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The Baldwin Files – Lessons We Can Learn

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means”

“No one starts a war–or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so–without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by the war and how he intends to conduct it.”

“War is no pastime; it is no mere joy in daring and winning, no place for irresponsible enthusiasts. It is a serious means to a serious end.”

Carl Von Clausewitz

A few days ago, just after the invasion of Ukraine started, an SSD reader commented to the effect that Putin was giving the West a “masterclass” on hybrid warfare. I could not disagree more. Sure, Putin’s Russia is fairly capable of combining tank columns with SOF tactically and applying the tools of cyber and informational warfare to some effect. It sounds and looks fairly impressive when experienced in real-time and reported by non-experts – including the people of Ukraine – on the ground. But as a military professional who has studied war all my adult life, it looks more like amateur hour. Based on TV interviews in the last 24 hours, my personal opinion is shared at least by a few other professionals like LTG (R) Keith Kellogg, and GEN (R) Jack Keane. That is not to say that the Russian military might not prevail in the next hours, days, or weeks, to overcome their obviously weaker opponent and occupy portions of Ukraine including the major cities. However, I would be willing to bet that the likely bloody insurgency to follow will make that a very hollow victory.

But there are some obvious lessons to be learned, even as fighting goes on. Let us start with a little abbreviated history – not Putin’s version. Ukraine has had an enduring and distinct identity, separate from Russia, for many generations. Before WWII, the Ukrainians suffered mightily for their desired independence and perceived disloyalty under Stalin’s Soviet Union. By “suffered,” I mean that millions were killed. It is true that during WWII some Ukrainians initially sided with the German invaders, hoping to break away from Russian dominance. Since the Germans quickly demonstrated that they hated “Slavic people” almost as much as the Jews, the Ukrainian people realized their mistake, pivoted, and initiated a brutal insurgency against the Germans on behalf of the Soviets instead. To this day, when Russians want to disparage Ukrainians, they call them NAZIs. So, despite the fact that Russians and Ukrainians are ethnically and culturally “cousins,” some of the history is ugly, and the personal animosity is real and runs deep. Especially for old-timers who venerate the “good old days” of the Soviet Union as Putin does.

More recently, the Russian military has not displayed much excellence or even minimum signs of professional prowess in a series of campaigns. First, Afghanistan. There is no denying that we – the US and NATO – ultimately had no more success in Afghanistan in achieving our stated objectives than the Soviet Union. As with our experience, their initial invasion went well. However, the inherent weaknesses in the Soviet’s ability to sustain their forces hamstrung their options to conduct effective operations in a way that the US-led Coalition forces never had to face. Here is a fun fact. Soviet forces in Afghanistan suffered far more non-battle casualties than were ever killed by the Mujahedeen. Preventable diseases – often brought on by poor sanitation practices – decimated Soviet units in a way their opponents were never able to. Their non-battle casualty rates were the same that Soviet soldiers had suffered during WWII. Their medical and casevac capability had basically not improved in the intervening 40 years. Hell, they had not even been able to effectively educate their conscripts in basic field sanitation practices that, likely, would have had a major positive effect in reducing those casualties.

Of course, in the years after the Soviet Union dissolved, there were the Russian incursions into Georgia, Chechnya, and incremental steps into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine starting in 2014. None of these campaigns went as the Russians presumably hoped – except, arguably, for the “annexation” of Crimea. Still, the Russian military did not perform to anything approaching a high standard in any of those cases. I do want to emphasize the fact that there are some very professional and capable elements in the Russian force structure. The Russians can indeed be very formidable in some circumstances. No doubt! But, when Putin brings 190,000 of his soldiers to the game, only a very small percentage of those ground forces are “top of the line.” Indeed, the bulk of his forces are conscript-reliant formations that are still ill-trained and unmotivated and their gear is poorly maintained and unreliable. Case in point, Russian conscripts are not particularly interested in dying in Ukraine or in killing Ukrainians that they hold no animosity toward what-so-ever. On the other hand, the Ukrainians appear to be much more motivated since they are being attacked.

