Ben Morgan: Another year of war. What have we learned?


Entering the third year of war in Ukraine, we can pause for reflection and look at lessons from the conflict.  Lessons that can inform defence discussions around the world and help us to understand what future conflict may look like. 

What has changed since February 2023?

On the ground, not a lot. Ukraine’s 2023 offensive was unable to break strong Russian defences and culminated with very limited gains.  In October, Russia started offensive operations as Ukraine’s progress slowed down, and recently captured Avdiivka, a small town in Donetsk.  Aside from Avdiivka, Russia’s offensive has taken little ground, demonstrating two points. First, the advantage of fighting from defence and second that Ukraine did not over extend itself during its 2023 offensive, retaining sufficient combat power that Russia has not been able to transition from defence to large scale offensive manoeuvre. 

Ukraine’s success at sea

At sea, Ukraine’s drones, aircraft and missiles have taken a significant toll on the Black Sea Fleet. The campaign’s focus appears to be not only pushing Russia’s ships out of the Black Sea but also weakening Crimea’s air defence network. 

Around 10-11 September last year Ukraine re-captured the Boyko Towers, oil and gas platforms in the Black Sea that provide surveillance positions covering the eastern half of the sea. Immediately, Ukraine’s pace of operations in the area increased, nine Russian warships damaged or sunk since September 2023, five between12-13 September.  Further, Ukraine’s air campaign against Crimean land targets intensified including destroying the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters.  

This strategy has driven Russia out of the western half of the Black Sea, allowing for maritime trade via Odessa.  It also impacts Russian logistics, with ships carrying ammunition being targeted. Control of the sea also allows brief commando raids on Crimea. Raids that appear to target air defence radar stations and command hubs.

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The air war, lots for Russia to think about 

Russia does not have complete air superiority and Ukraine is using long-range drones to attack targets deep inside Russia.  Russian air defence in Crimea and Kherson appears to be successfully degraded with Ukrainian drone attacks targeting Russia’s network of early warning assets including ground-based radars and command centres. ‘Patriot traps’ or sniping important airborne early warning and command aircraft with Patriot missiles brought close to the frontline, is a new tactic proving very effective. 

Evidence that this campaign is degrading Russian air defences in Crimea and Kherson is provided by the continuing presence of Ukrainian forces on the east bank of the Dnipro River.  This bridgehead has not been bombed out of existence by Russian aviation, an indication of Ukraine’s ability to create at least small protected areas for ground operations.  Another indicator is the increasing number of successful drone and missile attacks on Russian facilities and ships in this area.  Degrading Russian air defences in this area could indicate that Ukraine is preparing for some sort of significant activity, possibly when their F16s start coming into service later this year.  

Meanwhile, long-range Ukrainian drones are battering Russia’s oil and gas infra-structure. In a clear effort to damage Russia’s economic base, drones relentlessly attack oil refineries, depots and port facilities. This campaign highlights the difficulty Russia has protecting itself against long-range drones. 

US support becomes unpredictable

Ukraine is unlikely to lose the war suddenly at this point, it shows no sign of capitulating, is mobilising its large defence industry and still has European Union support. However, American support cannot be guaranteed presenting a worst-case scenario in which the war becomes a longer, lower intensity war of attrition. Neither side able to develop sufficient combat power to win, but both unwilling to negotiate.  

The single factor most likely to prevent this scenario developing is US support. The US can provide sufficient material that Ukraine could drive Russian forces out of the country.  US policy to-date however has evolved slowly based on concerns about Russia’s military power and willingness to use nuclear weapons.  The war has demonstrated that the first concern is unwarranted, Russia’s equipment is out of date and poorly utilised.  A conventional war with NATO would result in a catastrophic defeat for Russia.  

The threat of Russian nuclear escalation needs to be managed, Putin’s threats early in the war had weight because they were backed by known capability and unknown intent.  Now it is clear that Putin is very unlikely to use nuclear weapons, NATO’s resolve and the reactions of his supporters disincentivising their use.  

Currently, Ukraine is suffering from that caution as changes in US domestic politics create debate about US aid.  It is terrible situation that undermines global stability. If American leaders sacrifice a military partner (Ukraine) to score points in domestic politics the message sent to other aggressive regimes is that; US defence commitments are fickle. This incentivises other nations to challenge the international rules-based order that is under-pinned by US military alliances.  

Mobilisation of the Russian ‘defence industrial base’

In 2023, Russia fully mobilised its ‘defence industrial base’ putting its whole economy on a war footing.   It is estimated that 40% of its GDP is now committed to the war.  Europe’s failure to meet promised commitments of ammunition and shaky American support means that Russia currently has a significant material advantage over Ukraine.   Russia’s current offensive is probably timed to take advantage of this situation because it is unlikely to be permanent.

Ukraine is mobilising its own economy and when it was part of the Soviet Union Ukraine was an important manufacturing area producing weapons, ammunition, tanks, artillery, helicopters and aircraft.  Several European nations are also starting to mobilise their defence industries to support Ukraine because they understand the Russian threat. 

Economically, Russia is at its peak and production likely to reduce over time. The peak is sustained by oil and gas revenue and a large war-chest. Ukraine’s drone campaign against Russian oil and gas infrastructure targets this revenue stream and is probably going to be more effective than the current set of sanctions.  Evidence to date, is that Russia’s defence industry is focussed on re-furbishing mothballed equipment rather than producing new equipment and sanctions may prevent large-scale production of new tanks, planes, radios, radars and other equipment requiring electronic components that cannot be salvaged from civilian goods. This suggests that Russia’s defence industry may not be able to produce large amounts of new equipment without considerable investment.  

Long-term if Ukraine can stay in the fight supported by at least the European Union it will reduce Russia’s material advantages.  Sanctions and loss of oil and gas revenue will degrade Russia’s defence industry while Ukraine’s grows.  

