Daily megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - February 24
This thread is posted daily - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.
The events of the last couple of days clearly shows the need for people to listen to experts on foreign policy to understand what's going on.
A tremendous amount of misunderstanding is happening. People are getting the most basic facts about how international society works. The lack of context is dangerous. It's imperative to get enough context for what's going on. That means history, that means understanding how policy works, how the UN works, what sanctions are etc.
If you haven't been interested in learning about international politics and foreign policy, this is a good a time as any to take the time to read up, and listen to authorities on the matter. Do not buy what talking heads with agendas are saying.
Contrarianism is a thing: It's especially dangerous to see things that agree with my preconceived notions and then not finding out more. The less I know, the more dangerous that is.
Short notes of developments so far today:
For anyone needing a starting point, check out coverage from Foreign Affairs and CFR (Council on Foreign Relations). The RUSI paper posted on here last week was a good read too.
E: RAND papers on nuclear arms policy should be pretty relevant too for general context.
My SO is Ukrainian (living in Belgium). Things have been a bit of a shock for her. Like many Ukrainians, she didn't believe an invasion was going to happen. When she woke up she was in complete panic.
She's from eastern Ukraine and usually rather pro-Russia. Right now she's feeling extremely gaslit, and I can see how she's feeling in utter disbelief that the reality of the situation is catching up to her.
Her family is safe, for now, but mother and sister both stuck in two different cities. She spoke to her mom, who said that tomorrow is just going to be a normal working day for her, and when the troops come, they'll just surrender.
Her sister is trying to get to Poland so she can get on a plane to Belgium, but it's extremely difficult. Trains and buses are fully booked, there are 10 hour ticket queues, taxis are 10-20x their normal price. A curfew is in place in many cities.
She believes her mom is safe because she works at a factory that Russia definitely doesn't want destroyed. But her house is also fairly close to a military airport so she's worried about potential "misses".
That's horrifying. I wish the best for her family :(
Thank you. I worry for her sanity mostly. I can empathize with the frustration at not being able to do anything. It seems like the people in Ukraine will be fine. IMO if there were a lot of bloodshed to be had, it would have happened already… it is at least promising that Russia isn't in full salt-the-earth mode right now.
I'd also like to warn against trusting the Ukrainian media; I suspect most here know better than to blindly trust the Russian media, but the Ukrainian media will be much worse for at least the immediate future. Most evidence is that FOR RIGHT NOW the Ukrainian military is losing quite badly. The Ukrainian government has every incentive to lie and will face very few immediate repercussions for it. As an example, the Ukrainian Army is claiming to have destroyed 30 Russian tanks; as of 8:30 PM PST on the 24th, there is 1 independently verified destroyed Russian tank. Be very wary of misinformation, even and especially from the side you support.
First, thanks for the linking tip; I couldn't figure that out.
Two, at the time of my posting, there was 1 independently verified instance of a Russian tank being destroyed. To be explicit, there are many more Russian armored vehicles destroyed, but not tanks. The Ukrainian miltary is claiming up to 80 tanks destroyed. My point was to exhibit the difference between what the Ukrainian military is claiming and the publically availible evidence. In a world with the modern cell phone and social media, there would be much more evidence than what exists.
And the reason that I used that site is that I do not trust traditional news outlets to have up to date information. I am not saying that they will make malicious mistakes (some sure, but not most), but that their organizational structure prevents them from being reliable sources. CNN is quoting the Ukrainian military and explictly stating they cannot independently verify any claims. All 'normal' Western media I have seen are quoting the Ukrainian military, usually with caveats. To get actually up to date information, you must use more OSINT focused sites.
The reasons I used LostArmor were photos of every incident were included, it existed well before the invasion and it has a nice search/filtering interface. As of this posting, there is some evidence that a 2nd Russian tank was destroyed.I have not verified all information about the people running the site, however it is not making outlandish claims without evidence.
Third, the Nytimes article you included has many issues that I would to point out as an example of what I was talking about. The article quotes Britain's Defense Secretary, who makes 3 particular claims. Firstly, that a key airport north of Kyiv was in Ukrainian control. While the article does not give the name of the 'key airport north of Kyiv', I assume they mean Hostomel'. There is an already famous clip from CNN of a reporter happening upon Russian Paratroopers having already captured the airport. A US military think tank includes a decent map that makes broadly credible claims.
