Megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - April 25-26
This thread is posted Monday/Wednesday/Friday - 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.
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A few more observation from Germany:
I see lots and lots of discussion on social media in general that seeks to make out Germany as the ultimate enabler of Russia. I'll be the first to say that Germany could do more, and that Germany has definitely made (retrospectively anyway) mistakes in east european foreign policy. But:
There's e.g. the issue of Ukraine's 2008 bid for EU entry: Supposedly Germany torpedoed that. Counter point: Apparently all Germany did here was vote for the usual method of EU entry, rather than some UA-preferred special procedure. Apologies, I have not gone to search for sources on this one.
The Austria situation: (I know Austria is not Germany. It's basically petit Germany, on the international stage. Humor me please.) Consider this article - "Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg was quoted saying that Kyiv should not be offered membership of the 27-country bloc, and alternative paths should be considered to develop EU-Ukraine ties." But: here's the counter narrative, I'll paraphrase. My comments are in italics. Schallenberg's statement is not at all resistance to EU membership, though it has been misquoted as such. Instead, he advocates for individual solutions for applicant states of closest possible ties. EU membership doesn't have to happen as instant full membership or nothing. Instead, we can custom-tailor which parts of the country we want to integrate when. (For example, having to compete freely on the EU market could easily crush the economy of less developed countries.) Considering that the entry process is lengthy, we should be mindful of the expectations these discussions about membership raise in Ukraine. He's basically offering to fast-track Ukraine into a defensive alliance, while offering to keep economic integration on the back burner, and newspapers misquote him as saying no? What the fuck is even going on?
The German energy policy situation: Apparently, getting out of Russian imports as fast as possible (without jeopardizing supply) is still bankrolling fascism. Germany is the country with the highest dependence on Russian energy in the EU, in terms of dollar value. That this will take some time to unwind should be clear. That sanctioning russian energy imports when you have no replacement ready is going to be more costly for us than Russia should also be clear. Sure, they get a few dollars for their fuel, but our economy grinds to a complete halt. Is that acceptable pain for the sanctions?
Arms deliveries. Germany has provided monetary and light infantry assistance galore. Germany is debating and expecting to decide on Marder IFVs by the end of the week. No other country, as far as I know, is currently exporting western IFVs. We're (collectively) sending light infantry equipment, ex-soviet armor, maybe some ex soviet jets and helicopters and recently also western 155mm artillery. No western tanks, IFVs, APCs. Maybe some MRAPs and armored cars. Our government is also being secretive about what it's actually sending these days. What is publicly known is that the funds Germany has made available can be used to free up ex-soviet stocks abroad. To what degree it can be used to buy from Germany's arms industry is somewhat murky. Govt says yes, ambassador says all the good stuff is no longer on the list. I've heard that on a per-GDP level, Germany has made more aid available than the US. Strack-Zimmermann has recently invited Scholz to attend the Bundestag defence committe meeting. He accepted for some time in May. There's an ominous statement from Strack-Zimmermann that this meeting is important to signal that Germany is "doing more than some others believe we are doing." I don't know what that means, but I'm aware that she knows more than I do, considering info on our arms shipments is made available to Bundestag members on conditions of secrecy. Maybe the interesting stuff like PzH2000 and Marder aren't on the list because the Bundeswehr already sent theirs, and the Rheinmetall courtyard is allocated for Bundeswehr backfill already? Would be quite disingenuous of the dear Mr. ambassador, but considering how he views his role, it would at least be consistent. Unfortunately, only time will tell. Until then, pressure on Scholz keeps mounting to get his ass in gear.
There's also the notion that anyone who argues what I'm arguing is a butthurt german more concerned about Germany's reputation than about actually contributing to Ukraine's effort. That's kind of a discussion-ending argument, as I couldn't really argue against it without proving it, in a way, right? Well, I can only tell you that my interest in writing this is EU/NATO unity, rather than Germany's reputation abroad. If I have to defend Germany's reputation to preserve EU/NATO unity, I'll regretfully bite that bullet.
My overall takeaway is that (tinfoil hat) something is afoot. Either western media outlets have, for some reason, a big axe to grind with Germany. Or this is massively agitated by e.g. Russia. If Germany is doing what it can and is displayed as not even trying, that would help Russia, as other western governments have reason to do less: Why should we help Ukraine, if Germany is not doing their part? The non-tinfoil explanation (cheers, @cfabbro) is that German sources are just not available in English. In which case, are English newspapers just asleep? German isn't that hard to translate. It's also possible some of this was spurred on by Ukraine, but at this point I don't think they're the driving force behind it anymore.
I still haven't seen all that much about blaming Germany in the news I read. But then, I don't pay close attention to diplomatic news.
I think Germany could fairly be blamed for making some poor energy decisions before the invasion. In particular, shutting down nuclear power plants early. But it seems like the Greens are mostly responsible? And to counter that, they went big early on alternative energy, so it's not all bad.
