This hit me today as I watched a post Zelensky speech segment on MSNBC that dealt with just how much support the US has been providing to Ukraine for quite a while now. And Democratic Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia really broke it down.

In the last 3 years, we have provided Ukraine with $7 billion in defensive aid, including $1 billion this year already. President Biden just announced today that another billion is being shipped this week, and congress just approved another $6 billion to start being delivered. As long as Ukraine continues to fight, they will have all the arms and equipment they need in order to do so.

Wow! That’s impressive. But you know, when you cover or even follow politics, you tend to get numb to numbers with an insane vapor trail of zeroes’ trailing behind it. Which can tend to mask just how impressive the accomplishment of the actual equipment behind the number really is. In other words, don’t just look at the price tag, look in the shopping bag.

In Biden’s announcement today of another measly billion in aid to Ukraine, and this is not complete, my memory ain’t that good, but it will give the gist. Just in this billion we’re supplying Ukraine with thousands of Stinger missiles, ground to ground missiles to take out tanks, armor, and artillery. Thousands more in Javelin missiles, shoulder fired to take out Russian aircraft and helicopters. About 900 anti air defense batteries used to knock down Russian aircraft and missiles. Some trucks and even 6 patrol boats. Tens of thousands of small arms, including rifles, mortars, grenades, and rocket launchers, as well as 20 million rounds of ammunition. Oh yeah, and for dessert? A hundred or so suicide drones that can be carried in a backpack, fired from a modified mortar tube, travel and circle more than 100 miles for hours, and explode on impact with its target. And we’ve been doing this for three years now!

Pop Quiz! Cast your mind back 3 years, and think forward. With all of the aid that we have sent to Ukraine, can you think of a single news story or article about the American military armaments complex having to ramp up to meet the supply needs for shipment to Ukraine? No? Me either, cuz there weren’t any! The Pentagon literally had all of this shit sitting around in warehouses, literally begging to be crated up and sent somewhere to be used. When you spend $700 billion a year on your military, $7 billion in 3 years doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Here’s why this is important. It has been 3 weeks since Putin launched his cluster fuck in Ukraine. And how has he done? Let’s start here. Most reports confirm that all 200,000 Russian troops originally massed at the border are now physically in Ukraine itself. And one military analyst I heard today said that current estimated are that as much as 10% of Russian ground troops have been lost. Sweet Jesus!, that’s 20,000 Russian casualties. There was no breakdown as to how many were casualties and how many were deserters. But that still leaves Putin with a hefty 180,000 soldiers in the field.

More damaging, estimates are that Ukraine has already shot down somewhere between 60-90 Russian attack aircraft and attack helicopters. But worse, it has been estimated that Putin’s armies have lost about 20% of their supply capacity, and more than 500 tanks, armored vehicles and trucks. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of vehicles that were abandoned by Russian troops, only to be repaired and restarted by the Ukrainians, who then drove them off.

And Putin’s answer for this setback? Run hat in hand to Syria and the Middle East, trying to enlist mercenaries to go to Ukraine and commit slaughter. Running hat in hand to Belarus and Kazakhstan, both Putin friendly countries, to request troops and equipment, both of which turned him down flat. And reportedly going to China to request arms and military equipment. China also reportedly turned him down flat.

The question is why? Russia has one of the largest militaries in the world. True, it would take Putin time to stage the necessary equipment and manpower to the Ukraine border, but he has plenty of assets still remaining to throw into the fight. Or does he? If his Ukraine invasion has shown us one thing, it is that the largely conscript Russian is dis-spirited, and not ready for a fight with a well armed and trained opponent. Oh yeah, and despite his boasts, Russia’s vaunted weapons of war are for shit. Russian political and business corruption took care of that.

This is why Putin can’t afford a wider conflict with the US and NATO. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! He doesn’t even have sufficient reserves in order to move up more equipment and men to replace what he’s lost! If he expanded the conflict, the US could afford to almost completely supply NATO, and only have to crank up defense production by about 10-20% to restock and keep supplied. The Russian military industry is like a bunch of 10 years old playing around in their fathers garage workshop.

This is why Putin cannot afford to expand the conflict. He doesn’t have the men, he doesn’t have the arms and equipment, and his army doesn’t have the military skills and logistics to fight capable opponents. The very best he could hope for is that the US and NATO would follow the Operation Desert Storm playbook, and be content simply to push him back within his own borders. But no matter how you look at it, Putin is fucked.


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  1. Russia and before it the USSR never threw away ANYTHING in their military inventory. So they have a shitload of tanks, armored troop carriers and heavy vehicles to transport supplies and troops beyond railway lines. That stuff exists (and in insane numbers) for real. Here’s the problem though. When you store all this stuff it’s not just a matter of parking it and maybe, maybe throwing a big tarp over it or even storing it in some huge buildings. Some basic maintenance is still required over the years. Rust and corrosion take their toll on metal. And one has to question if the proper stuff was done in the first place when a lot of this equipment was put away in storage. What happens to your mower if you don’t properly winterize it in cold climates? It might work the next spring, but if you keep it up in two or three years you’ll have at best a balky, unreliable piece of equipment if not a hunk of unusable junk. The motor pool folks in the Russian Army have done their best but we’ve seen it isn’t enough. That’s assuming their hearts were in their work in the first place instead of just marking the time during their enlistments doing just enough to keep out of trouble before going home to live the rest of their lives.