Secondly, he claims ~450 Russian casualties. Even vaguely accurate casualty counts only happen after a war is finished, and even then they can have massive resonable variations. As of my posting, the Ukrainian military claims 2800 Russian casualities. To be blunt, that is absurd; as an example that might help Americans, The Second Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest battle in the Iraj war for the USA. It went on for about a month and a half, and there were ~100 US casualties. And yes, the power differential between Ukraine and Russia is less than Iraq and the USA; it is no where near that much of a difference. I could not find a total number of Russian casualities from the Russian government; I've seen claims of 0 casualties (almost certainly bullshit) for particular operations, but no total claim.
Thirdly, he claims that the Russians and Rebels have not broken through Donbass. At best this is technically correct, but extremely misleading. Yes, the Russian military is not advanding through Donbass, they are advancing in many other areas. I will be clear, this is the area I am most fuzzy on; it appears to be true, but used in a way to make the reader think it matters. It is more likely that the Russians were not trying to break through there, but hold those troops down while the rest of the Russian military invades elsewhere. Either way, the Russian military is advancing in many areas and them not advancing in one particular region is not necessarily a big deal.
This reply is way longer than I expected, but I wanted to have something to point to when I see some questionable claims by the Western/Ukrainian side. There is some hope that Ukraine won't completely lose to Russia. However, bald-face lies do not help the Ukrainian people; all evidence is that they are losing and losing quite badly AT THE MOMENT. Hopefully, the war will be over quickly and with the best possible outcome for the Ukrainian people. While I was finishing this up it appears that the Ukrainian president is actively trying to sue for peace.
I agree with your general point that wartime intelligence is murky at best and state actors often have ulterior motives but:
I don't see how you can make that statement given everything else you've said. Additionally
Translation of an excerpt from his recent (30 minutes ago?) speech I've seen:
Not sure how'd you'd quantify that as suing for peace.
My point was on particular claims and on how each side is claiming the war is going, not on the fundamental ability to get a general idea which side is doing better than the other. I've yet to see particular evidence of a single Ukrainian victory, even by the Ukrainian government. The closest I've seen is the Last Stand on Snake Island; if your best propaganda is noble total defeat, it doesn't exactly inspire much confidence. There is some evidence that the Ukrainians are having some success in defending cities, but there is also little evidence that they were the immediate targets of the Russian military. My claim is also based on HOW positive the Ukrainian military and Western governments are; given the information that the Ukrainian military claims is true, they are at best losing slower than Putin thought. The Ukrainian government has said on multiple occasions something to the effect of "We have guns, please anyone take them and fight". None of these things give me any reason to believe Ukraine is winning.
For the suing for peace, I saw this article. Not exactly the same connotation, but still
Where are you looking? I struggle to believe this is a claim made in good faith.
Ukraine isn't trying to hold conventional battle lines against overwhelming firepower, this isn't going to look like a war from 100 years ago. Of course there will be breakthroughs and of course the Ukrainian Army will retreat into cities, that's their only realistic option. If Russia wants regime change they need to actually go in and depose of the old regime and crush the opposition. That means they need to go into the cities.
Here's a twitter thread from Michael Kofman I found enlightening. (I posted an article from him a month ago in which he correctly identified and outlined Moscow's coming actions and goals. His analysis of everything so far has been spot on.) This is just the start of this war, pointing to videos of this engagement or that engagement mean very little for how this will play out in the end. In my opinion the longer this goes on the more unwinnable this becomes for Russia. If they are forced into a position of using overwhelming force in cities, the situation becomes unwinnable for them.
And re: your article. Zelensky saying he is willing to talk peace is meaningless. Of course he is! He didn't want the invasion in the first place. That doesn't mean he is willing to accept being stuffed into a Russian prison and have the democratic government replaced with some Putin puppet, which is what Putin is trying to accomplish with his invasion.
I completely agree that it is very, very early; nothing that is happening right means one side will win or lose.
I would be happy to be proven wrong, but like I said I do not look at much of the western media on this. Most of my information comes from geopolitics forums and various OSINT sites/people. I also didn't mean it as 'The Ukrainians are losing every battle, and the Russians are winning every battle'; I meant there was no clearly defined success for the Ukrainians.
The long term entirely depends on foreign support for Ukraine; it is not in the same ballpark as Russia in really any metric. Long wars are wars that are fought from productive capabilities, all of which Russia is superior to Ukraine. However, with even moderate foreign aid, Ukraine balances it fairly quickly. As well in long wars, its not about one side winning, its about which side loses more.
