Happy Victory in Europe Day! The general cease-fire went into effect on May 8, 1945 at 11:01pm German time — so already 12:01am on May 9 in Russia, hence they celebrate VE-Day a day later. (As does Israel, because of our fairly large number of Jewish WWII veterans from the USSR.)
(a) Roland Oliphant of the Daily Telegraph wonders if Putin, at tomorrow’s VE-Day parade, will call “double” or “quits” on the Ukraine war.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, believes the gambler in the Kremlin will go for the former.
Mr Putin, he claims, will use the parade to declare a new “war” against the Nazis so he can mobilise reservists in a bid to muster enough men for a final big push to defeat Ukraine.
A state of war is a legal requirement for such a move, and some in the Kremlin may be wary of frightening the public by admitting the “special military operation” has come to a rerun of 1941.
But there is another constituency in Russia – particular among those charged with actually fighting the war – who like the idea.
“It’s like this:” wrote the Reverse Side of the Medal, a Telegram channel run by members of Russia Wagner mercenary company, on Friday. “There will be mobilisation, or we’ll lose the war. Total defeat of Ukraine requires 600,000 to 800,000 men.”
The anonymous author did not show how he came to that figure. But it is not a bad stab at illustrating the scale of the challenge.
[…] But political considerations may stay Mr Putin’s hand.
For a start, “total defeat” of Ukraine is already out of reach.
The decision in late March to abandon the battle for Kyiv and retreat from Sumy and Chernihiv marked the end of that dream – for the time being.
“I don’t see any rational reason for this decision,” said Nikolai Petrov, a senior researcher at Chatham House who has for decades followed Russian domestic policy.
“It will still not be enough to invade the whole of Ukraine. There is a lack of officers and lack of equipment. What does it mean to get additional unskilled soldiers?”
One thing it would mean is further dislocation of an economy already under severe strainas men are taken out of their jobs.
And it would also bring the war uncomfortably close to home.
(b) On the other hand, the business section of the Jerusalem Post reports that, bizarrely, layoffs are taking place at Russian defense industries!
A Russian facility responsible for the production of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) has been shut down due to import restrictions and Western sanctions. This is because, as noted by employees, “almost nothing Russian” is used during the critical state of production when electronic components are used.
Most of the Russian military’s electronic components were provided by Germany, but with sanctions in place, Germany is no longer providing Russia with any supplies.
With the factories closed, however, the workers are given one of two choices: Go on unpaid leave or join the Russian army to serve in the war with Ukraine, preferably as a SAM operator, and get a monthly salary of 50,000 rubles (around $600).
Earlier in April, a Vladivostok shipyard was allegedly unable to meet 25 billion rubles’ worth of government orders to build two tankers, two missile boats, and to maintain and repair other vessels.
“It is obvious that the Russian military-industrial complex remains dependent on imported high technologies,” Ukraine’s GUR said. “Without the supply of which Russia is unable to continue production of modern weapons.”
I remember a story of an old electronics engineer who emigrated here from the then-USSR. When he applied for an exit visa in the 1970s so he could come to Israel, his request was denied “because he knew too many military secrets”.
“What are you talking about? Our electronics are 20 years behind the West!”
“That is the secret.”
(c) BP meds in wartime: meet “Patron” [*] the bomb-sniffing Jack Russell Terrier. Jack Russells [or their American cousins, Rat Terriers] are awesome.
[*] patron literally means cartridge or [ammunition] round, a cognate of German Patrone and Dutch patroon.