Event Recap: War for Ukraine
Analysis with Michael Kofman and Rob Lee
Silverado Policy Accelerator's Co-Chairman, Dmitri Alperovitch, continues with his podcast series on the War in Ukraine, with Russian military experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee.
Speaking as Russia continues its assault on the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kiev, experts discuss topics from the proposed no-fly zone, consequences of NATO involvement, Russian acquisition of military equipment, requests to China, and much more. With an emphasis on how the “fog-of-war” can hinder understanding of up-to-date force movements.
Kofman and Lee spoke to the short- and medium-term consequences, questioning Russia's ability to “achieve their original political objectives in Ukraine”, along with questioning Putin's original assumptions when starting the War.
A complete audio recording is available here, and a full transcript is available below.
TRANSCRIPT: “War in Ukraine: Analysis with Michael Kofman and Rob Lee”
March 13, 2022 - Online
Dmitri Alperovitch, Co-Chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator
Michael Kofman, Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA
Rob Lee, Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program
DISCLAIMER: This transcript was generated using an automated transcription service, and as a result may not be 100 percent accurate. Please check all quotations against the original audio before publication. Full audio recording is available here.
Dmitri Alperovitch 00:06
Welcome everyone once again to this Twitter space. I'm Dmitri Alperovitch, Chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a geopolitical think tank. And today, once again, I'm joined by two of the foremost experts on the Russian military. Michael Kaufman is a research program director in the Russian studies program at the Center for Naval Analysis. And Rob Lee is a senior fellow at the Eurasia program of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. All right, well, let's once again get an update on the current status of the war. So Rob, why don't we begin with you. What's the latest on the Russian advance? What has changed in the last week?
Rob Lee 00:39
So over the last week, I'd say the situation hasn't changed that much. As we know, Russia had more success in the south. But in the southwest portion, the city of Mykolaiv is still being held by Ukrainian forces. They've clearly had some success, posting videos and destroying capturing a VDV D30 Artillery Battalion, and a number of other kind of vehicles they’ve captured or ambushed in that area. So far, we haven't seen a move towards Zabuchchya yet, although that's probably likely at some point. And then in Mariupol, Ukrainian forces there continue to hold out, even though they have been surrounded, obviously been quite a heavy bombardment, there was that bombardment of a maternity ward or hospital a few days ago. The city you know, is really being hit quite heavily. And there's, you know, issues I think getting supplies, food, all those kind of things that people are living in the city, but as you know, it remains right now Ukrainian forces are holding out and continue to inflict losses on the Russian military. You know, we've seen a number of UAV videos published of the Azov battalion regiment showing Russian military loss of T72 B3 tanks, BMP3s and other kinds of vehicles so that fight continues, not clear quite when that'll end, if Russia is gonna be able to do that anytime soon, but clearly, they're seeing quite heavy resistance there. In the Northeast the situation is mostly the same in Kharkiv of Sumi Geneve, or holding out Kharkiv the bombardment you know continues, it's almost a nightly basis seeing really heavy amores fire, seeing aircraft you know aviation bombing all those kind of things, you know, quite common occurrence stil. It appears there was a Russian aircraft shot down over Kharkiv today. Russia has continued to lose aircraft, both helicopters and fixed wing and we don't have a complete total picture of the of Russian aviation losses but they're clearly taken some you know, some not insignificant losses, they continue to have issues there. And then around Kiev, right, which is you know, probably the most important area, Russian forces in the Irpin Bucha Hostomel region kind of in the same position they've been, still very heavy fighting there. There was a, so Ukrainian forces have still had success holding them back there. It appears Russian forces have pushed out a little farther west trying to get to move out west more farther to the west to help encircle the city but still in that area Ukraine forces are holding out and being quite successful from everything you can can tell. Some of those small towns to the northwest of Kiev have really been devastated you know, a lot of destruction a lot of towns have been you know, mostly wiped off of the map at this point. But ultimately the Ukrainian forces continue to hold there and then to east Russian forces might be the most significant advance the last week. Russian forces have moved closer to the eastern outskirts of Kiev. It looks like it's mostly Nanyiv tank division, 41st Combined Arms army from Central Military district. Those coming from the northern part and that same army that allegedly lost two generals in the first week or two weeks of the conflict. There was that really dramatic UAV footage posted I think it's two or three days ago from Provari showing a Russian armored column I think it was a 6th tank regiment getting tricked by Ukrainian artillery fire, Ukrainian tank fire and some questionable tactics at that point. There's also some footage of a very close in ambush with anti tank systems and that in that general area. So it's clear that Russia is trying to advance in that part as well, they’re clearly trying to encircle Kiev from both the west and east and yet Ukrainian forces are having success holding the back in both areas and so still a bit of question of when can Russian forces take the suburbs around Kiev and try to encircle it, the southern part is still open. So you can still you can still resupply food, weapons or ammunition or things of Kiev for time being. So ultimately, it's not too much has happened. I think the last week in terms of Russian advances, clearly the fact that they're able to push you know, battalion armor battalions or, you know, maybe a regiment reduced out to Provari means they can sustain that and get push forces closer to the capital than they could before. But still a question of when can they take those areas? Some questionable tactics, the fact that you know, they're moving in a pretty bunched up formation. And this is, you know, only about 20 kilometers from Kiev. So you know, clearly within artillery range clearly on a kind of avenue approach, known to the Ukrainians, and some kind of again questionable tactics being displayed. Also, still a question of, you know, did Russia use the right units for the most strategic mission to take Kiev, because they deployed units to the Eastern Obolon District, Solom'yans'kyi district , a lot of this, we're seeing very old tanks, T72As. It's some very old equipment, and it's been a question of was that the right move for the most strategic important target to use? Maybe not your best units. And I think that's something we'll look at in the future. Anyways, that's the overall kind of kind of report what's happening. So not too much change in the way in advance, but bombardment continues on. Certainly devastating strikes continue. And one thing we've seen more of in the last few days, we've seen increasing strikes in western Ukraine. So there was the strikes of today in the military facility near Lviv. There there have been airstrikes on airfields in western Ukraine over the last couple days. Well, it's pretty clear that they’re just trying to preempt any kind of additional support from NATO, whether those be you know, maybe MiG29 fighters, or other supplies going into western Ukraine, I think they're trying to make clear that no part of Ukraine is safe and if NATO deploys forces anywhere, or kind of arm supplies there, that Russia can still destroy those assets. And of course, a lot of this is coming from cruise missiles, if you're a number of the missiles, fire in western Ukraine, were from were a strategic bomber, air launch caged 101 cruise missiles, and clearly even if you deploy fighters out there, you can't, you know, defeat all of them. So that's one thing that's been new, that's kind of a new development, obviously, trying to signal and I think some of it will probably continue into the future.