Putin may be a lot of things. One thing he is not is a military genius. At least for now, I am not seeing any such genius from his generals either. The incursion into Ukraine, to this point, has been entirely predictable and pedestrian. Absolutely nothing bold or innovative. No surprises. It appears Putin was expecting the threat of violence to achieve his objectives of neutering Ukraine and putting NATO and the US on our back heels. It reminds me of our plan in Iraq for OIF. Where we plotted out the invasion in great detail and did the big handwave for whatever was going to happen afterward. It actually appears to me that the Russian generals did not have an invasion plan ready. I suspect that is because they were not eager to own another difficult occupation. They remember those other quagmires from earlier in their careers.

I can speculate, based on my experience, that Putin expected Ukraine and/or NATO would cave to his demands if he just put on enough pressure. First, he ominously positioned forces. That did not get him anything except more weapons shipments to Ukraine. True, those were perhaps more symbolic than substantial, but they were the opposite of what he wanted to happen. The shipments and promises of more to come also helped stiffen the Ukrainian spines as well and they continued to rebuff his threats. He then moved some forces overtly into the already contested Donbas region. I thought he would play that “peacekeeper” card for at least several days while threatening to expand the Russian foothold beyond the separatist enclave into the rest of the region. He pulled the trigger on the next phase quicker than I expected, but that move still did not work in Putin’s favor.

Instead, Germany stopped validation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. More than other sanctions that might take some time to inflict pain on Russia, that was a significant economic counter punch to Putin. I do not think he expected or planned for that. Frankly, it appears that he thought Germany specifically – in large part because of the pipeline – would slow roll any NATO response to aggressive Russian moves short of an actual shooting war. Today (26 Feb), Germany joined other countries in sending weapons to Ukraine – something they had been hesitant to do earlier. Likewise, Sweden and Finland, traditional “neutral” countries are now considering even closer ties to NATO – albeit, both will probably continue to forego actual formal membership in the Alliance. Clearly, Putin counted on fracturing not strengthening NATO’s and the EU’s resolve. An unintended, unexpected, and unwelcome, consequence from Putin’s perspective, I am sure. Putin’s plan has now clearly moved into the “friction” portion of his war.

For those that are not familiar with the concept, Clausewitz explained friction’s role in war this way; “Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end up producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.” “Friction is the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.” He goes on to describe how chance, danger, and exertion, all contribute to general friction “No other human activity is so continuously or universally bound up with chance. And through the element of chance, guesswork, and luck come to play a great part in war.” “The dangers inseparable from war and the physical exertions war demands can aggravate the problem to such an extent that they must be ranked among its principal causes.” “Action in war is like movement in a resistance element. Just as the simplest and most natural of movements, walking, cannot easily be performed in water, so in war it is difficult for normal efforts to achieve even moderate results.” Clausewitz then asks and answers this question; “Is there any lubricant that will reduce this abrasion? Only one, and a commander and his army will not always have it readily available: combat experience.”

Putin does not have a lot of combat veterans in his formations except some of the most senior officers I mentioned earlier. So, the learning curve is steep for the junior Russian officers, NCOs, and soldiers, at the pointy end facing this complex, ambiguous, and “hybrid” battlefield for the first time. Of course, the same is true of the Ukrainian military and people. But at least, they have the advantage of being on the defensive on their home turf. That levels the field at least a little and they appear to be making a credible fight of it. I do not think Putin’s plan anticipated that possibility either. Everyone judged – myself included – that Putin’s forces had a clear advantage within the cyber and informational domains. His people have been putting out a lot of mis- and dis- information for months and even years to “prep the battlefield.” A good deal of that effort has been targeted to the West in general and the US in particular. From my observations, his efforts were not as effective as they were first perceived to be, and now seem to be faltering – badly – at the very moment that he needs them to reinforce and enable his maneuvers on the ground.

My conclusion may be premature, but based on their lackluster performance so far, I do not think the Russian military is setting a high bar or providing a useful template for what “right” looks like in the cyber or informational domains. We just need to learn from their mistakes. All of their mistakes. It could be that Putin does not have a General Zhukov to give him sound military advice. Maybe he got it but did not accept it. What I see being showcased in and around Ukraine is mostly Russian operational shortcomings and vulnerabilities, not strengths. That does not mean that we can underestimate them. I worry a great deal about their capabilities in the Arctic region. The fact that they have many more icebreakers than we do in the West, for example. That means that we are overmatched in that critical capability. That, in turn, means that Russia can put pressure on the northern sea lanes and put themselves in a better position to control those sea lanes. That would be strategically unacceptable for the US and our Allies. We need not match them ship for ship, but we do have to figure out an effective counteraction.

