Today is the second anniversary of Putin’s War. What was billed as a casual 72-hour exercise in kicking ass and taking names by the Russian Armed Forces looks more and more like World War I’s Western Front in 1917.



On the whole, I don’t think anyone predicted two years ago that the war would enter into a third year. I think most believed that Zelensky and his government would catch the first thing smoking (yes, Walsh, I owe you a beer for copyright infringement) for Zurich, and the Russians would easily carve up the country. I know I did. Since then, we’ve learned a lot. The big takeaway is that John McCain was right. Russia is a gas station with nukes. Its military is crap, and the command structure utterly corrupt. We’ve seen drones become a dominant weapon, even to the extent of driving Russia’s Black Sea Fleet out of Sevastopol. We’ve seen that Western weapons and command and control methods are essential to winning battles. We’ve even seen that it takes a plausible threat to motivate Western countries to up their defense spending, not bullying and bluster.

Despite the bleating of the Foreign Policy SmartSet about negotiations and a cease-fire, I don’t see Russia or Ukraine interested in that. In my view, neither Puitin nor Zelensky (or any elected Ukrainian government) would survive the minimal terms acceptable to the other party. In addition to the illegal occupation of Crimea, Putin has annexed five Ukrainian oblasts into Russia proper. He can’t walk that back and keep a hold on power. Polling indicates that no Ukrainian government can give up five oblasts and survive. So, despite the constant demands of prominent Russbots like David Sacks and Douglas Macgregor for a Ukrainian surrender, I don’t see that happening.

The Barnum and Bailey act that Speaker Johnson is putting on in the House will come to an end in the next few weeks. The sad thing is that no sane person believes the blockage of aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan has anything to do with the national debt or the border, as Johnson and the GOP majority have resolutely done nothing on those issues for two years. Not a single bill has had a border security provision tacked to it for a self-evident reason. They don’t really care about border security because they perceive the devastation on our southern border as a political plus. What they are trying to do is prevent or significantly delay additional military aid to Ukraine. One is entitled to ask why.

None of this is to say the White House has clean hands on the issue. The White House seems to think it is playing five-dimensional chess by drawing out US support in dribs and drabs. In the process, they are making the war longer and bloodier than it needed to be. This is a logistics war, and depriving Ukraine of ATACMS and other deep-strike weapons allows the Russians to assemble men and supplies with impunity. The number of stories written on the subject indicates that Biden’s prime concern, to the extent that he has one, is to give Putin an off-ramp. Given Hunter’s involvement in Burisma, whose officers have fled Ukraine since the last Russian stooge was overthrown, one is entitled to ask why the White House is pulling all its punches.

This coming year, the Biden national security team has to decide what it wants to do. Does it want to keep America in a leadership role in NATO and the world, or does it want to acquiesce to the multipolar global model that Putin and Xi are pushing? They don’t have much time to decide because they are going to lose in November.

A final note. I don’t think Putin is right that time is on his side. I certainly don’t think the Russians are anywhere close to winning this. A core of resistance to Russian adventurism is forming that is even affecting the Germans.

READ: Germany Reaches NATO Spending Goal for First Time Since the Implosion of the USSR

Sane people, and by that, I mean people outside the foreign policy priesthood, no longer believe a totalitarian Russia is compatible with security in Europe. Because the Ukrainians won’t quit, and a growing faction within NATO/EU understands the Russian threat and will do what it takes to keep Ukraine in the fight.

Here are some of my past updates. 

Putin’s War, Week 103. Avdiivka Abandoned


Putin’s War, Week 102. Zaluzhny Is Out, Syrsky Is In, and the Ukraine Aid Bill Advances

Putin’s War, Week 101. How to Not Fire Your Commanding General and the EU Approves Massive Aid Package

Putin’s War, Week 100. Missing Prisoners, Hungary on the Hotspot, and Shell Hunger Returns

Putin’s War, Week 99. Not All Battlefields Are in Ukraine

Putin’s War, Week 98.

