Russia’s Goals In Its War On Ukraine

I’ve written about Vladimir Putin’s desire to put the Russian Empire back together again. It still may be on his wish list, but the Ukrainians aren’t cooperating. A second-best is to grab more of their territory, and the fighting now seems to have that objective. But there’s a third objective underlying the other two.

Russia is proving that it is a great power. Reconstituting the Russian Empire would have proved that, but, as I say, the Ukrainians prefer to mess around with heathen Westerners. Very well then, there are other ways Russia can prove it’s a great power.

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What The Russians Did At Chernobyl

Now that Russia has failed at their three-day takeover of Ukraine, their only purpose seems to be to destroy it. There’s no other reason for the damage of the Chernobyl plant described in this Washington Post article. (no paywall)

Russians stole equipment and damaged buildings. The most dangerous part of the site, the remains of reactor number 4, is well-protected under an engineered dome that was completed a year or two ago. The article says little about the used fuel storage ponds that have received fuel from Ukraine’s other reactors. Those are also dangerous, in that an explosion within them would disperse the radioactive fuel. That didn’t happen, whether it reflected Russian objectives or Russian ignorance. The other three reactors at the site were shut down by 2000.

Ukraine is back in charge of the plant and cleaning up the mess.

Some of the stolen equipment has GPS tracking and is now moving around in Belarus.

The article has some photos of the damage. Take a look.

@Safecast volunteers are measuring radioactivity in the area.

Photo from the Washington Post article: People who work in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone wait at a checkpoint at the entrance to the plant. (Kasia Strek/Panos Pictures for The Washington Post)

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Biden Lays Out War Goals

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.,  wrote a guest essay (no-paywall link) for the New York Times. In it, he lays out the American role in Russia’s war on Ukraine. It strongly supports Ukraine’s position and clarifies American intentions.

There’s nothing in it he hasn’t said before, but there’s value in its coming from the President of the United States and having it all in one place.

America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.

The US has provided Ukraine with “a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition,” to include “more advanced rocket systems and munitions,” which, the Department of Defense later said, are four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.

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Russia After The War

I’m struggling to envision how Russia’s war on Ukraine ends. There are many possibilities, but none are obviously probable. The uncertainty is heightened by Russia’s poor performance early in the invasion. They seem to be slowly taking ground now that they have concentrated their forces in eastern Ukraine. Another reason for uncertainty is Putin’s statements of large goals early on, now shrunk to a slight widening of the 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelinskyy has said that his goal is to end Russia’s presence in Ukraine.

Whether Putin’s goals have changed is unknown. Zelinskyy’s might change if Russia inflicts enough destruction.

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Russia’s Get Rich Quick Nuclear Scheme – Oh Wait

A few days ago, A Russian statement claimed that electricity would be sold to Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhe nuclear power plant. If Ukrainians didn’t take up that offer, the electricity would go to Russia. Either way, Russia wins.

Not so fast. Russia does not share an electrical grid with Ukraine, so the electricity from Zaporizhzhe can’t be sent there.

The reasons for occupation of the plant are a bit of a mystery. It was taken early in Russia’s campaign against Ukraine, so perhaps it was part of the plan to take control of Ukraine with the help of internal collaborators in the first three days.

The overall occupation didn’t work, but the Russians still hold Zaporizhzhe, so they are trying to make the best of it.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Where Is The Computer War?

One of the big mysteries of Russia’s war against Ukraine is why we haven’t seen more hacking by national parties. Early on, the Biden administration warned everyone to make their computer security current. There have been no compuer attacks in the US that can be attributed to Russia that I can think of. Early on, Ukraine suffered some attacks.

Conversely, Russia doesn’t seem to have suffered any attacks that can be attributed to other countries.

There can be a number of reasons for this. It’s possible that attacks are occurring, but they are blunted by good computer defense or counterattacks. Or they may be occurring only in governmental spaces, where they can be kept quiet.

It does, however, look like independent hackers are stealing data from Russian organizations. Some of them are making it public. The Ukrainian government has endorsed some of the efforts and is probably benefitting from them. The article I’ve linked gives a great many examples. It’s paywall-free.

