Michael Weiss Profile picture
Jul 22 41 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
🧵New "Karl" thread on developments in Ukraine and Russia, as told to @holger_r and me. Pushes back, as you'd expect, on the emerging conventional wisdom about the counteroffensive, etc.
"There have been no major changes on the front. Ukraine has been able to make very slow progress in 2-3 directions in the south. They have been able to advance even a bit more around Bakhmut. The pace is not very fast."
"Russia has concentrated relatively large forces between Kreminna and Kupyansk partly to reduce the pressure below Bakhmut. There, in a couple of districts, Russia has made minimal progress."
"Ukraine has continued to do what it did before: destroy logistics. Attacks have again very actively reached Crimea. A couple of days ago, a major destruction of a large ammunition depot."
"In the last hour, there was a report that a large ammunition dump near Simferopol was hit by a UAV and it is right now detonating."
"This process is continuing. Ukraine has two things interfering with them. Some progress has been made in that Russian artillery fire has remained weaker, especially in the south. This has been the main aim of Ukraine’s activities."
"They continue to demolish on average about 25 artillery pieces a day. This is beginning to have some effect."
"On the other hand, crossing minefields continues to be a major problem. It slows down movement."
"The destruction of the Crimean bridge played a greater psychological role than a military one, as the road bridge was hit and the railway section was intact. Most of the logistics still came by rail, but it was changing."
"Russia doesn't want to do rail to truck loading in Crimea because it's at Ukrainian fire range. If there is a concentration of transferring munitions to trucks in one place, it will be attacked."
"Now they had started to bring in munitions by trucks over the bridge and that path is now closed. Now the Russians are only letting cars through the bridge and only on one side of the road."
"The official deadline for reconstruction is mid-September, but the Russians are always taking longer."
"Putin wants to use the Kupyansk direction as propaganda. He has given the task of putting direct pressure on Kharkiv so that the Ukrainians would feel that Russia wants to take Kharkiv."
"There is a disproportionate number of Russian soldiers in the north. So far, Ukraine seems to have been able to hold the line there without committing significant reserves."
"Ukrainian progress is slow. But again, last summer it took 3+ months before serious pressure was started on a much smaller area than now. Progress can occur when the enemy's firepower has become sufficiently weak."
"It is difficult to undertake a massive offensive if it will result in heavy losses."
"It has been 6.5 weeks since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. They must be given time. Ukraine's objective must be to reach the sea by the end of the autumn."
"In southern Ukraine in October the weather for active combat is still perfectly okay. There is still time."
"I would still say I am moderately optimistic. I believe that by the end of the summer Ukraine will reach the sea. I don't see Ukraine in panic or at a standstill."
"The advance is very slow, but looking at the decline in Russian artillery activity coming from the decline in both ammunition and the damage to the roads in the south -- at some point that level will become so low that the offensive will become easier."
"Regarding criticism that Ukraine isn’t able to get large units to work together. I think this problem is on both sides. Russia has had it the same way. Large units working together is not very effective. That is the problem to be reckoned with."
"There are only a few officers with Western training in the Ukrainian army. Ukrainian General Staff is certainly better than Russia’s. The majors are also better. But Ukrainian majors are not comparable to U.S. majors."
"This is inevitable because the Ukrainian army is in a developmental stage. They themselves complain that in some places the quality of the officers leaves a lot to be desired."
"However, I don't think this is the main reason for slow progress. The main reason is that the Ukrainians cannot culturally or pragmatically afford to behave in such a way that casualties max up. They can't afford to send in cannon fodder."
"They don't take tens of thousands of prisoners who just go on offensive. As long as you don't get the enemy's artillery fire under control, minefields de-mined, you can't advance."
"Regarding the situation in the Kremlin and recents arrests...It is a follow-up to what happened on 23-24 June. Clearly, punitive operations have begun. In the case of Prigozhin, it has remained limited."
"For the time being, Putin wants to more or less keep to the agreements made with Prigozhin. How long that lasts remains to be seen. Russian authorities achieved that Wagner as an independent entity is being liquidated."
"With this came the liquidation of one of the most combat capable units in the Russian army. We saw that when Wagner left Bakhmut, the initiative immediately went to the Ukrainian side. Now they are pushing the Russians backwards. The dynamics changed completely."