That’s clearly incorrect though. Ukraine did achieve one decisive strategic victory — stopping Russia’s attempt at a quick decapitation strike and with it their best chance at achieving actual victory. Hostomel, the beeline for Kyiv, there was clearly a plan to move quickly as possible to catch Ukraine unprepared.
I think Putin has convinced himself of his own propaganda and drastically underestimated the average Ukrainian’s willingness to take up arms for their government. As long as that remains true (and indeed it can only get worse for him) I don’t see a way out of this for him beyond permanent occupation or genocide, neither of which will help the stability of his regime.
I understand where we disagree now; I do not claim to know Putin's plan. I don't doubt Putin would have loved a 1 day war, but I doubt that was his plan. If so, why the obvious buildup, why not assassainte the Ukranian president or missile strike their Parliament? Putin had many options and he choose one of the most risky for him. Maybe he is losing it in his old age, but if he isn't then its valuable to understand his plan.
A war with potentially no Russian casualties, which I assume Putin values at least in some way. It was also made to elucidate my point that Putin has many options, and yet he chose something far closer to a traditional invasion.
I believe that we are talking across each other. I used those as particular examples to challenge the narrative that Putin's main objective is the decapitation of the Ukrainian government. I also implicitly assumed it would be a staged as coming from some other group, not Putin taking credit for it. I was not making a claim that it would have had better or worse consquences, but that it would have been much more likely to succeed if Putin's objective is solely the killing of Ukrainian leaders.
My main point in this thread is to push back against the narrative that we, not Putin or one of his best buds, know his objective. A full invasion is very very rarely the best method to get what you want in a real politik sense, which I feel comfortable assuming Putin knows. And yet he chose it; I am confused on why wherever I talk about this people act like I am crazy. Putin is a monster, but he isn't a moron who would just start a war he could very well lose without a clear reason why.
Neither do I. But you can see their intentions through their actions e.g. as explained in the first 5 minutes of this podcast (and by many other analysts). And it's clear that their opening plan for this war was a failure. I'm sure they'll make adjustments and it's very early but I don't think you're correct here.
Ultimately, we're not going to know a lot of things definitively until much later.
It does seem highly likely that Russian casualties are probably higher than what they expected and they are meeting more resistance than expected. However, the Ukrainian Army knows it will not defeat Russia in a conventional war. They've stated this many times over the last few months, and I believe the strategy has always been to inflict as much damage as possible to invaders and then transition into a partisan force. Russia (at least of yesterday) has also only committed half of its operational forces into Ukraine at this point, and they're mobilizing more conscripts to boot. So Ukraine 'losing' is a foregone conclusion when we're talking about the numbers of tanks, equipment, etc. destroyed although they certainly have an opportunity to make the Russians pay in kind and they may well be doing exactly that. I think the biggest question involves the next phase of the war: how effective and how popular Ukrainian partisans will be?
10,000 automatic rifles have been given to regular civilians in Kyiv in the last few hours - Interior Minister
Seems like this could get very bloody. Putin knew this of course, Ukraine has telegraphed doing exactly this as a deterrent for invading.
Edit: e.g. from December, I'm sure there are more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/09/world/europe/ukraine-military-russia-invasion.html
Seems like some British (and possibly other) volunteers were involved in the airport defense yesterday.
Seems early for bonafide volunteers but I guess this was pretty heavily telegraphed, so who knows. I’m sure Ukraine is glad to have them.
For those wishing for very up-to-date and generally reliable information, I highly recommend This Forum thread and LiveUAmap. The forum is used by a lot of people in or adjacent to various militaries around the world. LiveUAmap aggregates information from a lot of sources, as well as providing a geographic context for the information. LiveUAmap is having server issues, probably not surprisingly.
I suspect that airport was assaulted in an effort to relieve pressure on the Chernobyl spearhead. Basically, the unit who attacked the Russians there can't attack their armored columns further north. I initially suspected that their plan was to hold out at the airport until the armor arrives, which obviously didn't work. Maybe they were also just supposed to secure it for further airborne troops, which lines up with what you said. Whether that failed because of a Ukrainian ground attack or insufficient air dominance is anybody's guess, but it failed.
Live map with news & visualization:
This TPM editorial does a good job of laying out the broader geopoliticall trends overlaying this conflict. Worth a read