Ukraine War Day #139: Illarionov And The Mathematics Of Attrition, Act II

Dear Readers:

Continuing with Illarionov’s soliloquy, from around the [13:40] minutes mark into the video. As his guest dishes out his inexorable thesis, host Feigin looks ever more bored and disinterested. One may even detect some sullenness and hostility in Caliban’s body language, tsk tsk. A quick reminder that I am not necessarily translating Illarionov word for word, such transcription is way too time consuming. More like a detailed summary, but taking care not to distort any of the semantics of his utterances. If anybody finds an error in my translation/summary, please let me know.

“I’m sorry, am I not entertaining you?”

Illarionov: We need to look at the tempo with which resources of either coalition are consumed (destroyed), not just their (static) quantity as of the start of the process. We acquire certain data that is published regularly in various sources and by various experts, for example by the Minister of Defense of the Ukraine. Who indicated that, in the course of four months Ukraine has lost 30-50% of its military technology (equipment). About Russian losses we are hearing numbers from the Ukrainian side which correspond to those of American and British intelligence. Even assuming there is a 3 to 1 ratio: 3 Russian pieces lost for every one Ukrainian piece; one takes into account the starting numbers, whereby Russian equipment (tanks, for example) outnumbered Ukrainian by 10 to 1. Then it is child’s play to do the math on paper and conclude that time is on the side of the aggressor.

In order to preserve even the starting relationship, at the beginning of the war, then the ratio of losses along the vector of time would need be a steady 10 to 1 in favor of the victim (=Ukraine). Just to keep things as they were. More than 10 to 1 [for example, 12 Russian tanks lost for each 1 Ukrainian tank], the resource gap between the two sides shortens. Less than 10 to 1, the gap between the two sides will continue to increase [in Russia’s favor]. This is just basic math.

These rules work exactly the same, whatever resource we are talking about. And from these observations we may draw a very important conclusion:

Why does it so happen that an aggressor who is possessed of superior resources would prefer a war of attrition? Because he knows that, even if he is willing to take enormous, colossal losses, losses that would never be acceptable to other (non-aggressor) nations, it is still worth it. Given that the victim will extinguish resources faster than himself. Hence, his own losses are acceptable [to the aggressor].

[Goes off on a tangent about Stalin and the Soviet-Finno war of 1939, I’ll skip over that discussion. It does demonstrate Illarionov’s ideological mindset regarding (a) Stalin = Putin; and (b) Western democracies don’t do these horrible things nor are their peoples willing to make such ghastly sacrifices on behalf of the Leader. But Illarionov also tosses in a talking point, how Stalin decided to bail and negotiate a peace, even though he was creaming Finland, once he learned that the Western democracies had plans to enter the war on Finland’s side. This no doubt a hint to a suggestion (possibly) that said “democracies” should do the same for Ukraine as well.]

[19:08 minutes in] In response to Feigin’s impatient summons to “extrapolate” from the Finnish discussion, Illarionov: It goes without saying that modern Ukraine has a better situation vis-a-vis Russia than Finland did, against the Soviet Union of Stalin’s time. And the war has been going on now for over four months, which is longer than the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-40. And the resources which Ukraine possessed — Ukraine was totally unprepared for the Russian incursion, just as Finland was unprepared for the Soviet incursion. [yalensis: I reckon that’s true, only in the sense that Ukraine was preparing for a war of aggression against Donbass and Crimea, and not prepared for Russian preemptive strike!] And the main stores of military equipment and supplies possessed by the Ukraine were very quickly expended. Not by 100%, but even by 30% or 40% of 50%, that’s a very significant loss.

Given this [very quick expenditure of equipment in the first weeks of the war], in order for Ukraine to continue fighting, against an opponent whose resources are superior by every parameter, the only possibile way to mount an effective resistance, is if Ukraine’s allies supply it with very significant military assistance. And this assistance must be provided not in an abstract sense or with a fuzzy deadline, as in “by the end of the year, by Christmas”, it must be provided continuously, every month, every week, every day, every hour.

What Is The Price Of Victory?

Now we get to the calculations: Just how much military assistance must be provided by its allies, by the Friends of Ukraine. In order for Ukraine to mount an effective resistance to Russian aggression, and for this conflict to continue.

Here it is possible to start making some calculations. How much will it take to start sending more artillery, more Howitzers, HIMARS and so on. This is the sort of thing that military specialists work on. Every piece of equipment, every shell, every bullet, every airplane, costs something, and the costs may vary greatly depending on the type of equipment, other conditions, etc. Nonetheless it is possible to generalize. The general rule is that, in the course of a long war, a war of attrition, waged between two armies of roughly equal technological development, there should be a more or less equivalence of military spending on both sides of the conflict.