Dmitri Alperovitch 06:44
Thanks, Rob. And, you know, that was interesting that this week, in fact, in last couple of days, we've had senior statements from Kodaira, from Zolotov, the head of Ross Guardia, the National Guard in Russia, saying that they wish the advance was was taking place a lot quicker than it is. So it seems like the Russians are getting frustrated that they're getting bogged down. But you know, I want to get back to this tank and ambush that you mentioned, Rob, because that was a really stunning video that showed up at the beginning of the week of this tank column from the sixth regiment, trying to get into Kiev and getting ambushed on the road in Provari. And, Mike, I want to go to you on this because we talked last week a lot about all the problems that the Russians have had, the morale issues, the problems with the their assessments of Ukraine, and the concept of operations being bad, and problems of logistics and everything else. But I do wonder if there's more fundamental issues that we're not paying as much attention to. And I know, you just posted a Twitter thread a few hours ago about how the Russians may not be 12 feet tall, but they're not four feet tall either. And I want to challenge you on this. And I'll tell you, I was having a conversation with General Petraeus, who of course, ran the 100. Commander of the 101st airborne during the invasion of Iraq. And when he was looking at that video, he was just shocked that you would have tanks being ambushed by artillery that way, with no recon, no protection. And I was talking to another Marine infantry officer who literally told me he had heart palpitations, looking at that video, because it just goes against the most basic things that you're trying to do in armor infantry, that you don't bunch up the tanks that close together, you don't put your lead command vehicle out front. He said you know, it's drilled into you in basic that when you stop, you immediately get out, you establish the perimeter, they weren't doing any of that. And that's not planning. That's not logistics. That is some basic training that seems to be lacking in the Russian military. And I wonder if you had a comment on that? Are we seeing real major problems with some very basic tactics and training?
Mike Kofman 08:57
I think they have some challenges for sure. And fundamentals. But two points I want to make here. Maybe three. First, okay, there are a lot of anecdotes, right, that from which we see that they've not done nearly as well, on aspects of how they executed missions, how they organized for them, but also seen some pretty significant adjustments within the first week, week and a half. Second, there are things that the Russian military does that are different from the United States. Okay, I know that may be foreign sometimes to our culture, that actually people do certain things differently. For example, Russian military commanders typically lead from the front. The unit goes as the commander, they have very small planning staffs. And that's why often their commanders, including senior commanders, are likely to get killed on the battlefield. Their commanders are likely to go and recon survey the battlefield in person. Much more so towards the frontline as well. It's just a slightly different command culture and structure. Okay, that specific episode, I need to be very careful at generalizing from that specific episode. So that was the battalion tactical group. They clearly had mastered and deployed along a large road. And they had a combined arms mix of forces with them. And their failure was that they had failed to do reconnaissance. And they did not suspect that they're within range of Ukraine artillery. And that's a mistake I've seen them make throughout. In this in this campaign. So far in the last two weeks, they’re reconnaissance have been pretty bad. Early on, they weren't doing convoy escorts, they started to pick that up significantly. They were first operating in small detachments and then started to operate in much more defensible groups. But still, they're being fazed by a pretty smart Ukrainian resistance that's forcing them to fight and organize very differently than the way they typically train and fight. Right. So I made a post saying that Russian military may, for local wars, generate in battalion tactical groups, but in actuality, in this war, you see them using BTGs as a form of organization to sort of drive around and mobilize and that's what they were probably trying to do to gather forces. But in general, they have only small engagements sort of squad size fives, their main enemy is a Ukrainian squad sized ambush team with anti tank weapons, they have very few sizable weapons, there’s no battalion engagements really in this war, right. I'm sure that's probably for the Russian military, really frustrating them, right, they can't meet an opponent in the field, they can't use their mass, they, if they concentrate their fires then you know, they're, they're gonna have a hard time actually hitting much of anything because their opponent isn’t concentrated. On the basics, I think the big issues where I was surprised that they spent a lot on procurement and modernization and they clearly skimped a lot more on maintenance and sustainment. And on logistics, it's very much a mixed bag. It's actually a different war, depending on where you look in the north, east and south, I probably have slight differences with Rob and his interpretation of the battle map in the last week.I don't think necessarily the war going nearly.
Dmitri Alperovitch 12:03
What's your view?
Mike Kofman 12:05
Well, my view is the war is not quite going quite as well. I will say that Russian forces are clearly fanning out to encircle Kiev, both in the west and in the east and cutting off major arteries. Second, they are trying to cut down towards Izum from the north east, which is you know, southeast of Kharkiv. And they're trying to push up from Melitopol in the south, essentially to envelop the bulk of Ukrainian forces in the JFO, the Joint Force Operation, in the Donbass, right, and they are compressing them slowly, those are pitched battles, but I can kind of get a gist of their plan their vision, they are trying to proceed with a fairly large envelopment. And to me that situation looks a bit precarious. And in the west, they have already half encircled Mykolaiv and are trying to push west of it towards Odessa. I don't think they necessarily have the forces for that push. But it is a significant development, they’re clearly not going to fight for the city, they're going around to envelop and are already more than halfway around it. And also trying to find another vector, northeast towards Creevy rig, but maybe to actually cut some of the ground lines of communications west of the Dnieper river. You know, in the south, they of course have real access and they can hub out Kherson and Miutopol, so they're able to project power much faster from there. In the northeast, their advance was, you know, very fitful, but very sizable, given they don't have real access for their logistics and they have to truck a lot. So long story short, Russian forces are taking a lot casualties in terms of manpower and material. And it's costing them, but they're actually advancing very differently in this past week. They're being more methodical, they're taking a lot more towns and clearing them, try to secure the routes for their convoys. And they're not pushing it nearly as fast and not being reckless, not trying to do thunder runs and some of the some of the wild things that we saw in the first two weeks of the war. So long story short, yes, they have problems with basics and fundamentals. I raised big questions about you know, which lessons are going to be generalizable from this and which ones are gonna be context specific. There's a lot of aspects about this war, where they're both things were I'm surprised and also things where I see the Russian military fighting in a way very different from the way it's set up in terms of, you know, the way training, like concepts of operations and initial strategy going into this conflict. And I'm sure there's things that you know, people in the US military would look at and say, Hey, I mean, this just looks terrible, US forces wouldn’t fight that way. And that's fair. You know, I have some thoughts on that. Let's put it this way, I'll leave this, Dmitry. I’ve learned obviously, quite a bit of the Russian military. And you could only see that from a military attempting something like this, which Russian forces haven't done in decades, certainly not since they attempted to modernize the army. I'm also learning a bit about my own defense community's reactions to, you know, what it might be like to fight a near pure pure adversary with some parity of capability, a lot of morale and the the real ability to fight intelligently and inflict substantial casualties and, and material losses, if that makes any sense, right.