What about multi-domain land warfare? We talk about it a lot; but, in practice, we are no better at it today than the Russians are proving themselves to be. The military that seems to be doing the most thinking about the multi-domain or hybrid model of war seems to be the Chinese. Unlike the US or Russia, the Chinese have not fought a war since their brief dust-up with Vietnam in 1979. That puts them at a disadvantage, but they do appear to be motivated to get it right when war does come. They bear watching, but that does not mean I think they have broken the code yet. Still, in the strategic context, I worry about them more than I do Russia. I have been looking for lessons from history that may help get us better situated to dominate multi-domain warfare in the future. The example that I think has the most promise is generally considered an experiment that failed for the US military during the early Cold War. That is the “Pentomic Division” of the late 50s. The concept never proved to be capable of doing what had been hoped, in large part because the command-and-control architecture of the time would not support dispersed operations as envisioned. The subordinate “Battle Group” – a task-organized Battalion Task Force to use modern terminology – sounds about the right size for a self-contained and independent maneuver element to me. Although they may not get it perfectly right, I think the USMC is moving in the right direction with their ongoing restructuring because it attempts to address some of the same challenges.

I do not have all the answers and I do not know all there is to know about war. I cannot see the future any clearer than anyone else. My educated opinions and prognostications on Ukraine may certainly prove to be wrong – in part or whole. With operations ongoing, we are in the thick of the fog of war. Still, I am willing to bet I have it more right than not. It is a sin to underestimate your enemies. It is just as egregious a sin to overestimate your enemies. When I was in Germany during the Cold War, the Russian soldiers were reportedly impervious to heat, and cold, and fear. They were berserkers, who would pour across the inter-German border in endless waves. The 8th Guards Army had three times the tanks of all the NATO forces combined and theirs were simpler and more reliable than ours. Bullshit!

The Soviet conscripts of that Army were only formidable on paper; they were actually barely trained, unmotivated, and more afraid of us than we were of them. Their vehicles were starved for parts beyond anything we could imagine and so poorly maintained that fully half would never have gotten out of their motor pools. And, unless they ran on water and could shoot pieces of scrap wood from their main guns, their logistics tail was just as anemic and would never have been capable of keeping up with the demands of fuel and ammo expenditures in a high-intensity conflict. We all like to “Armchair General” whatever war is going on at any given time. I am indulging in a little of that myself right now. But we all know; some armchair generals are more credible than others. Those are the ones to pay attention to – and not the ones who just talk the loudest.

De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

46 Responses to “The Baldwin Files – Lessons We Can Learn”

  1. Iggy says:

    A good bit of writing that deserves a wider audience. Some very good stuff in there.

  2. Richard Schagen says:

    Yep they are discovering that’s it’s not like bombing, or on the ground killing of civilians in Africa and the Middle east

    • Yawnz says:

      Well when you consider taqqiya, any Muslim killed by the infidel is always a “civilian”.

  3. Yawnz says:

    This write-up disingenuously ignores context. The Russians didn’t enter Crimea for fun, they were asked by former Ukrainian president Yanukovych to intervene on his behalf after he was ousted under specious circumstances after the 2013 Euromaidan protests. He is also from the Donetsk region, one of the two parts of the Donbas area that declared autonomy from Ukraine.

    The Russians are doing in a similar fashion what the French did for the US during the American Revolution, but the average American domestic has been hearing “Russia bad” for the last 6 years (despite them laughing at Mitt Romney in 2012 for claiming that Russia was a threat).

    There’s also been a good deal of fake news regarding the war.

    https://imgur.com/a/wTfQyob

    • Philip says:

      Being butt-hurt that your population ousted you from office doesn’t justify inviting another country to settle your personal vendettas. That’d be like Donald Trump asking Mexico to invade Texas over the 2020 election…it would be decried (rightfully) for the lunacy that it is.

      Russia illegally annexed Crimea on behalf of separatist movements not recognized by any legitimate world power.

      • Yawnz says:

        Ah yes, people upset over a coup in their home country are just butt hurt and should shut up. Am I doing this right?

        Given that Wisconsin Supreme Court rulings on ballot drop boxes and COVID being an invalid excuse for obtaining an indefinite confinement absentee ballot, as well as various other election problems (e.g. continued lack of chain of custody evidence for hundreds of thousands of ballots in Georgia, ballot problems in AZ), Trump has every right to question the 2020 election.

