Russia: Searching For A Way Out


May 10, 2022: The invasion of Ukraine in February turned a local problem into a conflict with global impact. This was the result of economic disruption caused by the fighting inside Ukraine and unexpectedly severe economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Both nations were key components of the global food, energy and raw materials supply system.

In addition to the sanctions, Russia found that their armed forces were far less effective than they and other nations believed. This had different implications depending on whether you were an ally of Russia or a potential victim. The Russian military was revealed to be ridden with corruption, poor leadership and a government that underestimated how serious those known problems were.

Ukraine was the first widespread and intensive heavy use of Russian weapons by Russian troops since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Many of the Ukrainian weapons were similar or even identical to those used by Russia but Ukrainians were more motivated and better prepared for combat than the invaders. Another embarrassing revelation was that the Western weapons Ukrainians used heavily, especially portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, were far more effective than Russia expected. Russia has long been a major arms exporter and existing and potential customers are revising their purchasing plans. Nations already equipped with a lot of Russian weapons and military gear also have to revise their military plans.

Russia is also a major exporter of fuel, food and raw materials. Customers can find other suppliers but often at great expense, especially when time is a factor. European nations have become increasingly dependent on Russian oil and natural gas. Russia assured skeptical European customers that it was in everyone’s interest to honor these energy export deals because Russia had become dependent on tech, manufactured goods and specialized services supplied by their European energy and raw materials customers. The extent of the economic sanctions imposed by the West came as a surprise to Russia, as did the realization that their former European customers could afford to pay the high cost of switching suppliers. The smaller and weaker Russian economy was unable to shield the average Russian from the sanctions’ economic impact. The Russian government tried to shift the blame to the unreliable foreigners. That excuse was showing its age and more Russians are inclined to blame their own government, the same government that eventually outlawed any public expressions of doubt in the capabilities of government officials.

Foreign trade accounts for about 28 percent of Russian GDP and about half of it has been disrupted by the 2022 sanctions. China is Russia’s largest trading partner and, together with Belarus and a few other nations, continues to trade with Russia. The other half is currently halted or soon will be by the sanctions. Russia has experience in evading economic sanctions and knows that greed in notoriously corrupt countries provides customers willing to switch to heavily discounted Russian oil. There are many similar but smaller customers. The discounts can be high; sometimes 20-30 percent off the world price, which is currently a hundred dollars a barrel. Even with heavy sanctions/smuggling related discounts Russia is still making as much as they used to before the Ukrainian escalation.

Several NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) nations are still buying Russian oil because they cannot afford to cut Russian oil and gas imports completely until they have sufficient alternate sources to avoid an economic collapse. This will take from six to 18 months or more and this is accepted as an essential move to avoid economic collapse in NATO nations getting most of their oil and gas from Russia.

Although China is a major customer for Russian oil and gas, a new pipeline must be built to get them the product. Doing this via tankers is much more expensive because that is smuggling and risky. That means a larger discount and more risk of confrontations with NATO naval forces sent after tankers used for smuggling. Russia has threatened to use its handful of modern nuclear subs to go after NATO merchant shipping and risk seeing their small nuclear sub force disappear at sea. Western navies stalk Russian nuclear subs in peacetime and Russian subs seek to do the same to Western nukes. This is an activity dating back to the Cold War and little is made public about who is ahead in the peacetime stalking competition.

All this degrades future Russian economic prospects. That has a negative impact on Russian allies. These foreign supporters now see their powerful patron as less powerful than believed and now feel desperate or simply afraid. And then there is China, which does not have allies, only trading partners and tribute states. Russia is now moving from trading partner to the lower tribute state status.

China has territorial claims on Russia on or near the Pacific coast. Japan has a dispute with Russia over the ownership of some Pacific Coast islands that Russia took at the end of World War II as well as fishing rights in the area. Until recently Japan was rather timid in its requests to Russia about these islands. Once it became clear how poorly Russia was doing in Ukraine, Japan has become more open and aggressive about the island dispute and Russian efforts to keep Japanese fishing boats out of areas they have long worked in.

