Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Russians Really are Coming

If Russia is so involved in Donbas, shouldn't we be showing more evidence of it?

Russia is fighting in Donbas, but I've figured they are using their regulars in heavy weapons and support while limiting their troops on the front to Spetsnaz as much as possible.

Yet Strategypage (in a post mostly about the Cossacks fighting in Donbas) writes that the local secessionists actually have lousy morale:

In eastern Ukraine (Donbas) most of the Russian backed rebels are actually disorganized, discouraged and not all that effective. Interrogations of captured rebels indicate that there are many different factions, some of them not even from Ukraine. ...

Russia, which sponsored and encouraged the rebels from the start soon found that the only way they could take territory was to send in Russian troops and heavy weapons (tanks, artillery, rocket launchers, missiles). The special operations units (Spetsnaz) were the best for this because these guys knew how to pretend (that they were Ukrainian rebels) and were very effective fighters. But there not enough of them available and regular Russian troops (which are mainly conscripts) had to be sent in as well, especially for support (transport and supply) functions. Soon it was Russian troops leading in any offensives with the local rebels and other volunteers (like the Cossacks and such from Russia) handling occupation of newly conquered territory.

Certainly, the recent secessionist leader boast that he'd mobilize 100,000 men to fight wasn't met with the cries of "huzzah" that you might expect from high-morale rebels:

While some met the call-to-arms -- which the pro-Russian rebels said was voluntary -- with jingoistic fervour, others who spoke to AFP dismissed the plan as fantastical or said they had no intention of signing up.

But if Russia has a more direct and expansive role than I expected that the territorial losses of Ukraine indicated to me, shouldn't we be seeing this evidence?

We need to do a better job of exposing Russia's involvement in order to give Ukraine the cover to fight back more effectively in a war against Russian invaders, don't we?

Perhaps that question answers itself, and the White House doesn't want Ukraine to do anything but quietly give up the fight and let this unpleasantness go away.

UPDATE: Seriously, the Russians are fully capable of trotting out evidence even if they are lying through their teeth (and how can you tell if they are lying? Their lips are moving). Shouldn't we be able to do a little better than this, considering Russia really is invading Ukraine?

UPDATE: This is better:

The U.S. ambassador to NATO said on Wednesday that Russian soldiers were present in eastern Ukraine in a command role and to operate advanced military equipment, but that another large-scale Russian intervention did not appear imminent.

And it seems to back my impression that no formed Russian infantry units are involved in this phase.

But it would be nice to have lots of images and intercepts to demonstrate what Russia is doing. Why don't we have daily press briefings showing what Russia is doing?