Let’s talk about the state of the war and one of the most underreported yet crucially important issues:

Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and resulting strangulation of the country’s economy 🧵
First, the state of the war.

Ukraine has won the Battle of Kyiv and forced Russia to withdraw from the north
The Battle for Donbas is underway and even though Russia has somewhat improved its tactics there and has shorter logistics routes, Ukraine has a good chance to thwart major Russian territory gains due to massive heavy weapons aid arriving now from the West
Supplies of tanks, howitzers, counter-battery radars, grenade launchers, anti-tank mines, reconnaissance and loitering munition drones, small arms and ammo are all crucial to Ukraine’s victory in this part of the fight
It will now be a race:

Will the Ukrainians get these weapons in sufficient numbers (and, in certain cases, get enough training on them) and move them into the Donbas faster than the Russians can cutoff those supply routes?
As, @KofmanMichael said on our last podcast, this objective to prevent Ukrainian resupplies is what is likely motivating the Russians to rush into this fight without assembling the full invasion force they would otherwise like to have for this huge offensive
Regardless of how the fight for Donbas plays out, it is unlikely that Russia would be able to launch another major offensive anytime soon—either to have another go at taking Mykolaiv and then Odesa in the south or going back after Kyiv in the north.

The invasion force is spent
It is possible for Putin to call a general mobilization, as some nationalists are urging him to do in the media, and yet again attempt to take over large parts of Ukraine but that could be very politically fraught for him and, either way, will take many months to execute
The Russians, of course, have considerable gains in the south: much of Kherson oblast, parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast and almost all of (now destroyed) Mariupol where the Ukrainian units are cutoff and are running out of supplies in the AzovStal steel plant complex
Dislodging the Russians from these territories would be extraordinarily difficult and costly for Ukrainian forces, even with the military aid they are now receiving. The Russians will now have the advantage of being in fortified defenses and supported by air and ground fires
Kherson is likely the place where the Ukrainians can make the most progress with counteracttacks (and where they had much success in causing serious damage to Russian forces with artillery strikes)
But if the Russians abandon the city of Kherson and move south across the Dnieper and blow the bridges, it will be very difficult for Ukrainians to continue the counterattacks. Crossing Dnieper under Russian fires from the other side would be a major undertaking
However, regardless of where things end up in the near term with the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts occupation by the Russians, the key issue in the war now is actually the Black Sea blockade
Ukraine used to export over 130 million tons of goods before the war through its numerous ports on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov: Izmail, Odesa, Kherson, Mariupol and others. Everything from grain and vegetable oils, to iron ore, coal, metals and chemicals oec.world/en/profile/cou…
Russia has put a complete stop to those maritime exports. Using its Black Sea surface ships and submarines, as well as air and coastal battery assets in Crimea, it has imposed a blockade on Ukrainian shipping
This is a huge problem. Exports accounted for nearly 40% of Ukraine’s GDP before the war. And there is really no substitute for shipping today
Today Ukraine exports just 700,000 tons per month via rail to Poland and Romania. They hope to raise that to 1m per month soon. Yet, that’s about 10% of their needs reuters.com/world/europe/t…
Cost of rail freight is also 300% higher than maritime shipping. This will make some Ukrainian exports less competitive on global markets (and continue driving higher food prices)
There are huge logistical challenges with rail as well. Ukrainian rail gauges are wider than in Europe requiring hours of downtime at gauge-swap stations at the border to lift trains and change bogies. These stations are now massively backed up with increased rail traffic
Ukrainians are now trying to use rail to move goods into Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta and from there onto ships but that port is now at capacity as well theloadstar.com/new-routes-nee…
Add on top of this export challenge a loss of economic productivity of 5.5m+ refugees (and counting) that have left the country and perhaps 1m+ in territories newly occupied by Russia and you start to get the picture of the utter economic devastation that Ukraine is experiencing
Thus, the lifting of the Black Sea blockade is simply vital to Ukraine having a vibrant self-sustaining economy
I see only 4 options for resolving this economic strangulation:

1. The West keeps supporting Ukraine economically to the tune of $60b+/year… for years until rail and port infrastructure in Eastern Europe can be upgraded

