Friday, June 16, 2023

Meduza, The changing face of dead Russian soldiers
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, journalists at the BBC and Mediazona, working with a team of volunteers, have used open-source data to track the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war. By mid-June 2023, they had counted the names of more than 25,000 Russian combatants known to have died in Ukraine. (For reference, Russia’s Defense Ministry last claimed, nine months ago in September 2022, that only 5,937 Russian soldiers have died, whereas the Ukrainian military claims to have killed more than 200,000 invading troops. Western analysts put Russia’s losses in the tens of thousands.)

This research by the BBC, Mediazona, and their volunteer team paints an evolving picture of the “typical Russian soldier” likeliest to lose his life in combat. In a new report, released in both Russian and English, journalists reached the following conclusions.
  • In the first three months of the full-scale invasion, the “typical Russian combatant killed in action” was a 21-year-old contract soldier.
  • By the spring and summer of 2023, that “typical Russian soldier” is now a 34-year-old former prison inmate of unknown rank.
Up in the Berkshires, CNBC says that Putin says he's willing to negotiate directly with the US.
CNBC rejects the offer. 

The first sentence reports what I saw on the TV, the second is a good enough description of the response.

May 17, Russia Matters, Belfer Center: Why Putin Will Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

last paragraphs

None of this is to say that we in the West should pressure Ukraine to forgo its goal to liberate all seized territory. But it does mean that we should anticipate a nuclear weapon will be used and develop our possible responses accordingly.

Normalizing Nuclear Weapons

As soon as Russia uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the “fallout” will begin and spread. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians will be dead, suffering or dealing with the effects of the nuclear explosion. Hundreds of millions of Europeans will be bracing for war. But 7 billion others around the globe will go about their business, alarmed to be sure, but physically unaffected by a nuclear explosion in Ukraine. This last outcome of a Russian tactical nuclear strike may ultimately be the most dangerous to the international order. The image that many people have of nuclear arms as civilization-ending weapons will be erased. In its place, people will see these weapons as normal and, although tragic, acceptable in war. Just a “bigger bullet.” It is in this dramatically changed context that the United States will have to decide how to respond.

Retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan is a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He served as U.S. defense attaché to Moscow and deputy director for strategy, plans and policy on the Army Staff. 

Hersh, Partners in Doomsday

I was planning to write this week about the expanding war in Ukraine and the danger it poses for the Biden Administration. I had a lot to say. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has resigned, and her last day in office is June 30. Her departure has triggered near panic inside the State Department about the person many there fear will be chosen to replace her: Victoria Nuland. Nuland’s hawkishness on Russia and antipathy for Vladimir Putin fits perfectly with the views of President Biden. Nuland is now the undersecretary for political affairs and has been described as “running amok,” in the words of a person with direct knowledge of the situation, among the various bureaus of the State Department while Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on the road. If Sherman has a view about her potential successor, and she must, she’s unlikely ever to share it. 

Nuland, and again

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