Ukraine Updates

News and commentary of note.

Some news and commentary of note:

Western officials estimate that Russia had up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s border – far more than Ukraine’s entire regular army of 125,600.

Ukraine has 105 combat aircraft on the border compared with Russia’s 300, Mr Watling says. The Russians, he predicts, “will very quickly gain air superiority”.

Russia’s advanced air defence systems, such as S-400 missiles, also gives its forces an advantage. In contrast, Ukraine has older and more limited air defences.

Kazakhstan, one of Russia’s closest allies and a southern neighbor, is denying a request for its troops to join the offensive in Ukraine, officials said Friday.

Additionally, the former Soviet republic said it is not recognizing the Russia-created breakaway republics upheld by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, as a pretext for its aggression in Ukraine. 

From its own stockpile, the German government will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine. The government has also authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”

A government spokesperson said the weapons will be delivered “as soon as possible.”

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Lounsbury says:

    On one hand the Ukrainian resistance is impressive, truly moving.

    On the other hand as the Freedman article hints at, there is every sign that Putin really believe(s/d) his own rhetoric, and with this going wrong, the risk of him lashing out in very dangerous ways (NATO, massive urban bombardment of Ukrainian population centres [as saw report of Russian deploying missiles normally armed with non-conventional munitions]) becomes serious

    And with NATO (which should but the risk needs to be understood) providing arms to Ukrainian resistnce, one fears that what sounded alarmist four days ago about spillover becomes…. not to be excluded.

  2. EddieInCA says:

    After Unkranians held on to Kyiv for another day and night, against the odds, the populist anger in Ukraine and Russia is growing.

    Purely anecdotal:

    A close friend is married to a woman born in Ukraine.
    Most of her family is still there in Kyiv.
    None of them have left.
    All of them are armed, including her 66 year old grandmother.
    They’re staying and winning, or dying.
    Thay’re not alone.

    A beautiful female member of the Ukraine Parliment went viral for her photo – armed with an Kalashnikov rifle – ready to kill Russian troops.

    This politician says “I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms. It sounds surreal as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind. Our #women will protect our soil the same way as our #men. Go #Ukraine!”

    Putin didn’t expect this.

  3. JohnSF says:

    Interesting that China does not appear to be fully onboard with Russian action:

    The UN security council voted on a resolution deploring the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Eleven member states voted for the resolution, three abstained (China, India and UAE), and one voted against (Russia). As Russia holds a veto, the resolution was not upheld.

    This seems to quite a few a lot of China/Russia analysts (e.g. Cathererine Philp)as a slap in the face.
    I also suspoect Beijing less than happy about soaring prices for hydrocarbon and grains.
    Not only hits China directly, but also reduces money avauilable to third countries for purchase of Chinese goods.

    Also note that India is still ambivalent about aligning with the west, and still hope to use Russia as a means of balancing against China without fully aligning with the US.
    Deluded IMO, but there you go.

    Also that the UAE remain a bunch of weaselly shits, so no big news there.

  4. Gustopher says:

    We should track Rumsfeld’s movements before the invasion, as this appears to be a “cakewalk.” Has he been advising Putin on the side?

    This really does seem very Iraq War 2, but with higher casualties on the invading side.

    Russia will likely prevail due to larger numbers, but start losing anytime they let up the pressure. This will not lead to a stronger Russia — you can’t throw your weight around when it’s all bogged down in Ukraine. The main question is how long will the Russians commit a large portion of their forces and wealth to this before deciding to cut and run.

    Hopefully quickly, with some random face-saving “victory” — this is Eastern Europe, there are some Nazis there, grab them and declare de-Nazification complete. Do a gas-lighting campaign on RT about the reason and the success and have a parade because the Nazi coup next door was stopped.

  5. Scott says:

    My wife and I were talking about Ukraine last night. Although we keep saying we will not commit troops in direct confrontation with the Russians I can’t imagine any scenario where the Russians topple the Ukrainian government and country being acceptable to the West (including the US, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.). They will have to be rolled back and we will have to accept all the risk that entails. I see no other outcome.

  6. JohnSF says:

    Ukrainian military seem to be using some smart tactics to offset their lack of air power and the strength of Russian armoured spearheads, by hitting the vulnerable supply lines.

    Russians still have the upper hand, and will gain in air superiority over time, but if blitzkrieg fails then the nature of the fighting shifts a lot.
    Russia may be obliged to increase heavy artillery use, bring in their reserve formations, supply them, and engage in close infantry combat to secure rear areas.

    Also on latest figures, Ukraine now has more long range infantry anti-tank missiles than Russia has operational battle tanks.

