Counterinsurgency Ratios

One rule of thumb is that a successful counterinsurgency requires something on the order of 20-25 troops per 1000 population (Goode, 2010). Ukraine’s population is 44 million. Simple division and multiplication yields 880,000 to 1,100,000.

Current Russian force levels positioned around Ukraine are variously estimated at 190,000, and commonly tabbed at three-quarters of total Russian conventional ground forces. This suggests to me that successful suppression of a counterinsurgency (which could be supplied from neighboring territories) would strain Russian resources, both narrowly defined military resources, but also financial.

So, statements that Russia is now well prepared (running budget surpluses, big forex reserves, likely higher oil prices) don’t address the question of whether a long term occupation is feasible, on fiscal grounds.

Caveat: Clearly, the 20-25 per 1000 ratio is at best a rough guess, based on a few limited examples, typically from the distant past. With modern technology, who knows. With a smaller area occupied, maybe more manageable. (Population of the Donbas region around 4 million, implies 80,000-100,000 counterinsurgents).


108 thoughts on “Counterinsurgency Ratios

  1. macroduck

    The devil is in the demographics. Thirty years ago, 45% of Donbass residents reported their ethnicity as Russia. Don’t know what that number would be now, but probably pretty similar.

    On the other hand, Ukraine’s military is reportedly mostly anti-Russian. And well armed. Russia should not want to occupy Ukraine. Russia should be leery of occupying Donbass, where more than half the population (30 years ago) is (was) not ethnic Russian.

    So what we have is a bad situation for everyone. And Belarus has had it’s share of disaffection with a government that serves Moscow and kleptocrats ahead of its ciizens. And Azerbaijan, too. Maybe if Russia would install good governments instead of Russian-style criminal parasites, it would have better luck with hegemonic interference.

    1. Anonymous

      petraeus, innovator in us counter insurgency, could fail in ukraine as easily as afghanistan

      an insurgency in that territory was run against the soviet army during ww ii.

      in feb 1944 soviet general nikolai vutatin who played a role in defeating, encircling the germans at stalingrad and kursk was commanding the ‘south front’ driving the germans out of ukraine was ambushed by pro nazi partisans in the vicinity and died of sepsis a couple of months later.

      there has been no difficulty from locals since 2014.

      i am pretty sure putin can find less corrupt locals than the lbj/nixon had in vietnam.

      aside from a nato provided stinger taking out a passenger jet i do not consider insurgency relevant.

      these are not sunni muslims!

      1. macroduck

        You not considering insurgency relevant isn’t relevant. Other than knowing where to locate figures on hydrocarbon production, you don’t seem to know all that much. Given the seriousness of the situation, you might want to drop the smug attitude.

          1. Steven Kopits

            If you want peace, why don’t you fly to the Ukrainian border and ask the Russians for some.

            In truth, you choose to avert your eyes and hide.

    2. Ivan

      One of Putins big problems is what he has done to public opinion in Ukraine, about Russia. Even many Russian speakers in Ukraine now are against Russia. By instigating and sustaining a “civil war” in the Donbas area, Putin has made his big strategic goal of taking over Ukraine almost impossible. Nothing unites a people like being attacked by an external force.

      Putin has this delusion that if he could get Russia to have enough people in it, he can restore it as a superpower. But adding 40 million mostly hostile people to Russia will just weaken it. Until Putin realize why Russia is crumbling, he will continue to be the captain of a sinking ship.

  2. Moses Herzog

    The immediate thought that enters my head, as someone who knows very little of military affairs is~~ Are Steven Goode’s numbers based on an unusual cat like Petraeus (or even a McChrystal, who I have much less respect for than I do Petraeus, but no doubt still pretty good at what he did) running the show?? Are these very specific examples from modern history what Steven Goode is using for those numbers?? Because having a Petraeus at the head of such an outfit, one can imagine a viable force to cause headaches for Russia. Without a Petraeus type (which is an unusual type of beast/cat) I think you’re talking utter failure against professional military. Who is Ukraine’s Petraeus??~~or who could/would be Ukraine’s Petraeus/McChrystal?? If I was an NYT or WaPo reporter that would be an interesting answer I would be in search for.

  3. Moses Herzog

    Speaking of military leadership:

    Wasn’t it Republican politicians that were always telling us “I’m going to listen to the generals”?? When did that go out the window for the Republican party?? Republicans only like traitors like Mike Flynn now??

    1. pgl

      “JD Vance is a shameful person unsuitable for public office. His comments are those of a stooge for Russian aggression.”

      About right. And to think Vance’s reply is that the General enjoys wine. Weak.

      1. Moses Herzog

        McCaffrey claims he doesn’t drink it. (Are we to assume then he is one of these guys that thinks beer and liquor are more macho, he didn’t say “alcohol” he said wine). I take the man at his word but military guys are renowned drinkers. But to me all of that is a side show, and Vance grabbing at straws. What I can’t believe is I heard someone I respect (I forgot who it was now) recommended Vances’s book, and like a fool I got it at the library. The JD Vance book reads very fake with the underlying message “I’m white trash, that’s why I voted and like a a tyrannical orange colored psychopath. So NOW you understand why I love evil, I was born in the sh*t” Nope, sorry, not falling for it.