Dmitri Alperovitch 15:21
It does it does. Let me quickly follow up on something you just said, which is they are obviously having a lot of success in the south, much more than in the north. What do you explain that by? Is that intentional by Ukraine to just give up that area and focus on the north and protection of center of gravity, which is Kiev, is that because of rail access, is that, are there other multiple reasons for that success?
Mike Kofman 15:43
Yea, it's multi causal, Ukrainian forces were grossly outmatched in the south and they have to retreat. Ukrainians made a choice strategically to defend certain parts of the country more than others. Russian military has much easier access in terms of logistics, availability, and terrain. The forces I think they use from Southern military district were better, some of the airborne units down there than up in the north, Rob touched on that. For example, if you look at the fighting around Kharkiv, where you saw pressure being applied by elements of the 6th army, and 200 mortar Rifle Brigade, those units are not really designed or optimized for any kind of serious attack. So but I'm not surprised that they hadn't done that. Well, so there's a whole set of factors I would say for why they've, you know, you more have a tale of three different fronts and what's happening in this war, the the north, the east and the south.
Dmitri Alperovitch 16:33
Got it. Rob, what's your take on the missile arsenal? They've shot a lot of missiles. I think a few days ago, the US estimated that over 700 total have been shot. How many do you think are left and there was a story by Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post earlier today that apparently in the last few weeks, they've asked China for assistance? Do you think that they're trying to get some more munitions from China? Are they running out? Do you have any sense of that?
Rob Lee 16:59
Oh, yeah, so it's interesting. I don't think any of the articles specify what kind of weapons they're looking for from China. For the most part, the Russian military and the Chinese military don't operate the same weapons systems, they use some of the same MI-8 and MI-17 helicopters, SU-35S fighters, but there aren't that many systems that they share. And, you know, Russia doesn't need any S-400 or SU-35. So, it's not clear to me what they're looking for. In terms of munitions, you know, they fired a lot of precision guided munitions, they've used a lot of the ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and we keep seeing convoys in Belarus of more Iskandar and, you know, 9M723, ballistic missiles being moved. They are continuing to reload to continue the operation. It's not clear to me how many they have, they've clearly used a lot. We knew in the beginning, they had much fewer than say what the US or NATO has, and that was gonna be a limitation. But you know, that they're trying to demonstrate that they can still hit targets in Western Ukraine, even if they can't fly over there. Right. And so it seems pretty clear to me that Ukraine still has strong air defenses in the western part of the country. That's probably why the Russian Air Force is not flying over there that much. And when choosing instead to use ballistic missiles, you know, clearly they’re trying to demonstrate that they can continue to strike targets out there. Even if, you know, we try, and say there's a no fly zone, it's like, okay, well, they could still fire cruise missiles, it doesn't really solve a situation completely. But it is a question of when will they start running out these munitions. You know, China doesn't have these. you know, China does not have calibers, they don't have the same kind of systems. So it's not clear to me what China would provide in that regard.
Dmitri Alperovitch 18:46
They have the caliber missiles, right? And they have obviously the Grodd and the Smarsh rockets so could it be resupply of that?
Rob Lee 18:55
So they have some of the MOR systems but, you know, Russia should have plenty of stockpiles of those kind of “dumb” munitions. So when we're talking about precision guided munitions, there are very few that China has that I think that Russia is employing right now that they need. Maybe Mike has some other ideas. We've seen more recently some other kind of precision munitions being used. So we’ve seen Russians post videos of krasnopol laser guided 152 millimeter artillery rounds being used, which they used heavily in Syria. We saw the first photos of a cluster loading munition being used in Kiev. They’ve tested cluster munitions pretty heavily in Syria as well, but they don't have that many in service. So they're trying to use those systems as well. But it's not clear what they would need from China. Again maybe Mike knows better than me on this.
Dmitri Alperovitch 19:48
Mike, any thoughts, is it drones, maybe?
Mike Kofman 19:52
Oh, man, I don't like being in a speculation business. So right now there's not much to go on. I suspect if there's things they'd need it's more technology components like chips, which, you know, might actually be hard to get them from China since we know that some of the main ones are made in Taiwan. But maybe they're looking for things they can backfill. This war is going to put Russia behind by several years, at least in procurement. And maybe they're running low on some burst basic stockpiles of munitions.
Dmitri Alperovitch 20:23
Okay, makes sense. Do you have any thoughts on the envelopment of force in the Donbass? Do they actually have enough forces to execute that mission? Ukraine obviously has quite a few forces in that area. It's a huge area. Do you think they're capable of it? That's to Mike.
Mike Kofman 20:45
No. Potential. One of the challenges is that we’re dealing with a fog of war, we don't actually know the state of Ukrainian forces. And it's not that easy to tell how aspects of this fighting are going. So whether or not they can envelop them, they are certainly trying to apply pressure and trying to push out from both the South and the northeast to make it a pocket or maybe a series of pockets. And attrition takes its toll. Alright, like Russian forces have lost a lot of manpower and material. Ukrainian forces, at least from what one can tell, have lost least. But they've lost a significant percentage as a share of what they have available in total, if that makes sense. So those losses count as well.
Dmitri Alperovitch 21:29
Makes sense. Back to the equipment, and Rob, maybe you can take this one, I did the math early in the week. And I think it still mostly holds that from all the videos that people have aggregated of equipment destruction and abandonment. By the Russian forces, it appears that over 60% was either abandoned, or actually captured by the Ukrainian forces, which to me, was just an incredibly high number. Obviously, we don't know what we don't know. And the Ukrainians may not be taking pictures of the totally destroyed equipment. But nevertheless, I just thought that it was a remarkably interesting statistic. Do you have any thoughts on how real it is? And what might explain it, Rob?