Four key lessons from 2023 

Around the world, people interested in defence policy and the military should be studying Ukraine and learning from this war and below I have provided my top four lessons from 2023.

Industrial war is back

Early in the war, Professor Michael Clarke a retired Director of the Royal United Services Institute opined that the Ukraine War represented the return of ‘industrial war’ to Europe.  The term being used to describe large-scale attritional war between nation-states in which both sides enlist their whole economies into the competition.  A form of war that has not been seen in Europe since 1945.  

Unfortunately, as we enter the third year of this war Professor Clarke appears to be correct. The war’s outcome becoming an increasingly attritional question of which side’s industrial base can generate more ammunition and equipment.  A sad lesson from Ukraine is that all nations need to be prepared for longer wars by developing economic plans and alliances that can sustain force levels through long-term conflicts. 

Operational learning versus tactical innovation 

This war is interesting to study because it throws into stark relief the differences between modern Western doctrine that emphasises ‘tactical innovation’ and Soviet/Russian doctrine that focuses on ‘operational learning.’ Essentially, the difference is that for all of its tactical level rigidity a Russian force’s centralised control enables it to assess innovations; and if they ‘add value,’ quickly disseminate them through the whole force.  Russian forces can operationalise innovation across their force, in slow but very structured manner that has produced incremental improvement in their capability over the last year. 

Ukraine’s military culture is more influenced by modern Western doctrine, that after 30 years of peace-keeping and small operations focuses on encouraging tactical innovation.  The result is that Russia’s force in Ukraine is slowly and incrementally evolving because at the operational level of command (i.e. across the whole land campaign) orders can be made that immediately introduce new tactics or ways of operating.   Innovation in Russian forces may be slower but is more impactful, Russian ‘storm tactics’ provide an example of how this process works. 

Storm tactics involve using squads of prisoners to conduct initial reconnaissance of enemy positions. Expendable soldiers are pushed forwards in ‘meat waves’ that provide information about enemy positions that allow later waves to target key weapons systems like machine guns or automatic grenade launchers.  This tactic started with Wagner Group in Bakhmut and the doctrine has solidified and been disseminated across the Russian army in Ukraine.  

Ukraine’s forces on the other hand innovate tactically all over the campaign but appear less good at sharing these lessons.  The recent appointments of young commanders with a history of innovative tactics to senior command positions may be a way to address this issue.  

Western militaries need to learn from the Ukraine War because after decades of being focussed at the tactical level, this war is a reminder that the operational level of war requires a different set of skills.  Across the Western world armies have shrunk and conventional combat arms like artillery and armour reduced. In recent years, special forces (SF) officers, masters of tactical operations rose to new levels of command prominence within Western armies. A natural trend because without the Soviet threat and with increased détente with China the prospect of conventional war reduced. Fighting asymmetric forces like Al Qaeda, the Taliban or militias required tactical level skills so these specialists rose in the rank.  Likewise, after World War Two artillery and armoured corps officers tended to rise to senior command positions because that era of conflict emphasised their skill sets. Ukraine demonstrates that the way we need to fight in the future is changing and Western armies need to re-learn the skills of large-scale operations. 

The proliferation of drones and low-cost precision strike 

Retired Australian General Mick Ryan, pointed out recently that a key issue with modern drones is the disparity between the cost of a drone and the missile that intercepts it.  Currently, modern militaries deploy incredibly effective but complex air defence missiles that are enormously expensive.  In Ukraine, weapons like Patriot, Hawk, Mistral are stunningly effective, however using a missile that costs hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars to shoot down a drone worth a couple of thousand dollar is hugely wasteful and unsustainable.

The proliferation of drones and low-cost precision strike that we are witnessing in Ukraine, Gaza and the Red Sea needs to be sounding alarm bells in modern armies. The lesson is that more effective low-cost solutions need to be developed, quickly. In a recent Pacific Brief, we noted that US Navy ships in the Red Sea are reported to be using 5’’ gunfire to engage Houthi drones.  A smart use of a weapon that many felt was out-of-date, a 5’’ shell costs only a few hundred dollars and ship can carry hundreds of them.  

Electronic jamming is also proving highly effective in Ukraine, for example American Switchblade loitering drones appear to have been effectively countered by Russian jamming and a feature of the fighting along the Dnipro River is Ukraine’s early capture of mid-stream islands that were used for jamming sites. 

Modern battlefields require lots of infantry

A lesson from Ukraine is that any force needs plenty of infantry soldiers.  Foot soldiers that get out of their vehicles and walk through towns, cities, forests, mountains and swamps to find the enemy and kill or capture them.  Infantry are also the soldiers that secure ground, protecting it from the enemy.   

Most modern armies have reduced in size and their infantry numbers have decreased.  Even Russia started the war with far fewer infantry than it needed.  The Ukraine War demonstrates the requirement for lots of infantry, and for sustainability.  In peace-time generals ‘make do,’ accepting funding cuts and telling their political masters that new technology means an army can ‘do more with less.’  Ukraine proves that this is not true and that new tech means many, many more threats dispersed over more and more complex terrain that need to be hunted out.   

The campaign against the Houthi is a good example.  Today, insurgents like the Houthi have easy access to long-range drones and missiles allowing them to project power long distances. For example, the Houthi fired missiles at Haifa, 1800km from their bases and these weapon systems are easy to disperse and hide.  Aerial bombing or missiles attacks simply force an enemy to disperse and reappear elsewhere. The range of modern precision-strike weapons means that dispersal is unlikely to limit their power projection.  Factors that mean the bombing campaign against the Houthi is unlikely to be successful. A point proven throughout history as air campaigns have proven ineffective at stopping either; the economies of large powers or at crippling insurgencies.  The only way to permanently counter a threat like this is to put ‘boots on the ground’ to kill or capture personnel and secure the areas that these weapons are operated from.