        1. Moses Herzog

          Of course David Brooks loves JD Vance (no, that is not the book recommendation I was acting on), because Brooks gets superglue in his underwear every time he thinks he understands anyone below middle class socioeconomic level. Which he doesn’t, so he grabs anything posing as such. When I think of David Brooks “understanding” anyone below middle class I think of Peggy Noonan’s infamous column on when she got lost in New York City and thought she was the first person on planet Earth to interact with Blacks and hispanics. Her column read like someone who had travelled to another galaxy and discovered all those stories on Star Trek about aliens were “actually” false. And Noonan, being the only one to ever meet Blacks and hispanics had come back to Earth to share the good news. Which Noonan obviously felt was an epiphany. She wrote the column around 2010 as I recall it, or at least past the year 2010. Noonan’s column read like someone who had wandered into Harlem in the year 1961 and wanted to put us all at ease. I wish I had the link but they make it hell finding the paywall content from long ago.

          1. pgl

            You have a lot more patience than I do. Can’t say I read Vance’s trash and I stopped reading Noonan and Brooks a long time ago. Noonan’s comment on NYC, however, remind me of a few characters in Bonfire on the Vanities which nailed this city to the wall.

        2. Anonymous


          general drink nectar and sweep their soldiers across maps as if there were infinite food, water and fuel…..

  4. Ulenspiegel

    “One rule of thumb is that a successful counterinsurgency requires something on the order of 20-25 troops per 1000 population (Goode, 2010). Ukraine’s population is 44 million. Simple division and multiplication yields 880,000 to 1,100,000.”

    That rule is under fire, it is actually called stupid by experts: “Needless to say, I think that basing the “troop-to-task” ratios on population is at best marginally relevant. For example, the troop-to-task ratio for Vietnam was 88.4. We did not win that one.”

    The interesting number is troops per insurgent, the isurgent per population number can show a high variation.

    But I agree, that 200 000 soldiers are not sufficient to occupy the western parts of Ukraine by Russia. Therefore, my question still is what Putin wants.

    1. macroduck

      What does he want and when does he want it? As of now, Putin can claim an incremental gain. I have heard analysis suggesting he is usually an incrementalist. Not a big risk taker. Lots of Putin watchers are mentioning that he seems different now, a bigger risk taker, but that could be an act. Plenty of time to make further incremental progress after this gain is solidified. We’ll see.

      1. Ulenspiegel

        “Plenty of time to make further incremental progress after this gain is solidified. We’ll see.”

        Look, the issue is the claim that there is a Russian gain. 1990 Ukraine was an ally of Russia, now 2/3 of Ukraine is hostile to Russia. Russia has lost a lot at the strategic level, it has now to invest precious resources in order to defend a much worse situation than in 1990.

        In a useful time scale Russia is a loser, and it makes more sense to analyse the reasons. Lack of soft power is one IMHO.

        1. macroduck

          Putin can claim an incremental gain. Perhaps not in your terms, but in his. To figure out what he wants anf how to deal with him, we need to understand whay he sees as a gain.

          1. Ulenspiegel

            “we need to understand whay he sees as a gain.”

            He reduce the rate of losing, but does not address the underlying reasons for the decraese of power. To sell the affair as win for Russia is IMHO a joke in a strategic context.

    2. Moses Herzog

      I think sometimes, especially with people of a large ego, or people who need their ego “fed”, sometimes you don’t really need a reason. Reasons can be “manufactured” (the subtext is obviously self-manufactured) in order to get attention. It can even be negative attention. The negative attention can be viewed by that person or that “actor” as “recognition”. And it feeds on itself, like a snowball going down a hill. Which is another reason why the French leader’s idea for the 3–way meet up was stupid, because psychologically, you’re giving the guy exactly what he wants.

      Even when he meets with Merkel for example, he’s 2nd fiddle, And he desires very much to be the one shining in the room. But he knows developed countries largely view him as an annoying joke. He’s throwing a fit, because he won president of his senior class and Mommy barely yawned and didn’t even look up from the TV.

  5. Steven Kopits

    Oh, for goodness sake, Ukraine is flat. It is not suitable for a counter-insurgency. Why do you think the tank battles always happen across Poland and Ukraine? Why do you think these countries struggle so to maintain their independence over the centuries?

    It’s geography, stupid.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Steven Kopits: I’ve never been there, but I seem to recall vast swathes of Iraq are flat. Our mechanized forces had no problem sweeping through Iraqi forces (twice!), but the second time when US forces occupied Iraq, I seem to recall a long, costly occupation. Or am I mis-remembering?

      1. Steven Kopits

        So you think the Russians will limit themselves to the tactics Americans would use? Forgive me, Menzie, you’re an idiot.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Steven Kopits: No, I don’t think they will. We have a precedent of Chechnya, and what was done to the city of Grozny (in an *actual* Russian republic). But in an all out struggle to suppress the insurgency, much blood and treasure was expended. That is my point.

          1. pgl

            Aren’t Ukrainians a significant portion of the Chechnya population? I ask in light of 2slug’s point which apparently Stevie pooh has also chosen to dismiss for some lame “reason”.

          2. Steven Kopits

            Okay. Yesterday Putin said that the Ukrainians might have WMD’s in Kiev or Kyiv, or whatever it’s called today.

            Now, we know that’s not true, but what would such an allegation allow Putin to do? Would it allow him to use chemical weapons? What about a nuclear weapon? How does all that insurgency look then?

            And we can ask the question: What would the US do then?

            I welcome your thoughts.

