Discover more from The View from the Front. By Stan R. Mitchell.
The view from the front for 7/15/22.
Happy Friday! Hope you’ve had a great week!
One quick administrative note: the last newsletter is unlocked and no longer paywalled, for those who missed it. You can read it here: The view from the front for 7/12/22.
Also, up above the header, you’ll an audio upload, so you can now listen to the edition instead of just reading it.
We’re going to begin today’s edition with Ukraine.
As you may recall, in the Tuesday edition, I shared quite a bit of video and analysis from Twitter about the way our HIMARS rocket system.
HIMARS stands for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and these have been absolutely wrecking Russian forces now that they’ve arrived in Ukraine.
I collected lots of data and shared it in the Tuesday post, which supports this analysis. But low and behold, The Economist published an impressive piece on this same topic.
Am I saying that because I live on Twitter, searching for scraps of the tiniest imaginable data, that I covered something before The Economist? Yes, I am.
Yes, I am.
Am I also saying that The Economist covered that same issue with better clarity and authority than I did? Oh, I’m absolutely saying that.
But a subscription to The Economist will cost you four times as much as my newsletter, so there’s that. lol
Nonetheless, The Economist notes that the HIMARS are popping ammunition depots like some adult pops balloons at the county fair.
Nineteen ammunition depots have been hit to date, and they’ve also taken out several command posts, killing several Russian colonels and generals in the process.
And if Russia moves the new ammunition depots further back, it’s going to further strain the logistical nightmare for its army. Russia’s trucks will have to drive farther, and these trucks will increasingly become targeted as the linchpin that is holding the Russian Army together.
Moving away from the frontline of Russia to its larger picture, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius notes the following:
Ignatius also added the following:
The best evidence that sanctions are working, albeit slowly, comes from Russian officials themselves. “The situation is not easy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged last month. Herman Gref, the head of Sberbank, Russia’s largest, warned: “We may need around a decade to return [the] economy to the 2021 levels.” He told journalists recently that cargo shipments to Russia had fallen sixfold because of Western sanctions.
This is going to eventually affect Russia’s military and oh-so-much more. As Ignatius writes:
“We’re playing the long game, too,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told me on Thursday. The United States assembled a coalition of three dozen countries to support the sanctions, she noted, with this satisfying result: Exports of semiconductors to Russia have fallen 74 percent compared with a year ago. “You can’t sustain a modern military without semiconductors,” Raimondo observed.
Speaking for myself, I don’t know if the citizens of Russia are quite as spoiled as we are here in America, but once you can’t buy a new iPhone or other electronic device that you’re craving, I think that’s when Putin is really going to feel the internal pressure.
But the internal pressure might actually already be building.
Russian expert Fiona Hill recently spoke about this in the below video.
Hill, who’s a former official at the U.S. National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs, and who’s also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, made the following points in the interview.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was supposed to be up for re-election in 2024, but he signed an executive order in 2020 that changed the Russian Constitution to allow him to run for two additional six-year terms.
That means he’s now there until 2036.
Hill says in the interview that President Putin is less popular than most know, and that as his unpopularity grows, there's more incentive for those around him to maneuver against him.
As such, Hill made a couple of other points. She speculates that Putin wants to seem popular, and that he wants to end the conflict in Ukraine.
She ends by saying that locking up Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is not a sign of someone who’s confident.
My take on what Hill says is that barring some kind of overthrow at home for Putin, it leaves the Ukraine situation in a complete and total mess.
Because even if Putin wants peace, he would need to negotiate to hang onto what Russia has captured.
But numerous Ukrainian officials have said that they won’t stop fighting until they’ve taken back every inch of Ukrainian soil. And that includes the peninsula of Crimea, which Russia formally seized that in 2014.
So for now, the war will grind on unfortunately.
Moving to the Middle East, President Joe Biden has traveled there and is meeting with Saudi Arabia today.
He started the trip in Israel, and the AP had a wonderful summary of the situation that he entered.
During a visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday, President Joe Biden offered compassion and financial assistance for hope-starved Palestinians but also delivered a blunt acknowledgment that the “ground is not ripe” for new attempts to reach an elusive peace.
Political uncertainty in Israel, which is holding another round of elections in November, and the weakness of Palestinian Authority leadership has dimmed any chance of restarting negotiations that broke down more than a decade ago.
According to the White House fact sheet following the visit, Biden pledged “new contributions totaling $316 million to support the Palestinian people. This is on top of the more than half a billion dollars the United States has provided to the Palestinian people since the Biden Administration restored much-needed funding to the Palestinians,” according to the fact sheet.
Israel has also committed to upgrading wireless networks in the West Bank and Gaza.
Biden left Israel and the West Bank and visits with Saudi Arabia today.
CNN reports that “while oil production is not expected to be the main topic of the meeting, US officials do expect the topic to arise.”
The United States hopes that Saudia Arabia will boost production.
But Biden says he’s traveling to Saudi Arabia as part of a "much broader" agenda to promote US interests.
He also plans to meet with leaders from Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.
CNN quoted Biden as saying “he has an opportunity to fix the "mistake" of "walking away from our influence in the Middle East," a reference to the Trump administration.
From the story, which quoted Biden:
"There are so many issues at stake that I want to make clear that we can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum -- a vacuum that is filled by China and or Russia, against the interest of both Israel and the United States and many other countries," Biden said.
I’m definitely glad that Biden is staying engaged in the Middle East, and I’m most certainly hoping Saudia Arabia turns on the gas pump.
Let’s end with some motivation and wisdom.
That’s it for this edition.
As a reminder, please be kind and endeavor to love your fellow Americans. We need to pull this country together, and that starts with all of us.
And if you love what you’re reading, throw a couple of bucks in the hat by subscribing below.
Stan R. Mitchell
P.S. Don’t forget to check out my books. I’ve written a CIA/Marine sniper series, a detective series, a private investigator series, an action-packed Western, a leadership/biography book, and two realistic war novels: one about World War IIand one about Afghanistan.