Putin’s War, Week 97. The Missile War Continues 

Putin’s War, Week 96. Blowback From a Sunk Ship as Russia Launches Largest Missile Attack of the War 

Putin’s War, Week 95. The Russian Air Force Takes a Beating as Disease Rips Through the Russian Army

Putin’s War, Week 94. Putin Makes Shocker AnnouncementUSnd the War in Washington Goes Into High Gear 

For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Politico-Strategic Level

Russia Threatens to Shoot Down French Aircraft

“Russia is playing with the thresholds in terms of aggressiveness: a month ago, in the Black Sea, in an internationally free zone, Russian operators threatened to shoot down French planes,” @SebLecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces.

Russian Air Force operations over the Black Sea have been reckless and provocative. Russian aircraft downed a US MQ-9 Reaper drone in international airspace in March 2023. In September 2022, a Russian fighter fired a missile at a British Rivet Joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.

BACKGROUND: Putin’s War, Week 55. Russia Drops US Recon Drone, Ukraine Suffers From ‘Loose Lips’ as It Doubles Down on Bakhmut 

These might arguably be the result of rogue behavior. When air defense systems operators threaten to shoot aircraft down, that is national policy.

Zelensky Extends an Invitation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again extended an invitation to putative GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to come to Ukraine and view the situation for himself.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that he could end that war in 24 hours. Such a claim would have more substance if he’d actually talked to Ukrainian officials and people and saw the situation for himself.

Bundestag Promises To Do Something

The German Bundestag voted Thursday against a resolution asking the government to provide Ukraine with the Taurus stealth cruise missile. The pro-Putin accounts were orgasmic with delight.

That vote was followed by another that overwhelmingly asked the government to give Ukraine long-range attack capability that would permit “targeted strikes deep in the rear of the Russian aggressor.” 

That is, of course, the Taurus stealth missile.

It seems like the sticking point was a) letting the opposition win a vote and b) using the Taurus name. The US and Germany have been moving in lockstep to provide offensive capabilities to Ukraine. This is probably linked to reports that the White House is considering releasing more ATACMS missiles to Ukraine.


About Those Negotiations

I never cease to be amused by the people who push for a “negotiated solution” to Putin’s War as though that was different from Hitler’s peace treaty with France in 1940. In this video, Dimitri Medvedev, a former president of Russia and current deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, calls Odesa a “Russian city,” saying, “Odessa, come back home, we have been waiting for Odesa in the Russian Federation.” He says that to successfully complete the “special military operation,” Kiev must be taken as Ukraine is “a threat to Russia’s existence.” He also says that the purpose of peace talks and negotiations is to give Russia time to rearm.

The only people pushing for negotiations seem to be the Russians and their backers in the West. The Ukrainians aren’t.

Denmark Sends Artillery to Ukraine

The Danish Army has pledged to send all its field artillery and ammunition to Ukraine. I can’t determine what that means in terms of the number of tubes, but it seems to be around 48, including some new French-made CAESAR systems. 

Russian Defector Assassinated

Back in August, we covered the story of a Russian helicopter pilot defecting along with his helicopter after being recruited by Ukrainian intelligence.


Putin’s War, Week 78. Prigozhin Crashes, Two Russian Bomber Bases and Moscow Hit by Drones 

Putin’s War, Week 80. Ukraine’s Offensive Continues Slow Progress as Fingers Are Pointed

That pilot, Maxim Kuzminov, was found dead of gunshot wounds in a parking garage in Spain. It may have been a random criminal act, but…

This isn’t trivial. Having high-profile defectors bumped off reduces the chance of getting more high-profile defectors. The old KGB was famous for filming a CIA asset strapped on a conveyor belt at a crematorium and slowly fed into the furnace. This was shown to KGB agents to remind them what happened to defectors. I’m guessing that we’ll see the snuff flick of Mr. Kuzminov in the near future.

 Japan Allocates $1.25 Billion to Ukraine Investment Support

Russian Milblogger Suicide

Andrei Morozov was a Russian nationalist and a veteran of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Donbas. He colored outside the approved lines and was called out by senior Russian officials for “slandering the Russian defense ministry.” 

Vocal criticism of the support given by the Defense Ministry to Russian troops and of poor leadership in the field is becoming more and more common on Telegram channels known to belong to Russian soldiers and milbloggers.


