Streetwise Professor

April 9, 2023

He Blowed Up Real Good.

Filed under: History,Military,Russia — cpirrong @ 11:29 am

And the war grinds on.

The main news in the last weeks is the death by bombing of Vladlen Tatarsky, AKA Maxim Fomin, a mouth-breathing Russian nationalist military blogger–or at least he was, before he rested in pieces. He blowed up real good.

The deliverer of the bomb (concealed in a statuette of Fomin, apparently to appeal to his narcissism) was a woman who was associated with the opposition movement (such as it is). She claims she was duped, and had no idea that the statuette contained a bomb.

Of course the issue is whodunit. The Ukrainians might first jump to mind, but they have far bigger fish to fry. My immediate conclusion was that Fomin was a casualty of dogs fighting under the carpet, Russian style. Specifically, the military vs. Wagner, and vs. Yevgeny “Nosferatu” Prigozhin specifically. Prigozhin definitely thinks so. Fomin was blown up in a Wagner-associated club, and was a vehement partisan of Prigozhin.

This makes perfect sense, and is emblematic of the mafia-like nature of the Russian state. (I am reminded of Cleveland, circa 1976-7, when it was known as “Bomb City USA” because the mobsters were whacking one another with bombs rather than bullets during that period). Darya Dugin’s demise is another example.

These internecine struggles are traceable to a single fact: the utter failure of Russian military efforts in Ukraine. The fact that private security companies are vying with the state, and specifically the uniformed military, is also symptomatic of the degradation of the state and its concomitant loss over the monopoly of violence. This poses a threat to the autocrat.

Wagner was created to give Russia plausible deniability when intervening overseas, in Africa and Syria, for example. (Although in the latter case, when they attempted to tangle with the US hundreds of them got greased. By Trump. You know, Putin’s puppet.) But there is no guarantee that a force created for that purpose can be limited to that purpose, but instead may slip the bridle and pursue its own interests.

Meaning that Putin is fighting a war on two fronts, one far more dangerous than the other.

On the other battlefield, i.e., Ukraine, the meat grinder stalemate continues. Russia makes incremental gains around Bakhmut, but at appalling cost. And for what? Even if they take the city, it will not materially change the operational picture. They will push back the Ukrainians, rather than achieve a penetration. And even a penetration would be irrelevant, because Russia lacks the means to exploit it. Hell, it is refurbing T-54s and T-55s (NB: the number refers to the year the model was introduced) to replace its horrific losses in armor. Those will be meat for Javelins and Carl Gustavs, and regardless, the Russians haven’t the logistical capability to support a breakout.

The Russians are also on tenterhooks awaiting a threatened Ukrainian counteroffensive. To illustrate their anxiety, they have dug defenses on numerous beaches in Crimea.

How are the Ukrainians going to get there, pray tell? Swim?

The success of any such counteroffensive depends less on Ukrainian capabilities than Russian infirmities: last autumn’s Ukrainian advances were made possible by Russian exhaustion and collapse. The more Russia wastes itself in futile assaults against meaningless objectives that lead to nowhere, the better chances the Ukrainians have to push them back again.

Now is not a favorable time for a serious advance and breakout, due to rasputitsa. May is the time to look for something decisive to happen, when the roads and fields dry. The question is whether Putin will recognize that reality and husband his forces to resist, or will persist in attriting them for no purpose. Based on form, I predict the latter.

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  1. Read a different opinion: that blow-up is kind of reichstag fire, one of the ops to excuse persecution campaign against already minimal & sketchy resistance.
    Of course, it is a grand post-Soviet tradition, to blame “them”, but again, that smoke have never been without a fire

    Comment by Т — April 9, 2023 @ 1:39 pm

  2. It appears that in late May, following the rasputitsa, the Ukrainians are going to administer a major “butt kicking” to Vladimir Putin, e.g. reconquer the Crimea.

    I look forward to the Ukraine achieving victory.

    However I am worried the Ukraine’s victory will be Pyrrhic.

    Putin knows he will be murdered by his own henchmen if Russia loses the Crimea.

    Surely, Putin will use tactical nukes to save his own miserable life.

    IMHO, Putin using tactic nukes will trigger a domino effect that will eventually implode the entire world’s economy.

    Will anything be left of the world’s economy in two months?