China has, since the 1990s modernized and expanded its armed forces to the point where, on paper, China has stronger ground, air and naval forces than Russia. Chinese forces have not been in combat since the 1970s and back then found the less numerous but more experienced and motivated Vietnamese surprisingly effective. Russia encountered a similar situation in Ukraine. A major difference between China and Russia is that the Chinese study and learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. Russia did not pay attention, especially to what was going on in Ukraine between 2014 and 2022. China has paid attention to how Ukraine prepared and how the West responded. This is important for China because of their plans and efforts to take possession of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Taiwan was also paying attention, especially since 2014 and has increased its preparations to defeat a Chinese attack. Massive sanctions on China would be another matter because China is now the largest trading nation in the world, followed by the U.S. and Germany. These three nations are the only ones with trade exceeding a trillion dollars. Russia was 19th before the sanctions and with the sanctions will be fortunate to remain in the top 30 nations. If China did face the degree of sanctions Russia received, the results would be catastrophic because while the Chinese economy is much larger than Russia’s, it is much more sensitive to major disruptions. While China is still a communist police state, there is greater risk of major internal unrest if the economy is mismanaged. Incurring heavy sanctions is seen as mismanagement.

Inventing The NATO Threat

Post-Soviet Russia was a democracy that is now run by Vladimir Putin, a self-appointed president-for-life who still has to convince the majority of Russians that his Ukrainian Operation is not a war but an effort to save Ukraine from NATO and the West in general. Putin enacted a law that makes it a crime to call the Ukrainian Operation an invasion or a war. He had already revived state control of the mass media to ensure most Russians are exposed to nothing but his version of reality. Other interpretations are literally a crime and punishable by imprisonment.

Putin was a junior KGB officer when the Soviet Union collapsed and admits he never got over that tragedy, as he describes it. One thing Putin has not been able to revive is the Soviet-era ability to compel large numbers of men to serve in the military and combat. This was one of the Soviet-era practices that Russians have demonstrated opposition to reviving. The reason is simple; World War II killed about 18 percent of the population, most of them civilians but also about a quarter of all military-age males. Westerners have a hard time appreciating the long-term impact of these World War II losses on Russians. These losses were so bad that their extent was kept secret until the collapse of the Soviet Union opened the Soviet archives for a while. Details of the true World War II human losses were widely publicized inside Russia and some of the books were translated into foreign languages, including English.

Russian World War II leader Josef Stalin boasted that he could compel Russian soldiers to tolerate heavy losses to achieve his goals. During World War II it was noted that in the Red Army it took a very brave man to be a coward. Those who did not fight could be killed on the spot by officers. Even with that motivation, there were 19,000 Russian soldiers executed for such cowardice during the Stalingrad campaign. That form of encouragement has returned in Ukraine but, unlike World War II Russia, it isn’t working. In 2022 Russian conscripts realized that they were not facing NATO troops but Ukrainian men and women, including many who were recently civilians and all highly motivated and determined to defeat the invader.

Since 1991 efforts to maintain conscription have been under constant attack as most potential conscripts and their families view conscription as an unnecessary evil that justifies widespread draft evasion. Putin has not been able to convince Russians that Russia is engaged in a life-or-death struggle with NATO similar to the World War II struggle against Nazi Germany. While Putin can silence most open dissent, he cannot motivate current troops or potential recruits and conscripts to cooperate.

In contrast, the war in Ukraine has given NATO purpose again. Most NATO members saw little real need for the organization after 1991. Still, NATO remained active and NATO forces were used in the 1990s for peacekeeping in the Balkans, where Yugoslavia violently came apart, and later in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. These peacekeeping efforts revealed more weaknesses and disorganization in NATO than proof that the organization could be more than a defense against a major threat.

When the major threat manifested itself in 2022, as Russia invaded Ukraine with the goal of absorbing back into a Russian empire, NATO did quickly return to its original unity of purpose. The change was surprisingly rapid and rather thorough. After decades of decline and failure to find a new purpose, NATO again became a valued mutual-defense organization, even if Ukraine was not officially a member.