          3. Steven Kopits


            I am baffled that you think Ukraine is some sort of take-it-or-leave-it objective for Moscow. It is most certainly not.

            And the discussions about blood and treasure, we are way past that. Those discussions happened in Moscow months, if not years, ago.

        2. pgl

          Oh my – the Village Idiot calling our host an idiot? Dude – you are the dumbest person ever. Deal with it.

        3. Moses Herzog

          @ FormerStinkyNewJerseyite Kopits
          You really put the textbook meaning to the words “unmitigated gall”.

          1. Pgl

            Stevie is lecturing our host telling him Putin is a liar. Gee none of us knew that before. Maybe Stevie also figured out that the earth is round

    2. pgl

      Like South Vietnam had huge mountains. Or Iraq was the same as the Alps. You do have a talent for writing incredibly stupid things.

        1. pgl

          I knew that and already commented. Trying shutting up until you can keep up. BTW – i has class mates you served in Nam. Unlike you the Chicken Hawk.

    3. macroduck

      Flat land isn’t suitable for counter-insurgency? So mountains make life harder for those resisting an occupyng force, easier for the occupying force? Russia, the occupier, will have a hard time because Ukraine is flat?

      Just want to make sure I understand the argument you’re making.

      1. macroduck

        So Menzie suggests that numbers matter in suppressing insurgency. Kopits dismisses Menzie’s point, claiming that geography matters. What Kopits is claiming is, of course, a false dichotomy. He has made the simple-minded assertion that only one thing matters…and then called Menzie stupid and idiot.

        Putting aside the fact that Stevie got his own point about geography backward, it’s kinda looking like Menzie hurt Stevie’s little feelings and Stevie is looking for a way to retaliate.

        Anybody remember the movie “Big”? Tom Hanks’ character (that’d be Menzie in this analogy) embarrasses a guy in suit who doesn’t know what he’s talking about (Stevie in this analogy) :

        Later, the guy in a suit tries to turn the tables, but just embarrasses himself further. Like Kopits is doing.

        Penny Marshal was a genius.

        1. Steven Kopits

          I’m not retaliating. Were you ever actually in communist eastern Europe? Do you have even the remotest idea of how those systems work? You round up people, you torture them, imprison them, kill them. This is not about some due process thing. And they don’t care if they round up the innocent with the guilty. Not an issue. If they kill 400% of the rebels, no problem.

          During a half century occupation of all the countries of which we are speaking, there was the Hungarian uprising in ’56 and the Czech uprising of ’68. That’s it. Both were suppressed pretty quickly and brutally. No uprisings that we know of in the Baltics, Ukraine, Belarus, or Russia proper. If you think the Russians lack core competence in these areas, let me assure, that’s the background of Mr. KGB guy running the show over there.

          1. Macroduck

            Your response to me, as usual, is entirely off the subject. Rule of law and mountains?

            And I really like the part where you hide behind credentialism, without even knowing my credentials. Just a cheap debating trick. Keep up the good work.

          2. pgl

            No one here endorsed Stalin. No one here thinks Putin is a wonderful leader. But no one here believes you have the guts to take up a gun against Putin’s evil invasion. So why don’t you STFU and join Chicken Hawk Bruce Hall bravely playing video game pretending they are doing some good.

          3. Steven Kopits

            It’s not credentialism. I don’t hold a PhD in socialist societies. I was actually there and I worked in late stage communist Hungary. I am speaking from experience. Under the communist system, everyone was afraid all the time.

            If you want to understand that, take a look at this video from North Korea.

            This is Kim talking to senior military officers. Observe that all of them are taking notes like school boys, like they will be quizzed on the material. Can you imagine senior US military leaders taking notes in synchronized fashion like that at a, say, NSA meeting? And around 45″ they start applauding with greater energy and just keep going and going. Why don’t they stop? Because the guy who stops first dies for failing to show sufficient commitment. And these are the Communist Party insiders, each knowing that with just the smallest mistake, the most minor gesture interpreted as infidelity, they can be taken out and shot. That’s life in the totalitarian system, and it was like this in Hungary, too. Not this extreme, but fear, fear all the time. You cannot imagine it if you’re an American. Insurgency? You’re kidding. You could die because you didn’t clap hard enough. There is no insurgency.

            Here’s more on clapping to stay alive.

            Now, Hungary was not that extreme; nor is life under Putin. But make no mistake, those Russian soldiers will have no compunctions about killing anyone they’re told to. Putin has already foreshadowed a kind of genocide of Ukrainians, a collective punishment. The women will all be raped. You can count on that. That’s what the Russian soldiers did in Budapest in 1945. That’s the least of it. Torture, imprisonment, murder, that’s all part of it.

            Now, the fighting can go on for a long time, as long as the Ukrainians hold out. But a post-conflict insurgency. I don’t see anything sustainable about that. That’s what the historical track record there shows.

          4. Barkley Rosser

            Actually, Steven, while it did not get a lot of publicity and was somewhat low key most of the time, there was an insurgency in Ukraine against Soviet rule after WW II that lasted for 20 years until the mid-60s. Not so easily put down. While indeed most of Ukraine is flat fields like Hungary, there are those gosh darned Carpathian mountains where those odd groups like the Rusyns hang out and are hard to get at.

            BTW, the Ukrainian name for the capital city of Carpatho-Ukraine is Uzhhorod.