Looking to future conflicts in the Pacific, with its very complex terrain there will be a requirement for lots of infantry soldiers.  Unfortunately, in recent decades none of the Pacific’s major powers has focussed on force sustainability.  Once large reserve forces (part-time soldiers) that provided for rapid expansion of an army have shrunk and limited defence budgets have been directed towards peace-keeping or fighting smaller insurgent forces. The ratio of frontline infantry soldiers to support soldiers in most modern-Western armies varies between 1-5 and 1-7.  For instance, this means that the Australian Army with a published ‘strength’ of approximately 28,000 can deploy roughly around 5000 actual frontline infantry soldiers.  A relatively small force when the amount of infantry required for the battle over the small town of Avdiivka is considered. The lesson is that if countries want to maintain the military capacity for effective deterrence, then they are going to need the ability to generate large numbers of infantry soldiers. Reserve forces are a cost-effective and proven method to achieve this goal.

What can we expect in 2024?

Analysis of what we can expect to see in the next twelve months requires consideration of a range of different factors with limited information.  In the section below I have summarised my assessment of the situation. 

The key question is whether the US will continue to support Ukraine

The current Congressional debate about the White House’s aid package is the key external factor influencing how the war will evolve in 2024.  If the US Congress does not authorise the proposed aid package the impact on Ukraine will be significant. The potential impact is well articulated by RAND’s Rapheal S Cohen, who summed up the situation as follows; “Simply put, Ukraine could lose the war. Russia could win, a bloody but ultimately successful campaign. American adversaries around the world would be emboldened. And the United States would have—yet another—massive unforced strategic blunder in a geopolitical environment that increasingly has little margin for error.” 

In my opinion, the potentially catastrophic implications for US foreign policy of not supporting the aid package, mitigate towards Congressmen and women seeing sense and eventually voting for the package.  

But it is not certain, and future US aid is also impacted by the Presidential election later this year that may return Trump, whose position regarding international commitments and US foreign policy is highly unpredictable. The uncertainty of US support leads to two broad scenarios for what may happen in Ukraine this year.  

  • A high-impact scenario. The US aid package is thwarted in Congress, or is reduced to ineffectiveness by Congressional ‘horse trading.’  The President continues to use ‘excess defence articles authority’ to ‘ring trade’ surplus US military equipment to other countries in exchange for them sending their older equipment to Ukraine.  


Ukraine will continue to fight but at a much lower level of military capability and European support will have to shift from predominantly financial to supplying more weapons and equipment.  In this scenario, the war settles into a long and uncertain battle of attrition. 


  • A low-impact scenario.  Congress approves the aid package and Ukraine receives approximately US$ 60 billion of aid providing the military equipment needed to guarantee another large-scale offensive in the next 12-18 months. A significant element within the aid package helps the Ukraine and US defence industries mobilise allowing a rapid escalation in ammunition production able to match or surpass Russian production.  


Ukrainian operations can therefore be more aggressive based on greater certainty about their sources of supply. This means Russia’s economy is put under much greater pressure forcing its collapse sooner, facilitating a shorter battle of attrition. This scenario probably culminates in Ukraine returning to large offensive operations on land in 2025, facing a significantly weakened Russian army. 

Ukraine’s options

Ukraine’s military planners are in a very difficult position trying to develop strategy without good information about their force’s sustainability and resources.  Good generals understand a concept the military calls ‘tempo,’ or that battles and campaigns have a natural ebb and flow.  For instance, Ukraine attacked last year and there was intense defensive fighting. Then as Ukraine’s offensive culminated there was a short period of lower activity as Russia transitioned from defence to offensive activity. Currently, we are watching another period of intense activity as Russia attacks and Ukraine defended. 

Tempo is constant, and Russia’s current offensive will culminate soon, providing a potential ‘window’ for aggressive Ukrainian action. However, any aggressive action involves risk. So, the question this year is, will Ukraine accept that risk?  Especially, when US support is uncertain. 

Ukraine’s most likely course of action – Sit tight, defend and attrit Russia

This is Ukraine’s publicly stated course of action and the one that most commentators are picking.  It involves Ukraine continuing its successful air and sea offensives.  Ukraine would continue to target the Russian oil and gas industry to reduce Russia’s economic power.  Additionally, Ukraine would target the Black Sea Fleet and continue to degrade Crimea’s air defences.  The strategic aim is attrition or reducing Russia’s national war-fighting capability.

On land, at an operational level Ukraine settles into an active defence. The aim of which is to attrit Russia’s ground forces, secure the current front-line and provide the security required for Ukraine to build new reserves ready for offensive action in 2025.

Ukraine’s most dangerous course of action – Aggressive action 

Like the previous course of action, this one involves Ukraine continuing its successful air and sea offensives.  The strategic aim is still to attrit or reduce Russia’s national war-fighting capability. However, the battle for international support is fought in the information domain. In my opinion, if Ukraine had reached the Sea of Azov, cut the land bridge to Crimea and presented its supporters with a victory in 2023 the US would not be debating Ukraine aid packages. Instead, the prospect of ‘backing a winner’ and inflicting a defeat on Russia would have encouraged Americans to support Ukraine’s war effort.

The changes to Ukraine’s military leadership over the winter are significant and bring together a senior leadership team with considerable experience, and a history of innovation.  Ukraine’s appreciation of the situation may be that now is the time for risk.  Last year’s offensive was characterised by taking lower risk options. For instance, Ukraine sacrificed the surprise and initiative it held after the successful Kharkiv and Kherson offensives to ensure new equipment was in service and its soldiers well-trained before starting its 2023 offensive.  This period in late-2022 and early 2023 was used by Russia to re-organise and strengthen defensive lines ready for Ukraine’s attack.   