As to Morozov, there is no word yet on how many times he shot himself in the back.

You Missed a Great Chance to Shut Up

In the epic HBO series The Wire, there is a classic scene where a Baltimore drug lord, Stringer Bell, played ptich perfect by British actor Idris Elba, is teaching his drug gang to hold meetings by Roberts’ Rules of Order. That includes taking minutes of meetings.



Quisling gauleiter of occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast Yevgeny Balitsky wasn’t taking notes but was dictating to someone in this interview.

Zaporizhia Oblast occupation governor Yevgeny Balitsky openly admitted that Russian authorities are forcibly deporting Ukrainian citizens who oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or “insult” Russia and possibly alluded to Russian occupation forces’ summarily executing Ukrainian citizens. Balitsky stated in an interview published on February 20 that Russian occupation authorities “expelled a large number of families…who did not support the ‘special military operation’” or who “insulted” Russia, including the Russian flag, anthem, or [Russian President Vladimir Putin].”[27] Balitsky justified these activities, which would constitute war crimes, claiming that the forcible deportation of Ukrainian families was for their own benefit, as occupation authorities would have had to “deal” with them in an even “harsher” way in the future, or other pro-Russian citizens would have killed them. Balitsky stated that occupation authorities “gave [the deported families] the opportunity to leave” but deported some by force after “giving them a water bottle” at the border. Balitsky also stated that occupation authorities had to make some “extremely harsh decisions that [he] will not be talking about” – a possible allusion to Russian occupation forces conducting summary executions of Ukrainian citizens. 

At some point, some of these clowns will be called to account for their actions. And just like their spiritual confrères at Nuremberg, they will largely be condemned by their own words and writings.

Operational Level

New Weapons

New Russian Missile

A side note is that Russia doesn’t seem to have a lot of them. Usually, munitions are used on a FIFO, first-in, first-out basis — not to be confused with FAFO. That is, old munitions are used before new munitions. The serial number of a recently used Kh-59 indicates it was produced in the 3rd Quarter of 2024.

So either they don’t have a lot, or this is just a day ending in “y” in the world of Russian logistics.

Russia Gets Iranian Missiles

Combat Operations

A Bad Week for the Russian Air Force

In the last week, the Russians lost seven strike aircraft to Ukrainian air defenses. Four aircraft were downed on February 17, two on February 19, and another Su-34 on February 21.


Unnn…make that eight. This appeared as I was composing the update.

In addition to the strikers, the Russians lost another A-50. This is the second airborne early warning and control aircraft lost in a month. Only eight of the aircraft were made, and this loss may mean that the Russian Air Force has only one AWACS-type aircraft available.

BACKGROUND: Russia Loses Two High Value Aircraft Near Ukraine and the Theories Abound

Like with the January 16 loss, there seems to have been an Il-22M airborne command post lost as well, though that has yet to be confirmed.

The Russians are again claiming the aircraft were lost to friendly fire because Russian stupidity is a more palatable explanation than Ukrainian prowess.

This video is used as evidence of a friendly-fire engagement.

I’m not sure I agree. First, the A-50 dropped to a low altitude and discharged flare decoys long before the missile launch. This implies it had detected the fire control radar lock and was reacting. We do see a Russian surface-to-air missile launch from the right of the video, but what we don’t see is a missile impact.

There is an interesting addendum to this. If the maps of the engagement area are correct, then the A-50 was outside known engagement parameters for the Patriot. This would mean that the actual range of the Patriot is significantly longer than believed, that the Russians did shoot down their own aircraft, or that this was an air-to-air engagement like the one rumored in the last loss.

Getting back to the loss of the strikers. I think this is the best explanation. The flight profile needed to launch glide bomb attacks makes the strikers extremely vulnerable to the formidable array of surface-to-air missile systems now possessed by Ukraine. If he’s right, the Russian Air Force will start being much less aggressive than in the past.

Will They Never Learn?

I’ve done a few posts on the danger of bringing troops together in an environment where reconnaissance drones are ubiquitous. This video comes from the area east of the Krynky bridgehead in Kherson. A Russian formation was rehearsing live fire drills before going into the attack (something I endorse if done with an eye to operational security). 