        There is no such thing as an “illegal annexation”. International law isn’t “law” in any real sense, and recognition by “legitimate world powers” likewise means nothing.

        I seem to remember certain “legitimate world powers” not recognizing US independence either. Catherine the Great did not recognize the colonists’ cause as just, nor did Maria Theresa(dowager empress of the Holy Roman Empire). I also seem to remember petitions for foreign war aid issued by the Continental Congress.

        Funny how these “legitimate world powers” don’t seem to be too put off by the “invasion”, since they still seem to be ready, willing, and able to suck off Russia’s natural gas pipelines.

        Nevermind that you comparing this to the 2020 US election is a stunning display of stupidty. For one, the Ukrainian legislature only voted to oust the Yanukovych AFTER violent protestors occupied government buildings. Gee, voting in a manner favorable to the violent crowd, with zero votes against them. Almost as if there might have been at least a little coercion going on.

        Let’s say a bunch of Americans busted down the doors of the US Capitol (as opposed to being let in a year ago) and occupied the place. Let’s say that a few days later, Congress voted to impeach and ultimately remove Biden from office. I’m sure you’d be just as intellectually honest about said incident, right?

        Oh who am I kidding. You seem like the sort of person that would morally browbeat people for not liking the Stamp Act.

        • Philip says:

          You really wasted all that text to say absolutely nothing. You should probably get outside more…it’s got to be tiring licking that Russian boot leather all the time.

          • Yawnz says:

            About the level of response I expected. Maybe next time you run at the mouth, you’ll actually have a decent idea of the context of current events. This is nothing more than a continuation of the Ukrainian civil war that started in 2013.

            Perhaps you should spend a little more time inside, as the sun clearly has affected your ability to think beyond your daily diet of MSM shillery.

            • Philip says:

              The dude regurgitating Putin talking points almost word for word calls someone else a shill… can’t even make this stuff up.

              • Yawnz says:

                Care to actually quote Putin on this, or are you just Terry Baldwin’s sock puppet account?

                Try actually refuting the argument instead.

                • Philip says:

                  All I’ve seen in every reply thus far has been deflection, projecting, and gaslighting, with a healthy side of arrogant condescension. Can you make a singular point that isn’t a paraphrased iteration of the State narrative or thinly-veiled apologistic sympathy?

                  You’ve been corrected numerous times on the invalidity of your rhetoric but somehow keep digging. It would be entertaining if it wasn’t so pathetic.

                  • Yawnz says:

                    Irony all around.

                    The only projection and deflection is coming from you.

                    Instead of finding where I’m factually incorrect, you deflect to just “Putin’s talking points” while simultaneously being unable to quote Putin himself on anything I’ve said.

                    Then you proceed to claim that I’m the one deflecting.

                    Keep up with your fake outrage.

                    https://thenationalpulse.com/2022/02/28/pro-ukraine-propaganda-floods-social-media/

                    • SSD says:

                      Pro-Stalin, er, I mean pro-Putin propaganda has been flooding it for years. It’s obviously worked on you. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, even the Swiss have acted against Russia. Russia’s cause is the wrong side of history.

        • Iggy says:

          “ There is no such thing as an “illegal annexation”. International law isn’t “law” in any real sense, and recognition by “legitimate world powers” likewise means nothing.”

          Where did you hear this or did you make it up yourself?

          • Terry Baldwin says:

            Iggy,

            I am no lawyer so I cannot argue the technicalities. Perhaps you can. But I do recall the US taking such a “legal case” to the UN when Saddam invaded Kuwait and getting what was referred to as a “Binding Resolution” declaring the invasion “illegal” and authorizing force to remove Saddam’s Army from Kuwait. I seem to recall the US did something similar when the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950. The UN authorized a “Police Action” in that case. Granted, “International Law” isn’t the kind of black letter civil and criminal law we find in most nations, but it is not imaginary either. And, at least in those cases, it meant something concrete especially to the North and South Koreans and the Iraqis and Kuwaitis.

            TLB

          • Terry Baldwin says:

            Iggy,

            My sincere apologies. I missed the quotation marks and thought you just repeating Yawnz’s argument. I stand by my comments about the law, but you were the wrong target. My bad!

