On 24 Feb 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine from three sides, on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.
This major campaign involves more than 150,000 Russian military personnel facing an adversary of 200,000 Ukrainian military personnel, with additional National Guard and Border Patrol forces numbering over 100,000.
After three hard fought days, Ukrainian forces are offering significantly greater resistance than what Russia planned for and expected. Ukrainian have so far stymied Russian attempts to take Kyiv to (1) dismantle Ukraine’s ability to threaten Russian security; and (2) restore what Putin has called the former Russian empire based on pre-WWI lines.
Our IIOC team assesses three factors as key to the Ukrainian ability to resist Russian advances:
I. Visible and militarily effective Ukrainian leadership. President Zelenskyy, Kyiv Mayor Klitschko and his brother Wladimir, and members of Parliament have all been in front of their people and leading through an existential crisis. Powerful images of their leadership remaining in Ukraine, refusing safe transport, and preparing their people to fight have been transformational to inspire the military and their citizens.
II. Ukraine authorized arming the entire adult citizenry. Any Ukrainian adult willing to take up a weapon and fight the Russians, can. The government also formed an international brigade with fighters from around the world. National broadcast outlets provide training and techniques for making and modifying weapons have proven enormously effective. The Russians simply were not prepared for this level of resistance and did not fully consider the impact of a rising citizenry.
III. Ukraine’s deft use of social media. Ukrainian media outlets and social media efforts have presented themselves as brave patriots defending their homeland against brutal Russian invaders. Their efforts have galvanized a population, brought international condemnation to Russian, and helped to seriously damage Russia’s standing and reputation in the world.
Our CEO offered three things the US can do immediately to practically effect the invasion and help shape the post-war world to the West’s advantage:
First, continue to release IC information on Russian actions. This can be done largely via open source information to counter Russia’s intense disinformation campaign while bolstering Ukrainian claims.
Second, encourage rapid application and inclusion of Sweden and Finland into NATO. That effort would force Putin to reconsider any follow-on operations in adjoining states (Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia – and then Finland and Sweden) against the impact of NATO’s Article 5.
Third, work with Ukraine and others to offer asylum for any Russian soldier who voluntarily surrenders to Ukrainian forces.
This has the effect of potentially destabilizing Russian combat forces, forcing additional resources to monitor troops, and sow the seeds of distrust.
Russia’s Northern Fleet Involved in the Ukraine Invasion. Three warships from Russia’s Arctic Division of Northern Fleet are being used in their military invasion of Ukraine. Sailing around the Norwegian coast, the ships arrived in the Black Sea in early February from the Kola Peninsula. The three assault landing ships carried soldiers and amphibious vehicles now being used to attack Ukraine from the southern coast.
Comment: Russia holds the current chairmanship of The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum priding itself on safeguarding peace and security in the Arctic. The actions of Russia can be seen as a violation of this essential mandate and has been a topic of dialogue between the council members as the crisis in Ukraine unfolds. Russia has drawn the ire of the international community and may jeopardize future Arctic cooperation.
Starlink Internet “Active” in Ukraine. Elon Musk says his SpaceX company’s Starlink satellite internet service is now “active” in Ukraine supplying broadband internet coverage after Russia blocked internet coverage. Musk made the announcement on Twitter in response to a tweet by Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation saying that while Musk tries to “colonize Mars,” Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine. The minister called on Musk to provide his country with Starlink stations. In his response Saturday, Musk said: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”
Comment: Starlink is a satellite-based internet system designed to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world and is “ideally suited” for areas where internet service is unreliable or unavailable.
Russia’s Nuclear Forces on Highest Alert. Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on their highest-level alert Sunday, as Ukraine continued to mount fierce resistance to the Russian invasion. Putin stated the extraordinary step was in response to widespread Western sanctions against Russia, which have included most of Europe denying its airspace to Russian carriers, as well as moves to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international banking system.
“As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country,” Putin said on state television.
“I therefore order the Ministry Defence and Chief of Staff to put the deterrence forces of the Russian Federation on special status.” Comment: US reaction has included numerous statements of concern. On Sunday, former DNI James Clapper (Ret USAF Lt Gen) opined the activity by Putin prompted alarming concerns on his mental health. “I’m not sure he’s (Putin) thinking rationally anymore. ‘He is unhinged. I really worry about his balance now.’
AN-225 “Mriya” Confirmed Destroyed. The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, confirmed the world’s largest aircraft, the AN-225 (NATO Codename COSSACK), was destroyed at Hostomel Airport earlier Sunday, 27 Feb. Open source images taken at the airport show a large, 6-engined aircraft on fire at the same hangar used to park the “Mriya”.
Comment: Russian destruction of the AN-225 served little military purpose but was likely done to demoralize Ukraine through the loss of a national asset. Unbowed, Minister Kuleba remarked, “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya.’ But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state.”
DANIELLE STORAN, PMP
MIKE GRUNWALD, COL (R), USAF, PMP
Senior VP, Operations
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