes it back before time runs out. This is the same thing that happens in all wars. Look at the battles in Normandy or any number of places on the Eastern Front. Terrain changed hands sometimes weekly in spots, but ultimately that one specific spot wasn't important to how the war turned out.

 

In other words, the longer the current situation lasts, the more likely it is to become a de facto state.

Yes and no again :D The longer the war lasts the less certain the future is. Russia could be forced to (for real) stop supporting the separatists through any number of scenarios. If that happened, Ukraine could retake the entire territory within a few weeks as it almost did last summer before the Russian army counter offensive in August.

You also have to consider that DPR/LPR can not be an independent state without a heavy dependence on either Ukraine or Russia. Russia has made it very clear it does NOT want that responsibility. It is already strained by Crimea and the major economic problems, it does not want a wrecked piece of terrain with a large population that has outdated and redundant (for Russia) industries. Yet Ukraine is not going to agree to support DPR/LPR unless they are effectively under Ukrainian control.

So of the three parties, the one that can not really afford to go the long haul is the DPR/LPR. Both Ukraine and Russia know this, which is why both are anxious to have this problem resolved sooner rather than later.

 

Obviously it is too early for that outcome yet. A lot of things might change and in any case the situation is not ripe enough for a political settlement; there needs to be more suffering and dying.

Unfortunately, this is true.

Anyway, my point is Debaltseve is militarily irrelevant, but does have major political implications whenever the war ends. Currently there is no end in sight to the war, therefore who had control of Debaltseve today has no significant impact on the war. Debaltseve could be back in Ukraine's hands tomorrow and then DPR's next week and there would be no change to the status quo except for the casualties taken in the process. Which is why the bloody losses of the separatist/Russian side and the well executed withdrawal of Ukraine's forces is (in my eyes) not a good military result for the separatist/Russians UNLESS the war ends pretty much right now.

Oh, and also keep in mind that straightening the front is good for both sides as it frees up forces. However, the salient was a net liability for Ukraine's forces and so overall Ukraine is better off militarily being out of it.

Steve

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As an observer to this and some of the other threads that have been locked this has provided useful information on why and how the pocket was lost. Really useful. Thanks.

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I'll just leave it here, and then "strongly suggest" that I'm "unaware" of any possible plots that might have happened there. He-he-he.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/28/AR2007022801690.html

Interesting article but ah um what are you trying to say here. The documents show that the CIA became aware of a group was planning to overthrow the Japanese government. Those plotters were lead by someone who had worked for them to spy on communists and the CIA only became aware of the plot after it was dropped and long after support for those guys had dried up. Headlines end up being misleading much of the time.

 

The files reviewed by the AP strongly suggest the Americans were unaware of the plot until after it had been dropped. The plot was developed after the U.S. postwar occupation of Japan ended in April 1952, and the CIA files say American financial support for Hattori's group had dried up by then.

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Interesting article but ah um what are you trying to say here.

Playing wargames brought me to this article, actually. Had to spend almost two weeks offline, so had to play what was already installed on my almost empty HDD. Hearts of Iron 3 TFH WW2 grand strategy was one of the things I had. Played as the United States. War in the Pacific didn't go exactly as I wanted, so I was thinking about re-starting the game, but this time focusing on European theater and just create a coup in Japan to make them my puppet state, so I won't have to fight them. But I kinda like to follow the historical route of the game, so I went to google if there were any real known attempts of such coups. And that's what I've found instead. As you've said, it's an interesting article. I personally found interesting the fact that US govt worked and funded suspected war criminals (but never prosecuted) & violent anti-communist ultra-nationalists who happened to have 500.000 locals on their side and then eventually happened to plot a coup (which never happened). I find it quite educational and worth sharing, that's all.

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Playing wargames brought me to this article, actually. Had to spend almost two weeks offline, so had to play what was already installed on my almost empty HDD. Hearts of Iron 3 TFH WW2 grand strategy was one of the things I had. Played as the United States. War in the Pacific didn't go exactly as I wanted, so I was thinking about re-starting the game, but this time focusing on European theater and just create a coup in Japan to make them my puppet state, so I won't have to fight them. But I kinda like to follow the historical route of the game, so I went to google if there were any real known attempts of such coups. And that's what I've found instead. As you've said, it's an interesting article. I personally found interesting the fact that US govt worked and funded suspected war criminals (but never prosecuted) & violent anti-communist ultra-nationalists who happened to have 500.000 locals on their side and then eventually happened to plot a coup (which never happened). I find it quite educational and worth sharing, that's all.

Actually us hands were not all that clean, the post war period in Japan is an interesting tale of us subversion of a democratic movement to make sure they had a firmly entrenched ally for the budding Cold War. Not a particularly uncommon theme in the Cold War where both sides cared little about what kind of allies they had as long as they were their allies.

Suggest you read Embracing Defeat.

Edited by sburke

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Sigh.