Rob Lee 22:12
Sure. So you know, obviously a lot is recorded on the web. One thing to keep in mind, right is that it's the observable things we've seen lost between Russia and Ukraine, you can't really compare them because we're going to see more evidence of Russian loss then we will have on Ukrainian losses. It’s more likely Ukraine citizens opposed it, more like a Ukrainian soldier will post that stuff and the Russian military is only catching up now, we're trying to kind of get involved in the information environment. So if they were behind on that, the Russian MOD only set up a telegram channel, on March 5, they weren't prepared for this, and they're only catching up now. So it's one thing to keep in mind, we're not getting the full idea of the losses and what it means. You know, I think we're seeing more abandoned equipment in the beginning, there's still images being posted. Now, things that are abandoned it's not always clear if this is, you know, new equipment that has been lost or old equipment that has been lost. But I think one of the issues that Russia's had was, you know, they went in with very heavy units into Ukraine. And certainly, when you get a fight against armor, or mechanized infantry, it makes sense to have tank battalions, it's really quite useful. But I think in a lot of cases, they went with a heavier force than what was required or useful in this situation. And so tanks require a lot, you know, a lot more fuel, require a lot more maintenance, spare parts, all those kinds of things that a wheeled vehicle needs, so they're much, much more logistics kind of heavy, and much greater requirements. And so a lot of you know, logistics problems that we've seen have had the same kind of vehicles broken down. It's like, well, it's mostly a lot of them are tracked vehicles, right, we're not seeing as many wheeled vehicles get lost, or abandoned. And it's not surprising that it'd be harder to logistically support those kinds of units. And so part of the issue is that when you're in areas of Ukraine, where there isn't maybe a heavy Ukrainian armor presence, well, it's not that useful to have tank units or really heavy units. It's more useful to have lighter units that are better for a kind of more insurgency environment that we're actually facing, I think that's one of the problems we've had, is that winning with a force, and we already know that the Russian military has a lot more fires, you know, to maneuver units than say NATO Militaries do. And so part of the problem is that the force they invaded Ukraine with was well designed to fight a conventional fight is not very well designed to fight an unconventional fight. In a lot of parts of Ukraine, that's what they're facing, that’s where they’re having a lot of problems. And, you know, if you're one or two tanks, or maybe it’s a tank platoon driving around by yourself, and you don't have infantry with you, you know, you're quite vulnerable, depending on where you are. And you can see, you know, that the Ukrainian territorial defense units are having a lot of success going after those kinds of vulnerabilities. It's clear they're focusing on you know, like fuel convoys, which are not prepared to fight or, you know, handle any kind of insurgency. So having a lot of these issues, I think that's one of the problems that the equipment and type of forces that invaded Ukraine were not necessarily perfectly designed for the threat they're actually facing.
Dmitri Alperovitch 25:07
Certainly something that a lot of militaries seem to make mistakes about. You know, there's a lot of discussion in the last week, week and a half about the potential for use of nuclear weapons by Russia. A lot of serious people are bringing this up as a real possibility. I'm not in that camp. I don't think that Vladimir Putin would use nuclear weapons unless he believes that Russia and his regime is threatened. And it doesn't seem to me that there's a need to use them, in Ukraine. Mike, do you share my assessments of that, that that's just not a realistic possibility?
Mike Kofman 25:47
I mean, it depends on the conditions. So if we localize the conversation to Ukraine, then no, but it also depends on what happens. So for example, I am worried about some of the trend lines and escalation dynamics between us and Russia writ large, there's going to be Russian retaliation for our sanctions. And that will be asymmetric because we can't retaliate with the fact of sanctions of their own as much. And we don't know what road that's going to take us down on. But then there's a more significant question. It also depends on what we do. Because, you know, you can't sort of ask this question in a vacuum. In general, yeah, I think no, I think the likelihood is low. I'm not so sure if the folks that are arguing for things like a no fly zone will actually succeed, because I do see that as a sort of de facto declaration of war, then we're in a very different conversation.
Dmitri Alperovitch 26:40
Absolutely, yes. And I should have clarified that if there's a war between US and Russia, or NATO and Russia, then everything is potentially on the table. But aside from that, Vladimir Putin does not need nuclear weapons to win this conflict in Ukraine, right?
Mike Kofman 26:56
No, and here's the truth, at least, about what I think. I am skeptical that they can achieve their original political objectives in Ukraine. I think those are out the window. I think they're revising their war aims. And what victory actually means. I think at this point, they're going to achieve a lot less, right. That's my view. And they're not going to be able to achieve the original maximalist war aims and sort of regime change installing a pro Russian government in Ukraine and controlling the state that way.
Dmitri Alperovitch 27:29
Yeah, we'll get back to the aim in a minute. But, Rob, what are your thoughts on chemical and biological weapons? The US is obviously getting very concerned because the Russians are making noise about these supposedly biolabs, which are not really biological weapons labs in Ukraine, their former installations from the Soviet Union days that were getting dismantled. And the fact that the Russian propaganda machine is talking about the Ukrainians using chemical and biological weapons, is obviously of concern to us here in the West, that the Russians would use it themselves. What's your view on that?
Rob Lee 28:04
Sure. So the Russian kind of propaganda lies about these facilities in Ukraine or Georgia that they've mentioned for years, right. And they're not really, you know, based on any kind of serious information. It's just a way of, I think, deflecting so it's not surprising that they’re mentioning this now. They’re gonna throw up basically anything they can, propaganda wise to kind of justify what they're doing, which obviously, you know, they're losing the information kind of side of this, they know that. In terms of using chemical, biological weapons, I don't think it's likely. And, you know, one thing to remember in Syria, so clearly the Assad regime used them a numerous times and in Russia refused to kind of acknowledge that, but Russian there would be a number of times, would regularly, you know, put out kind of briefing saying, “We have information that, you know, the Syrian rebel groups are going to use chemical weapons.” And they’d do this all the time, right, you know, it'd be multiple times a year, they put out these kinds of notices and typically nothing would happen. So I think part of it is just to, I think, push the same information line they always push about that. And so I don't think that that's particularly likely, but, you know, we go back to the nuke weapons issue we were talking about before, one of the big issues of this conflict is that clearly, Putin thought it was extremely important, right? And he knew they're gonna be heavy costs, maybe not as heavy as they are, but he knew there's gonna be significant cost to it. So going into Ukraine, it was clearly something that he demonstrated was very important to him, he thinks is a very strategically important mission for the Russian, you know, for Russia in general. If he can't achieve his goals, right, and the US overtly takes that away or makes it impossible for him to achieve his goals, like a no fly zone, then, you know, there absolutely are escalation risks that he might escalate in different ways. And we talked about nuke weapons. I don't think that it’s likely, but it's not something that is impossible at this point. I think we also remember that right now Russia's conventional military is getting hit pretty hard. They're clearly using up a lot of the precision guided munitions they would use if they want to have a conventional conflict with NATO. And right now, you know, they already deployed 75% of their permanent readiness, ground force units into Ukraine. And I guess the estimate is that they've lost 10% of that, either equipment wise or casualties, they’ve lost a significant portion of that. So right now, the Russian military, conventional military is struggling and hurting in a way they have not, you know, faced in a long time, right. And if you look at casualties, they suffered more casualties in the first week than they probably did in Georgia, and Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 and in Syria, the last seven years combined, right. So it is a significant number, it is a significant effect, as Mike said, right, there's going to be significant equipment loss, they're going to have to, you know, change up the next procurement plan to kind of compensate for these losses. So we're looking at the Russian military right now, the conventional side that is weaker than normal, and is at more strain than normal, as long as its war goes on. Right, they're already very stretched thin trying to control all these different areas, and are struggling to deal with all these kinds of unconventional tactics by Ukrainian forces, in Kharkiv and Sumy and all these are the areas where, you know, attacking Russian supply lines. So that means is right, Russia's in a very vulnerable position, I think also from Putin's perspective, this is a very important mission for him, it's not necessarily going as well as he thinks it is, and there’s an issue that if it were to fail, right, it would be a thing that could threaten his position at home. And so in terms of escalation risk, right, that's why it's a more dangerous situation than normal, because he can't rely on those kind of things he normally could. And the conventional power isn't nearly as strong right now, it's much more tapped out than normal. So all those things make us a much more dangerous situation. It also means that he's more likely to escalate if things are going poorly than if they're going well. And so all that kind of contributes to why the situation is more dangerous than normal, and probably more dangerous than any time in Moscow-NATO relations since maybe the early 80s.