            TLB

          • Yawnz says:

            Where did you get any idea otherwise? All “international law” is is an agreement between countries to simply play nice, and the only way to enforce them is through economic sanctions or war. If a country has no significant economic ties to other countries, war is your only option. That simply makes you a warmonger.

            • Terry Baldwin says:

              Yawnz,

              Wow! Either your medication or mine just kicked in. I agree with this comment except for the “warmonger” line. In the examples I gave earlier, the forces that acted as enforcement mechanisms to roll back “illegal” invasions were not the aggressors so “warmongers” would not be an accurate label for them. I would point out that you are now making exactly the opposite argument you made earlier that there was “no such thing” as international law. Care to explain that?

              TLB

              • Yawnz says:

                Clearly it’s your medication since my comment seemed to sail straight over your head.

                The only way “international law” can be enforced is by either enacting economic sanctions or going straight to war.

                “International law” is simply a set of non-binding, extra-legal agreements and are typically made without the consent of the citizenry of each nation involved. They do not have jurisdiction over matters both within and between soverign states. An interloper in these matters who chooses violence is a warmonger.

                This is a matter between opposing factions of the Ukrainian citizenry as well as between Ukraine and Russia. So far, the current Ukrainian president has not asked for foreign assistance, so any non-Ukrainian who advocates that their country intervene or even suggests that there’s any kind of moral compunction to intervene (be it a direct reference or indirectly via attacking the morals of one of the engaged parties) is a warmonger, plain and simple.

                Two people are fighting. You take sides and jump in. Who’s the aggressor in this scenario? You are, regardless of how much you bleat about “international law”.

                “Special” Forces indeed. I guess the “Q” in “Q Course” actually stands for “Quisling”.

                • Philip says:

                  Yawnz sir, you are quite opinionated for how ignorant you are.

                  “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” — Elie Wiesel

    • SSD says:

      No amount of mental gymnastics justify what Putin has done. And by the way, Russia has a long history of being bad.

      • Yawnz says:

        That’s a major stretch calling this “mental gymnastics”, but okay. I don’t see you refuting me, so try doing that instead of coping out.

        • Terry Baldwin says:

          Yawnz,

          Let me take a shot at refuting you. First, you are right, I left out a ton of historical context about Ukraine, Russia, and NATO, etc. Volumes of additional data points. Unfortunately for you, none of that context actually supports your dogged regurgitation of Putin’s talking points. Reference your comment about the Crimea, Yanukovych may have asked for an intervention on his personal behalf, but Putin did not annex Crimea in order to “right a wrong” or bring his buddy back to power. He took the opportunity to secure the port facilities that were absolutely critical to the Russian Navy. That, at least, was a rational decision in a strictly military sense. The fact that he did nothing else until now tells you how much he was concerned about putting Yanukovych back in Kiev. I agree with Philip, that was illegal under International Law. That body of law has historically been haphazardly applied, but – despite what you say – it does exist.

          You seem to know a little about history. You are certainly adept at using the old trick of cherry-picking isolated events out of context that support your premise while ignoring considerably more historical context that refutes your argument. Lots of people try to win debates that way. On occasion, I would have to plead guilty to that myself. It is not intellectually honest, but it does often work. Of course, if that fails, one can always fall back to the ad hominem attacks. Go scorched earth as it were. You threw a lot of other stuff out there about your perspective on elections and so on. I purposely tried to avoid politics for this article except as it relates directly to warfare. So, while I have my own strongly held views on those subjects, I have no interest in debating your opinions on anything other than what I wrote. It would probably be much better if we could have this discussion over a couple of beers in a more civilized manner than the internet will allow.

          TLB

          • Yawnz says:

            You sure took a shot of something, but refuting me wasn’t it.

            For one, those aren’t Putin’s talking points, they’re Yanukovych’s. He’s the one who claimed that the vote against him was coerced. Again, given the context of the vote itself, it isn’t out of the question to consider the possibility, no matter how hard stooges like you try to hand-wave it away as mere “talking points” (a buzzword often brought up by people unable to actually refute the point).

            I’ll ask you the same question as I asked Phillip above:

            If a bunch of Americans actually stormed the Capitol (unlike Jan 6th) and occupied it, and then Congress came out a few days later with a proposal to oust Biden that had 0 votes in Biden’s favor, would you genuinely believe that said vote was entirely legitimate?