It is possible that a Ukrainian lesson from last year’s offensive is that to sit and wait allows Russia to develop better defences. Instead, it may be better to take a risk and demonstrate to international supporters that Ukraine is still able to achieve success. Ukraine retains a foothold on the east bank of the Dnipro River and is actively attacking air defences in Crimea and Kherson.  Perhaps a successful operation in this area coinciding with the Russian elections could have a significant impact on international opinion.  A high-risk option so very unlikely, but one that could have a large strategic pay-off. 


The last year of the war has produced several useful lessons for military policy-makers and for people interested in defence discussions. Some of these lessons challenge deeply held military orthodoxies that will be uncomfortable. However, it is important that we consider them and discuss them, especially in areas like the Pacific that are currently facing a range of security challenges during a period of major power competition.  A situation that will be impacted by the trends we see in Ukraine. 

Finally, 2024 will be a defining year for this campaign and for global stability.  If America fails Ukraine, that war will be much longer and the outcome becomes less certain but the impact will be felt across the globe.  US steadfastness underwrites defence alliances and partnerships around the world that secure international stability, if US domestic politics undermines that confidence, we are likely to see many more security challenges.  

Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer, a former Officer in NZDF and TDBs Military Blogger – his work is on substack


  1. So Ben’s best prediction is Russia will struggle on with this for a few years.
    Bookmark this one for a laugh in a few months.

    and if there was any doubt about the “quality” of Ben’s analysis, check out this zinger:
    “Ukraine’s military culture is more influenced by modern Western doctrine, that after 30 years of peace-keeping and small operations…”

    30. Years. Of Peacekeeping.

    Forget white is black; white is crazy psychedelic disco balls in Ben’s world.

  2. Well, the truth is now emerging that for “Ben Morgan” the war is not about defending Ukraine but about preserving US global hegemony. If Ukraine falls “American adversaries around the world would be emboldened. And the United States would have—yet another—massive unforced strategic blunder in a geopolitical environment that increasingly has little margin for error … potentially catastrophic implications for US foreign policy”
    “Ben Morgan” has now extended his partisan interest to the Israeli-US genocide in Gaza and the way against Yemen, so we see these wars converging with the war in Ukraine in Morgan’s mind as righteous battles to preserve the power of Anglo-American imperialism in the world. Pat O’Dea might care to take note.

    • I am not here to defend what Ben argues.

      One cannot really argue with the statement that you quoted. Any rational thinker will agree with that statement.

      Painting the actions of Hamas, the Hutis and the Putinistas in a positive light says everything about you. Surely you can afford Ben the right to defend the rights of those who claim to defend their citizens and their sovereignty.

      • I am not denying the truth of Morgan’s statement. The point is that his concern is not for the future of Ukraine but for maintaining the global power of United States. Ukrainian sovereignty was not in danger until a misguided Ukrainian government decided it could become part of a political and military alliance directed against its Russian neighbour. That was a serious error of judgement, and I suggest that Ben Morgan has also misjudged the situation by assuming that Ukraine would prevail in the conflict, and that the United States would remain committed to the defence of Ukraine in any circumstances.
        Those who claim to be defending the sovereignty of Ukraine by giving military and political support to it’s government have instead imperiled Ukrainian sovereignty, and in the process have helped bring about massive losses of life and property in a totally unnecessary war. Ben Morgan does not stand for the principle of peoples right to self-determination. If he did he would uphold that principle with respect to the inhabitants of Donbass as well as Ukraine proper, of Gaza and the West Bank as well as Israel. Like the NZDF in which he served, he identifies with the global interests of Anglo-American imperialism, and it is merely incidental that the cause of Ukrainian independence are perceived to align with the global interests of the United States in the present conflict.
        It is mischievous to suggest that I paint the actions of Vladimir Putin, Hamas and Ansar Allah “in a positive light”. For a start they are very different entities and the scope of their actions is very broad. All they have in common is that all three claim to be defending “their citizens and their sovereignty”. Of the three Ansar Allah probably has the strongest case to make in that regard, but Hamas also has a case. Vladimir Putin has the dubious qualities that one might expect to find in a former KGB officer, except that his time in foreign intelligence should have given him a better understanding of the strength of Ukrainian nationalist sentiment, and the resistance that he might encounter in his “special military operation”.

        • Your first lie, is the Houthi have the right to be an armed group, when they have not nor ever have been the army of Yemen. And nor has Hamas military wing ever been the gun of the PA President.

          Your second lie, is that the an area has the right to secede from a national territory without its governments consent, especially to do so with resort to foreign military supply and its guest worker soldiers – then foreign nations military occupation and annexation.

          Your argument is that Ukraine should not have sought collective security for its sovereignty because this might provoke a nation with designs on it being (and or remaining) a vassal state – and it might lose to that nation in any confrontation should have known its place.

          Real-politic of acceptance of regional hegemony and any resistance of some “corrupt” western international order. Is there any difference to being a better red than dead parrot of the Cold War era?

        • Putin invaded Ukraine!
          It is Putin’s war, he started it. The question is will he finish it.

          Once the threat to your sovereignty becomes real most will take serious action.

          What has Putin got left in the tank?

        • On the contrary Mr Fischer, give Ukraine the right to determine its alliances. You fall into the usual trap of denying Ukraine agency. The Ukrainians do not want to be in a re-established Soviet Union. They want to join with Poland the rest of the Visegrad group and the Baltics. Even the Donbas voted to remain with Ukraine until the nasty separatists decided to preserve their criminal networks. Yes Donetsk was and is a major centre of crime.

          • Ukraine will make its own decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions. Until 2014 the relationship between Russia and Ukraine closely paralleled that between Britain and Ireland up to 1939. Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State in 1921, though with the problem of Northern Ireland unresolved. The Irish might have been tempted to form an alliance with Germany, which would certainly have won them the promise of a united Ireland in the event of a German victory, but Ireland sensibly remained neutral. If it has formed an alliance against its old colonial master then Ireland would have been given no quarter by Britain at the conclusion of the war with Germany, assuming that the outcome of that war would not have been changed by Irish belligerency. Eamon De Valera had the wisdom to see what would best serve his country’s interests. Volodymyr Zelensky did not, or if he did, he didn’t care.