"Putin's main driving force has always been to consolidate domestic power. Wagner in this form was a risk to it. If the CIA Director and the U.S. Secretary of State are already grinning that he will soon fall out of a window or eat poison, it shows a mindset."
"Putin will not forgive Prigozhin. His only option would be to disappear off to Africa somewhere, but for the moment he continues to indulge in very sharp criticism."
"Regarding Girkin’s arrest. On 23-24 June, Girkin spoke out very strongly against Prigozhin and supported Russian authorities. Difference with Prigozhin: he does not have his own units."
"In the last few weeks, Girkin took a very sharp personal line against Putin, and then it was decided that he had crossed the line."
"Now these people feel what the more liberal wing of Russia has felt for years. They are being taken down."
"Russia's domestic processes are not over. I don't see that the popularity of the war and support for the war can increase. If Russia were to suffer a few more serious defeats on the front, these processes would all accelerate."
"For the time being, fragile domestic stability will remain."
"Prigozhin and Girkin are visible faces, but there is much more discontent within the army and security structures. Several other generals have disappeared from the scene but it remains to be seen how finitely they disappeared."
"[FSB Fifth Service head] Beseda, for example, was indeed under house arrest for some time at the beginning of the war, but then returned to his post. I would not say that the current generals are out of the picture for good."
"What to watch in the coming weeks? The most important thing is to see what is happening with Russian logistics, ammunition stocks, artillery."
"On the front, the most important thing is to monitor what is happening in the south and around Bakhmut, where the Russian situation is very fragile. Ukraine itself needs to keep stability in the north so that it does not have to move too much of its reserves there."
"I wouldn't worry about the Belarus issue: 5,000 rather lightly armed Wagnerites are not a significant problem for Ukraine. Putin has escalated the rhetoric on Poland, but Russia does not have the resources to go to war with NATO."
"This message was for domestic consumption and to play on the nerves of the West. Poland feels strong enough; militarily it doesn't bother them much." /END

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More from @michaeldweiss

Jul 18
Oh for fuck’s sake, NATO membership has kept the Baltics safe from “little green men.” And if he thinks the U.S. did not try to welcome Russia into “the community of nations” under Bush and Clinton and Bush II, he has no business commenting on this part of the world.
Here is @andreivkozyrev, the Russian Foreign Minister from 1990-1996, in conversation with your humble servant, saying that the problem with American policy wasn’t that NATO went too far, but that it didn’t go far enough: newlinesmag.com/reportage/russ…
@andreivkozyrev Note what Andrei says about Clinton’s naïveté about the inevitability of Russian democratic liberalism, all brokered on his personal relationship with Yeltsin. Not foreseeing or planning for a Putin was a failure of imagination; but evidence of confrontational intent it wasn’t.
Read 6 tweets
Jun 28
Utterly hilarious post-coup messaging from the IC. U.S. told Ukraine not to mess around in Russia during Prigo’s rebellion and “rock the boat.” Now U.S. sets the cat amongst the pigeons — Surovikin was in on it, kidnap the generals! — to prompt a 1937-style purge of top brass.
Beginning to wonder if CIA didn’t want Budanov to steal their thunder.
Imagine being an FSB officer with credible intel confirming what the Americans are saying. Take that to the boss and look traitorous yourself, or hold onto it and become an accomplice to treason after the fact? Decisions, decisions.
Read 5 tweets
Jun 24
Er, so Putin caved to a putschist with an army and agreed to make the MoD more amenable to him, after the putschist showed how well he can challenge the regime. And the guy gets to live? Things are wild, weird and unpredictable in Russia but this doesn’t quite convince.
Playing the scenarios here, and the only one that makes sense — assuming this deal is indeed legitimate — is that Prigo had allies in very high places and Putin had no choice. But even then, how does Putin survive under those circumstances. He’s a hostage, not a tsar.
Read 5 tweets
Jun 24
Explains Western intel saying Prigo was dramatizing the ammo shortfall. If this is true, he was stockpiling it for exactly this moment.
Also, captured Javs… it now appears likely U.S. weapons will be used by Russians inside Russia.
Read 24 tweets
Jun 24
Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (an invention of the KGB) tweets “Putin is a pussy” with this pic:
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