Above Photo: Repairing a captured Russian armored personnel carrier in the Donetsk region of Ukraine this month. NYT.
Some people ask why I read the New York Times and other such outlets of mostly ‘western’ propaganda. One obvious reason is to “know your enemy”, to find out what the propaganda wants us to think. Another one is to find the gems that give a real picture of a situation which often sneak themselves into the coverage, though usually way below the headline.
Today there is a piece about Ukrainian military units which are trading weapons with each other.
A Frontline Shadow Economy: Ukrainian Units Trade Tanks and Artillery
Within the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, Zmei was not just a lowly sergeant. He was the brigade’s point man for a wartime bartering system among Ukrainian forces. Prevalent along the front line, the exchange operates like a kind of shadow economy, soldiers say, in which units acquire weapons or equipment and trade them for supplies they need urgently. Most of the bartering involves items captured from Russian troops. Ukrainian soldiers refer to them as “trophies.”
Yes, sure, the Ukrainian units catch so many weapons from the Russians that there is a lively trade of those. However, read beyond the first 25 paragraphs of such heroic trade propaganda to get a picture of the real situation and mood at the front lines:
Alex is waiting for his own kind of repairs. He was shot in the right leg during a patrol in May. The bullet shattered his femur.He and several other Ukrainian soldiers had been on a reconnaissance patrol in the gray zone — the area between Russian and Ukrainian front lines — when he was hit. The mission had carried two objectives, he said: to find Russian positions and to find abandoned equipment.
“We are losing tanks,” Alex said. “If this war goes the distance, sooner or later we’ll be out of Soviet equipment and other Soviet tanks, so we will have to switch to something else.”
Near his subterranean headquarters not far from the front line, Alex’s battalion commander, Bogdan, described the severity of his unit’s situation. The sound of incoming and outgoing artillery echoed in the fields beyond.
“We’re fighting with whatever we captured from the enemy,” Bogdan said, noting that 80 percent of his current supplies was captured Russian equipment.
“It’s no better in other battalions,” he added.
Bogdan’s unit of around 700 troops had arrived to replace Ukrainian forces worn down by casualties and equipment loss. Now, after six months of acting like a “firefighter” by rushing from one frontline hot spot to the next, his troops were facing a similar fate.
“We are losing a lot of men,” Bogdan said. “We can’t cope with their artillery. This, and airstrikes, are big problems.”
Asked about sophisticated, Western-supplied weapons that government officials say will be the big difference-maker, he said that in his brigade, “nobody has foreign equipment,” adding, “We have a great many questions as to where it goes.”
The ‘counteroffensive’ towards Kherson has cost the Ukrainians lots of equipment. At least some of the fifty lost tanks that can be seen in various videos were Polish T-72 with thermal optics. Other videos showed the wreckage of M-113 armored transport vehicles, apparently from the Netherlands. (Those sixty year old aluminum cans offer very little protection and should have been retired decades ago.)
So at least some of the ‘western’ delivered equipment actually makes it to the front lines. Its fate there though is already determined.
But where ALL of the ‘western’ stuff and ALL the money goes is really a great question.
A few weeks ago CBS showed a video report witch provided that only 30% of the ‘western’ military equipment that flows into Ukraine actually reaches the frontline. The rest is sold off to whoever is willing to pay for it. After the Zelenski regime protested against the report, CBS pulled the video to ‘update’ it with new information:
CBS tweeted on Monday that it had removed a video promoting the documentary that included a months-old quote saying most aid was not making it to Ukraine’s front lines.It said it was updating the documentary, called “Arming Ukraine,” with “new information” about the delivery of military aid to Ukraine.
Among the material removed was a quote the founder of pro-Ukraine nonprofit Blue-Yellow, Jonas Ohman, who said in late April that only around 30% of aid was reaching the front lines in Ukraine.
CBS said that “Since that time, Ohman says delivery has improved.” It also noted that the US had sent an official — Brigadier General Garrick M. Harmon — to Kyiv specifically to monitor the use of military aid.
CBS also updated an article that had accompanied the original video report. It now has an editorial note attached to it which says:
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect changes since the CBS Reports documentary “Arming Ukraine” was filmed, and the documentary is also being updated. Jonas Ohman says the delivery has significantly improved since filming with CBS in late April. The government of Ukraine notes that U.S. defense attaché Brigadier General Garrick M. Harmon arrived in Kyiv in August 2022 for arms control and monitoring.
The pulled video summarized reporting and facts gathered over several previous months. The update was published on August 7. The defense attaché arrived in Kiev in early August, just a few days before the ‘update’ was made. If it is even possible to find out to where weapons are flowing in and from Ukraine, it will take him months to get a glimpse of it. His arrival is thus completely irrelevant for the original report. The edited original now says:
Jonas Ohman is founder and CEO of Blue-Yellow, a Lithuania-based organization that has been meeting with and supplying frontline units with non-lethal military aid in Ukraine since the start of the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in 2014. Back in April, he estimated that just “30-40%” of the supplies coming across the border reached its final destination. But he says the situation has significantly improved since then and a much larger quantity now gets where it’s supposed to go.
What does it mean if the loss rate of 70-60%, which previously had NOT reaches the final destination, has now significantly decreased? It is now 45% or 50% of all deliveries that are flowing to where they are NOT supposed to end up?
How come that battalion commander Bogdan has seen none of the foreign supplies?
All those thousands of Stingers, Javelins and other man-portable weapons are of huge interest to various nefarious actors. The weapons that vanish in Ukraine to go somewhere will most likely reach places where they can and will be used against ‘western’ forces or interests.
Those who support the weapon transfers will say that the loss of some share of them does not matter in the big picture. Tell that to those who will die from them.