May 9, 2022: In Moscow, the annual Victory Day Parade was smaller than the 2021 event. This is a result of the war in Ukraine. The 2022 parade began after a speech by leader Vladimir Putin about the future of the war in Ukraine. He continued to insist that the war was about Russia defending itself from NATO aggression. Putin did not announce a national mobilization and did not comment on the growing resistance to his policies inside Russia. Military recruiting centers are being set on fire while there have been more spectacular fires, and explosions, at several ammunition storage sites.

Russian officials who fled Russia after the invasion began confirmed that their peers who remained in Russia warned Putin that mobilization would not work because opposition to the war was too widespread. Since he took power two decades Putin has been trying to deal with the conscription and military morale problems. While Putin dismissed or arrested many officials who assured him that there would be little resistance in Ukraine, he still believes that he cannot afford to accept defeat and keep the war going even if it means reverting to a largely defensive posture. It’s easier to get reluctant troops to defend themselves than ordering them to attack. The Ukrainians have proved adept at encouraging Russian troops to surrender. In part this is because the Ukrainians treat prisoners of war better than Russia treats it own soldiers. Going on the defensive is a risky choice but Putin currently believes he has to come out of this mess with something that he can claim is a victory.

Ukrainians have no interest in negotiating with the Russians because several previous agreements were useless. Russia violated every one of them. Ukrainians will fight on, and do it more effectively and with more attention to the welfare of their troops than the Russians. Putin believes NATO is expecting a coup or revolution in Russia and that’s their motivation for supporting Ukraine. There’s some truth to that as many Russians, Ukrainians and Westerners believe peace will come faster and with less pain if Putin is removed from power, or does the improbable and admits defeat and withdraws from all Ukrainian territory. Putin will also have to return all the Ukrainian civilians sent to Russia and confined to internment camps. Then there are the accusations of war crimes in Ukraine, which Putin will be stuck with no matter whether he keeps fighting or withdraws. One major incentive for withdrawal from Ukraine is that it will end the extensive sanctions that are crippling the Russian economy and risking long-term damage if not lifted soon.

Russia continues to hit Ukrainian cities and infrastructure with ballistic and cruise missiles as well as abusing Ukrainian civilians. Many of these civilians escape from Russian occupation bringing first-hand accounts of how the Russians occupation forces operate. The refugees often have videos and pictures documenting what they are fleeing.

Despite new laws making data on deaths in the military a state secret, Russian families are starting to receive the coffins of soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in Ukraine. Earlier it was believed that the coffins, or news that their soldier was missing and presumed dead, would be delayed until after May 9th. That didn’t happen and the coffins and death notices are being delivered.

Morale and discipline in the military had plummeted since the invasion began. Since the start of the fighting at least one general a week has been killed in action, along with many brigade and battalion commanders or staff officers of the same rank. In eastern Ukraine another offensive failed to advance because of Ukrainian resistance, heavy Russian casualties and timid behavior by troops and junior officers.

May 8, 2022: In Ukraine, the Russian war effort is led by general Aleksandr Dvornikov, a veteran of the war in Syria, which Russian entered in 2015. In Ukraine Dvornikov discovered that he could not win a military victory and was allowed to shift major military resources to economic targets. Transportation, energy and all manner of economic targets are being attacked. Even this effort has limitations as Russia has nearly exhausted its stockpile of modern ballistic and cruise missiles that are used for essential targets. Russia still uses warplanes for some attacks, but these risk damage or destruction from Ukrainian air defenses. Russia will run out of missiles and aircraft before NATO runs out of weapons, they are supplying Ukraine. Russia cannot compete in a long conventional war, which is why the threats of using nuclear weapons. The nuclear option is not popular with most Russians or foreign supporters like China. Meanwhile Ukraine is seeing its economy demolished more and more each day. As with the British response to German use of ballistic and cruise missiles during World War II, that made the British more resolved to defeat Germany, not sign another peace treaty with them.

This internal opposition to the Ukraine war has led to rumors of disgruntled military and FSB leaders considering such a move as the only way to limit the long-term damage to the Russian economy and military capabilities. Putin has contributed to the coup rumors by dismissing, or even arresting dozens of senior military and FSB officials, blaming them for the botched operation in Ukraine. The list of those dismissed seems to consist of Putin critics, not his most trusted subordinates. Added to all this are reports/rumors of Putin being ill with a serious health condition. Russia continues to operate with all the predictability of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The description was first used at the start of the Cold War and still applies.