Keep your computer protection current. We don’t know how long this lack of attacks will last.

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Last night I wrote a Twitter thread outlining my theory of Biden’s information offensive. I want to write a much longer post on it, but that won’t be until next week at the earliest. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the first tweet. That tweet was an introduction. Here’s the second tweet, which links to the rest of the thread.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Those Russian Fires and Explosions

It’s beginning to look like those fires and explosions in Russia are not accidents.

Away from the active battlefronts within Ukraine, though, there’s a less bloody, less prominent front in the two-month-old war, a shadow campaign that has included attacks on military and industrial targets in Russia itself.

It’s not clear how many incidents have occurred, or whether they resulted from air strikes, or missiles, or sabotage. An unofficial tally by RFE/RL, based on open-source reporting, counts at least a dozen since the war’s beginning.

They’re not all internal sabotage, though.

Early in the morning on April 27, a drone crashed in a muddy field southwest of the Russian city of Kursk, around 100 kilometers northeast of the border with Ukraine. Locals tracked down the destroyed device not long after, and posted photographs to Telegram and other social media.

The device appeared to be a Bayraktar TB2, a versatile Turkish-designed unmanned aerial vehicle capable of long-distance surveillance as well as dropping guided bombs or firing anti-tank missiles.

It wasn’t the Russians who were flying the drone.

But some may be.

Perm is probably outside drone range from Ukraine.

Who’s doing it? Russians? Ukrainian spies? Are they coordinating with each other? The Russian authorities would like to know.

Top photo: A screen grab of a purported attack by Ukrainian helicopters on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod on April 1.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Another War Crime

Reports keep surfacing that Russia is forcibly removing people from Ukraine to Russia. RFE/RL has one of the more reliable reports of Ukrainians in Astrakhan. These reports are inherently difficult to confirm, but there are enough that something like this probably is happening. Even before Russia’s attack, “evacuations” from the Donbas to Russia were reported. Additionally, children have been reported to have been separated from their parents or taken from hospitals to be adopted in Russia.

The numbers are in the tens to hundreds of thousands for people forced to go to Russia, and in the double to triple digits for children taken. There are also reports of camps being set up to “educate” teachers and students in the Russian language and culture.

When the Soviets invaded their neighbors during World War II, they moved people to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Russians were then moved into those countries.

If indeed tens or hundreds of thousands of people are being moved from Ukraine, it is likely that this was part of Russia’s plan so that buses and trains could be made available.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

What Is Putin Thinking?

Vladmir Putin started this war, and he could stop it today if he chose. What he thinks is important. He’s told us what he thinks. The way Russia is conducting the war supports what he’s said.

It’s easy to dismiss Putin’s screeds as historically inaccurate and a bizarre reading of current events. They are. But listing how they’re incorrect misses the point, which is that Putin believes these things: Ukraine was never a separate entity from Russia. Lenin and others made mistakes that separated Ukraine from its appropriate place in the scheme of things. Russia and Ukraine can never fulfil their true destiny apart from each other. Those are the central points.

Also in his belief system is that NATO, the United States, and the EU, which are lumped together as “the West,” are dedicated to undermining Russia’s proper place in the world. It’s less clear that he buys the whole long-standing Pan-Slavic myth that Russia has been specially designated by God to redeem the world. But at least Russia is a superpower that the rest of the world must recognize as such.

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Go Ahead And Bluff, They Said. They Won’t Shoot Back, They Said

A number of people want to up the ante on Vladimir Putin. He made nuclear threats, so let’s threaten him back. He won’t escalate.

They leave out a lot.

What they leave out is a serious consideration, based on Putin’s words and actions, of his likely response. Assuming that one’s own side will always take the last action is as common a misapprehension in war as the idea that an invading army will be greeted as liberators, and just as dangerous.

Some of the authors of recent articles imply or state that they are not advocating escalation, but their bottom line is that Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons must be met with similarly warlike responses. They criticize President Joe Biden for stating clearly that the United States will not meet Russia with a military response because those statements eliminate some of the steps they would like to take.

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