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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #251

I have some bad news for you. The Russians are ahead of us. I mean they’re ahead of NATO. We’ve got to do more. It’s -23 in the trenches. We’ve got to do more. Our men are dying. The Russians are striking our cities nightly. This is a crisis. It’s World War III, and it’s being fought in Europe right here and right now.

The Russians have turned their car factories and their steel factories and all their factories into producing massive amounts of munitions and armour and weapons and everything else necessary to fight a long, slow, brutal and bloody war, in which they are perfectly prepared to lose millions of men - they’ve already lost hundreds of thousands and because Russia is a dictatorship of the worst kind, they’re going to keep losing more and the Russian government doesn’t care and the people of Russia are too scared to speak up or they end up in Siberian penal colonies or Soviet-era mental hospitals. So the Russians have galvanised their entire society, from the legal system to secondary industry to their security and intelligence services into a gigantic monstrosity of a government structure designed to keep this war going indefinitely. And we’re not doing nearly enough about it. In fact we’re barely even at the beginning of understanding the problem.

The suffering of the civilian population and military personnel in Ukraine is monumental and they are fighting at the edges of Europe to protect the integrity of European borders and the European way of life and we aren’t doing enough to help them. At the height of the first Cold War, the West devoted every last ounce of energy in fighting the Soviet Union at every touch and turn, bogging them down in every corner and fighting every inch. As the Soviets sought to expand in Africa, the West went to war with them in Africa. We turned Europe into an armed camp to deter further Soviet westward expansionism. We fought them across the globe and it took decades but ultimately we succeeded and the Soviet Union collapsed. And now we need to do it all over again.

The single most substantial impediment to continued Russian advances is the weakness of their logistical supply lines to the westernmost portions of their front line, because the area to the south of the Dnipro / Dnieper River is wild and untamed with few main roads or railways capable of transporting military equipment. While the Russians are vastly out-shelling and out-shooting the Ukrainians on the front line, they are unable to make substantial progress over the hard border that comprises the Dnipro River and the contact line up through the Donbas for logistical reasons. They logistical incapacity is hampered by the effectiveness of contemporary medium range ballistic missiles that are extremely difficult to shoot down with air defences and that can accurately deliver high explosive warheads. This has rendered much of the Russian navy worthless as well as the Russian Air Force. Most of the vessels formerly stationed in Sevastopol on Crimea’s western coast have now retreated up Russian rivers via the Sea of Azov for the winter season, fearful simply of being sunk by Neptune cruise missiles (basically American Tomahawk cruise missiles supplied to the Ukrainian Armed Forces under a different name). A single modern accurate ballistic missile can sink a ship or take out even modern stealth-era military aircraft, and hence this war is being fought without air forces or navies.

Even tanks have become mostly worthless, because they too can be disabled by modern ballistic missile technology, their occupants frying inside from a single missile with an armour piercing warhead. So now it’s all about infantry soldiers, keeping them alive, keeping them well-fed, and treating the wounded, and keeping them warm in the winter. It’s also about maintaining the morale amongst the traumatised civilian populations who had to endure nightly air raids as swarms of cheap Iranian drones fly over long distances. Most are shot down but some get through, hitting random buildings for the most part, causing terror and distress and often causing arbitrary mindless death. In the meantime it’s all about supplying the trenches to maintain the front line, and about massive land armies as well in excess of a million troops sit in boggy trenches over the winter period facing off against each other over a 1,000 kilometre front line. Who would have imagined that conditions in World War III would revert to those found in World War I. Success in warfare depends on staying alive in the trenches.

The Russians have had their logistics capacity crippled in Crimea by reason of the need to retreat a substantial proportion of their naval fleet (the Ukrainians have now taken to firing their Neptune cruise missiles at Russian merchant shipping vessels in the vicinity of the peninsula, who may well be carrying hydrocarbon supplies to the Russian front line) and the Kerch bridge is under constant risk of attack, not currently being fully operational as presumed Ukrainian saboteurs take any opportunity to attack this monumentally exposed structure that Russia has to perennially surround by her very best air defences to prevent it from being blown up. Nevertheless Russia is starting to correct her logistical weaknesses not least by construction of a military-grade railroad from Donetsk to Crimea; and if she succeeds in doing this then she may, in time - in a year or two, say - be able to obtain a logistical advantage that allows her to proceed further west in the capture of Ukrainian territory. And what are we doing about it? We are sitting on our laurels. We must increase massively the sizes of our NATO armies and we must improve Ukraine’s logistical supply routes to the front line so that Ukraine can outgun the Russians. We are facing what is now probably the world’s largest and most battle-hardened army on the doorstep of Europe, and it poses and existential threat to us all. We must face this grim reality and we must re-arm and redouble all our monumental efforts to support heroic Ukraine.


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