Manuel Rodriguez: What is your assessment about the current situation on the ground in Ukraine? Advances have been quite slow. It seems things are not quite optimal for the Russians but not necessarily good for the Ukrainians or the West for that matter. As things are going, it seems that the Russians will have to hold on for a few months until the USA/EU collapses economically.
Russia is doing great. They’re not really going slowly at all in the core area of the Northeast Donbass. They are making amazing progress over there. The Ukrainian army is an excellent army, well-run and trained and armed to NATO standards. This is what a real war between two huge armies actually looks like. Remember the German-USSR war in WW2? This is like that. Or like WW1, trench warfare.
The Ukrainians are very well dug in in places like around Donetsk around Adviivka, Nieu York, Slaviansk, Marinka, Nova Bakhmutka, etc. There has been almost no progress on those fronts since the beginning of the war. The Ukrainians had years to dig in very deeply there and once troops are dug in that deeply, it is very hard to get them out! You just have to pound away at them with artillery forever.
If you try to storm their positions, you will get destroyed. Air power doesn’t do much good against them either. Fortifications work very well! The Ukrainians have taken big losses, especially in Adviivka, but they are still holding fast as they keep reinforcing.
On the Zaporozhye, Huilaopoye, Kherson, Khivi Rog, Nikolaev and Kharkiv fronts, not much is happening, just battles for position. Neither side is making much movement either way. Any territory the Ukrainians take is usually quickly lost. But the Russians are not making much if any progress either. Those fronts are frozen right now.
By Izium, Bakhmut, Popasna, Sovierodonetsk, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Liman, etc. the Russians are making dramatic gains and the Ukrainians are taking massive casualties. They just keep retreating and Russia keeps taking more and more towns and cities. The Ukrainians are outgunned 20-40-1 and they are outmanned 7-1.
The Ukrainians have probably lost ~55,000 men in this war so much. I don’t have figures for wounded but they must be high also. That figure probably includes missing. Those are incredible losses. Their forces now contain only 20% professional army with the rest untrained conscripts and territorial defense forces who are just meat thrown into the meatgrinder.
A lot are deserting or surrending to the Russians. There have been a number of prosecutions for forces desertion. The separatists are bombarding Ukrainian positions with leaflets asking them to surrender. They are also rarely rotated, whereas Russians on the front lines are rotated literally every single day!
There have been quite a few rebellions of Ukrainian troops laying down their weapons and refusing to fight. In some cases, they have been shot by officers for trying to surrender. There are many complaints of officers abandoning their troops to the wolves. Soldiers complain of lack of food, water, supplies, goggles, bulletproof vests, fuel, armored vehicles and especially artillery. Troops are given an automatic weapon with several rounds and a hand grenade and thrown up against tanks. They don’t stand a chance.
Russia has air supremacy. Ukraine has little air power and their air defenses are not very good. Both sides use drones to great effect. The Ukrainians seem to have better drones and make better use of drones to correct their artillery. Ukrainian artillery and special forces are quite good. The Ukrainians are simply outmanned and outgunned to the extreme.
The Nazi battalions are making noises of overthrowing Zelensky. The UKrainian army is being run by NATO, so really, Russia is fighting this war against all of NATO, with NATO commanders, NATO trained forces, NATO intelligence, and NATO weaponry. So envision this war as Russia versus NATO and it starts to make a lot more sense. Ukraine had their third biggest and best army in Europe! Don’t underestimate the Ukrainians.
At the start of the war, Russia had a lot of officers, generals, etc. who had obtained their positions via nepotism and connections. They performed poorly, using long convoys which were attacked to good effect by the Ukrainians. Putin replaced those commanders with those who were field-tested and had proved themselves in battle. Russia now makes good use of combined arms, which they were not doing at the start.
81% of Russians support Putin. 75% of Russians support the war, and 19% want a negotiated solution. Few Russians just want to pull out of Ukraine – maybe 6% of the population. Many antiwar moderates have gone over to the pro-war camp because they realize that the West wants to completely destroy Russia and return it to the colonial status of the Yeltsin years. Most of the dissidents have left, but about half the people who left have already returned.
There are several parties in the Duma. All of the parties outside of Putin’s party could be considered opposition, but most of the opposition is more or less pro-Putin. The anti-Putin Westernizers only have 2% of the Duma, and they only get 5% of the vote. Navalny, the great white hope of the West, has 1% support in polls.
In downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg there is a anti-Russian, pro-West youth movement, but it is not large nor is it politically active. A lot of the pro-Western Left just left the country.
It’s not true that you can’t oppose the war or Putin. An interviewer recently went out into the streets of Moscow and interviewed people, and a number of the young people were against the war, but they were not very politically active. 19% of the population says they are against the war in surveys. Nothing is going to happen to any of those people!
The openly treasonous pro-West, anti-Putin media was shut down, but that only amounted to a few TV stations. Medea is one of them. Note that they have been in business all this time and were only shut down for the war. In the last decade, this opposition was on Russian TV a few times a week on talk shows. The hosts were pro-government and they put the opposition on to tear up their views.
All Western media is available on the Net to any Russian who can read those languages and the stations like Medea have now set up in Europe and broadcast from there. Twitter is open to Russians and it is full of anti-Russian propaganda. I read Russians all of the time on the Net, and the ones who post are all hip to all of the Western news about Russia, but they simply don’t believe it. But it’s not like they only hear one side of the story!
Putin is probably not killing those oligarchs who are committing suicide and murdering their families. Perhaps this has to do with money. Putin doesn’t really bother those people, but he doesn’t care much about oligarchs either. The Russian people mostly hate them, which is why it is laughable that the West is sanctioning these guys as Russia and Putin already don’t like them as it is.
The Communist Party is the largest opposition party, with 18% of the vote in the last election. Zhirinovsky’s party got 7%. Most Russians just think Zhirinovsky was funny or hilarious, while the West finds him scary or appalling. I think the Russians see him as a troll.