Ukraine seeks to maintain its momentum going into the winter, as the US and France pledge continued support and say any negotiations are up to Kyiv. Russia apparently DDoSed the Vatican, and Google pledges further support to Ukraine.
Ukraine at D+281: International support for Ukraine.
As both sides settle in for a winter war, Ukraine's ability to sustain the momentum it's achieved depends significantly on sustained and enhanced support from its NATO sympathizers. An Atlantic Council assessment concludes, "The most important step Ukraine and the West can take to contribute to diplomacy is to support Ukraine’s war effort with military equipment, training, and economic support."
Logistics failures compound Russian difficulties during the coming winter war.
When Russian forces find themselves confined to primitive static defensive positions and increasingly desultory artillery fire this winter, it won't be the mud as much as it will be the logistics. "Russia’s withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River last month has provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with opportunities to strike additional Russian logistics nodes and lines of communication," the UK's Ministry of Defence said in this morning's situation report. "This threat has highly likely prompted Russian logisticians to relocate supply nodes, including rail transfer points, further south and east. Russian logistics units will need to conduct extra labour-intensive loading and unloading from rail to road transport. Road moves will subsequently still be vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery as they move on to supply Russian forward defensive positions. Russia’s shortage of munitions (exacerbated by these logistics challenges) is likely one of the main factors currently limiting Russia’s potential to restart effective, large scale offensive ground operations."
Diplomacy and Russia's war against Ukraine.
Yesterday the Presidents of France and the United States held a summit meeting during which the war in Ukraine figured prominently. The relevant section of the presidents' joint communiqué after their meeting is as follows:
"The Presidents strongly condemn Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine and stress that intentionally targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure constitutes war crimes whose perpetrators must be held accountable. They also condemn and reject Russia’s illegal attempted annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory, in clear violation of international law. The United States and France deplore Russia’s deliberate escalatory steps, notably its irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and its disinformation regarding alleged chemical attacks, and biological and nuclear weapons programs. They reaffirm their nations’ continued support for Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the provision of political, security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes. This includes the provision of significant resources to support Ukrainian civilian resilience through the winter, including stepping up the delivery of air defense systems and equipment needed to repair Ukraine’s energy grid. The United States and France plan to continue working with partners and allies to coordinate assistance efforts, including at the international conference taking place in Paris on December 13, 2022. They also intend to continue providing robust direct budget support for Ukraine, and to urge the international financial institutions to scale up their financial support.
"The United States and France reiterate their duty to uphold applicable international obligations and the principles and purposes of the UN Charter. They also reiterate their steadfast resolve to hold Russia to account for widely documented atrocities and war crimes, committed both by its regular armed forces and by its proxies, including mercenary entities such as Vagner and others, through support for international accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, the Ukrainian prosecutor general, UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, and the OSCE Moscow Mechanism, sanctions, and other means.
"The United States and France remain committed to addressing the wider effects of Russia’s war, including working with the international community to build greater resilience to food and energy disruptions."
Russia this week signaled its interest in holding talks with the United States (which, as Foreign Minister Lavrov says, Russia now considers to be fully committed to the war) despite Russia's recent decision to delay continued START arms control talks. The Russian side blames American intransigence, saying that, as Republic World quotes Sputnik, all the US needs to do is recognize "Russia's critical security interests." With respect to general negotiations over Russia's war, the New York Times reports that US President Biden was open to talks with President Putin that might lead to a negotiated settlement, but that Russia's war of aggression would need to cease before that would become possible. French President Macron was even more unequivocal in his support for Ukraine, but both presidents agreed that the timing and goals of any negotiation were something for Ukraine to decide.
Diplomacy even in the Near Abroad has been trending against Russia: Mr. Putin's battlefield reverses, the Atlantic Council reports, are losing him even the tepid, residual acquiescence he once enjoyed in Kazakhstan.
NATO considers moving to "threat-informed" exercises.
Breaking Defense, reporting on remarks delivered this week at I/ITSEC 2022, notes that NATO is looking toward "threat-informed" exercises with a view to enhancing their deterrent effect. Major General Jessica Meyeraan, US European Command's director of exercises assessments, said an “interesting development that occurred over the course of the last 12 to 24 months in the NATO parlance is an acknowledgment that we need to focus on a real-world threat. And what I mean by that is there, for very important and for political reasons, there had been a practice, or still is, [that] we need to reassure political leaders within NATO that [exercises are] appropriate, safe to do and they need to give [their] blessing in order to do it. But on the military side, there’s an acknowledgment that… if we’re going to be plans-based as we align our exercises, we need to be threat-informed as well, which is a very important, very powerful development that is going on right now.”
There's always a certain sensitivity about naming the adversary in military exercises, which is one reason why opposing sides are commonly given the anodyne names "Blue" (friendlies) and "Orange" (unfriendlies), a convention that goes back to the Prussian army's 19th-century Kriegspiele. Even at the height of the Cold War's endgame, delicatesse moved the US Army to call the opposing force it so vigorously trained against the "Krasnovians," which maybe spared some diplomatic feelings, but then no one was in any serious doubt about whom the wily Krasos actually represented. Moving in the direction suggested by General Meyeraan isn't an idle gesture. It means that exercises would be clearly focused on Russia tactics, techniques, procedures, and systems. That won't go unnoticed in Moscow.
DDoSing the Vatican.
Euronews reports that the Vatican sustained a significant distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against its sites shortly after Pope Francis made public remarks interpreted as critical of Russia's war. (The pope had singled out some Russian conscript formations as exhibiting significant "cruelty" in their operations.) The DDoS attacks began Wednesday evening, and were described as "abnormal access attempts." A Vatican spokesman said, "Technical investigations are ongoing due to abnormal attempts to access the site,”
The Vatican offered no attribution, but Ukraine's ambassador to the Holy See wasn't shy about fingering Moscow's operators. Ambassador Andrii Yurash tweeted, "[Russian] terrorists reach today sites of CityStateVatican:many on-line Pages of Different structures of Roman Curia have Become inaccessible! [Russian] hackers one more time demonstrate real [Russian] Face o fpolitics, directly define[d] by PA of CE as Terrorist: [Russia's] response on last important statements of @Pontifex."
Google announces new support for Ukraine.
There's been much discussion of assistance Western governments have rendered Ukraine in cyberspace, including hunt-forward operations by US Cyber Command. Kyiv also continues to receive support from the private sector. Google yesterday announced further measures it was taking to support Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Google and its employees are providing some direct financial support--some $45 million--as well as contributions of services in kind:
"We’re continuing to provide critical cybersecurity and technical infrastructure support by making a new donation of 50,000 Google Workspace licenses for the Ukrainian government. By providing these licenses and giving a year of free access to our Workspace solutions, including our cloud-first, zero-trust security model, we can help ensure Ukrainian public institutions have the security and protection they need to deal with constant threats to their digital systems."
Other assistance includes a range of cooperative cybersecurity services and help combating disinformation. The aid being rendered in information operations includes both action against Russian disinformation and measures taken to surface accurate information about the war.