      • Palestinians in Gaza & the West Bank have been living in a open air Concentration Camp ever since the Zionist State of Israel came into existence in 1948. Hamas has every right to attack its Tormentors the Israeli’s, any normal freedom fighter who has been subjected to torture, illegal imprisonment & been beaten & humiliated, murdered for over 70 yrs would rise up to fight back, just as the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto rose up to fight their Nazi jailers in Poland! And the Houthi’s are disrupting Shipping to achieve the Goal of obtaining a ceasefire in Gaza, no one has been killed by the Houthis & only US, UK & Israeli ships have been attacked & stopped, however the US & the UK have illegally bombed & killed Yemeni civilians in a futile & losing strategy without the approval of the UN Security Council or US Congress! Who are the real criminals here, because it sure as hell ain’t Hamas, the Houthi’s or Putinista’s, how pathetic, you talk about Sovereignty but it’s because Nation’s like Russia, China, Iran & the BRICs Countries have refused to give up their Sovereignty to become a US Vassal that has resulted in all these Wars, America despises Sovereignty, they overthrew the Democratically elected Ukrainian Govt in 2014, that’s how much they care about Democracy & Sovereignty & the US has overthrown numerous Nations across the Globe for well over a 100yrs & murdered their Leaders, trampling on their Sovereignty all for waiting to rule the World, steal other Nations resources & maintain it’s bullshit “Rules based Order” where they make the Rules & give the Orders for the World to obey but US Hegemony has now found out what Napoleon, Hitler & now the demented Biden has found out the hard way in Ukraine? Russia will Militarily defeat any Nation who dares to try to wage a War against it, the US & NATO came to fuck around on Russia’s Borders & have found out the Hard way after wasting $300 billion dollars with nothing to show for it except defeat, a bargain as Afghanistan cost the America the eye watering cost of $2 Trillion, also with nothing to show for it but defeat? You fuck around with Russia & you find out?

    • You dismiss the collective security of nations as if the concept means nothing.

      In calling that the order of American hegemony – you are calling the arrival of regional bullies marching over their neighbouring nations an era of liberation.

      The big lie.

  3. Ben,

    I have been saying on this Blog for a year that the war is in a stalemate. That during 2023 neither Russia nor Ukraine could successfully mount an offensive.

    You may recall that I predicted that during 2023 both Russia and Ukraine would both try offensive operations (Ukraine in the summer, Russia in the winter) but that both would fail. The withdrawal from Avdiivka by the new commanding general was a sensible withdrawal from a difficult salient. The fact that Russia took so long to deal with a relatively small salient (meaning they could attack from 3 sides) shows up Russia’s inability to mount a successful offensive against properly organised defensive lines.

    It would seem that it is time for sensible negotiations, with the current frontline being the armistice line. Ultimately, with minor adjustments, it is a reasonably sensible new international border. Biden needs to use the Congressional stalemate to persuade Ukraine to negotiate.

    I would also note the 31,000 Ukrainian military dead indicated by Zelensky is around what I have thought. By and large Ukraine has fought a defensive war, their territorial gains of 18 months ago were against a disorganised Russian Army, hence relatively low Ukrainian casualties. In contrast Russian attacks have been very costly, particularly the initial attack, Bakhmut and Avdiivka, so the estimate of 150,000 Russian dead is quite believable. Of course these ratios also mirror the respective population ratios, so the overall effect on both countries military is similar. There are differences but there are offsetting factors. For instance Russia has to secure the rest of its borders but Ukraine (to a greater degree than Russia) has had a significant percentage of its population emigrate.

    What is the military balance for the future? The Ukrainian military is smaller than Russia, but it can be entirely concentrated at the current battle zone, and can basically operate in a defensive posture. Russia can have a bigger army in the battle zone, maybe twice as large, but even then they won’t break through. A successful offence would need as least three times as many as the defensive force, and that is assuming they are of equal capability. But they aren’t. Russian forces are simply not as well trained or as motivated as Ukrainian forces. So they would need considerably more than 3 times.

    All this says to me that the next 12 months is basically going to be a stalemate, thus it is time to negotiate.

    In short each side keeps what they have currently got.

    • Yeah, when your artillery is outnumbered 7 to 1, claiming you lost 31,000 and your enemy has lost 5 times that is an inversion of reality. The idea that it’s only a Lord of the Rings wave of bodies keeping Russia in the fight, yet Ukraine are strapped for every resource imaginable – The only thing Ukraine has is their Azov nazi groups who hide in the back, and their showy but irrelevant Nato-orchestrated strikes around the Black Sea – it does not make sense to rational people.

      Putin said about 44,000 Russians killed, iirc. Doing the math from artillery makes 200-300k Ukrainian dead. Letting that, more realistic bottomline become the narrative would of course doom any public support for the conflict Nato’s propping up.

      Victory for Ukraine is out of the question. Nato’s goal of making it an armed camp against Russia, modelled on Israel, is on its deathbed. Their goal is just continuing to make Putin “the bad guy” so to try and burn as many bridges between the Hegemon’s vassals – particularly Europe – and Russia to try and defeat the advance of the multipolar world.

      • Paul,

        Artillery is most effective against troops and vehicles in open ground, not against heavily fortified trenches. To have an effect against a trench requires a direct hit. However, artillery is essentially an area weapon. Direct hits are by random chance. Russian shells are not guided.

        Basically you fire multiple salvos to destroy an area of 100m2. If the trench is 2% of the area, you have to fire 50 rounds, which would be a 3 salvos from an artillery regiment, to get one hit. That one hit might destroy 5 meters of the trench. To hit the whole 100 m trench requires 1,000 rounds. If the trench is heavily reinforced with overhead cover, a direct hit will do less damage, and possibly won’t even penetrate the overhead cover.