I gave a bit of a rundown of the state of nuclear energy in germany as it relates to the green party -
TL;DR: The Greens were in govt in 2000 and arranged to get us on the road for climate change: Buildup of renewables, phasing out nuclear and fossil fuels. That plan got mangled to oblivion and beyond by Merkel, and when first Fukushima happened and then recently FFF and other eco movements popped up, we ended up getting back out of nuclear and back out of fossils, but at a time when that buildup of renewables was way behind the original Green schedule because Merkel basically killed that industry in her earlier chancellorship. The last time greens had a say in federal govt, we were on course to have a high ratio of renewables by 2022. That was 2005.
TL;DR of the TL;DR: Thanks Merkel.
Contrary to the previously announced timeline, Germany is working on a plan to become independent of Russian oil imports within the next few days.
He also gives a more general statement on the state of energy-Russia affairs in the embedded press conference. Summarized/translated, italics are mine:
Can't understand the polish that follows at the 4 minute mark.
Question on the matter of heavy arms aid to Ukraine, refers to the today's earlier statement of the minister of defence that said deliveries by KMW and Rheinmetall are possible. Those exports have to be approved (by Habeck's ministry, I believe, hence the question). What's your take, what could be the timeline? [...]
Can I just say that translating German can be a fucking pain sometimes, at least if you want to stick close to the original wording? Maybe I'll have to renege my previous statement to the contrary. Germans tend to produce long sentences with lots of subclauses that are perfectly easy to parse due to word order, but you can't really translate them without producing a massive garden path sentence. Kind of like this Thus I'm switching back and forth between very direct translations and loose paraphrases. If you want to get the details right somewhere, feel free to ask me to clarify.
You can probably guess roughly what the question was from the context, but here's a quick, literalish translation:
Seems like Habeck got the question slightly wrong there, as it was more "what of the other fuels will you source via Poland?" rather than "what of the other fuels?", no?
The second question, yeah. The first one was (accidentally) expanded on with the three fuels, but it seems like the second one was forgotten about or accidentally combined with the first one. Tough to tell since we can't hear what the interpreter said.
Edit: Or maybe he assumed that the question regarding sourcing via Poland only applied to the petroleum, or something? Not quite sure. It's not healthy to speculate on stuff like this.
Oh, agree on the speculation part. Doesn't seem like a big deal either.
Anyway, great results. Really happy with that.
Germany has approved the delivery of ex-Bundeswehr Gepard SPAA to Ukraine from Rheinmetall stocks. Apparently, the high-velocity 35mm guns are dangerous even to armored vehicles. I'd hazard the guess that if you catch an MBT out and can hit it from the side, you could even deal with that.
I've seen footage from a Ukrainian BTR camera that shows its rounds appearing to penetrate the side of a T-72, just above the tracks. I think the cannon being used was a 30mm, possibly with sabot rounds. Not sure what ammunition the Gerald's are coming with, but the extra 5mm combined with their fire rate means they will probably seriously endanger MBTs in urban combat while reducing all other Russian vehicles into burnt Swiss cheese and their troops to red mist.
For further illustration, the Red Army used US half-tracks with quad-mounted .50-cals in WW2 against German ground targets, referring to them as "meat choppers".
The Leopard 1A5s are also out-of-service, so providing ammunition for those might be an issue, but the latest 105mm sabot shells should be good enough to threaten at least some Russian tanks and 105 of HE is more than enough to turn their lighter vehicles and troops into confetti. The armour isn't worth mentioning, but IIRC the mobility is great and it should have adequate optics. If nothing else, they can free up Ukraine's better stuff for the front lines.
At least in Bundeswehr use, they always packed 2x20 rounds of High-velocity APDS-T, to be used in single fire. If we have any of that left, I'm sure it'll do the job. The fire rate will hardly come into play there. However, I'm not sure what a full auto burst of HE to the face will do to a tank's optics, could be pretty bad. Also, there's AHEAD ammo, which might be compatible, and is an airbursting round with 150 or so tungsten projectiles. Those could also mess up a tank's optics, I'd imagine.
Wow, they've got even nastier stuff than I was aware of. I think these should give a pretty good account of themselves.
Yeah. The thing I'd be worried about with Gepards is the problem of "whoever shoots first". I imagine Gepard sensors and tall layout aren't exactly doing it any favors here. Best to use the AP capabilities as a last resort and use the thing mostly to mop up aircraft and helicopters, as it's intended. Also, short range radar + airburst AAA are a hell of a combination against UAVs.
Yes, it would probably be much better to use it for that. By the time it enters the theatre, though, there may be little for it to attack besides infantry and transports. In any case, a nasty thing to be on the end of, and it frees up the better stuff - Odessa probably doesn't need such to defend it against a suicidal Hail Mary from Transnistria, marines and/or VDV.
Honestly, I wouldn't expect Russia to run out of jets or helicopters anytime soon. Maybe drones, I can't say. But as far as I can tell, with jets, the bottleneck has been Russian capability to organize them. Otherwise, Ukraine's high altitude air defense presumably would have crumbled in the first days. As it stands, S-300s apparently exist in just enough numbers to force jets to hug the ground and get messed up by MANPADS. Or Gepards. Pick your poison.
From your perspective, how likely is it that Germany loses its position as the de facto leader of the EU to France?
