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  • Writer's pictureRichard Murff

Functional Defeat on the Black Sea

US Support Ukraine
On second thought, those guys seem angry

War is not like the movies. Those theatrical, made-for-tv breakthroughs don’t happen all that often and they don’t happen on demand – there is literally an entire army willing to mass homicide so that it doesn’t happen. And that will really gum up the works.

Although... it’s not clear that the weirder parts of the House GOP knows how anything works. They don’t appear to be for any course of action, but oppose any approach that nears anything that we’d call a mainstream consensus. Which is really no way to run a superpower. The lack of entertainment value of Ukraine’s grinding counter-offensive may have cost in much needed aid, as well as the future of NATO. And that grim state of affairs has been eclipsed by a hijacking cum civil war by Matt Gaetz and his hair. Which is a little too entertaining for its own good.

This is not only short sighted, but wildly misguided. According to both US and British Intelligence, Ukrainian forces have racked up incremental victories, producing modest but sustained results. The ground war is leading deliberately with an infantry to save on armor in heavily mined areas. This will slow things down, and while the West dithers about what kit to send, they have to use armor sparingly. Still, the Institute for the Study of War – a pretty cautious bunch - has reported that Ukrainian troops are operating beyond the third and final Russia line in the Zaphorizha oblast, marking a tactical break through, if it is too early to claim an operational victory.

Over shadowed by events in Israel, on October 9th, Russia launched a counter-counter offensive in the eastern city of Avdiika, close to the Russia held capital of Donetsk oblast. Moscow has thrown its superior resources at the push, but reports indicate that they’ve gains two miles of an urban wasteland at the price of anywhere from 15 to 50 tanks and 100 plus armored vehicles. This is not an all-conquering army.

The Battle for the Black Sea is, however, evolving in unforeseen ways. The twin attacks on Sevastopol on in September extended the Ukrainian reach to the hub of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The attacks damaged landing craft and a kilo-class submarine, the Rostov-on-Don. A second attack wave utilized brilliantly applied intelligence – either Western or domestic product – to pin-point a meeting on a naval headquarters killing Admiral Viktor Sokolov and 34 other officers with British supplied storm shadow missiles.

The Russian response was to… retreat by withdrawing from naval hubs in Crimea. James Heappey, the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, called the withdrawal from Sevastopol “The functional defeat of the Black Sea Fleet.”

This is a military that seems to falter when it runs into reality. The effect of its artillery, unfortunately, is more concrete. While US weaponry is largely seen as a ground war option, but the navel war is a theater seeing substantial gains in neutralizing a channel crucial for Moscow’s power projection in Ukraine, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

The US gains nothing by slowing down the supply of military kit: There is no nice way to win this war. In his classic, On War Carl Von Clausewitz is famously quoted (and misquoted) with “war… is politics carried on by another means.” That’s not the one we ought to be tossing around. More important bit of wisdom is that there are four crucial things to remember in war, they deserve to engraved as a foreign policy mantra.

1) Assess probabilities.

2) Act with utmost concentration.

3) Act with utmost speed.

4) Subordinate the means of warfare to the ends of foreign policy.

I’m paraphrasing, the man’s sentence structure was very 19th century. The essence is simple: Think it through, act with determination and don’t let it get out of hand.

We don’t seem to be thinking it through, we are dithering, and things are clearly getting out of hand.


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