        Given that Ukraine is mostly fighting a defensive war, they are not in the open. However, the attacking Russian troops are. That is why the are being killed at the rate they are.

        In short your estimates of the relative deaths are wholly in error.

      • Putin is a ‘bad guy’ as you put it. He is a war criminal who put his main rival in jail on trumped up charges after attempting to poison him. Then he continually tortured him for 2 years until he gave the death order.

    • Negotiations over what – recognition of the annexation of Ukraine territory by Russia?

      Name one case where this has happened since 1945? It would be an abject failure not just of UN collective security but a breach of the 1949 UN position – no recognition of addition of territory by war.

    • If Ukraine has been inflicting casualties on Russia at a 5 to 1 ratio, then they should also have a 5 to 1 advantage in POWs taken, or close to it.
      With 1 for 1 prisoners swaps going on, then Ukraine has hundreds of Russian prisoners and Russia has zero.
      Is that what we are seeing?

  4. Wayne, with all respect I’d suggest you ask the question re casualties why the average age of Ukraines army is 42? And why the Ukraine cannot recruit from the “army age” demographic?

    Stalemate? Looks that way on a map but is it? Four years on the Western front fighting a similar static war of attrition gave a decisive victory in 1918.

    Suggest you read this Swiss military man.,aps,160&sr=8-1

    • Nick J,

      I agree it is unusual to have such an old Army. Ukraine’s policy of having conscription for those above 27 (though trying to reduce that to 25) is also strange. Most countries with conscription do it at age 18 or 19, Israel for instance. I don’t think it means all those under 27 have been killed. Rather they they have been exempt perhaps to encourage them stay in Ukraine.

      My experience as an infantry soldier is that you have to be dam fit. Running and crawling about in tactical formation with heavy military gear really takes it out of you. Of course if you are manning a fixed defence line, then there is much less demand to run and crawl. That is something you do on offensive operations. Offensive operations is not something a 40 year old can easily do. It really for those in their 20’s and early 30’s.

      The Ukrainian policy of conscripting older men might indicate that many younger people have emigrated, as I suggested in my initial comment. One million did so in Russia, mostly of those in their 20’s who were liable for conscription. I suspect the number of younger Ukrainians who have emigrated is higher, at least as a percentage of the population.

      I doubt Zelensky is lying about 31,000 dead. Families will know the truth. Social media can track the funerals and what loved ones are saying.

      For a perspective of what 31,000 means. It is out of a population of 35 to 40 million (depending on the level of emigration). In contrast New Zealand had 11,000 killed in WW 1, out of a population of 1 million. It was the highest among all the western allies. And the effects still echo today. In my family, only my grandfather survived. His two brothers were killed. It changed entirely what my family did from 1920 to 1960. Instead of a large farm suitable for three brothers it was mostly sold and the proceeds distributed among the surviving brother and his sisters. My grandparents were very opposed to their sons joining the military in WW2, although two did, including my father. But that did lead to a bit of family rift. My grandfather never joined the RSA, and throughout his life, after WW1, he was tinged with sadness.

      Can Ukraine continue to sustain such casualties? Yes, but the age of their army, and the limits on their military equipment means they have to remain in a defensive posture. And build that up so it is impregnable.

      Being in defense must surely point to the inevitable. That Ukraine needs to negotiate to end the war, basically on the basis of the current front line. There is no way Ukraine can regain the lost territory. That is now Russian, and indeed to a significant extent always was (the Donbass and Crimea).

      The sooner the better, not just for Ukraine, but also for Russia. Their casualties with over 150,000 killed, concentrated among young men in their 20’s, must be devastating for their communities, which are typically poor, rural and remote. The war has not yet impacted on the better off in the larger cities, but the longer it goes on, the more it will do so.

      • Wayne, I think that you will be shocked when the true casualty figures are known. Either way whether you are Russian or Ukrainian being dead is tragic. Unfortunately this is going to drag on because all sides are intractible and cannot afford to lose.

        For Russian casualties check out Mediazone, a project in association with the BBC.
        For Ukrainian casualties I’d suggest Zhelensky said it all prior to his low ball 30K.He stated that his army needed 20K replacements per month. Work that out.

  5. Wayne, what do you know that US officials don’t know?
    Are you more qualified than Mark Milley?
    November 2023
    The Biden administration’s last public estimate of casualties came in November, when Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more than 100,000 troops on each side had been killed or wounded since the war began in February 2022. At the time, officials said privately that the numbers were closer to 120,000 killed and wounded.

  6. Not a word from the Putinists about the death of Navalny. Even Tucker Carlson said that no decent person could defend the killing of Navalny.
    The pointless debate about war casualties is a trivial matter compared with the dreadful treatment of Navalny and his fellow dissidents. To put it in eschatological terms, Putin is truly satanic and anyone who supports him has sold their soul to the devil! With Putin on the way to hell will be the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1994 I visited Sergiev Posad the church’s capital. Who would think that such villainy would ensue from this church?
    Putin – and Trump use the church as a vehicle but their sincerity is non existent. Otherwise they would behave very differently.

        • How does anyone?Apart from the pathologists who do the post mortem
          How do you know Navalny was killed?
          And of course , as you know Ovod, Navalny was a nationalist who believed that Crimea belonged to Russia , so not a fave with the Ukrainians
          Intelligence services always claim to “know” what is expedient for them

          • So you choose to blacken the name of Navalny F? A victim of torture and poisoning! I think you are a twisted psychopath with zero empathy.
            How do I know Navalny was killed? What a stupid statement! It shows that you are a twisted psychopath with zero empathy. After all a male who posts under a female’s name must be dodgy. And you are!