    Comment by Eggplant — April 10, 2023 @ 4:07 pm

  3. @Eggplant
    The recovery of Crimea is a declared war aim, but do the Ukes really want it? Many Ukrainians fled nearly a decade ago, there are lots of Russians there (who would have to be given a vote) and the few Tartars that evaded Stalin’s deportation aren’t especially friendly to Ukraine.
    I think a settlement that would satisfy Ukraine would be complete demilitarisation of the peninsula. Turkey and USA would love that outcome. And Ukraine could keep its hand on the throat with power and water supply.
    Whether the loonies in the Kremlin or the Russian blogosphere would stomach it depends on how desperate they become for some face saving deal.

    Comment by philip — April 11, 2023 @ 2:40 pm

  4. Philip,
    Thank you for your reply.

    As Russia/Ukraine’s main access to the Black Sea, the Crimea has essential strategic importance.

    The Ukraine’s long term economic survival is dependent upon export of grain through warm water ports near or on the Crimea Peninsula.

    The current Russian-Ukrainian War really started on 1 March 2014 when Vladimir Putin’s stooge, Sergey Aksyonov declared that Crimea’s de facto authorities would exercise control over all Ukrainian military installations on the Crimean peninsula.

    After that action, “The Die was Cast” and either ALL of the Ukraine would slowly be conquered by Russia –OR– the Ukraine would reestablish sovereignty over the Crimea and confirm the Ukraine was a viable state.

    My guess is a strategic analyst like Peter Zeihan is/was an advisor to Putin. That strategic analyst did calculations based upon Russia’s demographic/economic growth while comparing those results to the Ukraine’s demographic/economic growth. Like Zeihan, the strategic analyst reached the conclusion that Putin needed to attack the Ukraine –NOW– before a demographic/economic window-of-opportunity closed. Putin accepted the information and launched his war against the Ukraine. This situation was analogous to the von Schlieffen Plan being the logical justification for Germany’s entry into World War One.

    Unfortunately for Putin, the war went badly.

    Soon, the Ukraine will turn the tables on Russia and reconquer the Crimea.

    (Un)fortunately, Putin can not survive if the Crimea is lost, i.e. he’ll be murdered by his own henchmen.

    We are observing a series of dominoes falling one-after-another that could ultimately result in a tactical nuclear war. Again, this is not unlike the process starting from the von Schliefen Plan and ending with an entire generation of young men being slaughtered in the trenches of World War One.

    If Donald Trump were President now, I think(?) he could understand this strategic analysis and negotiate a settlement between Russia and the Ukraine.

    Unfortunately, the utterly incompetent Joe Biden can do neither the strategic analysis or perform the necessary negotiations.

    It is my opinion that we are sleep walking towards a nuclear war and the follow-on economic collapse.

    Comment by Eggplant — April 12, 2023 @ 4:16 pm

  5. @Eggplant
    Putin’s survival chances are pretty slim, I reckon, even without losing Crimea.
    Trouble is he’ll probably be replaced by someone worse.
    The last time Russia could be described as part of Western civilisation it was ruled by a German. A German!

    Comment by philip — April 14, 2023 @ 1:04 pm

  6. Philip,
    You wrote: “The last time Russia could be described as part of Western civilisation it was ruled by a German.”

    The English king George-I was German and only knew a few words of English when he ascended the English throne. Refer to:

    Key quote: “Though he was unpopular in Great Britain due to his supposed inability to speak English, such an inability may not have existed later in his reign as documents from that time show that he understood, spoke and wrote English. He certainly spoke fluent German and French, good Latin, and some Italian and Dutch.”

    Prior to being King of England, George-I was prince-elector of Hannover.

    I regularly visited Hannover, Germany when I lived in Göttingen. While in Hannover, I saw the obscure and unsung grave of King George-I, King of England.

    Comment by Eggplant — April 19, 2023 @ 1:34 pm

  7. Philip,
    I should mention that Russian/Ukrainian history is “complicated”.

    One could argue the Russian state did not jell until after the “Time-of-Troubles”, refer to:

    Up until the end of the Time-of-Troubles, Russian/Ukrainian society was this swirling vortex of chaos.

    Part of this chaos was driven by religion, i.e. the Russians in the middle were nominally Orthodox Christian while the Poles to the west were Catholic, the Swedes to the north were Protestant and the Tatars/Turks to the south were Islamic. At the time, about half the population died due to famine, war, froze to death, etc.

    During the Time-of-Troubles, there were two major families attempting to claw their way to power, i.e. the Romanov and the Troubitskoy.

    Dmitry Troubetskoy concluded that “being Tsar” was too-hard and stepped aside thus allowing the Romanov family to take control with Michael of Russia being crowned Tsar.

    The Troubetskoy family survived with many of them now living in the United States.

    Comment by Eggplant — April 19, 2023 @ 3:26 pm

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