            At what point did I claim that Putin annexed Crimea to “right a wrong”? That’s you strawmanning. All I did was relay information that you chose to ignore, in the process shirking your duty as an author. Perhaps if you spent more time reading instead of writing so much, you’d learn a little comprehension. Now sure, I don’t think anyone would dispute that Putin did annex Crimea to “right a wrong” in the mind of Yanukovych, but anyone else in Ukraine is hard to tell. I personally find it interesting that calls for autonomy from Crimea and the Donetsk and Lutansk areas only occurred after the Russian invasion. Then again, as I pointed out before, Yanukovych is from the Donetsk region, so maybe he has local support there.

            Nice projection with the cherry-picking allegation there. Ironic considering you’re the one that refused to provide broader context, which is the very idea behind cherry-picking. What, precisely, did I cherry-pick, hmm? Considering you didn’t present anything specific nor offer any refutations on specific material I presented, I’m going to just assume that you’re using “cherry-pick” as a buzz word as a means to try to make your “rebuttal” appear more legitimate.

            Were there protests in Ukraine in 2013? Yes.

            Did protestors occupy government buildings, forcing president Yanukovych to leave the capital? Yes.

            Did the Rada vote to oust Yanukovych? Yes.

            Was the vote total skewed heavily against Yanukovych? Yes, it was 328 in favor of ousting, 0 against.

            Would such a strong one-way bias not be considered questionable in other countries? Most likely yes.

            Did Yanukovych appeal to the government of the Russian Federation for aid? Yes.

            None of these things you’ve been able to genuinely refute, instead you’ve merely labeled them as “Putin’s talking points”.

            The Russians have been in Ukraine for nearly 9 years now, but only in the last few months has their presence been considered a problem by the general public to such a degree. Definitely has nothing to do with the Biden’s rock-bottom approval.

            If the narrative you’re spinning was as legitimate as you claim, there would be no need for the media gaslighting campaign that I showed evidence of before. There would be no need for ripping pictures from older articles to use as “evidence” of current events (Remember when ABC tried that with the US withdrawal from Syria using footage from a Kentucky macheingun shoot?). There would be far more evidence of the dead (Where are all the bodies and blood in those trashed “Russian” vehicles?). There also wouldn’t be hacks like you trying to profit off of another war by spinning PR tall tales.

            • Terry Baldwin says:

              Yawnz,

              And you’re back! I can’t say I missed you. Flooding the zone with bullshit is obviously your preferred style. For your information, I do not get paid in any way, shape, or form for these articles. So, I am certainly not “trying to profit” from this or any other war. That also means that I don’t get any bonuses for dealing with your pedantic nonsense. I know you probably will continue to talk, but it is clear that you are not going to add anything of value to the conversation. Therefore, I am through talking to you.

              TLB

              • Yawnz says:

                Oh look, another post lacking any refutation.

                When did I claim that you were getting paid money? You do understand that “profit” does nto exclusively refer to money, right? If someone makes a new friend, they may not make any money, but they profit both socially and emotionally.

                So again, why engage in this sort of gaslighting campaign if the stance against Russia was as legitimate as the media (including you) claim? Why, in an age where nearly everyone has a camera in their pocket, have we not seen any dead soldiers on either side? Where’s the blood in these shot-up Russian vehicles? Surely the Ukrainians weren’t stupid enough to blast unoccupied vehicles that they could’ve instead captured and used themselves, right? Why are we seeing MSM outlets use photographs and videos from years’ past as proof of current events?

                Let me make this simple for you:

                Find a single factually incorrect statement I’ve made about the people involved in the conflict or the overall situation and provide evidence proving the inaccuracy.

                This really shouldn’t be that difficult, but instead of simply doing it, you bloviate on and on about “pedantic nonsense” (another buzz phrase used by the incapable).

                Perhaps this is why you were never able to pin that full bird on. You do a lot of talking, but very little walking.

        • SSD says:

          Okay, you’re absolutely wrong, on all of it. Russia is not our friend. Russia has no interest in being our friend. They have their own interests.

          Putin said last week he wants to restore the old Soviet Republics to Russia. Some of those nations now belong to NATO. He sounds a lot like Hitler in 1939. Lots of people applauded him then just like they are carrying water for Putin now.

