Phillips P. OBrien Profile picture
Professor of Strategic Studies, @univofstandrews, Author: How the War was Won, and Second Most Powerful Man in the World. Editor in Chief, War in History
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May 16 10 tweets 3 min read
Surreptitious mobilization does seem to be taking place, though what it means for Putin's view of his own people is probably more important than what it means militarily. It was only a week ago that we were wondering whether Putin was going to try and turn the Russian people's supposed support for this war into actual military power by declaring war or mobilizing. As you know, he didnt.…
May 15 18 tweets 6 min read
Battle of the Donbas update, some thoughts on what happened the past week and where things might be heading. Looks like we are seeing drastically reduced Russian goals, though even then might be unobtainable. And Russian Army heading for major trouble over the summer. First, the Russians have severely restricted their offensive activity to now a very small pocket between Popasna and Severodonetsk. Here is the @TheStudyofWar map of the area where the activity is located and a link to their report from last night.… Image
May 14 4 tweets 2 min read
A really interesting and important breakdown of the relative balance between confirmed Russian and Ukrainian losses--which shows one thing very clearly. The Ukrainians have prioritized attacking Russian logistics whenever possible--to great effect.… The report shows overall confirmed equipment losses between the two and it wont be a surprise that Russian losses are running overall at abt 3.75 to each piece of Ukrainian equipment lost. Image
May 14 10 tweets 4 min read
The story of this engagement tells alot about the war. In one specific area it provides some really good evidence that Ukrainian claims of Russian losses are far more accurate than many have supposed. In this case, we have a fascinating test. Here is one recent count, which tries to cover the different evidence and concludes that in this failed river crossing event the Russians lost 12 tanks and somewhere around 50 APCs of different classes. These pictures emerged on March 11-12
May 13 5 tweets 2 min read
Its not just that Russia is losing tanks, its that its losing many of its most modern and best tanks that is so striking. Even fighting against an enemy that has no air superiority, the vulnerability of the tank seems very high. Agree that the lack of Russian infantry has exacerbated this problem--and my guess is that the next few years is going to see a pretty intense tank vs anti-tank debate in strategic studies circles.
May 13 4 tweets 1 min read
Really interesting story in the BBC about the experiences of a Russian contract soldier who went in during the first wave of the Russian invasion, but having survived is refusing to go back into Ukraine.… Was struck by his description of original Ukrainian tactic of not fighting on the border, but retreating into the cities to draw the Russians in and expose them.
May 13 7 tweets 3 min read
Interesting to see direct calls for Shoigu’s punishment. However, this is still built on the myth that the Russian Army was capable of some great Blitzkrieg victory over the Ukrainians. It wasn’t, as the Battle of the Donbas reveals. This army can’t do fast armored breakouts. Might be worth backing this up by showing how our visions of the Battle of the Donbas have changed in a month. In early April we had major western military figures drawing maps showing a major Russian break through to take Dnipro.
May 12 6 tweets 2 min read
A clip that shows just how the Russian government's message is in chaos, from propagandist in chief Vladimir Solovyov. A number of fascinating things and worth watching. First, the claim that the special military operation is now a 'turbo' military operation is rhetoric to cover a basic policy continuation. Soon we might have a super-duper turbo charged operation...and it wont make a difference. When it comes to mobilization--still off the table
May 12 10 tweets 4 min read
Returning to the Ukrainain General Staff claim yesterday that there was a significant shift in Russian force posture to going on the defensive on much of the front, early indications are they might be correct. Ukrainian forces are pushing the Russians back everyday from Kharkiv, and might soon take back everything between the city and the Russian border.
May 11 11 tweets 3 min read
Thread on the Pentagon intelligence briefing yesterday, a few things stand out on force calculation, air power,
Here is the whole transcript.… One very interesting point. Pentagon seems to be abandoning its system for calculating surviving Russian combat strength in Ukraine (prob about time). Drops the 75% figure that was used before, now says 'a majority' of Russian strength remains. May not update again.
May 10 7 tweets 3 min read
Read the Pentagon briefing from yesterday (transcript available), some interesting details provided, particularly on how the Ukrainian and Russian armies are behaving in the Donbas. Here’s the whole transcript.… Russians are falling back on their ‘doctrine’, which is to blast an area with artillery before sending in artillery. Ukrainians, however, still have mobility, and now much more long range capability, and basically the Russians can’t advance much at all because of these.