          5. Barkley Rosser

            Actually, pgl, I think we do have some people here who are at least not particularly critical of Putin. I am thinking JohnH and ltr at least, with a couple of others mumbling in that direction, especially those who like Trump a lot and pay attention to Tucker Carlson. Putin has quite a few fans now in the US, him standing up for Christianity and hererosexuality and all, not to mention what a macho guy on a horse without a shirt!

          6. Steven Kopits

            Barkley –

            You are correct about the Ukrainian insurgency, but it was mostly in the mountains, as you point out. It seems to have been primarily active during and immediately after WWII, not a surprise given that Russian government power was elsewhere occupied. And it did seem to persist for a while afterward, but changed absolutely nothing in the end, did it? It was a tempest in a teapot, albeit a pretty hot teapot here and there.

            This is how wikipedia describes the Soviet response:

            From 1944 to 1953, the Soviets killed 153,000 and arrested 134,000 members of the UPA. 66,000 families (204,000 people) were forcibly deported to Siberia, and half a million people were subject to repressions. In the same period Polish communist authorities deported 450,000 people.

            Soviet infiltration of British intelligence also meant that MI6 assisted in training some of the guerrillas in parachuting, and unmarked planes used to drop them into Ukraine from bases in Cyprus and Malta, was counter-acted by the fact that one MI6 agent with knowledge of the operation was the traitor Kim Philby. Working with Anthony Blunt, he alerted Soviet security forces about planned drops. Ukrainian guerrillas were intercepted and most were executed.

            So, yes, there was an insurgency. It was brutally suppressed over a number of years and did not change the outcome one bit.

          1. pgl

            “Barkley Rosser
            February 22, 2022 at 5:51 pm
            Actually, pgl, I think we do have some people here who are at least not particularly critical of Putin. I am thinking JohnH and ltr at least, with a couple of others mumbling in that direction, especially those who like Trump a lot and pay attention to Tucker Carlson.”

            Thanks Barkley but I have torn into JohnH, ltr, and Tucker Carlson many times here. We should add Donald Trump to the list of Putin fanboys but then he has always been a very disgusting POS.

    4. Ivan

      Insurgents always get to chose where and how they want to fight. That was our problem in Iraq. the insurgents didn’t want to fight out in the flat hot deserts where our weapons had the advantage. The also refused to attack our aircrafts and tanks – instead going after less protected patrols.

    5. 2slugbaits

      Steven Kopits Why do you think the tank battles always happen across Poland and Ukraine?

      Well, in today’s world there’s no such thing as a “tank battle.” Current doctrine is to get off the first shot and then move to a new position ASAP. The odds are very heavily tilted towards whichever tank gets off the first round. Gone are the days when John Wayne would stand toe-to-toe with the bad guys and tanks would battle it out with one another. In any event, tanks are good offensive weapons but not very useful when it comes to supporting the kind of boots on the ground operation needed to defeat an insurgency. After the initial fighting in Iraq, tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles were mainly used to protect convoys, with mixed success. That’s a pretty expensive way to keep boots on the ground. So we found ourselves in the ridiculous position of using Abrams tanks (which get 1.8 gallons per mile…note, that’s “gallons per mile“) being used to protect fuel trucks that were needed to keep Abrams tanks operational.

      But let’s be clear. I don’t think we’re talking about insurgents fighting it out with Russian armor in open plains. No Ukranian version of the Fulda Gap. A more likely analogy would be urban fighting along the lines of the Falluja battles. That’s the kind of thing the Russians will be up against.

        1. pgl

          Stop asking questions and start MAN SPLAINING us how this all works. We know this is what you want to do. Even though your MAN SPLAINING leaves us all laughing on the floor at you sheer stupidity.

          1. Steven Kopits

            Alrightly, in Syria they used chemical weapons. Warsaw they pounded into rubble with artillery. We all good now?

          2. Ivan

            Yes that was indeed a good laugh. Turning the cities into rubble and gassing the slavs Putin want to integrate into Russia – you can’t make this s..tuff up. Almost as funny as when the Fauxers decided that “Trumps white house” had been spied upon BEFORE he was elected president – “scandal of the millennium”, “10 times worse than Watergate” – at least if you don’t start thinking about it. I guess that the rage-newsies have found out that their audience just need big words, no need to connect the words to facts or logic.

  6. Steven Kopits

    So, we have now determined a couple of things.

    First, the threat of sanctions has proved toothless.

    Second, Russia has declared its colors, and those are of the destruction of Ukraine. I think we may assume the reabsorption of Belarus is also on the table.

    1. pgl

      Oh gee – should we have imposed sanctions sooner. Or would big brave Stevie pooh volunteered to lead an army against Russia? Didn’t think so.

        1. Moses Herzog

          [ Imagines Barkley Junior and NewJersey Kopits defending the completely empty U.S. embassy building in Kyiv ]

          Barkley: “Those U.S. embassy workers who went to Lviv are such p*ssies….. It’s kind of cold out here, where’s the Columbia Sportswear outlet??”

          JerseyKopits: “I don’t know. I thought you said your wife had the ‘inside info’ on all the fashionable shopping spots in Kyiv?? I got more weighty things on my mind right now. I’m talking to command about there being no grilled oysters in our food rations. I brought my neon orange colored Nerf Super Soaker and if I go two more days without grilled oysters—forget about fighting the Russian army—I’m going Rambo on these Ukraine MoFos.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            To Menzie,

            I am not going to ask you to dump Moses, who kisses your behind very hard and goes out of his way to try to obey your various rules. His life is so pathetic with all his problems with women that I fear he profoundly needs this blog to keep himself going.

