There seem to be two completely different narratives emerging about the Battle of the Donbas, one on the micro level and one from the larger perspective, and its fascinating to see the differences. Thought I would try and summarize.
The more granular one (which by the way has been going on for a week now) is that the Russians have/are about to make a major breakthrough around Popasna as part of a campaign to role up the SDonestk pocket.
This breakthrough talk has been adopted widely, and we have other sources no portraying Ukrainian positions as either collapsing and on the point of collapse because of overwhelming Russian fire.…
Interestingly Ive received a large number of tweets asking why Ive stopped tweeting about the war as the RUssians have done well (Ive actually sent out about 20 tweets in the last two days). Here is one of the more gentle ones. There are far worse.
Ive also received some very aggressive emails asking me to explain myself and demanding that I acknowledge the reality of the great Russian victory we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes.
All I can do is refer to this tweet thread of wednesday morning (when supposedly I wasnt tweeting about the war), which goes into this exact question. And I will compare it with the anonymous Pentagon briefing yesterday.
The Pentagon official described what was going on in the Donbas in exactly the same terms. Slow, incremental, small, give and take. No breakthrough, no Ukrainian collapse. Indeed from an overall geographic perspective, the area exchanging hands is 'getting smaller'
The specific attacks out of popasna, are in a macro way discussed as a failure of Russia's earlier strategy of wanting to slice off alot of ground, and now having to try and settle for a very small piece. Moreover, even here the word over and over again used is incremental.
In some places there has been no advance at all. Here is the link to the whole transcript if you want to read it. Btw, there are some other interesting bits in the transcript I will tweet about later.…
Btw, the best word to describe Russian advances in the last week, since the supposed Popasna breakthrough, is incremental. Maybe a little over a mile a day in place, but thats it. @TheStudyofWar maps from May 21 and today.
Have their been Russian advances--definitely. Maybe at its most extreme 10 miles. (2 miles a day at the most extreme), but the Pentagon description makes alot of sense (at least to me).
Also goes with Ukrainian defense communiques, which imply that combat intensity in the last day or so has decreased significantly. Their update this morning said yesterday the Russians lost 1 tank 5 APCs and 5 artillery systems in Donetsk/Luhansk.
There could be a reading that such relatively light losses are because Ukrainian defenses are about to crumble and their resistance is weakening. Or it could be because combat there remains what it has been, incremental and slow. We will see.
Another map visual, in this case showing the two week change in the SDonetsk pocket. Incremental much better to use than breakthrough.
A recent attempt to summarize the changes in the battlefield situation--relatively small movements.

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More from @PhillipsPOBrien

May 29
Sunday update. Looking at the Donbas, seems either the Russians are running short of vehicles or the Ukrainian Army is running out of the ability to destroy them. My guess the former--which explains a weird development in what the Russians are trying to do and what they cant do.
Overall, using Ukrainian claims of Russian losses at an indicator, there has been a real crop in combat intensity across Ukraine in the last week. Now fewer Russian losses are being claimed than before the Battle of Donbas started. Here are tanks and APC claims. ImageImage
We are seeing a significant decrease in combat intensity, and much of that is in the Donbas. Its worth noting that between 55-65% of all claimed Russian losses are in this theater (thats from comparing Ukrainian communiques). This is a major theater drop.
Read 17 tweets
May 28
Ukrainian strategy in the Donbas has certainly been the subject of some discussion--primarily because they have taken the decision to fight for what seems like a shrinking pocket which the Russians are clearly trying to encircle.
It would not be surprising if they pulled out of SDonetsk and established a less threatened defensive line to the west around Kramatorsk, for instance, which could be more easily supplied, instead of holding on to S Donetsk which has only two rather vulnerable access roads
However, the Ukrainian strategy seems not only not to withdraw, but to reinforce the whole Donbas area. Was struck by this line in a just published @IAPonomarenko @KyivIndependent article. Ukrainian high command even reinforcing the far tip of the pocket. Image
Read 13 tweets
May 27
Ugh, the U.K. auto industry is imploding right in front of us because of Brexit. U.K. has dropped out of the top 15 countries in the world and is losing all the crucial high tech battery investment. It’s disastrous.
To put the collapse in visual terms, this chart from the article is pretty telling. Brexit tarrifs seem to mean that almost all post pandemic auto investment is going elsewhere. Image
Look I know Brexit is done, but really it would be better to try and salvage something from the disaster by going back to at least Theresa May’s deal which would have ameliorated some of this. Battery technology is one of the keys to future growth…
Read 4 tweets
May 27
Something that is interesting and might explain the very large failure rate of Russian cruise missiles. Ukrainians are getting better at destroying them in flight and now are claiming to be shooting them down with fixed wing aircraft.
This is something that there had been a little discussion about before the war. Shooting down the missile should actually not be that difficult, it’s finding it that was considered the challenge.…
Russian cruise missiles are, except for the super duper, war winning hypersonic missiles which we’ve heard so much about, pretty pedestrian subsonic or supersonic weapons that can be destroyed if caught.
Read 5 tweets
May 25
Very quick discussion of what we have seen in the battle of the Donbas over the past 17 days. With the withdrawal of some Ukrainian forces from the southwest of Popasna, here is the assumed sitmap today and on May 7 @TheStudyofWar
We see Russian advances from Popasna and other places of 25 kilometres at most, that’s approx 17 miles. Around Lyman and SDonetsk it’s fewer. These remain slow, incremental advances. Seem to be town to town, village to village. Equal to a mile a day.
Under no understanding of modern combined arms war would the Russians have been considered to have made a breakout and pursuit/exploitation. Its a grinding, attritional advance. Could the Russians surround SDonetsk? Yes. But they will do it following a WW1 timetable.
Read 5 tweets
May 24
This going to be a fascinating discussion point for years. The collapse of right wing political ideas since the end of the Cold War seems complete. For good or ill you could point to a range of right wing intellectual texts pre 1990: Burke, Hume, Hamilton, Hayek, Rand, Rawls.
Friedman (Milton), etc. Now there is nothing discernible and the right wing parties seem happy to carry on without any ideas except holding on to power. Can/should they even try to come up with some intellectual framework and if so, what the heck would it be? I’m stumped.
As for the inclusion of Rawls, that was an example of a thinker that some on the right did use to try and justify say an international western order. Like Friedman, I’m giving examples of thinkers who the right wing would engage with for their ideas. That’s all.
Read 5 tweets

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