May 9 18 tweets 3 min read
What rhetoric Putin used in his speech is immaterial. If he didn’t declare war, or a general mobilisation, that’s what important. Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia can’t fight a long war, and the clock starts ticking on the failure of their army in Ukraine Just read this translation of Putin’s speech. Reaction—that’s it? Completely out of ideas. Either doesn’t now understand the reality of the situation in Ukraine, or wilfully ignoring it.…
May 8 18 tweets 6 min read
Ukraine war update, based on Russian losses (ukr claim). What might be happening and where its going. First, the big change over the last week has been the Ukrainians taking back territory around Kharkiv while Russians plod on in Donbas. Here are @TheStudyofWar Kharkiv maps on April 30 and May 7. Russians being pushed back to Russian border north of Kharkiv and away to the east. Might be already out of artillery range of the city.
May 7 4 tweets 2 min read
This is really interesting, a military analyst on Russian TV pointing out all the problems with general mobilization. Basically Russia would struggle to make modern equipment on its own. Would take far too long. Btw, he’s speaking the truth completely from any impartial point of view. A general mobilization is a recipe for getting a mass of poorly trained conscripts into action with old equipment….unless they want to wait a long time.
May 7 4 tweets 2 min read
@EuromaidanPress has just released its daily report for day 73 of the war. Has a statement from Ukrainian military intelligence that either cant be right, or the Russian Army is in dire straits, cant fight for more than a few weeks before failure.… Basically Ukrainian intelligence is saying that the Russians are rushing recruits into action after only 4 days of training, and they might even be conscripts. Here is the screenshot.
May 7 8 tweets 2 min read
To put Russian tank losses in 72 days of fighting in Ukraine into perspective--if Ukrainian claims are at all close to being accurate, the Russians have lost as many tanks as the Germans lost on the ENTIRE Eastern Front during the summer campaign of 1943. Including Kursk, et al. Maybe a better way to put the Ukrainian claims of Russian losses in context. During the first 12 days of the Battle of Kursk, when German losses were running at their highest, estimated Germans tank losses were between 25-350 (I have the citation in How the War was Won, p 310.
May 7 6 tweets 3 min read
This letter could be a very important development. First I’ve seen of members of congress, @tedlieu @AdamKinzinger @RepHoulahan that is well thought out and structured on AirPower. With all the focus on ground equipment, we can’t forget that the foundation of Ukrainian success… Has been it’s ability to keep Russian AirPower at bay (much against expected wisdom). This has to continue for Ukraine to maintain its momentum, and yet it’s the one area where Ukraine seems to not be getting what it wants.
May 7 5 tweets 2 min read
@KyivIndependent has published its most detailed story so far about the Battle of the Donbas and it’s really thorough. What’s really interesting is they give more glimpses than we normally get of Ukrainian tactics and advantages. Such as their mobile defense operations, (when they pulled back and why).
May 6 10 tweets 2 min read
Other than protecting Kharkiv and threatening Russian supplies heading into the Donbas, the really important thing about the Battle of Kharkiv is what it shows about Ukrainian military behaviour in comparison to what the Battle of the Donbas shows about the the Russian military. What has Ukraine done around Kharkiv in the last few days. It seems to have set itself a clear objective (push the Russians away from the city to protect it and give options for future operations). What did they do?
May 6 6 tweets 1 min read
If you want to see what a grinding battle of attrition looks like, take a look at Ukrainian claimed Russian losses of tanks and APCs since the Battle of the Donbas started. Pretty steady when presented as two day totals. We can assume Ukrainian losses, even though we have no detail on them from, are equally relentless. It’s a question of who can take them for longer.
May 6 5 tweets 2 min read
Been wondering why the stories of US intelligence helping the Ukrainians target Russian generals and warships have been appearing, clearly based on information passed on from US intelligence sources. Here is the one about the US helping to sink the Moskva.… The best explanation is in this story as well. Basically the leaks are deliberate US attempts to let Putin know that the ‘weight’ of the US and NATO are behind Ukraine. Iot, a deliberate warning to Russia not to escalate.