This has been the flavor of the latest armchair politics takes on Twitter. I wonder how real that seems to you.
Obviously I’m not @Vektor, but I don’t really think either is the unambiguous de facto leader of the EU. France is militarily, Germany is economically, but neither is the leader as a whole. Merkel was certainly a political leader of the EU (even if she wasn’t a member of an EU body per se), but it seems that role has moved toward Macron as of late.
Honestly I think many EU countries prefer this sort of diarchy. Better than one strong country that dominates the bloc as a whole.
I think you're mostly correct. I can imagine Scholz taking on a similar role in the future, but for now that's a seriously big pair of shoes to fill there. Merkel didn't start out as a European leader in 2005, that happened over time. So I can imagine the same happening to Scholz. I certainly wouldn't have expected anything of the sort from Merkel when she was first elected, and yet it happened.
But hey, if Germany doesn't take on a dominant role in the EU, that's ok with me too. Though tbf, apart from Scholz I'm quite happy with our government, particularly Habeck and Baerbock. So if they make waves in Europe, that'd be great. (Edit: Their departments, climate policy & economics and foreign affairs also lend themselves to EU stuff)
It's now been two full months of the war. Let's do a quick recap of where we're at.
A couple of extra interesting links:
And finally, a personal update: I feel fucking great. Boy am I glad I can actually say that right now. I mean don't get me wrong, the situation is still shit, but being able to sleep normally? Damn, I've missed that. It wasn't all the war, but it's been at the epicenter of it all. The twin sisters are doing great as well, coaching is going well, and the three of us even went ice skating together for the closing of my rink. Oh and actually, the refugee registration status just completed yesterday so she's officially able to stay in Belgium for the next year (renewable at least for one more year, and more if the situation continues).
I'll post an update about this towards the end of the year. I'm just able to breathe again, normally. Wow. I have missed being able to write positive personal updates to people.
Thanks for the shout! I can only return the favor: You're doing, as always, an excellent job at keeping the big picture alive. And I'm glad you're better.
And I don't mean to make this thread too much about whining about Germany and the media. It was just something on my mind that needed an outlet and a bit of writing down for my own sake too.
Sunflower oil also out elsewhere in Europe, by the way? Over here, we've decided that sunflower oil is the new toilet paper.
I'm actually cautiously optimistic. I should really keep sources for my shit around, so this is rumor level now, but I've heard that Russia is actually currently losing troops in eastern Ukraine at what is essentially unsustainable rates. Basically, the refitted and redeployed units moving into the east? With the current (UA-estimated, so caveat) loss rates, half of that is getting eaten up currently. Basis was, I think, western estimates of BTGs moving into the Donbas area vs UAF's estimates of russian equipment losses.
It seems like a lull in the fighting right now, but that's apparently because Ukraine's defenses are working very well. The Russian's aren't just probing around for a weakness, they're either probing on an unreasonably massive scale, or they're legit trying to break in, but it's not really working. So I'm cautiously optimistic that this isn't going to work out for the Russians either. Mykolaiv doesn't seem in particular danger either, so that's excellent for Odessa too. Ohh, and it's already been another week since I wrote that it's not looking good for Mariupol. Which I guess it still doesn't, but I'm going to have to eat a hat on that one. Really thought the situation would be over one way or another by now.
So I'm actually feeling somewhat optimistic about Ukraine's short term prospects. More indication that we really need to think about longer-term aid. Get a Marshall plan passed while support is there, train them on heavier equipment, make sure our defense industries are producing the right amount of the right stuff, that kind of thing.
Ukrainian forces have used specific coordinates shared by the U.S. to direct fire on Russian positions and aircraft, current and former officials tell NBC News
I am really glad this is happening, and I suspect it's a large part in why Ukraine has been so effective at eliminating Russian commanders.
Overall I have been pretty happy with the US response so far, and I'm glad we have some competent adults in charge who are clearly facilitating all of this. I can't imagine how fucked this would all be under a Trump admin.
Sweden and Finland agree to submit Nato applications, say reports (The Guardian)
Canada giving itself power to turn over seized assets to victims (The Globe & Mail)
A bit about Ukrainian folk songs:
Oi u luzi chervona kalyna (Wikipedia)
Here's an accordion performance. And the same accordionist did Top Ten Ukrainian Songs on Accordion.
Lithuanian politician and pianist Darius Mažintas playing in front of the destroyed Central House of Culture in Irpen
France’s victorious Macron boosts weapons, stakes in Ukraine (Reuters)
p.s. Video of the CAESAR in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFSZigjP5ew
Generally speaking I abhor war, but I'll freely admit that the machinery of war is fascinating and that piece of equipment is fun to watch. Under two minutes from full stop to first fire, additional shot in under 15 seconds onwards to 6 shots in under 3 minutes, averaging 30 seconds a shot from the order to deploy.
Am also War despiser too, but Military History lover, and I concur; That's one crazy effective piece of kit.
Large fires break out at Russian oil depots
Blasts heard overnight in three Russian provinces along Ukraine border
Russia warns Poland, Bulgaria of gas supply cuts on Wednesday