May 7, 2022: Another Russian warship, the 5,000-ton Markova, one of the three Grigorovich-class frigates that are now the core of the Black Sea fleet, was hit by a Ukrainian missile while near Snake Island, which is west of Odessa. Since the sinking of the 12,000-ton Moskva in mid-April most of the Black Sea fleet warships have remained in Sevastopol, the main Black Sea fleet base. Russia has also painted over the hull numbers of the Grigorovich-class frigates in Sevastopol. As with the Moskva, Russia is denying an attack took place against the Markova.

Another Ukrainian attack sank a Russian amphibious ship close to Snake Island, a Ukrainian island the Russians seized at the start of the invasion.

May 6, 2022: Russia declared a three-day ceasefire in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. That means the ceasefire ends on May 9th, when Russia celebrates their World War II victory over Nazi Germany. Putin is expected to make some dramatic announcements at the Victory Day parade. Government propaganda in Russia depicts the fighting in Ukrainian as a Russian effort to defeat the NATO Nazis. That has been a hard sell, even in Russia because Russian soldiers who survived the fighting in Ukraine and returned to Russia describe a conflict in which Russia is playing the role of the Nazi invaders. Russia has rewritten its history books in the last decade to downplay the fact that World War II was basically a struggle between Radical Socialist tyrants. The Germans described themselves as National Socialists and the Russians International Socialists. In the 1930s that similarity was noted and accepted for what it was. Since the end of World War II Russia and their supporters in the West have tried to erase the similarities, with some success.

In Mariupol Ukrainian forces have been holding out for nearly two months and Putin hopes announce a victory on the 9th and hail it as a victory against the Ukrainian Nazis and their NATO Nazi supporters. The Mariupol Ukrainians are not cooperating despite increasing violent and desperate Russian efforts to take the steel plant near the docks that Ukrainian forces have been stubbornly defending for months.

Because the Russians may not have any real victories in Ukraine to announce at the May 9 parade Ukrainians are being warned to strictly observe air raid warnings over the next few days and stay away from symbolic Russian targets, like war memorials. May 8th is observed by many Ukrainians the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. People gather in large groups to honor the Ukrainians who died during World War II. This replaced the Russian May 9th Victory Day because the Ukrainians were honoring the Ukrainians who died fighting Russians as well as Germans. Now Russia was claiming that Ukraine was planning to use ballistic missiles that both Russia and Ukraine use to attack Ukrainian May 8th gatherings and blame it on Russia. This false accusation has been used before in an effort to shift blame for particularly horrendous attacks on civilians. Civilians in some cities are urged to leave their homes for a few days until the May 9 danger has passed. Ukrainians believe that if Russian leader Vladimir Putin has no real victories over Ukraine to announce at the annual victory day parade, he will invent something, like a missile attack that killed a lot of Ukrainian civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and no threat to Russia.

May 1, 2022: A surprise Ukrainian attack almost killed the head of the Russian military. At the end of April Valery Gerasimov, the senior general and commander of all Russian military forces, was sent to Ukraine to see for himself what was going on. On May 1st there were reports that Gerasimov was wounded by enemy artillery fire and recalled to Moscow. Gerasimov could have been killed because he had been at a meeting with dozens of senior officers that Ukrainian intelligence found out about. The Ukrainian immediately launched a missile and artillery strike on the site of the meeting. Over a hundred Russians were killed and many more in the area wounded, including Gerasimov. Russia would not confirm that. Gerasimov was selected by Putin a decade ago to be chief of staff and ensure that many important military programs were completed successfully. Putin trusts Gerasimov, but Gerasimov is at fault for not realizing the poor combat readiness of Russian forces and the decisive effectiveness of the Ukrainian defense.