    I’m sure Putin is screaming at his Generals, who are in turn screaming down the chain of command. But there’s that corruption factor too. How many parts, cases of oil and other stuff have been stolen from supply depots and sold off on the black market? All the screaming and cracking of the whip doesn’t get things done if the mechanics don’t have the parts and supplies they need to get another few thousand (or probably far more) up to snuff to ship to Ukraine. At best all they can probably do is what they did for the equipment staged on the border for the invasion – get it running well enough to pass a basic test drive and onto the flatcars for shipment by rail. And then off again and run. For a little while but not really combat ready. Good, properly maintained stuff breaks down in combat conditions and Russia’s stuff has been neither.

    Russia has a problem on its hands. Even its aircraft are probably having maintenance issues at this point. I’m not at all surprised that most of the damage is being done by ground to ground stuff like mortars, missiles and rockets launched from vehicles. Not to mention the ground to air stuff we’ve supplied to a battle tested Ukrainian Army. I recall seeing a clip of a small unit maneuvering to fend off Russian tank approaching a checkpoint. Communications between them was what we called “tight” back in my day. They moved economically and in mutually supportive ways and when they encountered Russian ground troops their fire discipline and teamwork was first rate as they engaged with small arms fire.

    Add in a citizen militia that I think will do pretty well as it gets into street by street stuff as Russian troops try to occupy cities. You’d think the Russian Army from the Generals down to the Privates got their own history pounded into them growing up – a history of Russia repelling invaders as ominous as Napolean and Hitler. They learned right away that anything they’d been told about being greeted as liberators was unmitigated bullshit and I don’t think even most of the Generals believed that. 200k troops and all the tanks and other stuff Russia amassed might seem like a lot, but not for an attack on multiple axes as they’ve done. If Putin has been purging his top command (he has) then it’s because he’s finally being told the truth and he doesn’t want to hear it.

    • All of this also makes me think of the nuke question vis-a-vis Russia. Don’t get me wrong; we all know nuclear material of any kind is dangerous as hell. But I keep think about that new super duper nuke Vlad tried to launch a few years ago that blew up on the launchpad. Sabotage was certainly a possibility with no shortage of interested parties as possible culprits.

      But Kalim Galeev has been writing of how government-backed Russian mafia goons have been shaking down nuclear crews the same way they have the red shirt (Star Trek reference) conscripts doing the bulk of the dying in Ukraine right now. Assuming the situations are analogous, who is to say that those nukes are as badly maintained as the other parts of Russian “military”?

      • When it comes to their land-based ICBMs they’ve had problems going back into the Cold War. The rockets themselves require a lot of upkeep as the fuels and oxidizers are corrosive. Hell, many of the troops would drain off alcohol from them to drink or sell in town! Other stuff made its way on to black markets and the worry has been there for decades regarding unaccounted for nuclear material. Still, some of them surely work although not in the numbers people fear. However it only takes one hitting a major city in the west including all the way here in the U.S. Submarine launched missiles are more of a concern as they are better maintained. If not at sea under the control of a sub Captain and senior officers that are carefully screened (and the crews are in for longer enlistments than the army guys and better paid) they are at the dock under tight control. Just getting something off the ship would be a challenge, much less getting it off the base. We still have a superiority in sonar that makes keeping track of these subs at sea awfully good and if things got to the point like they did in Cuba I think our attack boat skippers would have authority to sink them if they heard missile tubes being flooded. However, there isn’t anything we could do about launches from the docks/harbor for boats in port. That leaves tactical nukes which are of the most concern at the moment. These likely are better maintained although the longer they are in the field in an army beset with supply/logistics problems the less reliable they and their launchers become. Plus, there are even in the Russian system extra layers of control between an order from Putin to the actual officer in the field actually firing them. It’s still something to worry about but there is more chance that somewhere between Putin and an actual battlefield/tactical launch someone would gum things up. That’s a helluva thing to have to count on.

  2. In regard to Russian equipment, I was in Berlin in December 1989 (very shortly after the removal of the wall) and was chatting to a guy in a flea market on Unter Den Linden and he told me that just about everything was available at a price – from an AK47 at $100 (with spare nags and bayonet) up to $10,000 for a T72 tank and those were from the Ivans (the East German military had handed all their weapons in)

  3. Materiel matters: With due respect, Mr Murphy, Stingers are ground-to-air missiles for knocking down aircraft, while Javelins are ground-to-ground missiles for dealing with armor and strong points.


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