            But I am going to formally request that you simply delete any further comments he makes that mention my wife. I am not going to accept this scheiss out of this vomitorious piece of garbage.

            Fo eff yourself, Moses.

          2. Moses Herzog

            So, does this mean Barkley Junior is not inviting me to his birthday party this year?? What do you guys think??

            This is depressing because I had already gotten Professor Barkley a birthday gift. It’s a specialty item. It’s a Vladimir Putin doll, with like a pullstring where the belly-button would be. And when you pull on the pullstring Vladimir Putin repeats a phrase “I am not invading Ukraine, it’s just military exercises, we leave this Friday………. I am not invading Ukraine, it’s just military exercises, we leave this Friday……… I am not invading Ukraine, it’s just military exercises, we leave this Friday”.

            I think he’s going to love it.

          3. Barkley Rosser

            Thanks, Menzie.

            Of course this will have Moses redoubling his pathetic efforts to find me saying something wrong here on all this.

    2. Ulenspiegel

      “Second, Russia has declared its colors, and those are of the destruction of Ukraine. I think we may assume the reabsorption of Belarus is also on the table.”

      That is simplistic nonsense IMHO. Reabsorption requires economic power Russia does not have. Both, Ukraine and Belarus are per capita economically weaker than Russia, so even in the best case it is an economic drain. BTW to assume that sanction do not hurt is also a not fact based assumption, sanctions delay the transition of the Russian economy which runs on a model with limited shelf life.

      And if we have to assume an isurgency (most likely in western Ukraine) the whole operation will become an economic desaster with many political pifalls. Putin will IMHO incorporate easter parts of Ukraine with a pro-Russian population.

      1. Steven Kopits

        The Russians have already occupied Belarus. From a Belarusian blogger (my edits on auto translation) about the problems associated with Russian troops there:

        The public fears to turn to the police, and now in many small towns with the onset of the dark time of the day, there is a “voluntary curfew”. As they say, “stay out of harm’s way.” Everyone tries to stay at home.

        Fuel to the fire of fears is also added by the fact that among the participants in the Russian military exercises there are a lot of people of non-Slavic appearance – various ethnic nationalities of Russia, who usually frown at you. You are not perceived as “their own”. Given the general tension in society, such fears may not be in vain.

        In general, the mood in Belarus now is approximately the same for all: everyone is waiting for the end of these exercises, which look more like a Mongol-Tatar invasion. And in any case, one thing can be said: the invasion has definitely not happened in our country yet, and it would be better if it did not happen.

        Are the Russians going to leave? I think not.

      2. Steven Kopits

        In what sense does Russia lack the power to dominate these countries? I mean, they dominated Hungary for 50 years, and they had a lot more places to cover at the time. You clearly have no idea how these societies can be controlled.

        1. pgl

          You did not stand up for your own nation? Wow – you are not so brave after all.

          BTW – the West turned a blind eye to Eastern Europe right after WWII. That changed in the 1990’s in case our Village Idiot did not know this. Poland is part of NATO and we are arming them to be ready for what little forces Putin may have left.

          1. Steven Kopits

            Hungarians are acutely aware that they were deserted by the US after World War II. It is etched in the collective memory.

            As for 1990, I was working in Hungary. Where were you then?

    3. Barkley Rosser

      Well, Lukadhenka has reportedly offered to host nuclear weapons for Putin even without being asked, this after hearing Putin go on and on about how Ukraine is going to be hosting nuclear weapons against Russia one of the days after it joins NATO. I suspect Lukashenka will manage to maintain a formal independence, although his effective independence is all but gone now.

  7. 2slugbaits

    An important factor in the success of insurgencies is the willingness of border countries to tolerate (or outright encourage) sanctuary for insurgent forces as well as providing those insurgents with weapons and munitions. It looks like the neighboring NATO countries will be quite willing to support insurgents.

    Something that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention is the likely chance that Belarus could come undone. It’s hard to imagine how an insurgency does not spill over into Belarus, which will further dilute Putin’s forces in Ukraine. Putin has really blundered his way into a helluva mess in search of his white whale.

    1. Steven Kopits

      Insurgencies are certainly helped by border sanctuaries. True for the Taliban, for the Vietminh and Vietcong, true for the mujahedin. But I don’t know that they are strictly necessary, for example, FARC in Colombia, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, various African rebellions, revolutions and terrorist groups. The United States during British occupation was able to wage a decent insurgency due to support of the public. Support of the public and remote, hard to reach sanctuaries are key. Mountains and jungles are best. Ukraine has none of these.

      1. pgl

        I get your “point”. I never knew Iraq had lots of jungles. Look Stevie pooh – you suck at foreign policy even more than you suck at economics. But continue to pretend you are the expert as it makes me laugh.

      2. Anonymous


        you mis-remember the american revolution was decided by main units, similar to the war of the roses. yorktown was petersburg smaller.

        revolt is a long standing tradition in england, why they used the block for nobles and draw and quarter to stop the real problem which was commoners rebelling against the crown. two things differ: 3 month sail to the colonies, and all of france was on the rebel side.

        you can support the clinton-obama empire reaching the dneipr, i spent years on several different ground zeroes in sac and adcom….

        i choose to stay out of an immoral adventure, which deifies stalin’s baby..

        stalin is getting a cooling breeze in hades bc obama-biden.