          That work for ya?

          • Yawnz says:

            When did I say that Russia was our friend? Go on, quote me. Take a screenshot of me saying such or even insinuating such and post it.

            No duh they have their own interests as rarely does anyone enter a war without their own interests in play.

            Given that you still haven’t been able to refute me, claiming that I’m “wrong” doesn’t cut the mustard. Go on, point out to me anything that I’ve said about the context of this conflict that is factually inaccurate, with accompanying evidence of course.

            • Ross B says:

              Gotta hand it to you Yawnz …
              Your understanding of what’s going on over there is clearer than most. I am not interested in picking a side, this is not our war.
              However, the fact that everyone is scrambling to have a love affair with Ukraine on this is definitely setting off alarm bells.
              America has a very bad track record of backing the wrong teams in history, only to have those choices come back and bite us later … Afghanistan comes to mind when we were training and supporting the Mujahideen.
              The Ukrainians are tight with Sleepy Joe and Son, reason enough to not want to jump in on their side … LOL.

              • SSD says:

                I’m in Germany right now and this is now very much a European war. They are also quite aware of the humanitarian crisis brewing from what many Americans apologists want to write off as “Russian security concerns.” No one here believes that Putin’s lust will be satiated with handing over Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic states are feeling the heat and they are NATO partners. Even the Swiss have gotten involved by flexing their economic element of national power, something I would say is an unprecedented move.

                We tried to wait out the last two European wars, telling ourselves that it was none of our business, until someone made it our business.

                I have yet to see anyone urging on Russia’s actions discuss the so-called Budapest’s Memorandum, an agreement between Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the United States which led to the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine in exchange for guarantees of a respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty. This is an internationally recognized accord that Russia violated for political expediency.

                We can’t fall back on saying Ukraine deserves it because they are involved with the wrong US political party. There are much larger issues afoot. Evil is evil and it’s not going away. I urge you to consider the larger ramifications.

                • Yawnz says:

                  “I’m in Germany right now”

                  Sure you are, and I’m in Kiev watching Russian and Ukrainian soldiers dancing in the street while sharing bottles of vodka and laughing at how gullible Americans are. After all, if someone says they’re somewhere or doing something on the internet, it must be true, right?

                  The last “two” European wars? I seem to remember Americans being involved in the Spanish Civil War and the Yugoslav wars as well, or do those not count like the rest of the context surrounding the current war in Ukraine?

                  When has anyone here urged Russia’s actions on at all or has said that Ukraine deserves what’s going on? Here’s a novel idea: If YOU think the Budapest Memorandum should be adhered to, YOU go and make sure that it is. I don’t recall that said agreement was ratified by the US Senate either.

              • Yawnz says:

                That seems to be a foreign concept to some of the turds here. What? You mean that a person can be critical of both Russia AND Ukraine and advocate for no US involvement at all? To add to it, there are at least three posters here who seem to equivocate pointing out media disinformation with being “pro-Russia” or “Putin’s talking points”.

                Still wondering why there’s so much fake news over this war if it truely was legitimate.

                https://thenationalpulse.com/2022/02/28/pro-ukraine-propaganda-floods-social-media/

                • SSD says:

                  That’s just it, you haven’t been critical of Russia. In fact, quite the opposite. You’ve been a fantastic cheerleader for the Russian narrative.

  4. Chris says:

    This is an incredible read, and very much appreciated. I really learned a lot, and I always sincerely appreciate LTC Baldwin’s facts, viewpoints, and opinions.

  5. Bart says:

    Thanks always, TLB. It’s always good to see a piece like this with so much noise out there. Essayons.

  6. Some dude with an opinion says:

    A couple of details that did not get mentioned in your well reasoned article: The reference to “Nazis” that Putin has made were interpreted by me and those in my milieu as referring to ideological militias such as Azov Battalion, who have as far as I’ve been able to tell performed rather well in the skirmishes in the eastern territories against ethnic Russian militias. Azov specifically was targeted in the opening barrages of this conflict, with a main base and several outposts hit. They claimed when last I saw to be holding out in Mariupol against Russian regulars.

    I have also heard some Russophiles state that the term “Nazi” used commonly internal to Russia as shorthand for imperial Western actions. I have no frame of reference for this, so simply include the detail as food for thought.