  7. JohnSF says:

    BBC radio report, re Gen. Stoltenberg’s comment yesterday that Russia’s objectives “are not limited to Ukraine”: NATO HQ sources not ruling out some crazy Russian actions in Baltics or Black Sea areas, but main concern is that Russia will also move in force into Transdnistria zone , and possibly into other areas of Moldova, if/when they secures south-west Ukraine.

  8. JohnSF says:

    “Hungary will support all EU sanctions against Russia and will not block anything, PM Orban said on Saturday, speaking on the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.” (Reuters)

  9. wr says:

    @Lounsbury: What is your point? That things could get bad and you are the only one wise enough to figure this out? In that case, thanks for enlightening all us stupid people who just assumed it was all going to be chocolate and bluebirds!

  10. wr says:

    @wr: On second thought, that swipe at Lounsbury doesn’t really add anything to the conversation other than express my general annoyance at his bloviating. Unfortunately there’s no edit button today, so can’t delete. Please ignore and continue with the discussion!

  11. Jax says:

    @Lounsbury: I’ve been worrying about this, myself. If it truly looks like he might lose in Ukraine, is he gonna go batshit crazy and launch the nukes? I can’t imagine a guy like Putin taking a loss like that easily.

  12. JohnSF says:

    If it comes to that, our best hope is that one of Putin’s bodyguards administers a 9mm sedative.

    But more likely he’ll redouble and try to throw the bulk of the Russian army into a broad front Grozny-style “burn it all down” offensive, with mass killing of the general population, followed by rule of terror type occupation.
    The question then is how long the Russian military can/will sustain an occupation, and the Russian economy and economic elite resilience to sanctions.

    If he does decide/is compelled to back off, offer him a peace conference of some sort (in Beijing?) to salve him a bit.
    (I say Beijing because if it was, for instance, Geneva, my advice would be to kidnap the bastard and ship him to the Hague. But that’s just me.)

  13. Jen says:

    @JohnSF: China apparently handed over every scrap of intelligence we provided to them when we were trying to get them to stay out of this. Now that it doesn’t look like it will be a cake walk for Putin, they are trying to save face by appearing reticent. I understand that they need us and we need them, but that doesn’t mean we have to trust them.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Your suggestion is pretty good, but far, far, too rational for Putin to go along with it.

  15. JohnSF says:

    Irish (?) proverb of the day:
    “I trust him no further than I can spit his bones”

  16. JohnSF says:

    Announcement by EU Commission President von der Leyen:

    “…we will paralyse the assets of Russia’s central bank.
    This will freeze its transactions.
    And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets.”

    That is a massive economic strike.

  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I served with a former Ukrainian infantry officer who had married an American and joined the US Military. We did some field exercises and it was clear he was a pretty tough SOB. The only person in our unit that was tougher was a SpecOps guy.

    If thats what the Russians are up against…they’ll be sorry they came to lose or draw.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    Saw this on a Allahpundit post at Hot Air.

  19. dazedandconfused says:

    @Lounsbury: I wouldn’t worry overmuch about Putin spreading this out, the force in Ukraine currently appears to have be too small..but his goals are unclear.

    How does this end? If this operation fails Putin may be forced to resign, considering the unpopularity of this war within Russia. Even Kazakhstan refuses to help, and he bailed them out just a couple months ago. For Putin this would be a pooch which can’t be unscrewed. He has made himself into someone with whom the Ukrainians and the EU can’t negotiate with.

    If it bogs down he may only be able to sustain it for a month or less, and given the resolve of the defenders it’s quite possible it will.

  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    No confirmation yet, but there’s some reports going around that some of the Russian military units in Ukraine have started to mutiny.

  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Saw this on a Allahpundit post at Hot Air.

    While I feel for the conscript in that clip, it did make me smirk a bit thinking of all the people telling us how much tougher the Russian military is because they don’t worry about pronouns.

  22. JohnSF says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Seen some reports that in the first round of at fighting at Hostomel Airport, Chechen SF/Mecs came up against Ukrainian Alpha Force and came off second best.
    Reports say Magomed Tushayev, one of Ramzan Kadyrov’s senior commanders, among those killed. Such as shame, eh?
    “The best of you died fighting Putin. The worst, who come to Ukraine to fight us – we are going to play football with your heads”

    Sadly Russian ground attacks have since taken Hostomel; but apparently had problems securing surrounds and therefore the airspace.
    Two Il-76 and several heavy lift helos reported taken out by SAM.

  23. dazedandconfused says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s a bit early for mutiny, but if this gets extended they will have morale problems, bet the farm.

