Published On: Thu, Jul 21st, 2022

Deliveries of “wunderwaffe” to Ukraine are not for turning tide, because that can’t happen; they’re for propaganda, and leading Russians from their purpose

The heavy arms being sent to the Ukraine by the US Government in particular have earned the ironic nickname of “wunderwaffe” from people who know that they aren’t going to live up to the flannel they’ve been sold with. According to the propaganda, the shell-slinging M-777 howitzer, and then the missile-launching M-142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) (when the M-777 didn’t cut the mustard) were and nevertheless are going to change the course of the war. Indeed, the HIMARS, says the spiel, has already stabilised the front line in the Donbas and prevented further Russian advancement – apparently by disrupting Russian ammo and fuel supply. While the Ukrainians may or may not have hit fuel and ammo dumps, because they only have 8 HIMARS, increasing soon to 12, minus the two or three the Russians have disposed of, it’s not going to make any difference to the inevitable defeat of the anti-Russian axis, firstly in the Donetsk Republic, which is having the Ukrainians kicked out of it at the moment, and then beyond to wherever Russia chooses to proceed.

Even if Ukraine received the 100 additional HIMARS that it has requested, the key to there being any point in having them is whether or not they are integrated into a system whereby they are facilitated to operate, and do it most effectively. The Russians have this system. The Russian army is organised specifically for the purpose of creating long range firepower dominance (and if the reader wants more information, please read the FBEL article, The Russian Way Of Warfare).

On the other hand, because of how Russia has been able to use its system from the outset of the conflict to beleaguer Ukrainian forces, there is no such likewise capacity for the Ukrainians. We know this because, in June, in an interview with The Guardian, the Deputy Head of Ukrainian military intelligence Vadym Skibitskyi owned up to the dismal truth that “the Ukrainian army has only one artillery piece against 10 to 15 Russian heavy guns”. That’s just a matter of numbers, so that huge amounts of heavy stand-off weaponry would be needed to be given to the Ukraine before there could be any sort of parity with Russia – but it doesn’t deal with the system, meaning, being able to muster a concentration of firepower where it is most needed on a dynamic battlefield, and being able to protect it so that it can do it.

Frankly, there’s a surprising lack of ability in many an analyst to grasp the extent of Russia’s advantage, with some choosing irrelevant ways to explain how Ukrainian performance will be limited: there won’t be enough ammunition for all the freshly supplied units, for instance. Well, while it is sort of important that the Ukraine can shoot its guns so that they do not literally become monuments to futility and waste, it doesn’t matter:  the Russians will take enough Ukrainian pieces out before that happens, because the Russians are organised that way. Astonishingly, some analysts even talk about the Russians and Ukrainians duelling with artillery: they surely wouldn’t say these things if they knew that the Russians were organised specifically to grind the enemy down with stand-off weapons, irrespective of the enemy’s starting potential, or its reinforcement. There’s no duel; there’s only one side pounding the other into dust.

In June, the Defence Express, evidently a Ukrainian publication, was trying to make sense of claims of Russian artillery superiority, and appeared to do that very thing abovementioned of blaming ammunition supply – or a variation of it: Ukraine needed artillery matched with ammunition of a type of which there was a more copious supply. Clearly, to make this sort of conclusion is not just down to flawed analysis, but in itself is propaganda to maintain morale (as is the narrative of new weapon deliveries), because if the problem is merely one of volume of stock and replenishment rates, then it can be fixed, right? Well, put it this way: while the writer of the piece was comparing Russian and Ukrainian stand-off weapon quantities as they were  in 2021, if he’d also have published Russian reckoning on Ukrainian losses (as of 18th July), then the real problem would have presented itself.

In 2021, the Ukrainians had 1176 “large-calibre artillery systems” (excluding mortars) and 637 “units” of self-propelled gun; the Russians says they have destroyed 3,157 (pieces of) “field artillery” – and this number includes mortars. In 2021, the Ukrainians had 1680 multiple rocket launchers; the Russians say they have destroyed “759 multiple launch rocket systems”.

Now, the Ukrainian publication also gave numbers for Russian forces in 2021 as it rather dumbly wondered how the likes of Vadym Skibitskyi (because he is not alone in doing so) could claim such large disparities from them: “Large-calibre artillery systems [excluding mortars]”: 2433;  Self propelled guns: 2119; Multiple launch rocket launchers: 3547. These numbers, by the way, are smaller than ones given in other places for Russian equipment, and could be Ukrainian estimates for what is in theatre. In any case, the idea to be based on this tallying was this: while the Russians outnumbered the Ukrainians, they didn’t by the claimed huge amount. However, the article writer very obviously glossed over the fact of losses as they have accrued by midway through June 2022. Moreover, Skibitskyi was clearly talking about proportions established by Russian firepower in a combat reality specific theatre of conflict, not as a result of an exercise in comparing numbers.

At roughly the same time as Skibitskyi was confessing all to The Guardian, the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, was taking to Facebook to complain that the additional 150 artillery pieces already supplied to Ukraine from NATO “would have been enough for a victorious defense operation against any army in Europe, but not against Russia”. Now, the Euromaidan Press article from which this quote comes also tells of both Reznikov and Skibitskyi “not[ing] that at the current stage the Russian invasion has become an artillery war with Russia having a clear advantage in artillery”.