According to reports, a VIP showed up and wanted to give a pep talk. As they gathered, they were hit by two HIMARS rockets. From images on Russian Telegram sites, at least 65 dead Russian soldiers can be counted.

The engagement video shows two groups of Russian troops (at 0:18 and 0:48) being engaged by an M30A1 rocket. This rocket has a warhead consisting of 182,000 tungsten pellets effective against personnel and equipment. The devasting effect is best seen in the second rocket detonation.


You can see the effects of the tungsten pellets on the trees at 0:08 in this clip.

For those wondering why they are lying in neat rows and aren’t bleeding. The tungsten pellets don’t have the kinetic power to knock people around, so they dropped where they stood. They aren’t bleeding because you don’t bleed when you’re dead, and the pellets are about the size of BB or air rifle pellets, so the holes are not only small but beneath winter gear.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

A Drone-Dominant Environment

This is a video taken from inside a Ukrainian armored personnel carrier as a Russian drone hunts it.

M1 Abrams in Action

This is the first video I’ve seen of M1 Abrams tanks in action in Ukraine. This takes place outside the city of Avdiivka, which was abandoned last week.

BACKGROUND: Putin’s War, Week 103. Avdiivka Abandoned

How Not to Hide Equipment

I’ve posted frequently on how drones are changing warfare. In this episode, a drone peeks into a warehouse likes what it sees, and calls on a drone swarm to attack.

Counter-drone Operations

A Ukrainian drone tracks a Russian ZALA drone as it is recovered and calls a HIMARS strike on its base.

Northern Front


There were no confirmed changes in the frontlines in this sector over the last week, even as the tempo of Russian attacks ticked up. ISW claims to have divined the Russian CONOPS in this theater. 

This looks completely plausible if you ignore the terrain. That area of Ukraine is characterized by numerous north-south rivers and streams separated by ridges. All the roads in the area run parallel to those water obstacles. There is no rail trunk line cutting east-west to support the operation in this area. The purported knowledge of the Russian order of battle is an indicator of more creative writing than analysis. We’ll revisit this prediction in the coming weeks to see how well it holds up. 

Large, sweeping arrows look very cool on a map; second lieutenants and grad students are totally enamored with them. They rarely happen in real life.


The battle lines remained stable in this area following the Ukrainian abandonment of Avdiivka last week. 


The Russians made minor positional gains north of Bakhmut. Their attacks south of Bakhmut, in the area of Klishchiivka, were stopped. 


The Russians continue mopping up operations in Avdiivka. The continued Russian attempt to envelop the remaining salient at Avdiivka was stopped.


Southern Front


Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

This is a depiction of the front by the Russian milblogger group Rybar. 

The Russians have been constantly pushing in this area since October. While the eastern part of the line remains unchanged, the Russians seem to have entered the village of Robotyne. What this means in the long run is anyone’s guess. If you follow the updates, you’ll see that there has been a regular series of short-lived advances by both sides. My take is that the Ukrainians will withdraw to Orikhiv rather than continue to fight it out in the salient that has developed at Robotyne. The new commander, Syrsky, seems much more prone to authorize tactical withdrawals rather than demanding every inch of ground that has been recaptured be retained.



The bridgehead at Krynky still holds, and the lines remain unchanged. This despite Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s claim that the area had been retaken.

Rear Areas


Steel Plant Hit by Drone Attack

This attack will have no immediate effect as steel components are already in the supply chain (though this is Russia, so who knows). The impact will be felt starting in 15-30 days.

What’s Next

For the next month, I would expect the initiative on the line of contact to be firmly in the hands of the Russian Army. The Ukrainian Army is husbanding ammunition, and I suspect that General Syrsky is putting his own team in place and making changes behind the scenes. Whether anything happens during that period remains to be seen. To take advantage of the initiative and turn it from gaining tens of meters and the occasional section of trench line all along the front into something that looks like an operational success, the Russians will have to mass men and supplies in one or two places and throw the dice.

As I’ve said before, I can’t see Ukraine being able to go on the defensive for a year. At a minimum, look for another summer offensive, hopefully led this time by people who believe in the Ukrainian Army and its equipment.