        1. Steven Kopits

          You think that Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics are part of the “US empire”? They are not. It is true, there are part of the liberal order, which respects self-determination and democracy (broadly). But by no means are they US puppets or subservient to DC. If you want political influence in, say, Hungary, the EU and Russia are pretty close in political influence, with China a distinct third, and the US only after that somewhere.

          The power of the US is all soft. In that respect, it still sets the tone in important ways in Hungary.

          1. pgl

            So the US does not own ‘Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics’ and that makes us soft. WTF? You seem to want some US Union of Trumpian Republics in Eastern Europe. And you have the gall to call our host an “idiot”.

            Please stop writing this stupid garbage. After all – you are supposed to be flying to Ukraine to lead your brave little army.

          2. Anonymous

            i so long for my cold war experiences to be experienced in the world by a new generation of young people who when they grow old to have to live with the memory ‘we could have destroyed the world’.


            soft power at $770B for 2023!

            the inclusion of east europe or georgia!! in nato is enough to put russian nuclear forces on alert.

            while the in-theater nuclear forces treaty lapsed and we can all sing with nena: 99 red balloons!

            the history has russia since peter the great threatened from west east and south…..

            and the us got the boston marathon bombing for meddling in chechnya.

            i will leave you with : where us has allies us forces show up, to teach how to use their weapons……

      3. Ulenspiegel

        Insurgencies need formost support of the population, that is a given in western parts of the Ukrain, where we had already an insurgency after WWII, I bet Putin knows Soviet history. And today the Ukraine would not be surrounded by Soviet ruled territory….

  8. JohnH

    Lots of idle speculation here today. Here’s a more informed commentary by an expert:

    “ Russia’s official recognition of the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk republics is both illegal under international law and acutely unhelpful politically, and makes a diplomatic resolution of the existing crisis even less likely.

    The Minsk II process for a resolution of the Donbas conflict is now dead — though to be fair, the Ukrainian government had long since made clear that it had no intention of implementing its basic provisions (on autonomy for the Donbas), and the West had made clear that it had no intention of pressuring Ukraine to do so.

    The real question however is what Russia does next. In itself, this Russian action changes nothing in practical terms. These areas of the Donbas have been separate from Ukraine, with Russian backing, since 2014, and intermittent fighting has been ongoing since then. Western sanctions are already in place to punish Russia for this…

    There can also be different levels of military action. A Russian seizure of the whole of Ukraine, as imagined by Washington, seems inherently unlikely. An occupation of Russian-speaking areas of eastern and southern Ukraine is much more plausible. It may also be, however, that Russia will content itself with inflicting a limited local defeat on Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, by way of illustrating NATO’s inability to help Ukraine, followed perhaps by a pause to see what the West does next.

    This would fall far short of invasion. It would mark only a limited escalation in the conflict that has been going on in the Donbas since 2014.”

    If there was to be any kind of insurgency, it would have surfaced in the eight years since Donetsk and Lugansk separated. Furthermore, the dangers and costs of occupation are well known to Russians and to Putin, who, as a young man, lived through the Soviets’ Afghan debacle and its aftermath. Though it’s always possible, I seriously doubt that the Russians are as stupid as American leaders of his generation (chicken hawks), who undertook pointless and futile occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, having learned nothing from the Vietnam fiasco.

    There is a lot more to consider than making the ridiculous, simple-minded assertion that “Putin wants what he wants.”

    1. macroduck

      You picked one sentence out of Ulenspiegel’s comment in order to through shade?

      Yeah, yeah – you’re a big old brain because you realize things are complex. ‘Cause none of the rest of us figured that out.


      1. Pgl

        Even the Village Idiot Princeton Steve knows we have an invasion but Putin poodle JohnH denies it. This comment section has its cast of clowns

      2. pgl

        JohnH’s little Kosovo guru must be a denier of the Serbian persecution of Kosovo Albanians. Of course JohnH probably could not even tell us where Albania even is. Gee NATO stepped in and stopped this horrific civil but the US has no claims of sovereign rights there. But I guess JohnH actually believes that Putin only wants to be the peace keeper. He is THAT DUMB.

        1. JohnH

          pgl probably doesn’t know that Kosovo is often cited as a precedent for other separatist movements. Some refer to the country as a gangster state with a US military base. Not exactly the shining example that Freedom and democracy boosters care to talk about…

      3. JohnH

        Instead of trying to ascribe all sorts of nonsense to Putin, maybe people could try taking Him at his word.

        “ Putin’s actions suggest that his true goal is not to conquer Ukraine and absorb it into Russia but to change the post-Cold War setup in Europe’s east. That setup left Russia as a rule-taker without much say in European security, which was centered on NATO. If he manages to keep NATO out of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and U.S. intermediate-range missiles out of Europe, he thinks he could repair part of the damage Russia’s security sustained after the Cold War ended. Not coincidentally, that could serve as a useful record to run on in 2024, when Putin would be up for re-election.”

        Why would any country want nuclear capable missiles parked on its doorstep? Apparently macroduck doesn’t remember the Cuban missile crisis.

        1. Ivan

          Better to not remember than to remember, but not understand history.

