Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 16MAR22–1; 1240 Eastern/1860 Kyiv
1.) President Zelenskyy spoke, virtually, at approximately 0900 in front of both houses of Congress. I observed the speech twice, first listening to the audio and then watching it. It was an exceptionally well delivered speech by a man who knows how to speak to his audience. It was a powerful speech, with Zelenskyy appealing to very specific American ideals and speaking to very American events such as Pearl Harbor, Martin Luther King, and 9/11. It was broken into three parts. The first had Zelenskyy speaking in Ukrainian, asking for very specific things such as a humanitarian no-fly zone and/or air-defense weapons such as MiGs and surface to air missiles. He then asked Congress to watch a short video. This video showed Ukrainian cities before the invasion, and then scenes of what this war has done to not only Ukrainian cities but the people of Ukraine. It was moving, and devastatingly potent. In the third part, Zelenskyy spoke in English, appealing directly to President Biden. It was frankly one of the most powerful speeches delivered by a foreign leader that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I think you should watch it. In response, President Biden is due to speak shortly.
2.) Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has stated via Twitter that “counteroffensive of the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] in several operational areas. This radically changes the parties’ disposition.” Oleskiy Arestovych, a different advisor, said Ukrainian forces are engaging in small counter attacks in different locations. Some media outlets are reporting that this took place in and around Kyiv, but at this point, it isn’t clear if there’s been any “radical changes to the parties’ dispositions” there. More likely the latter advisor is somewhat more accurate in describing events. There have been some reports of significant small arms fire north of Kyiv, in the areas of Irpin and Bucha, possibly supported by artillery fire. Unconfirmed reports claim that Ukrainian forces have retaken Irpin and Bucha. It isn’t likely that Ukrainian forces will be able to fully or permanently dislodge Russian troops from those areas, but nor is it likely that Russian troops will be able to advance much further into Kyiv proper. Russian forces seem at present content conducting bombardment of cities with artillery and rockets, two-thirds of which are reportedly falling on civilian targets but seem less interested in advancing into Kyiv. Attempts at doing so would likely result in significant losses. British Ministry of Defence (MOD) suggest that Russian troops have “demonstrated a reluctance to conduct off-road manoeuvre,” reflective of the issues Russian vehicles have had with the terrain and mobility. Further, MOD states that the options available to Russian forces remain limited because of a failure to control Ukrainian airspace.
3.) In another MOD Intelligence Update, British analysts seem to agree with my assessment that Russia is being forced to find additional troops to replace losses, and that these because of these losses, “it is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations.” Significantly: “Russia is redeploying forces from as far afield as its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet, and Armenia. It is also increasingly seeking to exploit irregular sources such as Private Military Companies, Syrian, and other mercenaries.”
4.) The United States is reportedly pondering equipping Ukraine with Switchblade drones, which are considered “loitering munitions.” These munitions are lightweight, cheap, and can be used to engage targets as needed, being launched and controlled by ground troops. They are not surveillance drones, and their sole purpose is to find things to destroy. They have been used by the US military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and are, by all accounts, effective at what they do. The newer version, which hasn’t yet been officially fielded, is designed to work against tanks and other armored vehicles.
4.a) UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has confirmed that the previously reported on Starstreak man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) will be delivered to Ukraine. CNN reports that the US and NATO will provide several surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine, including the requested S-300, SA-8 Geckos, and “Strelas,” possibly referring to other MANPADS such as the SA-7 Grail or SA-14 Gremlin. Ukraine is familiar with these former-Soviet systems. The Starstreak, which will be a new system, is as easy to use as any other MANPADS.
4.b.) NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has stated that NATO will deploy “substantially more forces” to NATO’s eastern flank.
5.) Satellite imagery shows what appears to be the results of another Ukrainian attack against Kherson Airbase, likely using rocket artillery. There are at least five helicopters on fire and likely destroyed, and a fuel storage area may also be on fire. The fire is quite large. Oryx claims confirmation of 10 helicopters destroyed and five damaged in this attack. So far, Russia has lost 30 helicopters, and probably a few more that haven’t been confirmed.
6.) Major General Oleg Mityaev, commander of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division, was allegedly killed during combat operations in Mariupol. Mityaev previously served as the Deputy Commander of Russian Forces in Syria. If true, this marks the fourth Russian general who has been killed in three weeks of fighting in Ukraine.
7.) Japan is set to revoke Russia’s “most-favored nation” trade status.
8.) In today’s “History Repeating” section, brought to you by the late-1990s electronic duo Propellerheads: On 28 February, Representative Lance Gooden (R-TX) introduced HR6869. I’m not sure if this is satire or some effort by Gooden to make the news or if he’s serious about this. The bill’s official title is “To Authorize the President of the United States to issue letters of marque and reprisal for the purpose of seizing the assets of certain Russian citizens, and for other purposes.” You may be asking, “What is a letter of marque?” This is an understandable question, as the United States hasn’t issued letters of marque since 1815. Essentially, these letters allow for privateers — people who can just seize things, in the name of a government. These things were quite popular in the eighteenth century, as kings authorized random merchants and sailors to sail around capturing enemy ships, from which they’d get a cut of the profits. It’s basically legalized piracy. It’s also lunacy. Ron Paul tried getting a similar bill passed after 9/11, but there wasn’t that much interest. He tried again in 2007 to the same level of disinterest. The 1856 Paris Declaration forbids letters of marque, and the US has followed that declaration. Again, just to drive the point home, I’ll mention that the US hasn’t issued letters of marque since 1815. This is just not a viable thing, and it is of dubious legality, internationally speaking. As of now, the bill has no co-sponsors and will not likely ever see the light of day past its introduction to the House Committee on Foreign Relations.
More to follow as news develop. Thank you for reading.