Dmitri Alperovitch 32:03
That's a great point. And by the way, two things they're the people that are calling for the no fly zone, as Mike mentioned, are potentially causing a massive escalation here that, you know, if we were to implement that, no fly zone, we would end up in a war with Russia that that could result in the use of nuclear weapons. But the other point is, I think is also important to point out is that people that think that Ukraine is just step one, and that he's about to invade Poland or Romania or the Baltics, perhaps are not appreciating that with the Russian military struggling as much as they are right now in Ukraine, I don't think they're in a position to invade anyone else at the moment, and pick up any new fights and would need quite a bit of reinforcements to compensate for the losses that they've encountered. Alright, for those that are joining us, this is Dmitri Alperovitch, Chairman Silverado Policy Accelerator, and I'm with Mike Kofman of the Center for Naval Analysis, and Rob Lee, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Let's talk a little bit about the effectiveness of units. Mike, what is your view with all the casualties that Rob was just talking about, that they're incurring across the board, including very senior casualties? Do you think that most of the units that they are operating are still quite effective? Or are we starting to see real degradation of those BTG's?
Mike Kofman 33:26
I think they've lost some BTG's, and particularly the areas they got badly molded like around, Kharkiv. On the whole, though, you know, given the way this actual war’s being fought, not nearly as much. So for example, if you have a BTG and cyclical use of force, and it's engaging other formations, let's say in the field, and it takes substantial losses, right, it can really lose this cohesiveness and stability. In this conflict, you know, your Russian BTG is basically driving around in company tactical groups, or even smaller sections and engaging very small numbers of Ukrainian units, like these fights are quite small. And so its overall cohesiveness as a larger formation isn't as significant. And actually, the size of the formation is very taxing for the commander to manage, right, depending on how big the BTG is, they range in size, old attachments can be very, very difficult for the commander to manage. So my view of it is that you know - somebody earlier that I saw online and said “Hey, if you take out something like X percentage of vehicles in the BTG, it will not be effective. I'd say “Well, in the war, if we were looking at BTGs being fielded in larger formations against an opponent, fighting the same way. Yeah, sure, maybe. But in this fight, it's a very, very different story.” As far as senior commander being lost, it's really just actually not unusual for the Russian military. The Russian military even lost lieutenant generals in Syria. A Major General which is a one star, sort of typically deputy CA command or maybe Army Commander or Chief of Staff going to the front line and trying to lead from the front trying to figure out what's going on and getting killed and taking big risks.This is actually not that uncommon for their military and that aspect of just a big, big cultural difference.
Dmitri Alperovitch 35:18
Huge one huge one. Rob, there was a lot of brain cells being wasted over the last week and a half on this whole Polish MIG question, will they or won't they supply MIG 29 to Ukraine. We talked in the last Twitter space on Sunday, how air defense systems like the SA-6s or the S-300s that some of the former Warsaw Pact members like Bulgaria and Poland have, will be much more useful. One of the things that I think was really underappreciated in that discussion is that those Polish MIGs have been upgraded to NATO standards in the last 30 years. NATO communications that obviously wouldn't talk to Ukrainian communication systems, avionics for sure have been upgraded for infosystems. It wasn't even clear to me that the Ukrainians could even fly those planes without some level of training. Was that your view that that was just a completely misguided conversation?
Rob Lee 36:18
So I don't know the details on this. I'm not sure how easily, you know, for a Ukrainian pilot who's used to using MIG 29, could fly Polish ones. I'm not sure what condition Polish 29s are in. Yeah, I think there are a lot of questions. A lot of unknowns here. I think it's also a question of, is the limiting factor here the number of airframes for Ukrainian Air Force, because US Officials keep saying the majority of the fixed wing aviation is the majority serviceable, are those all in, you know, in working order, you know, are they missing spare parts, is it a logistics issue, is it a pilot's issue. I don't know what the issue is. Right. Then there's obviously another issue that, you know, Russia has deployed air defense systems in all these areas. And they obviously had some losses earlier, and so the question of you know, does Ukraine want to keep sending fighters into these really kind of dangerous environments where there's a good risk of them getting shut down? I don't know. Right? And not to mention, Russian SU-35s are operating out of Belarus. They're obviously trying to conduct a defensive counter air mission as well. So it's not clear to me what the limiting factor there is with the Air Force. I think in some ways, you know, if we want a more effective option might be TB-2s. Just because it appears to still have an effect, right, still, obviously can only make tentative conclusions. But obviously, if you send TB-2s into a contested air environment, well, it's not as big of a deal to get shut down. Right. They're not that expensive. You're not losing pilots. And you can keep doing that. Right. Um, so I think, you know, is a question to me is, we're MIG 29s, the most important option, were they really, you know, was it the airframes that were going to fix the situation, and are there better kind of ways, more cheap and cost effective ways of improving Ukraine's ability to defend other then MIG 29s, I think there probably were.I think probably air defense systems are probably a better option. I think TB-2s might be a better option. And I don't know what the relationship with Turkey is with the rest of NATO on this. But obviously, they deliver plenty of TB-2s to Ukraine. So I think there are other questions to me, like whether MIG 29s would really have changed the situation that much? And it's not clear to me that it would be the case.