  7. This article sums up the biggest problem with this Conflict & Mr Morgan’s analysis of it? One side is fighting using Narratives, Media Spin & Propaganda & the other side is a Old fashioned Military fighting with Artillery, Manpower & bombs? Guess who’s going to win, every time, it’s the one who has the Artillery, Manpower & Bombs! Bullshit lies & Words don’t win WARS, Artillery does! The American backed, US Proxy Ukraine & NATO are fighting this conflict mainly using Words, Narratives, Propaganda & waging a Internet Information War in which they are unmatched, nothing in George Orwell’s novel 1984 comes close to the level of gaslighting the US & it’s Western Disinformation, Big Brother Govt & Media possess but at the end of the Day, it’s Russia who is fighting & winning the War in the Real World on the Battlefield, Narratives & Lies are no match for Artillery shells & it’s as simple as that! If you want a proper deep dive into the logistics required to wage a successful War, check out Brian Berlitic of the New Atlas on YouTube, primarily you need to have a Plan, a Airforce & Air defence & a well Trained Army plus the Industrial manufacturing capacity to make the weapons, Russia outproduces the entire West including the US, seven to one & that’s why Russia is winning! Unfortunately, thousands of Ukrainians & Russians have died in this totally unnecessary conflict because of the Hubris & arrogance & murderous ambitions of the US Empire who overthrew the Ukrainian Govt in a Coup d’état in 2014 & allowed it’s Warmongering scumbag Neocons, like Victoria Nuland & others to use Ukraine as a battering ram to menace Russia, but it’s all turned to shit for the US Empire & Genocide Joe Biden & his Evil, diabolical Administration who are responsible for this conflict!

    • What’s the most important thing in the world?
      He Tangata! He Tangata! He Tangata!

      “Guess who’s going to win, every time, it’s the one who has the Artillery, Manpower & Bombs!” Antarse

      You’re an idiot.

      Prove you’re not an idiot, and tell us how the Taliban beat the Soviets and the Yanks and before that the British Empire.

      And while you’re at it tell us how the Vietnamese beat the Japanese, the French, the American and the invading Chinese army.

      None of these imperialist powers were short of Artillery, Manpower & Bombs.

      • That’s right Pat. The heroic anti-imperialists of Donetsk and Lugansk are going to continue to smash the filthy scum of NATO, the zionist Zelensky, and the Ukrainian conscripts who those evil beasts have pressed into service.

        • The US imperialists are on the brink of abandoning Ukraine in favour of shoring up their failing military and colonial imperialist program for the Middle East.

          Mock and defame the Ukrainian people all you like. The truth is this; even if the US abandons the Ukrainian people to their fate as a Russian satrap, the lesson of Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Palestine is that an occupied and invaded people will keep on resisting the invader and the occupier for as long as it takes, even if it takes decades, even if it takes generations.

          • Ukraine’s fundamental mistake was to enter into de facto alliance with NATO. That is the point that you missed from the beginning Pat. There have been two years of bloody, fruitless and unnecessary war as a result. The US was never to be trusted. Its purpose was always to have Ukrainians die in order to weaken the Russian Federation, and it financed the slaughter up to the point where it could see no more advantage to the US. We should not have needed the Ukraine war to confirm that a smaller nation cannot benefit from pitting two imperial powers against each other.

  8. Ancient techniques coupled with new technologies. “Security” agencies and others all want this kind of thing or “better”. And some already have it.

    A US tech firm with close ties to the CIA and the Pentagon used a powerful tool to try to track the movements of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wired has claimed, citing a new book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Byron Tau.

    The company, PlanetRisk, reportedly created the tool – originally named Locomotive but later rebranded as VISR (Virtual Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) – to tap into geolocation data used by digital advertisers, and was supposedly able to snoop on people close to the Russian president, thus gaining information on his whereabouts.

    In its long-read on Tuesday, based on Tau’s ‘Means of Control: How the Hidden Alliance of Tech and Government Is Creating a New American Surveillance State’, Wired reported that researcher Mike Yeagley first became aware of the potential usefulness of large pools of data collected by certain apps in the mid-2010s. Tech companies were already routinely gathering the information and were willing to sell to any advertiser prepared to pay a relatively modest fee for the service, making it a particularly promising area, the report claimed.

    According to the book, Yeagley, “who specialized in obtaining unique data sets for government agencies,” first experimented with geofences – virtual boundaries in geographical data sets – to track down employees of US government agencies. The method reportedly proved highly successful in terms of harvesting personal data on staff who used dating and weather apps, as well as games that require the user’s location.

    In 2015, Yeagley was allegedly hired by PlaceIQ after the company received an “investment from the CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel.” He then reportedly moved on to another obscure start-up, PlanetRisk.

    “The CIA was interested in software that could analyze and understand the geographic movement of people and things,” the book explained.

    During its trial period, the Locomotive tool was used to follow in near real time the movements of people in Syria, which was in the midst of a civil war. That included some US special forces operatives secretly deployed to the country, Tau wrote.

    “After acquiring a data set on Russia, the team realized they could track phones in the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage,” the book claimed, as cited by Wired.

    While none of the devices in question could be linked to the Russian leader personally, PlanetRisk believed it had access to the smart phones that “belonged to the drivers, the security personnel, the political aides, and other support staff around the Russian president,” according to the account. These people were allegedly “trackable in the advertising data,” supposedly meaning that Putin’s routes and locations could be identified.

    According to the book, US government agencies were highly impressed with Yeagley’s work, with Locomotive – and later VISR – being adopted “as part of an interagency program.”

    Tau claimed, however, that other entities, most notably Israeli ones, have since built their own tracking tools using the same principles. These are reportedly now available to a far wider range of clients globally, rather than just US intelligence agencies.

  9. From Russia Today

    ‘Russia must win this war’ – Canada’s Trudeau
    The PM made a Freudian slip during a pro-Ukraine speech in Poland.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday urged NATO countries to raise their military spending and send more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, but seemed to herald a Russian victory in the conflict in an apparent slip-up.