This, in fact, is a statement that reflects NATO’s obvious surprise at how Russia has been conducting its Special Military Operation (after the surprise caused by its launch), even despite supposed prior knowledge of Russia’s artillery doctrine as evidenced by the Rand Corporation’s 2017 paper after which the FBEL article cited above is named. It shows that NATO wholly inadequately – and undoubtedly with much hubris – prepared Ukraine for war with Russia (because the intention had been to invade the separatist Novorossiya states, if not also Crimea), and was clearly tricked by the huge feint on Kiev into thinking the Russians were fighting in a different way if, come June 2022, and four months into the situation, top Ukrainian officials had to newly confess to discovering that Russia was dominant exactly where she wanted to be through devastating arrays of artillery – and in doing so, admit a disaster. Clearly, if at the same time the Ukrainians were demanding more weaponry of the same ilk – and they were, as we will soon see – it speaks of Russia, not only having eliminated vast amounts of weaponry held at the commencement of the conflict, but also now happily destroying new supplies as quickly as they are presented for the opportunity. Hence the shock, we might suppose.

As mentioned, there were demands for supplies not only to continue, but to be scaled accordingly. The Euromaidan Press piece goes on to say how, in June, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podoliak reckoned that Ukraine would need 300 rocket artillery pieces and 1,000 howitzers (as well as 500 tanks) to reach parity with Russia. Decisions were being awaited by NATO governments. Only today, as a matter of fact, the UK Government indicated that it would send “scores of artillery guns”, meaning that it would be depleting its own store by orders of anything approaching 50% if it sends even five or six lots of the stated measurement (according to a site that says the UK has 259 artillery systems in total). In fact, The independent has some actual numbers:

More than 20 M109 155mm self-propelled guns and 36 L119 105mm artillery guns will soon arrive from the UK.

At a good guess, incidentally, the UK is training Ukrainian crews in Britain even as this is typed (who voted for this?) to despatch with the artillery. It remains to be seen if the Russians let them deploy from their barracks when they get back to the Old Country.

As well as that clutch of HIMARS, the US is, in the latest round of supplement, going to provide 72 155mm howitzers, and 72 vehicles to tow them. If the howitzer in question is the M-777, this will be on top of the 108 already given. This means (according to a number obtained from the relevant Wiki page), the US military will have donated nearly 20% of its stock of said weaponry.

Clearly, defending Ukraine is an unsustainable project. It doesn’t take much casting around, reader, to discover writings on how, ultimately, production of new weapons would not go fast enough to send against Russia if it came to that. The US/UK cannot empower Ukraine to beat Russia as its proxy on the battle field – but then, this is not the point.

The point of the weapons deliveries is to prevent a total collapse in Ukrainian morale because, what with the office of the Ukrainian president having to act against several government officials and their departments in full with charges of treason, and the governor of Mykolaiv essentially threatening an entire population for conspiring with the Russians, it is clearly already at rock bottom levels.

Part of this project of shoring-up against a deluge of outright demoralisation would entail having Russia change its approach so that civilians are made more hostile than they evidently already are to the aggressor they are being asked to perceive – and so galvanise support for the Ukrainian regime. (It’s the same old trick that the UK played with Germany in World War II so that citizenry would suffer directly from bombing, and this site gives it more coverage in the article, Snake Island: A “Battle Of Britain” For A Defeated Kiev; Part One: Overview Of The Myth). The softly-softly Russian way of warfare – and now the offer to everyone of Russian citizenship – has so far worked directly against any efforts to stiffen defensive resolve in this sort of way.

And so, the greater ranges and destructive capability of some of the stand-off weapons being newly supplied – i.e. the HIMARS armed with an MGM-140  Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) – offer an opportunity to lash out far beyond the immediate theatre of conflict in order to provoke Russia from its steady purpose. Indeed, the handful of HIMARS that have and are going to be supplied are otherwise irrelevant.

There’s already been an exchange of threats over Ukraine attacking the Kerch Bridge which joins Crimea to mainland Russia, with Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, declaring that “Judgement Day will come very fast and hard” after any such like attack. Of course, a full-on NATO-style burn-’em-up shock ‘n’ awe attack on Ukraine would be exactly the sort of thing its US/UK overseers would like to see, but this is evidently not what Medvedev meant as evidenced by comments later made about Ukraine potentially disappearing from the world map synchronising with those of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who argued that the presence of the said long range weapons would mean the “geographical tasks [of the Special Military Operation] will extend still further from the current line [of hostilities]”. In short, Russia has now hinted that it will take as much of Ukraine as a buffer zone as it requires.

The supply of “wunderwaffe”, then, is a losing gambit to bring about more losing for the US/UK – unless in the last resort support can be stoked for a stay-behind insurgency in the same vein as they would like to create in Ukrainian citizenry a radicalised investment in the war,  defiance against Russia, and loyalty to the regime. However, the way that Russia has so far not been diverted from its civilian-friendly concentration of the steady pulverisation of anti-Russian axis military forces exactly where there is a requirement to perform this operation doesn’t bode well for the US/UK – which really doesn’t have a plan other than hoping for a miracle that’s not going to happen. It looks very much as if the Russians are going to win this armed conflict in the exact way they want to do it.

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