Dmitri Alperovitch 38:26
Yeah, and the TB-2, the Turkish drones, seem to have quite an effect, in taking out quite a bit of Russian armor. As we're seeing from the videos. One quick follow up, Rob. Belarus, any more updates on their forces, their air force? Are you seeing any evidence of their involvement in the actual war?
Rob Lee 38:47
I haven’t seen direct involvement. Obviously, Russia has a lot of these launches coming from Belarus. Obviously, if they want to hit targets in, in western Ukraine, they can do so from Belarus. They can’t necessarily do that from Russian territory itself. I haven't seen much evidence of direct involvement. But it's also a question of, you know, how useful would the Belarussian military be going to Ukraine, I'm not sure they would actually provide that much value. You know, they have some numbers, but they're not well trained to deal with a conventional fight. And I'm not sure those guys are prepared to kind of go in and face a conventional / unconventional fight in Ukraine. So it might be more of a kind of, you know, nuisance to send them in the Ukraine than it is to keep them back in Belarus, and you know, I think that might be a kind of a contributing factor to this.
Dmitri Alperovitch 39:33
Mike, let's talk about the aims of the operation and how they may have changed. One of the most interesting kind of rumors but seems somewhat substantiated, that have come out in the last few days, is the alleged attempt by the Russian authorities, that have taken over Kherson, which is so far the largest city that they've taken over of about 300,000 people, that apparently they want to do a referendum there to establish a Kherson National Republic. Another one of those state-lets, like they did in Donetsk and Luhansk back in 2014. That was really fascinating. And I wonder if you have any thoughts on that? Do you think that they want to split up Ukraine into, you know, a bunch of these state-lets in the territories that they take and make sure that it can't function as a country?
Mike Kofman 40:21
I honestly doubt that, I suspect that that's just a pretty good pressure campaign they're pushing, in order to show Zelensky that they have a plan B that they do want to partition the country. This is essentially a negotiation scheme. I don't think they want a Kherson sort of People Republic. Of course, if they're not able to achieve their broader war aims. Yeah, I suspect, they might be willing to go through with a partition. But I highly doubt that's Russia's first choice. And I think they're organizing these things in order to apply pressure right to signal that this could be possible in order to coerce Zelensky into agreeing to terms.
Dmitri Alperovitch 41:04
Right. Rob, have you changed your mind on their ability to take Kiev? You were pretty pessimistic about that last week. What I'm hearing is that supplies in Kiev are not in great shape. A lot of people have left, but there's still 2 million people left in Kiev. So if they actually managed to surround it, and siege it, I'm not sure how many weeks food and water supplies will actually last in the city, you may see sort of a siege of Leningrad type of scenario there. What are your thoughts on their prospects in taking it?
Rob Lee 41:37
Yeah, so I mean, they’re gonna siege it, right? And they're going to do to it what they’re doing to Kharkiv, right? I mean, we're getting an idea of what's happening in Kharkiv and how long that can kind of last or hold out. The limiting factor for Ukraine might be supplies, right? Food, water, all those kind of things. We know Russian forces have been hitting infrastructure targets, right. And it's not by surprise. So I mean, again, it's really hard to predict this because it's one, it's a little difficult to predict when they're gonna be able to fully encircle the city. So it's taking them some time. And Ukrainian forces are doing a good job of holding back Russian forces on the outskirts. Now, obviously, we're talking multiple Russian armies here. So they should have the ability to encircle the city at some point, right, just might take more time. And obviously, you know, all these bridges again, blown up, it just means it takes more time for Russian forces to move around, you know, delaying kind of an inevitability there. In terms of taking the city, it's really hard to predict. Ultimately, you know, as Mike was saying, I think what Russia’s trying to do right now is they’re trying to compel the Zelensky to make concessions, right, and they’re probably pulling back their kind of maximum political goals from the regime change and installing someone who can kind of run Ukraine to something, you know, more limited, but still significant, right? We still see, you know, quite strong demands coming from Russian officials, but at least they're more focused on acknowledging, recognizing Crimea, Donbass, and then you know, saying, we're not gonna join NATO, we're gonna demilitarize, things of that nature. I'm not sure if all those things will apply. But a lot of it depends on, you know, Russia is still progressing. They're still taking territory. And it's a question of, you know, if they can fully besieged Kiev, right, they might kind of once again, make those demands, say, All right, do these things. And this is how we, you know, we stop them from leveling the city. If they decide to go into the city, right, it's going to take time. And you know, it's not clear to me how they'll end up. Ultimately, Russia's already taking pretty heavy casualties. Right? Every week, this goes on, they're taking more casualties from ambushes and things behind the lines, and in Kharkiv and Sumy, and all these kind of areas so, you know, no matter what the frontline tells you on these maps, well, the Russians are still taking casualties behind those kind of lines. Right. And that's why those maps are but you know, maybe misleading, depending on how you read them. So we look at the timeline of the battle for Kiev, it's gonna take weeks, right, if they actually want to try to actually take the city, it's gonna take a while, it's not gonna be that fast. And even if they devastate it, even if they, you know, heavily employ fires, but they have Kharkiv, you know, we're still seeing people in Kharkiv hold out, and I have no doubt people in Kiev will do the same thing. It becomes a question of, you know, how many casualties is Russia willing to take to take Kiev, and ultimately, it will be a very bloody affair for them. It's gonna take time, and I'm not sure, but I think it's a hard thing to kind of predict this point. But at a minimum, it's gonna take several weeks to do so, several more weeks of war means, you know, 1000s of more Russian soldiers killed, right? That means sanctions back and all the other economic disruptions back to Russia are going to start having more effect. And it's, you know, at a certain point, Russia is going to try and end this conflict, you know, when they can because they know, all these costs are increasing, and it becomes a bigger problem over time. So it's I don't know, I, I'm going to try and avoid making a prediction about how this will go. Only thing we can say is Ukraine's proving that they're not willing to give up without a fight. And if they fight street by street in Kiev, it will take a lot of time to take it. And even if Russian forces take it, right, they'll then be facing uncertainty in these areas. And not to mention, if you level Kiev, right, we're already seeing protests in Nikopol and Kherson and all these other cities, you know, those places are only gonna get worse, right? It's only more likely you're going to see more kind of resistance, I think in those areas that Russian forces will face. So it's not clear to me how it will go. But you know, I think ultimately, if Russian forces level Kiev, right, and they destroy it, they take it that way. It's kind of hard to see what political goal that achieves, right. And a certain point, as Mike was saying, it probably makes more sense to say, Okay, let's try and negotiate from a position of strength, let’s try and not destroy the city, let’s try to extract some concessions. And then, you know, what's in it on those kinds of terms, instead of, you know, going, and absolutely leveling in the city and taking it that way?