April 29, 2022: Ukrainian neighbor Slovakia agreed to donate its Russian made S300 air defense systems to Ukraine because other NATO members agreed to send Slovakia Patriot air defense systems, and 2,100 troops to operate them and maintain/upgrade Slovakian defenses against Russian attack. Russia has threatened NATO members Poland, Romania and Slovakia because they border Ukraine and are supplying Ukraine with military aid as well as free passage for all aid into Ukraine. These NATO neighbors serve as the initial host for millions of Ukrainian refugees from the fighting. Other NATO members (Bulgaria and Greece) also have S300 systems and may be willing to undertake a similar deal. This would involve NATO as a whole paying for the Patriot systems, which improve air-defenses of all NATO nations, especially from Russian attack.

April 25, 2022: The 2020 American elections put into power a new president seemingly determined to change American policies towards Iran and ignore Arab Oil states complaints about Iranian threats and attacks on them. This has driven many Gulf oil states into an economic alliance with Russia to drive up the price of oil. This policy makes it easier for Iran to smuggle more of its heavily discounted oil to customers. That plan survived the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and even more economic sanctions. Iran has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Russian war in Ukraine.

April 19, 2022: Russians are also fighting in Africa, especially in Mali where an army patrol was attacked by Islamic terrorists using a roadside bomb and gunfire. The troops and one of the Wagner Group Russian military contractors returned fire and over a dozen of the attackers were killed. One of the Wagner Group men died, the first Warner Group fatality in Mali so far. Many Islamic terrorist groups are active in the area, most of them affiliated with al Qaeda and attacks on convoys occur at least once a month. More frequent attacks are directed at local civilians who will not cooperate with the terrorists. Wagner Group is unique among military contractors in that it was created by president Vladimir Putin and reports directly to him. Putin asked a veteran spetsnaz (special operations) officer to organize and run the operation whose name comes from the radio call sign its commander once used. Wagner does not work for free; every customer has to pay and several African governments are doing so. Since Wagner Group personnel must get paid, they are largely unaffected by the new economic sanctions on Russia. In fact, Wagner Group is financially strong enough to send Russian contractors to Donbas along with some Libyan and Syrian Arab mercenaries. Few of the Arabs speak Russian so their combat effectiveness is limited. The Wagner Group force is not large and has not played a large role in the Donbas. Since 2014 there have been some Wagner Group Russian personnel in Crimea and that was thought to be more of a recruiting and training activity for Wagner than a supplement for Russian troops. Wagner Group is now fighting in Ukraine mainly because if Russia fails in Ukraine, the future of Wagner Group and their patron Putin are in doubt.

April 18, 2022: In Africa, Mali received another shipment of Russian military equipment via air transport. This shipment included two Mi-35 helicopter gunships and at least one 59N6-TE mobile radar system. The 59N6 is a new (since 2016) Russian truck mounted 3-D surveillance radar which can track aircraft up to 400 kilometers distant. Most of Africa has no ATC (Air Traffic Control) radar coverage and control. This makes it possible for anyone, including the currently heavily sanctioned Russia, to continue flying in anything and anyone it wants. Mali is paying for a growing force of Russian Wagner Group military contractors) as well as buying weapons from Russia, which is banned from selling weapons to foreign nations. Russia is under severe economic sanctions because of its Ukraine invasion but Mali can get around that by paying Russia in gold. Mali is a major producer of gold and Russia has a large gold stockpile. In response to the sanctions Russia recently put its currency (the ruble) on the gold standard. Russia now offers one gram of gold for 5,000 rubles. This stabilized the purchasing power of the ruble inside Russia and made some foreign trade practical.

April 14, 2022: In the Black Sea, the Russian cruiser Moskva was destroyed off the Ukrainian port of Odessa. Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea fleet and carried a crew of 510. Moskva was the third Russian warship destroyed by the Ukrainians since March and the largest. Most of the families of the crew were anxious to discover if their sons were alive. The government responded that such information was a state secret and that a new law had made it a criminal offense to disparage Russian war efforts. This was aimed at angry families seeking information and getting nothing but threats from their government. The disparagement law has been used against journalists and Internet-based commentators but not, apparently, any angry and vocal parents of dead soldiers or sailors.

