Fighting Dirty

It’s been 245 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian fighting forces across the border with neighboring Ukraine in an overt act of war. According to sources at The Washington Post yesterday, he reiterated claims that he feels Ukraine is preparing to utilize a weapon containing radioactive material (commonly known as a “dirty bomb”) on its people. But, of course, there would be no reason for Ukraine to do this. This is all part of a seemingly never-ending finger-pointing game foreshadowing a false flag attack.

Here is how the scenario might play out: Russia says Ukraine is about to unleash a dirty bomb on its people, one goes off, and the Russians basically say, “See, I told you so,” and use the attack they initiated to escalate their war efforts. It’s a childish tactic, and it’s deadly…but it can also be quite persuasive to those not paying close attention to military operations in the region. The fear is that Putin might graduate from dirty bombs to tactical nuclear weapons. I feel he is capable of this if he thinks it would help him meet his objective.

Coincidentally (or is it?) According to CBS News, Russia has notified the United States that they have started their annual nuclear exercises. Of course, US officials categorize the activities as routine, and we already know they have been planned. Still, they are trying to make a point to the world that they are strong and have big, scary nukes and might not be afraid to use them.

Putin talks to Russian military leaders during nuclear strike drills
Vladimir Putin consults with top military leaders during Russian nuclear readiness drills. Screenshot from YouTube and The Sun

Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, commented to the news media Tuesday that “Russia is complying with its arms control obligations and its transparency commitments to make those notifications.” For the record, we (“we” being NATO) conduct our own annual nuclear readiness exercises, which are going on as I write this. “Steadfast Noon” is a year being hosted by Belgium, and it runs from October 17 through 30th.

Fourteen nations are involved (less than half of the 30 making up our alliance), and the exercise is headquartered at Kleine Brogel Air Base, one of six continents where we maintain nuclear weapons. NATO reports that up to 60 aircraft will participate in the exercises, and training flights will occur over the North Sea, Belgium, and the UK. Flights over the Netherlands and Germany are possible as well.

Operational Assessment



ISW map of current situation in Ukraine
Graphics courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project. and

Reuters recently conducted a thorough document review of information found at an abandoned Russian command post in Balakliya, in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. Their findings are in line with suppositions of many in the west (including SOFREP) that conventional Russian military forces have been rendered less and less effective over the passing months and, to a great extent, have lost the vast majority of their offensive capabilities.

Despite losing many high-ranking Russian officers in combat, they maintain the outdated and inefficient practice of having senior officers issue direct orders to junior personnel. This effectively bypasses any tactical decision-making of the mid-level officer ranks. As a result, it should surprise no one to hear that morale is at an all-time low. Reuters found that the Russian units out of Balakliya had one combat battalion at a shockingly low 19.6% strength and a reserve unit doing not much better at roughly 23% strength.

This news comes simultaneously with reports of the mass exodus of conscription-aged individuals from the motherland. Some of “Putin’s 300K”, as I have taken to calling the conscript, did not forget the call of duty. Instead, as ordered and with minimal training, they reported going to the front lines in Ukraine. In some cases, they lasted only a few days before being killed in action. This news filtered down to the men in the field and had an understandably damaging effect on individual and unit morale.

Through the Institute for the Study of War, SOFREP has learned that commanders from the Western Military District refused to allow their troops to withdraw from a position in the village of Hrakove, which they realized could not be held. As a result, the three square kilometer area was quickly overrun by superior numbers of Ukrainian forces and retaken as their own. The soldiers were ordered to stand fast and die in place.

On September 10, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced they were pulling back forces in two areas of the Kharkiv Oblast where the Ukrainian counteroffensive had been particularly successful. PBS reports that Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced at that time that the vast majority of troops in that region would be moved from Balakliya and Izyum to the Donetsk Oblast. Regarding the withdrawal, he stated the move was made “in order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbas.” I can’t help but wonder why those poor souls in Hrakove were ordered to stand their ground.

Unwillingness to Negotiate

In an October 26 meeting with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose alliance of former Soviet Socialist republics, Putin announced that Ukraine has “lost its sovereignty.” He thought the United States was using Ukraine as a “battering ram” against Russia. If you still don’t believe that Putin views this as a proxy war with the US and NATO, think again. Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said directly to the gathering that “Ukraine is occupied by NATO” and “[Ukraine] has become a colony of the US.”

“A colony of the US?” That’s the strongest language from Moscow I’ve heard along those lines of thinking thus far. So I say again; it’s time the US takes definitive and decisive action to both help defend Ukraine and to help put an end to the conflict.

If we don’t, it’s time to start asking why not.