Dmitri Alperovitch 45:50
Mike, what's your view on that? I mean, we're getting a preview of what they're capable of in Mariupol, right, where they're decimating the city with artillery, they're fully sieging it, things are getting very dire in terms of food and water supplies in that city. I'm not sure how long they can truly hold out. Is that what’s in store for Kiev, you think?
Mike Kofman 46:11
Potentially, but I actually have increasingly grown skeptical of the real prospects of a siege. I think that if anything, they'll probably try to encircle the city in the coming two weeks, and then use that to pressure Zelensky for terms. I'm kind of skeptical that they have the forces to take it, I think I'm on the same page with Rob. That may be an optimistic assessment, that could mean me just sort of advancing, you know, the desirable for the actual because I obviously don't want Kiev to, to be turned into a Grozny 1999, 2000 type campaign. But I suspect that given how this has gone, Russia should be pretty pessimistic about their likelihood of taking the city. Well, I still see Zelensky as essentially the center of gravity, so maybe they figure they can compel him, once they have the city largely cut off.
Dmitri Alperovitch 47:08
What's your take on, Mike, on the volunteers? They're asking for volunteers to join the fights, including in the Middle East. That seems like I don't know, an act of desperation. And I'm not clear how they're going to control these people, particularly if they don't have a lot of military training. What's your take on that?
Mike Kofman 47:27
I honestly think that’s somebody’s small, silly initiative. That's the kind of thing Prigozhin would do just to show that, you know, he's contributing to the regime's fight, try to get 1000 Syrians or so to go into this fight. I don't think that that's a meaningful effort to raise troops. One thing I'll say that does worry me kind of about the potential of an urban battle in the capital is it's not Eastern Military District forces that ever concerned me about it, it's the large number of Chechens they have that are technically part of the National Guard Rosgvardia, but it really Kadyrovites and they brought more and more reinforcements and, and those are kind of their troops for an urban assault. Their morale is rather high. That's the part that concerns me, those are the people I suspect they’d ultimately send them to the city if they were going to do it.
Dmitri Alperovitch 48:18
That's a great point, and Kadyrov put out on his telegram a few hours ago, something implying that he is actually in Ukraine right now near Kiev. To be determined if that's true or not. But that would be an interesting escalation if he is actually there leading those forces. Let's talk a little bit about the coup prospects. I've been on the record for a few weeks that you now have a nonzero chance of a coup taking place against Putin from the Scylla key fact faction from the military from the Intel services. But the one question that I don't think people have explored, is let's assume it does happen. And I want to make it clear that I think it's still very unlikely, very low probability that it will take place. But if it does take place, Mike, what's your view on whoever replaces Putin actually ending this war quickly? I mean, you had, you know, Brezhnev launched the war in Afghanistan. And it took only Gorbachev, you know, after a drop of Chernenko to end it. And that was a number of years into his reign. So, do you think that if we actually even get a regime change in Moscow, he would end this war?
Mike Kofman 49:36
No, that’s a good question. I personally suspect he would, I just sort of think in the Soviet war in Afghanistan it was clear to the Soviet Union that they wanted to find, that they needed to start withdrawing or finding a way to draw down by ‘83. But you're right, it was Gorbachev that really organized it into a political effort to find a way out. I kind of think that, whoever it is, if there is a sort of palace coup and I am definitely of the mind and have been on the record saying that for the first time, I do think this is the beginning of that for that regime. I don't have a tremendous longevity. Again, that might be my optimism speaking. I partly think that just because, not just because of global instability caused by sanctions and the economic catastrophe that this ultimately is for Russia, but also because I think Putin’s thrown under the bus important security elements of his own regime, you know, the FSB, the Rosgvardia, and the army to boot. But you know, whether or not somebody is gonna want to end the war to me, I think all the incentives are there. And one of the biggest reasons why, is this is really Putin's war. I mean, I almost feel looking at how it's gone down and how it's been prosecuted is it's not even the Russian military's war as much. They're fighting it, but so many troops were sort of pushed into this, I think, under false pretenses. And the entire concept of operations sort of was more of a raid than a large-scale military operation. I think only Putin really believed that within three days, he could somehow get troops into Kiev and get Zelensky to surrender. The entire thing was a botched attempt at a quick regime change that the Russian military is trying to now cobble into a serious war effort, that's still tremendously unimpressive. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject.
Dmitri Alperovitch 51:24
Great. Rob, any thoughts on that, the prospects for a coup in Moscow and where they would end the war?
Rob Lee 51:31
So it's hard to predict, right? I do think, you know, Putin has started off kind of, by going into this war, obviously, you can decide to start a war, it's hard to decide how that war ends, if it will end on your terms, so on. It's always a risky thing. And that's why I thought it was just a very strategically, very, you know, it was a blunder. I think one of the interesting things is, you know, I'm not going to predict whether a coup will happen. I do think that, you know, obviously, Putin has prepared society in Russia to make it difficult to protest. He's obviously, you know, put many opposition figures either in jail or exile, he's made it difficult for an media to operate, independent media operate, especially now it's, you know, it's basically over. Then, obviously, you know, it seems as though there are plenty of Russians who support this war, probably a majority, I don't know if you can get a good figure. But you know, it's quite a sizable number. One thing that’s interesting, this is a bit of a tangent here, is that we talked about the role of Chechens, you know, they’re clearly playing a large role, they've clearly deployed a lot of Chechens since this war, and more so than any other unit, they are posting a lot more videos on social media. Kadyrov’s posting his, these guys are taking selfies all the time, and they're making a big deal about this. It's hard to say, you know, how significant a role they're playing, but they're clearly being deployed in larger numbers, right, than most other kinds of units or from other kinds of regions. I think it's gonna be a really interesting thing to see afterwards, about the role this has on the domestic situation in Russia, where it's always going to be a question of, once Putin leaves, will Kadyrov be loyal to the next guy? Right? Or will he kind of assert more of his own position? And I think right now, if Chechens, you know, continue to take kind of heavy, heavy casualties, they continue to be seen as taking a more key role in this war, I think there's every reason to suspect, Kadyrov will say, I want more of a role, and especially when Putin goes, that I'm not going to be necessarily loyal to anyone who comes afterwards. And I might become more of a, you know, kind of problem for them. So I think that this is going to be another issue in terms of domestic politics, that's going to rear its head even more so depending on how this war goes. But either way, it's clear the Chechens are playing a key role and I think that's going to affect, you know, the power dynamic between Moscow and Grozny in the future.