    Trudeau spoke in Warsaw after meetings with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Andrzej Duda – both of whom are vocal supporters of Ukraine, but are political opponents at home.

    “We know that Russia must win this war – sorry, Ukraine must win this war against Russia,” Trudeau told reporters at a joint press conference with Tusk.

    The Polish prime minister lamented that wealthy NATO countries in Europe “could not build altogether the defense capacities that would really exceed the Russian ones,” according to AP, urging the US-led bloc to do more.

    Canada itself has fallen short of NATO’s mandated military spending, pegged at 2% of GDP years ago. Trudeau has pledged that Ottawa will “step up.”

    The Canadian leader also urged Western countries to “lean in” and make sure they are dealing not just with daily challenges, but are “building peace, stability and prosperity for future generations as well.”

    “It is a time where citizens cannot take their democracies for granted,” Trudeau said, after agreeing with Tusk on the danger of leaders in Europe who “stand in the way” of a united front in support of Ukraine.

    Trudeau’s Freudian slip comes as multiple Western outlets have noted the significant deterioration of the Ukrainian position in the conflict, following the Russian victory in Avdeevka.

    US State Department spokesman Matt Miller made a similar lapse last July, when he described the conflict as “a strategic failure for Ukraine” during a press briefing – twice – before insisting that he really meant Russia. He blamed fatigue and a break from work for supposedly misspeaking.

  10. The amount of lies and spin about the western backed violent coup in Ukraine immediately followded by the Nato backed ethno violence/civil war is befitting of a C.I.A theme park,,, which is how John Pilger described Ukraine in 2014, which was the year of the violent coup and commencement of NATO’s proxy fighting,,, and is now closing in on 10 years of violence

    One of the main fabrications is that Russia is ‘the agressor’ and Putin is the cause of all the killing ,,,, rather than the demonstrably facts and steps that the West/NATO?McCain/Nuland etc had deliberately engineered the proxy war conflict ,,,, and have sabotaged a multitude of genuine and reasonable efforts from Russia to bring and keep peace in Ukraine the whole time.

    The Minsk peace accords are perhaps the best example of the dishonest warmongering by the West/Nato and their puppet Govt ,,,, with Merkel,Poroshenko and Hollande all having made statements about how they were not genuine about the peace process they signed,,, and used it to arm train and strengthen the Ukraine military,, who along with their puppet Govt sabotaged the peace process by never even implementing the Very First Step of the Minsk accord ,,,, and I’m not even talking about the actual stopping of the fighting,, and there is filmed evidence of this when Azov/Nationalist hardliners tell Zelensky to naff off when tthey refused his request to stop shooting/shelling/killing.

    The Minsk Accords were an agreement for a ceasefire and a framework for negotiating a lasting peace ,,, aside from stopping the shooting/shelling /violence ,,,, the very first step was for the Ukraine Puppet Govt to recognize the local Govt in the Donbass and Luhansk as the legitimate provincial authorities that they would negotiate with,,, it’s was what all signatory’s to the Minsk Agreements agreed to when they signed the documents/papers ,,, but thee Ukraine puppet Govt never even implemented or abided by this first step ,,,

    ,,, Instead they trashed and killed dead this genuine attempt for a negotiated peace ,,, and their western backers who also signed up for this agreed framework had no criticisim towards Ukraine for turning Minsk into a still born birth,,, never even allowing the first breath let alone first steps towards peace to be taken.

    Instead the West/NATO accelerated the arming and support to their Proxy fighters in a near decade long process of bloodshed and escalation.

    The West/NATO have sacrificed Ukraaine ,,,, they have supported the killing of Ukrainians and Ukraine for the aim of killing Russians and harming Russia.

    Ukraine is a proxy pawn and there many examples of their villages/communitys fighting against the conscription of their men,,, fighting against them being sacrificed/killed in the war that a large majority of them never wanted,,, and a overwhelming majority voted against ever having.

    The West/Nato supports the killing of them,,, more and more of them ,,, ,.

    These ‘supporters’ would never themselves take part in what they want others compelled to continue ….. their value of Ukrainian lives is low at best ,,, and almost nothing when compared to the value they put on their own Russian hating skins.

    • Total BS BA. Why don’t you learn how to spell? You come across as an illiterate Neanderthal which reflects your extremist ill considered political views. You are hoping that if you repeat lies often enough people will believe them. I have a book in front of me: Майдан, Нерассказанная История, which blows your description of the Revolution of Dignity apart!
      Why should we believe your lies?

  11. Thousands of mourners have turned out for Navalny’s funeral in Moscow. The Kremlin disrupted the internet coverage of the funeral. There is little doubt that this is an anti war crowd and shows the real strength of the opposition in Russia.

    • Yes I had a look at those videos from Moscow.Must be disappointing for you that so few turned out .Thousands?Not tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands?
      Even thats a stretch.Out of a population close to 143 million all over and 13 million in Moscow that’s a poor turnout, and pretty representative of his support

      • One should treat Ovod as the village fool that he is and show him the pity he deserves after all life is difficult when you have Putin living in your head. He does appear to be woefully ignorant which he hides behind fake bravado though and is quick to anger.
        One should also bear in mind logic, reasonable arguments and facts are irrelevant to him.
        As someone one said, “You can’t argue with stupid”

      • From a little acorn mighty oak trees grow.

        The initial attempts by the security forces to intimidate and arrest those who were placing flowers didn’t deter these ‘thousands’.from turning up for the burial. Not only this they are keeping turning up, It seems that days after the burial service the graveyard where Navalny is buried has become a free protest zone, with hundreds visiting every day to lay flowers and tributes, with queues forming outside the graveyard. Police and paddy wagons parked nearby appear powerless to act.


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