          In 1962 the placement of land-based nuclear missiles were of huge strategic importance. Although they were very vulnerable to a first strike, they were also the only option for a surprise first strike. Today you would have to be an idiot to actually be concerned about whether land missiles are stationed 50 or 500 miles from the border of a huge country like Russia. If anything the 50 miles would be preferable because it would be a lot easier to take them out in a first strike.

          The real threat in 2022 comes from submarines, stealth aircrafts and cruise missiles. Putin know that, but he also know that the 1962 argument can be used to dupe the dopes. So his internet trolls swings it out there, hoping to hit a soft (brain) target.

          1. JohnH

            If your thesis is correct that there is no strategic benefit, why does the US insist on putting those missiles on Russia’s doorstep?

            In the event of a miscalculation, there is no recovery time, and Russia has made it clear that it will regard any incoming missile as nuclear and will respond in kind.

          2. Steven Kopits

            The point was different, in my opinion, Ivan. I think there were a few key takeaways.

            First, to the best of my knowledge, Russia and the US never threatened each other with nuclear missiles after 1962. Indeed, nuclear missiles were treated as if they did not exist as a military option between the two opponents, best I can recall. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) was the accepted model. Both sides accepted the underlying premise that neither side could win a nuclear war.

            Second, Russia and the US, almost constantly in conflict in proxy wars across the globe, were careful to avoid direct confrontation with each other.

            Let me add a third corollary: That the US would protect its treaty (and perhaps non-treaty) partners with its nuclear umbrella, which allowed countries like Germany, Korea and Japan to operate without nuclear weapons of their own.

            Both Russia and China have rejected this model. Both of them have directly threatened countries with nuclear attack, really unprecedented until the last few years since 1962. Second, both countries are anticipating a direct conflict with the United States, and seemingly willing to contemplate some nuclear component to this. The prospect of direct conflict between nuclear powers is now very much on the table. I personally don’t see how the US avoids war with Russia at this point. This is new, again since 1962.

            Both countries, but perhaps China in particular, are willing to test US resolve to deploy its nuclear umbrella to protect treaty (or non treaty) partners in practice. China in particular has threatened Japan with a nuclear strike were Japan to intervene in Taiwan. Thus, one has to question how the US would act if, say, China fired a nuke on Hiroshima to punish Japan for supporting Taiwan in any coming conflict. Would the US then incinerate, say, Wuhan, for a little symbolic payback of our own? Or would the US say, “Brace for impact, Japan! Nothing we can do to help you! Sorry!” With the Biden administration, I would bet on the latter. I would guess that Beijing will try its luck.

            It is for this reason that 70% of South Koreans feel a need for an independent nuclear deterrent. Japan can reportedly build nuclear weapons on relatively short notice, but they have not so far. Having said that, the world has changed a good bit in the last twenty-four hours. By giving up its nuclear weapons, Ukraine has probably doomed the country’s future. And who gave it assures to give up its nukes? The United States, now willing to stand aside as the country is ploughed under.

            I’d finally add that, after 1962, both the US and Russia in particular entered into a series of agreements and other steps to stabilize nuclear relations and reduce the risk of unintentional or ‘hot head’ strikes. That has changed. Both Russia and China have developed hypersonic capabilities which, if I understand correctly, are hard to detect and provide precious little warning. Another example is the INF Treaty of 1987, which barred the US and Russia from deploying nuclear missiles with a 500-5500 kilometer range. The Russians were found cheating on this treaty multiple times, and the US withdrew from the treaty in 2019 as a result.

            Thus, both China and Russia have been willing to abandon commitments and materially raise the risks associated with deliberate or accidental release of nuclear weapons. The culture of nuclear power has changed, and the disaffected powers — China and Russia — now look willing to contemplate revising the established order, including through the use of nuclear weapons.

          3. pgl

            “why does the US insist on putting those missiles on Russia’s doorstep?”

            A bold face lie ala Putin’s pet poodle (JohnH). We are not putting nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe.

            Putin does have his pet poodle on a short lease.

          4. Ivan

            @ Steven

            Indeed, MAD has been and will continue to be the model for peace between all major nuclear powers. The idea of a hot conventional war between them is a joke because as soon as the hostilities get to that level, there is a desperate race to be the first to strike (and have a small chance of not being completely destroyed).

            However, those countries can and will go directly (or via proxy) to war with a non-nuclear nation or even fight proxy wars with each other. We will continue to fight Russia by proxy with our support of Ukraine. However, it would be insane to convert that to a direct hot war – Biden is to smart for that.

            The implicit (or explicit) threat of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries is not unusual – and also is the reason that most countries either want their own nuclear weapons or want to be covered by an alliance that has nuclear weapons. Indeed, Russia is not threatened by the defensive NATO alliance being “on its doorstep” or a few minutes shaved off an imaginary missile attack on Russia. The real threat to Russia is that members of NATO no longer can be bullied, threatened, harassed, subdued or attacked by Russia. Putin cannot say that directly, so he comes up with other explanations that can dupe the dupes – and be repeated by his tools in domestic and foreign media.

          5. Steven Kopits

            Ivan, you write: “Indeed, MAD has been and will continue to be the model for peace between all major nuclear powers. The idea of a hot conventional war between them is a joke because as soon as the hostilities get to that level, there is a desperate race to be the first to strike (and have a small chance of not being completely destroyed).”

