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Russia Developments

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Intercession Cathedral with bell tower and Ozeryanskaya church (right) built in Kharkiv in 1689

We’ll start on the diplomatic side. This is a big one…

That’s a 50% increase in the German defense budget. If Scholz holds, Russia has already lost this war in any meaningful geostrategic sense. German rearmament is Russia’s nightmare, in no small part because German GDP is 2.5x that of Russia. Of course a promise is just a promise and Germany could definitely see some recruiting issues, but this is nevertheless a big deal that, if it holds, is catastrophic for Russia’s future. It’s also worth noting that despite the, erm, chequered history of German arms none of Germany’s neighbors appear even faintly concerned about this; indeed, they’re actively cheering it on.

Putin has placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert:

In a dramatic escalation of East-West tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert Sunday in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers.

This is more of a reminder than a real change, but Russia has lost the escalatory scale on this; it’s clearly not going to respond to sanctions with nukes, and it’s apparently also not going to respond to the massive flows of weapons that NATO countries are openly pouring into Ukraine with nukes.

Also big from Ankara:

This could lead Turkey to close the Straits to Russian warships, which isn’t a huge deal given how many Russia warships have already entered the Black Sea, but is a big deal in terms of demonstrating Turkey’s general attitude towards the conflict.

On the fighting in Ukraine proper, there is not much new to say; it appears that there is fighting in the suburbs of both Kyiv and Kharkiv. The Ukrainian state is continuing to function, and Russia and Ukraine have agreed to discussions at a location on the Ukraine-Belarus border. Refugees appear now to be close to half a million, a number which will go up as military operations continue.

Spoke a bit about this yesterday on twitter, but I would caution against optimistic assessments of Ukraine’s military situation. It does appear to be true that Russia forces have not met the timetable that they set for themselves, have suffered casualties that most countries would consider unacceptable, and have met a degree of resistance that they did not expect. But you could have said at least two out of the three of these things about the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Military operations are dynamic, and a successful holding action at one place along the front can produce defensive gaps in other areas that lead to rapid collapse if the attacker is flexible enough to take advantage. Do not assume that the Russians, despite the evident problems in their military machine, are incapable of a pivot that would unhinge the Ukrainian defense. That said, the resistance in urban areas could be bitter, which might lead to a different kind of pivot; the use of heavy artillery against cities.

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