20 March 2022

Blockades go slower than you think


Everybody expecting relatively quick Russian collapse in Ukraine from logistical self-asphyxiation is forgetting this.

Yes, truck maintenance has been dire in the Russian army. Yes, they're stalled.  Yes, they're plausibly going to be completely out of trucks in a month, give or take. That doesn't mean they're not going to do everything possible -- including commandeering civil vehicles -- to try to keep going.

In 1914, everyone expected a short war.  It had to be a short war; the ability to supply munitions for a long war didn't exist, and in addition Imperial Germany had no supply of nitrates. (At that time mined from bird guano on ocean islands.)  A technical fix was found.  There isn't a technical fix for not doing your maintenance, but there's still a long way to drop the Russian standard of living before having to admit that there's no way to maintain supply.

This is all kinds of bad; more people die, more destruction, and more uncertainty of outcomes.  

Not the overall strategic outcome, though I hope the US Secret Service has figured out how much enhanced risk Biden's in right now.  Trying for an organised coup this time is going to seem like a salvation option around last week if the folks in the Kremlin are getting accurate intelligence, because if the blockading power -- that being what sanctions are in this more civilised and more connected world -- can maintain the will, the blockade will work.  This usually won't be admitted until an awareness of general starvation is inescapable, and that takes time.


Fred Raymond said...

Not knowing much about Putin, as his probability of success diminishes, I'm concerned that he will eventually convince himself that he simply has no choice but to use nuclear weapons.

Graydon said...

+Fred Raymond
I think approximately everyone has that concern.

On the plus side, the Russian strategic nuclear force does not have any sort of single actuation mechanism; a lot of people would have to agree. Approximately no one wants a nuclear conflagration, and there are already Chinese policy positions to the effect that their best outcome from these events is to be the public voice of civilisation who gets Putin to climb back off the ledge.

Kamil Galeev, https://twitter.com/kamilkazani/with_replies, has had several threads about how you "give salt" to the counter-elite forces already existing in Russia, how you make people's pragmatic preferences actions that help end the war, and why you have to focus on the pragmatic rather than the ideological. I hope a lot of people in a position to do things are following those threads.