    I haven’t quite parsed my thoughts on the matter into a cohesive narrative, so will leave the above information for more experienced hands to consider.

    • Terry Baldwin says:

      Some dude,

      The Azov Battalion was mentioned on another thread recently. Yes, they are an “ideological militia” and, from what i have seen, they are certainly far right Ukrainian Nationalist. Most assuredly what Putin would call NAZIs. But Putin has essentially labeled all of the Ukrainian military and government leadership as NAZIs as well. Civil wars often see the rise of these kinds of para-military groups. Often, they are tolerated by authorities because they are willing to fight. We had a lot of these “guerrilla bands” during our Civil War, particularly on the Confederate side. “Quantrell’s Raiders” and the “Red Legs” out in the Missouri/Kansas area are probably the most well-known. Some of these bands acted with military discipline, others were basically opportunist who took advantage of war to rob and plunder their neighbors.

      As to your second point, I have worked with some Ukrainians and even Russians in the past. I have heard Russians refer to Ukrainians as “NAZIs” behind their backs. I did not hear “NAZI” used as an anti-Western pejorative. It may very well be so, but I have not heard that; nor do I think Putin is currently using the term that way against the West.

      TLB

      • Terry Baldwin says:

        Some dude,

        To put a finer point on it, I do not have enough information to know what kind of guerrilla band the Azov Battalion might be. It is probably the proverbial case of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” The assessment would depend on who you ask.

        TLB

  7. KGroup says:

    Mr Baldwin,

    Been reading SSD off and on for years and your columns have consistently been one of the best features on the site. Great job hitting so many of the key elements of the background, invasion, and the international response so far. I don’t think it can be denied that this conflict could escalate to a WW3 scenario if the response of the West isn’t careful and measured – despite the initial underwhelming response of the first days, I think the support to Ukraine is now (finally) moving in the right direction with open shipments of weapons committed by countries from Sweden to Australia.

    Do you have any thoughts on Ukraine’s call for international volunteers?

    • Terry Baldwin says:

      KGroup,

      If some non-Ukrainian has a solid military background and speaks one of the local languages it might be a personal decision worth considering. However, I would not recommend it. The Ukrainians have plenty of manpower. Modern anti-air and anti-tank weapons don’t take a lot of training to be used effectively. Once a small cadre of Ukrainians are trained in their use – as they already have been, they can train others. That alleviates the chance that anyone can use the presence of “foreign fighters” as a justification to escalate the fighting.

      TLB

  8. Terry Baldwin says:

    Dear SSD Readers,

    I had this discussion with Eric not long ago. I noted that all too often these threads get hijacked by some anonymous _______, like Yawnz, who wants to make the discussion personal – about themselves and their opinions and not about the subject at hand. They blatantly deflect, project, and obfuscate, while accusing others of those tactics to muddy the waters. No one feels the need to name call, or resorts to the schoolyear classic defense of “I am rubber, you are glue” if they think they can win the argument on its merits. Those sorts of antics are just annoying when it would have been easier and more constructive to have an adult conversation instead. But that is where we are. I am going to keep writing these articles because I know that the vast majority of SSD readers are better than that. Thank you!

    TLB

    • Swampy J says:

      TLB articles are amongst the best. Well reasoned and based on real world experience. It is my privilege to read each one.

  9. BD Hartford says:

    And this is why I never comment here. 99 percent armchair warriors. A good article with some incitful experiences and observation with study. I think the issue is more that we are closer to the nuclear rabbit hole, than since the Ciban Misle crises. And that should alarm everyone. Is the Rissian military a cluster f….undoubtedly. However, as we continue to isolate Russia, so do we risk isolating it’s peoples as a whole. If the Russian public ever felt that they have hecome pariah by the global populace, it could turn the tide. That would become a real issue. The Russian mindset is a funny thing. Passive one day, out for blood another. It can turn on a dime and so does the war mindset. They can work with very little, using what is found along the way. That has been a war strategy since the 50s becouse of economics. I know this, because I’ve trained with them. Now you may proceed to shoot my comments and first hand experiences/education into the ground. I care not. It’s the norm on this forum, versus knowledge transfer and analytical discourse.

    • Terry Baldwin says:

      BD,

      I appreciate your comments and your perspective. I agree that the Russian public, ultimately, is the key to either ending or escalating this conflict. I hope it is the former and not the latter.

      TLB