The Moskva loss was particularly embarrassing for the government because it created a lot of unwanted attention to the composition of crews and the number killed or wounded on the lost ships. With a crew of 510, the Moskva casualties were apparently a lot larger than the government initially indicated. Families knew if their sons were on a particular ship and those young conscript sailors usually had low-skill jobs on the ships because conscripts served only 12 months, which was not enough time to train them and get some benefit from that training before the year was up. This was apparently a major reason why the Moskva was lost, because nearly half the crew were conscripts. The Moskva ample missile defenses. There were four separate systems, one electronic, to protect it from missile attacks. That should have protected the Moskva from the two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles. At least one of those missiles hit the ship. This was confirmed when high-resolution digital photos of the Moskva became widely available. These pictures showed the condition of the ship after it was hit and before it sank while being towed back to its home port in Crimea. The photos clearly show at least one of the large anti-ship missiles carried on the deck in storage/launch canisters exploded and caused significant fires. This indicated two problems with the crew. One is that there were not enough sailors aboard who could maintain and/or operate all the anti-missile systems efficiently. The second problem was that the crew did not have enough sailors trained in damage control procedures to deal with the fire that did not sink the ship but disabled it to the point where the crew was ordered to abandon ship. There were photos of the crew using the lifeboats but no indication of how many dead or missing crew were left behind. Apparently, the government was uncertain about crew losses until the survivors were back in Crimea and a count could be taken. Survivors were told not to contact their families but some did anyway. No families notified like this were prosecuted, especially if they added that they hoped the war against those fascist Ukrainians would soon be over. Some families did criticize the Russian role in the war but punishment for that has not been frequent or much publicized.

April 13, 2022: Russia successfully carried out the first test launch of the production version of its new RS-28 Sarmat ICBM. This comes two years after the RS-26 Rubezh ICBM was ready for service, along with its Avangard hypersonic warhead. RS-28 missiles were supposed to begin replacing older RS-18 missiles by the end of 2020 but that was delayed as a few more technical problems had to be fixed with the production model. The successful launch from a silo of a production missile allows those already built to begin replacing older ICBMs.

Design errors and quality control problems have become the norm with Russian ICBM and SLV (satellite launch vehicle) rockets and the Russians have adapted. An example of this can be seen in the 2020 decision to delay acceptance of the solid-fuel RS-26, which is also supposed to carry the Avangard hypersonic warhead. The solid-fuel RS-26 had run into a lot more problems than the liquid-fuel RS-28. In 2019 Russia announced the suspension of the RS-26, one of the two ICBM projects that were designed to use the Avangard, a revival of a Cold War era hypersonic glide vehicle system. RS-26 was a solid fuel missile based on the Topol M, which was the first successful solid fuel ICBM missile Russia was able to deploy. It is comparable to the 1960s era U.S. Minuteman. Solid fuel is tricky to manufacture, and after many abortive attempts, the Russians stuck with liquid fuel until the 1980s. They finally perfected their solid fuel technology in the 1980s with the successful test launch of the 45-ton Topol in 1985. The 52-ton Topol-M followed ten years later. Both missiles have a range of 10,500 kilometers. This is the second time Russia ran into problems adapting the Topol M for other uses. The first effort was to turn Topol M into Bulava, an SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) for the new Borei class SSBN (ballistic missile nuclear subs). The Bulava problems were largely caused by a shortage of competent engineers and manufacturing specialists. Getting Bulava to work took a lot longer and cost a lot more than expected. Sensing the same pattern with the RS-26, Russia “suspended” work on this until 2027, or whatever future time when the personnel and manufacturing quality control problems can be solved. That is made more difficult because over a million well-educated professionals have emigrated from Russia since 2014. These are the Russians Putin needs to reduce the design and manufacturing problems with major defense projects. The skilled Russians leaving usually had parents who also had skills and worked in defense industries. The parents could not emigrate, which their children can and now are doing so as Russia gradually turns into the Soviet state their parents were glad to see dissolve in 1991.

