Understanding the War

Lately I have been following the assessments of the Russia-Ukraine War at Understanding War, the blog of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Here’s a snippet from their assessment for May 19:

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces are intensifying operations to advance north and west of Popasna in preparation for an offensive toward Severodonetsk.
  • Russian and proxy authorities in Mariupol are struggling to establish coherent administrative control of the city.
  • Russian forces reportedly attempted to regain control of the settlements they lost during the Ukrainian counteroffensive north of Kharkiv City.
  • Russian forces are bolstering their naval presence around Snake Island to fortify their grouping on the island.

Some of the things I like best about it are that it is heavily annotated, they cite their sources, and they use both Ukrainian and Russian sources.

I don’t take everything they say as holy writ but it’s a lot better than the heavily propaganda-laden reports I’m seeing in so many places these days.

7 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    If you follow either Bill Riggio or Gray Connolly on twitter; they both are rather skeptical of the ISW with regards to Ukraine.

    Essentially the issue is the ISW mostly relies on Ukrainian sources (particularly its general staff).

    Here’s an example; on May 16th; ISW stated on Mariupol — “It is possible that Ukrainian and Russian officials will negotiate to evacuate the remaining Mariupol defenders in the coming days.” This was in the context of the mass surrender of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. If you can’t call a spade a spade…

    Or today’s assessment; how exactly would an advisor to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol (who is at least 100 km from Mariupol; according to Wikipedia in Dnipro or Zaporizhia) know the politics going on in the city fully controlled by the Russians?

    That’s not even getting into the staffing and leadership of the Institute of War, which raise big red flags for me.

    I haven’t found anyone that gives a good overall assessment given the fog of war (and the emotional investment almost everyone has for one side of the other). What I found useful was this CBC interview of a Canadian who volunteered, fought in Kiev/Kyiv and the Donbas and came back.


    My conclusion is that the battles in the Donbas are being fought very differently then the battle over Kiev.

  • I haven’t found anyone that gives a good overall assessment

    Me, neither.

  • bob sykes Link

    The IWR is a Deep State organ like Rand et al., and it reliably reports what the Deep State denizens tell it to do.

    For example, Russia has had complete control of Mariupol, except for the steel mill basement catacombs, for over a month. It is now restoring electricity, water, telephone and other utilities. They most certainly are not struggling.

    More importantly, Russia has had record export sales and currency earnings lately, and the ruble has risen to about R59 per $1. Sanctions are killing the EU.

    Russia is winning and will win this war. The only question is how much of Ukraine it will annex. Also, will it annex Transnistria? Probably not, but it will have a land corridor to it.

    The next front will be Finland. Turkey, Hungary, Croatia and a Norwegian political party (not governing) are opposed. Let’s hope they hang tough. Finland in NATO puts US troops within quick striking distance of major Russian strategic assets (the basic idea, of course). At the very least, that will trigger a very, very large expansion of Russian tactical and strategic weapons in the Kola Peninsula, all aimed at Finland. At the worst, Russia will conduct a preemptive strike on Finland to disarm it.

    Apparently, our Rulers have already forgotten about Ukraine and have moved on to the next shiny pony. Can’t any of them connect the dots.

    I will repeat myself. We are in the midst of the greatest prewar crisis since 1945.

  • bob sykes Link

    PS. The New York Times has woken up and had some coffee. They now are arguing for a cease fire and a negotiated settlement that would result in Russian annexing some of Ukraine.


  • I linked to that editorial in an earlier post this morning. I don’t honestly think they know what they’re recommending.

    That’s likely the only workable solution but it would mean that Ukraine, NATO, and the U. S. loses which is why I think it will take a lot more pain before it’s acceptable.

  • steve Link

    Also means Russia has the incentive to keep invading other countries or Ukraine again. Invade, settle and annex a bit more.


  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    After thinking it over; the editorial may not be so much about the course of action in Ukraine but on domestic politics.

    Maybe it is a coincidence, but it comes out 2 days after Congress passed out $40 billion in aid; which is supposed to tide things until after the midterms.

    This editorial gives tacit approval to Democrats to position themselves separately from the administration if it goes for another round of military aid next year. There are various fractions that may do it; those who may entertain a run in 2024 (ahem, Bernie), or the anti-war left (it was striking that skepticism of the war has been dominated by anti-establishment Republicans), or leverage if Republican leaders gain a majority and deem further support for Ukraine “must pass” but can’t corral a majority from their own caucus.

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