Dmitri Alperovitch 53:43
That's a fascinating point, because Kadyrov already is barely controllable, and can do pretty much whatever he wants, even in Moscow. And that's a great point that if Putin is gone, who will be able to actually keep this guy in line? What do you guys expect? Let's go to Mike first and then to Rob, over the next week. Obviously, not a lot has changed this week, although they have made some progress, as Mike pointed out. What do you expect to see happen next week, this coming week, Mike?
Mike Kofman 54:15
I think my view is that Russian forces will make some fitful progress and they'll probably pay a high price for it. Ukrainian forces will try to maintain position and counterattack where they can to prevent encirclements. You know, war is highly contingent, these things are going to play out in a cycle where Russian forces advance and then regroup, reorganize, resupply, advance some more. And we really don't know what's happening on the negotiation side as well. Right? To what extent is real progress made between the two sides, so I'm afraid my answer is going to be somewhat disappointing. I think this war is going to go on. The only thing I will add is that I think about a week ago, I had suggested that just looking at the pace of operations and attrition, the Russian forces likely are going to start facing exhaustion and combat in effect in this in the coming weeks and they're gonna need an operational pause. So either way, we may see a slowdown on operational tempo, or a ceasefire at the very least where both sides get to rearm, resupply, and replenish their attrition combat units. You know, that's the best I can offer. My general sense looking at this is I think Ukraine can definitely win this war one way or another. They're fighting quite smartly. I think the Russian ability to achieve their initial political aims has gone out the window now. I think if they substantially reduce their war aims, they might be able to achieve something in this conflict. As for the rest? You know, I've sort of reserved judgment, Dmitri. I'll just go back on what you asked me originally early on, which is that, you know, how do we assess the Russian military based on this? I'll say, I'm gonna reserve judgment until the war is over. There’s a lot we still don't know, there's a lot we don't know, between, you know, whether that military is rotten all the way from the feet, or if it's mostly the plan, the lack of organization that drove this debacle of intervention into a tragic war. Anyway, I'll leave it at that.
Dmitri Alperovitch 56:19
Great. And Rob, your thoughts? And do you think that they're actually going to start hitting convoys of supplies, the weapons that are coming over from Poland, they're starting to make noise about the fact that those convoys are fair targets? What else do you expect in the coming week?
Rob Lee 56:37
Yeah, so I'm not sure, um, you know, I think they clearly tried to show a signal this week, that even you know, if you try and do a limited, no fly zone in the western part, that Russia can hit those targets, right. And they’re not going to be able to prevent that completely because there's no way of, you know, ensuring you're going to knock down all these cruise missiles if you launch, you know, eight or 10 at a time. So I suspect that they'll continue some strikes in western Ukraine. They’re going to try and limit their use of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in other parts of the country just because the probably running low on them, and they’re probably just instead using multiple launch rocket systems, or just you know, bombing from aviation instead. I think the big thing is this week, you know, this is something we kind of talked about beforehand, for the most part, this war in rural areas, Russian forces over time, we're going to defeat Ukrainian forces if they're out in the open. Right. So a lot of contact in the Donbass, some of that area Ukrainian forces are still holding and doing quite a good job, as Mike mentioned, right, there is an increasing risk that they're going to be encircled by Russian forces there. That is unintelligible, but the big question right now is just looking at cities, right? It's always been about if Ukranians are willing to fight for these cities and hold them then that's going to make it very difficult for Russia to achieve its plans. So looking at the future, you know, when we look at what’s coming for next week. The big questions are: will Mariupol fall, and if it doesn't fall then you know, that's not a good sign for Russian forces for the kind of overall objectives of the campaign. Will Mykolaiv fall? Cause if not, it's gonna be hard to go and get Odesa and you know, they still haven't done that large amphibious assault you know people thought was gonna happen because it's clear that Ukraine still has you know, MLRS systems, artillery, other things in the Odessa region -
MLRS being Multiple Launch Rocket Systems -
Correct. Right. They still have this bit of artillery systems that could threaten an amphibious assault. And so as long as Mykolaiv holds out, it's gonna be difficult for Russian forces to take Odessa. If Kharkiv, Sumy, all those cities, you know, continue to hold out, they likely will, even though it seems like Russia's trying to seize them. Right. It just it again, tells you something about, you know how Ukrainians will fight for Kiev, right. And everything we're seeing is that they will fight, they'll go block by block, it'll be very tough to take. And the last thing to look for is just that encirclement around Kiev, right? Can Ukraine continue to hold these suburbs? Can they make it, you know, difficult and costly, if Russia tries to, you know, create a tight encirclement of the city. And the longer this takes, right, the more likely Russia will try and end this war, you know, with a more compromised solution. And so all of those things are things to kind of look for, and again, it's increasingly a war for cities. And so what we've seen so far is that there are a couple large cities in the south that did fall to Russia, but none of them were places where Ukrainian forces decided we're going to fight to the last man here, right? We didn't see it in Kherson, we didn't see it in those cities. In cities where they are doing that, right, they're holding themselves and none of those are going to fall. And so that's a good indicator of how these campaigns are going to continue. And ultimately, you know, a week from now, Russia probably needs to make some significant advances, they probably need to take Mariupol, if they do that, that frees up more forces that can move to try to take the rest of the Ukrainian forces in eastern part of the country. But if these cities continue to hold out, right, it becomes an issue because it becomes a problem for Russian supply lines. Because ultimately, you still have to be able to circle cities, that takes manpower, you have to be able to control supply lines, that takes manpower, and all that you know pulls away from the actual objective of taking Kiev or surrounding it properly. And so those are things to look for I think.
Dmitri Alperovitch 1:00:01
Alright, a war for cities. While on that sobering but I think nevertheless optimistic projection from both Mike and Rob. That's a wrap for us. Thank you so much for attending our Twitter space. Thank you, Mike and Rob, for sharing your thoughts with us. We had over a quarter million people listening last time so I know there's a lot of interest so we might continue doing these talks if the interest persists, and have a good night everyone. Thank you.
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