  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    +1 🙂

    There was also a report that a Ukraine army unit captured a platoon of Russian soldiers, basically a bunch of scared teens who weren’t prepared for the fighting.

  25. charon says:

    I feel like the frankly surprising revelation that Russias conventional military is apparently incompetent is much more geopolitically damaging for them than the sanctions are.

  26. charon says:

    I’m racking my brain for a historical parallel to the courage and fighting spirit of the Ukrainians and coming up empty. How many peoples have ever stood their ground against an aggressor like this? It’s legendary

    not a popular answer to this question in the United States but the Vietnamese literally expelled three colonial empires in the span of a single generation

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s early days and early war news is generally unreliable, but yeah, if the vaunted Russian Army can’t handle the Ukrainians they sure don’t want to mess with NATO. But even if Russian difficulties are being overstated they’re three days in and they don’t have air superiority? The Ukrainian Air Force is two Cessnas and a crop-duster.

  28. Lounsbury says:

    @wr: What’s my point? Why I am sharing a view like many others, with not one comment on anyone else’s comment. What is yours? That you’re such a thin-skinned whingy git that a banal comment provokes a ridiculously deranged adolescent blithering on. Pathetic.

    @charon: Well Poland held out against the Nazis for two weeks (1-14 Sep 39), might have done longer had the Sovs not come in from the East rendering their hopeless situation doubly hopeless.

    @Michael Reynolds: it strikes me rather unwise to draw large conclusions as of yet – significant issues appear to be that (1) Putin leadership actually believed their own Agitprop about the Ukraine not really having its own national identity and actually thought the Ukrainians would fold in hours, (2) a war plan based on [1] with too light logistics and expectation special forces would carry the day (Crimea II to be simplistic), (3) not actually communicating to mass troops (conscripts) the up coming actions, as the number of captured Russian conscript troops who have said they had been told they were on another training excercise begins to suggest that in fact this may not be Ukranian spin, but at least partially true (and would correspond with (1) and (2), and perhaps Putin understanding a war of aggression against all the Ukraine versus only Donbass would and will not be something easy to spin in a popular way within his own Russia).

    @dazedandconfused: Well as I sit over on the other side of the Atlantic, what last week I was somewhat dismissive of, I now worry about. With the French Defence Minister being moved to remind Russia that they too are a nuclear power, the Baltics

    With emotions running higher and higher, and nerves fraying, an accidental or perhaps better unintended escalation, what many thought was really scaremongering last week now is not something to waive away. Not likely but not something to waive away.

    But Putin needs to be stopped, at minimum badly hurt, as if not this will encourage the Putin allies to model their own actions…

    @Jim Brown 32: while anectdotes about individual tough guys are fun, it doesn’t say anything real. Individually tough guys and units are nothing more than Great Man history except for the military. What is vastly more important is the wide Ukranian response.

    One could have some legitimate doubts as to the Ukranians rallying or not before this happened. Now there can be no doubt that a critical mass of the Ukranians want their independence, that the Russian agitprop is unfounded. In fact one can rather suspect Putin has in this action forged a new Ukranian identity.

    And their President, he may be an actor, but he’s showing some real metal playing a rallying role, an impressive engagement, real sang froid. Everyone seemed to think he was massivley over his head (his downplaying of Putin’s intention earlier maybe was a misplay, but maybe was worth trying), but at minimum his public role is masterful. No idea if on military front he has a role, but the public rallying role and responses like “doesn’t need a ride, needs ammunition” are genuis (somewhat shameful the USA made public offer to evacuate him).

  29. James Joyner says:


    We should track Rumsfeld’s movements before the invasion, as this appears to be a “cakewalk.” Has he been advising Putin on the side?

    Aside from Rumsfeld having died last year, “cakewalk” wasn’t him but rather Ken Adelman. And he was arguably right, since he was pushing back on the notion that toppling Saddam’s regime would be a long, hard slog. What neither Adelman nor Rumsfeld counted on was a long fight against insurgents after the change of regime.

  30. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Ukrainian Air Force is weak compared to Russia, but not trivial.
    About 60 fighters, 20 ground attack.
    Reporting is unreliable, but there are some indications of UAF making Russian

    Appears UAF has been smart: dispersed them to secondary fields, and used visual reporting to target Russian aircraft, hit and run.

    Ground radars are being switched on, then off and moved.
    Decoy sets being used to “spoof” Russian counter-radar fire.
    SAM batteries likewise working on “shoot and scoot” basis.
    Russians appear to very unsettled by an airspace they don’t dominate.
    They will still win out by numbers, and advancing army air defence element.
    But htey have been slowed, and suffered significant losses.