            The implication of this statement is that Putin can be successfully deterred the direct threat of US military intervention. I agree, or more precisely, I would have agreed, last week. Now, Putin has been suckered into a war of aggression, something the US has done to dictators down through the years. So not so sure now.

            “However, those countries can and will go directly (or via proxy) to war with a non-nuclear nation or even fight proxy wars with each other. We will continue to fight Russia by proxy with our support of Ukraine. However, it would be insane to convert that to a direct hot war – Biden is to smart for that.”

            Russia is not fighting a proxy war in Ukraine. It is using Russian troops. You seem to be indicating, however, that Biden won’t fight because he is “too smart”. In other words, Biden is a pussy and Putin can take advantage of that. Yes, that is my read, too.

          6. Ivan

            Putin has so far been deterred from attacking every single country that has become member of NATO. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the current rush of Putin on Ukraine was in part an attempt to block Biden from what Trump had obediently refused to do – make Ukraine a member of NATO. The problem with threats of military intervention is that you may have to either lose credibility or follow through with it. Biden has wisely not threatened direct US military intervention on something that is not an issue of vital US interests. The risk of nuclear anihilation is not worth that piece of swampland. He instead trapped Putin into a choice between how he want to lose. Putin can ease down to reduce the western unity he so ineptly created, or he can go more fully in to really cement the sanctions and western unity. I don’t care how Biden win this one, but thank God we had a competent leader not the Orange Clown in charge of this.

          7. Steven Kopits

            You’re continuing to say that Biden can be intimidated. I fully agree. So does Putin.

            And now watch Taiwan.

        2. pgl

          Wow – you actually think Putin is honest? And we thought Princeton Steve was the Village Idiot! BTW moron – Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. FYI!

  9. pgl

    Biden is announcing a set of much stronger sanctions. But of course Stevie the Chicken Hawk will dismiss this too. Like he has ever served in a war – right?

  10. Steven Kopits

    Let’s talk satellites.

    Lead on Drudge is a piece of potential cyber attacks on US satellites.

    Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Cyberattacks could affect U.S.
    If Russia mounts cyberattacks against the United States, the targets could include banks, power plants, water treatment facilities, and communications. Cyber experts say Russia has the capability to disable or destroy U.S. satellites. Those attacks could also impact GPS for navigation, farming, automation, and oil exploration.

    First of all, this would be an act of war. To me, it feels like we will be at war with Russia shortly.

    It is, however, important to note the role of satellites in reducing the risk of nuclear war. Nuclear war which has become more widely discussed in my circle lately. Some people, some of them very smart, believe that nuclear-tipped powers cannot fight a war without resorting to nuclear weapons, perhaps in short order. Satellites, or the absence of them, are central in the story.

    If satellites are lost, a given country may not be able to detect potential nuclear attacks with sufficient warning, or even at all. If communications are also problematic, then it would seem that discretion to use nuclear weapons might be delegated to field commanders. potentially operating in the fog of war. Everyone may be really twitchy and in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later state of mind. This is, for example, the backdrop of the Iran commercial jet shootdown. From Reuters:

    Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020 shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport. The Iranian government later declared that the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert during a regional confrontation with the United States.

    Now imagine the tension in a nuclear crisis. Easy to make a mistake. If an attack is occurring, and satellites are down, will the military be able to determine their origin? And if they have ten minutes to make the call, how might they respond? Might they just fire their missiles on their preset targets? And how many of these might be in, say, China? Five? Ten? One hundred?

    Practices and customs which evolved after 1962 have not been absorbed by the current governments of Russia and China. Both have threatened their neighbors with nuclear strikes. The Russians in just the last few days have demonstrated nuclear weapons, surely intended to impress upon the west Russia’s willingness to use them. And Putin has stated that Kyiv may have WMDs, which would justify a strike on that city (and that’s a good way to reduce an insurgency). The prospects of the nuclear weapons use is in play.

    Now add to that blindness from a loss of satellites. How then should a nuclear power defend itself? Surely it would make sense to put nuclear forces on a high state of alert. And it may be necessary to delegate launch rights to proximate commanders. Given ‘twitchy’ weapons systems like hypersonic missiles, the window to react may be measured in seconds. As a result, missiles could be launched by mistake — as in the Iranian case — or at the wrong target — again as in the Iranian case.

    So it’s all nice and good that Russia and China have destabilized the nuclear use environment, but for China in particular, this may prove a horrible mistake, even in the event of a war in Ukraine in which China is not a participant.

    1. Anonymous

      in tom clancy’s ‘red storm rising” (mid 1980’s cold war fiction) a female f-15 pilot with a missile at the time in real world development took out a soviet satellite…… sensors, target computing and weapon control are better today!

      some of the stuff clancy wrote was pretty tight hold, not that weapon, though.

      it is very possible. it is also very possible to put a satellite in collision orbit to strike any time you want….

      years ago at a remote site in the usa where i served with ken, i used to see his two year old toe head boy trevor at mass on sundays…….

      that boy is likely now retired from the air force he did watch officer duty in the space business.

      his dad and i were young and we were cold warriors.

      nothing i want to see again.

    2. pgl

      “it feels like we will be at war with Russia shortly.”

      We get this would make you happy. Of course, you will ride out WWIII hiding in your basement.

        1. pgl

          I read what you wrote there. It was beyond stupid even for you. As I noted over and over – Putin would have you for lunch even before breakfast. You can write what ever drivel you wrote – no one gives a damn. Amateur.

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