Ukraine at D+266: Missile strikes and aggrieved amour propre.
N2K logoNov 17, 2022

Russia's bombardment of Ukrainian cities and infrastructure resumes (but against a general background of combat failure).

Ukraine at D+266: Missile strikes and aggrieved amour propre.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) yesterday bluntly and accurately summarized what happened on Tuesday. "More than 80 Russian missiles struck Ukraine yesterday, killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. Yet the Kremlin claimed that it would only carry out 'surgical strikes' on military targets." The AP reports that drone and missile strikes continued against residences and electrical power generation and distribution today.

Missile strikes, air defense, and the continuing investigation of the incident in Poland.

The MoD's situation report this morning elaborated on this week's strikes. "Over the afternoon of 15 November, Russia carried out up to 80 long range missile strikes, mostly against power infrastructure targets across Ukraine. This is likely the largest number of strikes that Russia has conducted in a single day since the first week of the invasion. Munitions were launched from air, sea and land-based platforms. Although a large proportion of missiles were successfully intercepted, Ukraine is facing a significant decrease in the power available from its national grid. This will impact upon civilian access to communications, heating and water supplies. Continued strikes at this scale are drawing deeply upon Russia’s reserves of conventional cruise missiles, as degrading Ukrainian’s national infrastructure has become a key element of Russia’s strategic approach to the campaign."

Al Jazeera reports that Ukraine has been able to restore power to many areas, and also that the electrical grid in neighboring Moldova has been affected by damage to transmission lines connecting it to Ukraine.

It was in response to these heavy strikes that Ukraine fired air defense weapons. One of those, a Soviet-era S-300, may have been the missile that fell into a Polish farm near the border, killing two. That incident was initially read as a Russian missile (either aimed or malfunctioning) but Polish and NATO sources were quick to investigate and within hours had concluded that the incident was probably the result of a Ukrainian mishap. Investigation continues, and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy still maintains the weapon was not fired by his country's forces. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg pointed out that in any case Russia, as the aggressor, bore ultimate responsibility for the deaths, since Ukraine was defending itself against heavy and indiscriminate Russian missile fire.

The White House released a statement yesterday on the missile that fell in Poland:

"We have full confidence in the Polish government’s investigation of the explosion near their border with Ukraine, and we commend them for the professional and deliberate manner in which they are conducting it. We will not get ahead of their work and remain in close touch with our Polish counterparts, as we are still gathering information. We have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland. We will continue to assess and share any new information transparently as it becomes available. We will also continue to stay in close touch with the Ukrainians regarding any information they have to fill out the picture.

"That said, whatever the final conclusions may be, it is clear that the party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles on Ukraine specifically intended to target civilian infrastructure. Ukraine had — and has — every right to defend itself." 

For its part, Russia says it's the real victim here, specifically the victim of "Russophobia." The Kremlin has, the Daily Beast reports, demanded an apology of Warsaw for thinking ill of Moscow. Official Russian statements continue to represent judgment as insult, insult as injury (and, eventually, injury as provocation and casus belli).

A negative assessment of Russian combat performance across all domains.

The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, yesterday assessed Russian combat performance so far in its war of choice:

"So across the entire front line trace of some 900 or so kilometers, the Ukrainians have achieved success after success after success and the Russians have failed every single time. They've lost strategically, they've lost operationally, and I repeat, they lost tactically.

"What they've tried to do, they failed at. They started this war and Russia can end this war. Russia can make another choice, and they could make a choice today, to end this war. However, Russia is choosing to use their time to attempt to regroup their forces and they are imposing a campaign of terror, a campaign of maximum suffering on the Ukrainian civilian population in order to defeat Ukrainian morale.

"The Russians are striking throughout the depth and breadth of all of Ukraine with air-launched cruise missiles, with Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles, and with other types of munitions. They are striking the Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, and it has little or no military purpose."

He also thinks, however, that complete expulsion of Russian forces from all the territory they occupy is unlikely apart from the complete collapse of the Russian army, which he also thinks unlikely. Thus he argues that Ukraine's best hope is for a favorable political solution while Russia is "on its back."

Independently, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy Mieke Eoyang, in what by now has become one of the standard observations about Russia's war, that Moscow's cyber operations have "underperformed" prewar expectations. The Hill quotes her as saying, “I think we were expecting much more significant impacts than what we saw. I think it’s safe to say that Russian cyber forces as well as their traditional military forces underperformed expectations.” She thinks that the evidence shows Russia to have been unprepared for an unexpectedly protracted war.