A dose of reality amid all the delusional propaganda and fake news:
This is what I mean by delusional propaganda and fake news. The voices being elevated on social media right now are the ones spreading the most misinformation and lies. If you follow mainstream sources on this war, you are literally getting the opposite of the truth. You’re not just uninformed, you’re misinformed, which is significantly worse.
Even the New York Times admits that lying and mythmaking is a key aspect of Ukraine’s strategy here:
You’re being lied to, deliberately.
Now I have no idea if the site this map comes from—Russian site “Readovka”—is legit, but Ehrlich has been one of the best sources of information on this whole situation, so I’m going to assume the info here is more or less accurate. In other words, if he thinks the info is legit, I’m willing to defer to his expertise.
There are all different versions of these maps from many different people, all showing different things. This one shows a lot of Russian progress, others show significantly less (aka the “cope maps”).
But I’m more inclined to believe Russia is doing far better than most people in the West think than, so it would not at all be surprising if this map is truthful.
Let’s continue with Ehrlich:
That isn’t a fluke. It isn’t an accident.
It’s Russia executing textbook Soviet military doctrine.
Specifically, the doctrine of the “cauldron” – in Russian, «котёл» – the strategic-level encirclement of enemy forces, which are then annihilated.
I previously pointed out that Russia was attempting to encircle the bulk of the Ukrainian military.
But I predicted the UA forces would try to “punch out” to escape.
I argued that effort would fail, since larger cauldrons could be created.
In other words, if the Ukrainian forces in question (blue) were able to punch out westward and escape encirclement, they would still have to get through two more encirclements.
Yet the Russians didn’t even have to resort to that.
In the open, the Ukrainians are so vulnerable to attack by Russian helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that they chose to remain in their fortified positions within cities around Kramatorsk.
They didn’t even try to escape.
And it’s because the Russians have near-complete air superiority. If the Ukrainian troops that are now in the process of being encircled attempt to flee westward, they’d get pummeled from above. They’re essentially sitting ducks unless they’re holed up in fortified positions, which are frequently embedded in areas with heavy civilian presence. Russia can’t just bomb them because in essence they have tons of civilian hostages to ensure against that.
As a result, the cauldron is now in place. Encirclement is complete.
Russia is creating humanitarian corridors to clear civilians from the area.
It will soon have a free hand to use heavy weapons against the trapped UA defenders.
Specifically, Russian conventional and rocket artillery will inflict massive losses.
They will be augmented with heavy bombing.
The Ukrainians will attempt to hide in requisitioned civilian buildings – and those buildings will be utterly destroyed.
Whatever the casualty ratio is now in the conflict, it’s about to swing far into Russia’s favor.
The bombardment that we will see plays to the strengths of the RU forces.
It will allow them to remain at standoff distances and inflict devastating losses via superior firepower.
So let’s return to the narratives we were debunking.
If Russia’s maintenance is so bad that its vehicles cannot even operate in Ukrainian mud, how did Russia outmaneuver such a huge chunk of the Ukrainian military?
It would be impossible.
Anyone who thinks about it for more than a minute would realize it. But the problem is most people in the West don’t even realize Russia has made so much progress. People really believe Ukraine is winning handily. And Ehrlich explains why: because they’re engaged in confirmation bias on a mass scale, only considering anecdotal evidence that tells them what they want to hear. And much of that anecdotal “evidence” is completely made up!
To believe that Russia is on the verge of defeat, you have to engage in “bottom up” analysis of the war.
That is, looking at some photos and videos and trying to construct grand narratives.
I prefer a “top down” approach.
That is, I look at maps and objectives.
I infer the side that is winning the war from who is achieving their goals + executing their grand strategy.
The advantage of this approach is objectivity: it’s harder to be misled by out-of-context/non-representative details.
Using my approach, the biggest question mark is why the Russians have not made more progress towards Kiev.
It’s not entirely clear; fierce Ukrainian resistance from their special forces certainly has something to do with it.
But there are other potential explanations.
The most plausible is that Russia wants to maximize the ratio of attackers to defenders when it takes Kiev.
In order to do that, it will need to complete the defeat of the Ukrainian forces in the East, so that its full array of Battalion Tactical Groups is available.
Specifically, Russian forces advancing North towards Kiev may delay their approach until they are joined by the BTGs currently in the South and East of the country.
A “triple pincer” formation would then advance on the Ukrainian capital, with a massive numerical advantage.
The alternative explanations –
that the pluckiness of the Ukrainian defenders has taken Russia by surprise,
that Russia’s logistics are so broken it can’t even operate –
fail to account for Russia’s success in the East of the country.
In medical terms, what I’m making is a differential diagnosis.
Yes, Russia’s failure to advance on Kiev could mean its forces are simply overmatched.
But when combined with the other evidence, that isn’t the most likely hypothesis. So don’t get your hopes up.
So basically what Russia is doing right now is focusing on gaining complete dominance over the Eastern half of Ukraine, and then focusing the bulk of their forces on Kiev, where they will then simply surround the city and wait for surrender.
After that, they’ll push westward and steamroll over the rest of the country. It’ll be easy to do, because most of the Ukrainian army is currently in the eastern half of the country, so once Russia captures the eastern half, the western half will put up very little resistance, if any.