April 12, 2022: Russia has appointed four- star general Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, a veteran of operations in Syria, as the first commander of all operations in Ukraine. Previously all Ukrainian operations were commanded by Stavka (the Russian General Staff) and civilian officials in Moscow. Dvornikov apparently is free to do whatever it takes to turn the defeats in Ukraine into a victory. Dvornikov was the first the first commander (for a year) of Russian forces that entered Syria in 2015 5o rescue their long-time Middle Eastern ally the Assad clan, which was a large and loyal customer for Russian weapons. A major insurrection against the Assads began in 2012 and by 2015 they were facing defeat. Dvornikov noted that one Assad tactic seemed to work was attacking pro-rebel civilians with artillery and air strikes in order to compel migration to neighboring countries. Dvornikov helped with that while also bringing in tech support to rebuild heavily used Russian tanks and artillery and supply ammunition. Russian special operations troops and aerial surveillance aircraft were brought in to find and attack the Islamic terror groups that now dominated the rebel forces. For his achievements in Syria Dvornikov was put on the fast track for promotions and key defense jobs. This included the command of all forces in Ukraine. Suddenly there were more Russian attacks against Ukrainian civilians Dvornikov soon realized that Ukraine was a lot different than Syria. There was no beleaguered Assad government nor were their many Ukrainians who supported the Russian invasion. While the Assads received more Russian weapons the Ukrainians were not only producing superior versions of Russian weapons but receiving huge quantities of Western weapons from NATO nations that border Ukraine. Dvornikov supported the shift of Russian forces from northern Ukraine, where most Russian units suffered heavy casualties and were stalled, to eastern Ukraine. Here they were to take part in a major offensive to expand Russian control of Donbas and gain control of the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast. The offensive stalled and by the end of April Russian forces were being pushed back and local partisan groups were appearing in many areas that Russia technically controlled.

April 11, 2022: In Iraq, Iran-backed Shia militias sold RPG anti-tank launchers and warheads along with two Iraqi army MRLS (multiple rocket launcher systems) and the unguided rockets to Iran, which smuggled them to Russia via Iran across the Caspian Sea, a landlocked body of water bordering Iran and Russia. Russia has been more cooperative with Iranian forces in Syria because of this while seeking not to anger the Israelis. China has refused to supply Russia with weapons but Iran is already suffering many sanctions and Russia is one of the few allies it has. Iraq is one of the most corrupt nations in the Middle East and anything is available if you have the cash or enough gunmen to obtain what you want. Most Iraqis consider the corruption a flaw to be corrected while Iran considers the Iraqi corruption something Iran can make use of.

April 10, 2022: China officially supports Russian efforts to deal with “Ukrainian aggression” and reunite Ukraine with Russia by invading a country that is a UN member and widely recognized as independent. Unofficially, China is critical of the Russian war on Ukraine, if only because of the negative impact on Chinese trade and diplomacy. China is also opposed to invasions of sovereign nations although Chinese claims on Taiwan are little different from the Russian claim on Ukraine, which better armed and trained Ukrainian forces have defeated so far. China was a major customer for Ukrainian military tech and wheat. For the first three months of 2022 Chinese trade with Russia was up 28 percent from 2021 while trade with Ukraine up ten percent. In 2021 first quarter trade for Russia was seven times larger than with Ukraine while in 2022 the Russian trade was eight times larger. Trade with Ukraine will be more disrupted and will take a while to recover, no matter who wins the war.

There were other problems. China was not happy with the poor performance of Russian troops in Ukraine. China was kept informed about the preparations for the invasion and asked Russia to wait until the Winter Olympics in China were over on February 23rd before invading. The invasion began before dawn on the 24th and was, according to Russia, supposed to be over in fifteen days. After about a week, China concluded that the Russian plan and the Russian military had failed. Russian troops quickly ran into trouble because of the unexpected stiff resistance by Ukrainian troops and armed civilians. China initially remained silent about the invasion and as the Ukrainian resistance increased, along with unprecedented sanctions imposed by Russia’s Western trading partners, China refused to openly provide material support for the Russian economy or military operations. China was also dismayed at the degree of European military support for the Ukrainians, despite Russian threats of nuclear retaliation. That did not dissuade the Europeans or Americans, just as it had not worked on China during their 1969 border war with Russia. In 1969 China had recently tested its first nuclear weapon but did not have a nuclear retaliation capability. Russia approached the Americans about joining in a nuclear attack on China. The Americans refused and criticized the Russian threats to use nukes. When China found out about that, there was a warming in the long-frosty relations with the Americans which soon (1972) led to the U.S. recognizing the Chinese communist government.




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