And even that is not a complete solution
2. Putin gets bored/sues for peace and lifts the blockade (not very likely)
3. NATO ships (if Turkey even lets them in through the Bosporus) try to break the blockade and risk a sea confrontation with Russia, which might escalate into all out war and use of nuclear weapons (also very unlikely)
4. Ukraine retakes Crimea and sinks/captures Black Sea fleet, breaking the blockade (to say that it’s wildly unrealistic would be an understatement)
Thus, regardless of what happens with the Battle for Donbas and Ukrainian counteroffensives, we urgently need more focus on how to revive the Ukrainian exports and, thus, economy. The country’s long term viability depends on it


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More from @DAlperovitch

Apr 26
No, Lavrov did not threaten nuclear war in today’s interview. Quite the opposite.

He said: “Nuclear war is unacceptable, this is Moscow's principled position” 🧵
Yes, Lavrov also said that “the risks of nuclear war are now very significant, and this danger cannot be underestimated”

HOWEVER, here is the full context to that statement:
Lavrov: “I would very much not like that now, when the risks [of nuclear war] are really very, very significant, I would very much not like these risks to be artificially inflated, and there are many who want them. The danger is serious, it is real, it cannot be underestimated”
Read 4 tweets
Apr 22
A lot of misinterpretations of Deputy commander of Russian Central Military District Rustam Minnekaev’s statement this morning on this site. Here is what he actually said: 🧵interfax.ru/world/837353
“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation, it has already begun just two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine”
“This will provide a land corridor to Crimea, as well as ability to affect the vital objects of the Ukrainian economy”
Read 13 tweets
Apr 8
Despite the angry rhetoric and today's provocative action from Moscow, the practical consequences for Russia of Finland and Sweden joining NATO are minor since both are already members of EU and thus have ‘mutual assistance and solidarity’ guarantees from other EU member states🧵
This obligation to provide military (and other) assistance does not currently extend to the US, of course, but it would be difficult to see us not get involved if other EU and NATO countries are engaged militarily in the defense of Finland or Sweden and request our help
So it's very likely that the Russian political and military leadership already assumes that any war they initiate with Finland and Sweden, even without NATO membership for those countries, would essentially mean a fight with the US and NATO
Read 8 tweets
Mar 26
One month into Russia’s war on Ukraine, it is worth stepping back and taking stock of the geopolitical results for Russia thus far 🧵
Putin launched the war as an effort to once and for all 'resolve' his Ukraine problem (its pro-Western orientation), reassert Russia's greatness on the world stage and firm up control of the post-Soviet space: send a message to everyone that flirtations with EU/NATO are dangerous
It’s very clear now that the decision to launch the war was Putin's and his alone. And that decision, as well as the utter incompetence with which it had been prosecuted, ended up being a complete disaster for the Russian state
Read 15 tweets
Mar 25
Quick thread on today's very important developments from the Russian MOD briefing

Essentially we are reaching - as they themselves acknowledged today - the new phase of the war and it is a combination of #1 and #2 of my predictions below 🧵
Putin - to his credit - has appeared to realize that he cannot achieve his original maximalist objectives of taking Ukraine and/or replacing its government with a puppet regime. Despite their statements now, this absolutely was his goal from the beginning of the conflict
However, the completely incompetent way the Russians have been prosecuting this war has made that objective an impossibility (if it were ever realistic)
Read 11 tweets
Mar 23
Fascinating claimed intercepted call from Russian officer near Mykolaiv to superiors in Russia. He says:
- This is worse than Chechnya
- 50% of troops have frostbite
- They can’t evacuate the dead
- Don’t have enough tents
- RU plane dropped a bomb on their own position 🧵
- One column was hit with Grad rockets. Can’t even figure out if it was friendly fire
- Medics only have bandages. Can’t help with frostbite
- No hot stove
- Digging trenched to sleep in
- Commander of 49th CAA told troops on 4th day that war will be over in hours
- Troops don’t have body armor. When one complained to commander was told “son, be strong”
- This special operation is a “madhouse”
- Being told not to destroy buildings - it’s insanity. Unless we destroy everything and turn into dirt along with the civilians, nothing can happen
Read 6 tweets

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