Nobody is saying the US has clean hands in anything that it puts its fingers into. Anybody who says otherwise is (at best) woefully ignorant. So the only reason to bring this up is to somehow excuse Russia's blatant war of aggression in Ukraine today because, I suppose, the US interfered in Japanese politics 60 years ago. It is an exhaustingly tiresome distraction designed to stop us from talking about what is actually going on today.

What I find extremely frustrating when this sort of line of distraction is put forward is that it is (of course) one sided. Why not try and distract this conversation by listing some of the heaps of horrid things the Soviet Union did during this time frame. For example, what was the Soviet Union doing in 1956? Crushing a genuine uprising against Soviet rule in Hungary. And by crushing, I mean driving tanks in killing Hungarians who had the strange notion that they didn't want to be controlled by Moscow.

Obviously the intent of a post like we just saw is an attempt to interfere with a discussion of relevant current events. Which is why a one sided, off topic, out of context, distraction like what was just posted is not welcome in this thread. Don't test my patience with deliberate attempts to distract/derail.

Steve

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So the only reason to bring this Why not try and distract this conversation by listing some of the heaps of horrid things the Soviet Union did during this time frame. For example, what was the Soviet Union doing in 1956? 

 

Hmm... Berlin uprising 1953, Prague spring 1968...

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And those are just some of the highlights. As a Finn you have a couple more you could add from your own history. Which is why I'm going to ask that we do not feed the distraction with more distraction.

Listen up... those who want to stop meaningful discussions about current events based on reality, you should not be so naive to think that I am a fool. I know why the post was made and I know exactly how effective such tactics can be if a moderator doesn't step in and keep the fire from spreading. This thread is here to talk about the military reality in Ukraine and, to a very limited extent, the larger political and economic considerations. I will not allow it to become deliberately or accidentally derailed. That goes as much for those who try to start the fire as those who feed it fuel.

Steve

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Heh, I figured this thread was dead anyway. Battle is over, time to move on.

Ukraine concerns now are of possible buildup in Mariupol area, more tanks crossing the border, terrorist bombing of march in Kharkhov. Russia is far from done yet.

Meanwhile a state sponsored march in Moscow is going on declaring the Russian opposition to be fifth columnists. I guess Russia is missing Stalin's terror trials. Ahh now those were some good times.

Russia's actiona and statements are all headed in only one direction. There has not been a single item I can look at that even vaguely resembles an exit strategy or even an attempt to control the fire.

Edited by sburke

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And those are just some of the highlights. As a Finn you have a couple more you could add from your own history. Which is why I'm going to ask that we do not feed the distraction with more distraction.

 

 

No need to worry Steve. But thanks for taking care.

 

I get along just fine with most of the russians. It's easy, because we, The Finns, have more slavic characteristics than we like to admit I think. :rolleyes:  

 

My grandfather fought against russians in WW2. He never felt any hate against russians, not during the war or afterwards. He felt, that the "frontoviks" on the other side, poor bastards, were in the same ****ty situation as he was. More than hate, he felt respect. Quite common opinnion among Finnish veterans.

 

Russians are great people most of them. One of the most interesting and fascinating countries to visit. I like the people, their culture and the mindset. Especially I like their museums. Kamenka tank museum was incredible. Don't know how to describe russians. Western for sure, but still something different. Always good and welcoming attitude towards and my friends whenever we go there. I think Finns have special relationship with russians, also in the positive sense of the matter. :rolleyes:  

 

But their politics... Something dubious.

Edited by wee

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No need to worry Steve. But thanks for taking care.

 

I get along just fine with most of the russians. It's easy, because we, The Finns, have more slavic characteristics than we like to admit I think. :rolleyes:  

 

My grandfather fought against russians in WW2. He never felt any hate against russians, not during the war or afterwards. He felt, that the "frontoviks" on the other side, poor bastards, were in the same ****ty situation as he was. More than hate, he felt respect. Quite common opinnion among Finnish veterans.

 

Russians are great people most of them. One of the most interesting and fascinating countries to visit. I like the people, their culture and the mindset. Especially I like their museums. Kamenka tank museum was incredible. Don't know how to describe russians. Western for sure, but still something different. Always good and welcoming attitude towards and my friends whenever we go there. I think Finns have special relationship with russians, also in the positive sense of the matter. :rolleyes:  

 

But their politics... Something dubious.

 

I don't have quite the same background as you because I am an American, but I would love to see Russia and meet some of its people one day.

Edited by Raptorx7

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So I am still not sure what the (now meaningless anyways) Minsk II agreement had in mind for the Debaltseve area? How was that supposed to go down? Were the Ukrainians supposed to leave without the Separatists/Russians to interfere? After Ilovaysk I can understand why the Ukrainians would not want do this again, but I am still wondering what the original plan was.

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 I would love to see Russia and meet some of its people one day.

 

Start with St. Petersburg. Propably the city with most western influence in russia, but still very original russian. Visit countryside if possible. Somebody sometimes told me that "real russia starts there, where the pavement ends". 

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In my university (in Germany) there are very many Russian, German-Russian, Ukrainian and Polish students. Funnily those stick together most closely and tend to get along very well. So all the adversity between all those nationalities doesn't really matter for these guys (young, somewhat educated people).

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