[yalensis: and this is where Illarionov gets to the very heart of the thesis that he is presenting, we will see that he names specific dollar amounts that are needed to keep this war going indefinitely. In which context I should mention that many Westie experts actually have no illusion whatsoever that Ukriane can win this war of attrition; their real purpose in keeping it going, is to simply bleed Russia dry. Based on a false historical theory regarding the Soviet Union’s “defeat” in Afghanistan; and I don’t have time here to discuss why this theory is false; but they themselves believe it. But let us give Illarionov the benefit of the doubt and assume that he believes Ukraine still has a tiny chance to win. If the West will do what he says and provide the amounts of dollars that he stipulates. We resume…]

[23:00 minutes in], Illarionov: Let us look at the dollar amounts of military expenses on the side of the coalition of the aggressor. There are various estimates which are discussed. Since May of this year the official [monthly] figures have been classified as secret and not published. But for April we still have the official numbers: Around 600 billion rubles, given the rate of 60 rubles to the dollar, that translates to around $1 billion [American] dollars.

[Then some back and forth with Feigin, this is a little hard for me to understand, because they clarify that the actual official amount spent on the Ukraine war in the month of April, from the Russian side, was more like $10 billion dollars. And this amount does not include, for example, the depreciation of artillery shells. But maybe the actual numbers don’t matter so much, as Illarionov’s broader point, which we shall see, namely, that the Ukrainian side needs to match Russian spending, dollar for dollar, just to stay even!]

[to be continued]

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14 Responses to Ukraine War Day #139: Illarionov And The Mathematics Of Attrition, Act II

  1. moon says:

    Russian military strikes are gradually widening across Ukraine’s Donetsk region as Moscow’s invading forces continue to flatten and prepare to occupy more land. It’s day 138 of Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion, and his patchwork of soldiers are temporarily exhausted, but their officers show no signs of stopping the wider war anytime soon. Indeed, Putin just signed a decree on Monday fast-tracking Russian citizenship to all Ukrainians, not just those living in currently occupied lands like the Luhansk oblast and the Crimean peninsula, according to Russian state-run media TASS.

    Will we move on to the timeframe we mathematically can expect?…


  2. Eye says:

    I’m pretty doubtful about the data assumed in this excercise. I don’t think Russia is losing three times Ukraine’s equipment, given their advantage in firepower; sure we all remember that gigantic armoured column north of Kiev, sitting there for days without being seriously attacked. And now, in a slow artillery war that Russia dominates, I would say that the ratio of losses –equipment, and especially soldiers– is disfavourable to Ukraine.

    (And we’re talking about quantity. But quality is also very important, and I don’t know if Illarionov addresses that. If you lose x troops and the enemy loses 2x, but your x troops were your best, maybe the battle has ended to your disadvantage).

    Liked by 1 person

    • yalensis says:

      I suspect that Illarionov is bending over backwards to give every benefit of the doubt to the Ukrainian side, by twisting all the parameters to give them the best deal possible (also take into account the audience he is addressing: Feigin’s audience!) in order, all the more, to prove the inexorability of Ukraine’s defeat. Barring a deus ex machina intervention from the West, which I think is the point he is trying to argue. You’ll see in the continuation that he coughs up specific dollar amounts which he thinks Ukraine needs from the West, in order to bridge the widening gap.


  3. Hmmm.. a couple of points:
    1) “Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion, and his patchwork of soldiers are temporarily exhausted, ”
    I don’t believe there’s any good evidence for the exhaustion of the Russian and allied soldiers. They’ve been getting rotated out regularly.
    2) I don’t believe there’s a disproportion of casualties in Ukraine’s favour at all, much more likely the other way, especially as these poor conscripts show up. When the Ukrainians are defending field fortifications, it’s one thing, but any movement / retreat / advance it’s a whole different kettle of fish, and I think the casualties get pretty ruinous.


  4. John Jennings says:

    yalensis, next time there’s a ‘slow news day’ in 404, I would really like to read your take on the false western premises regarding the ‘Soviet defeat in Afghanistan’ – and of course, why you think they’re not applicable.
    I have my own ideas, of course, but I’d like to hear yours.
    I will say this much: The USSR spent half as long as the US in Afghanistan, and also spent a much smaller fraction of the money there. Yet Moscow’s ‘puppet regime’ in Kabul held off the mujahideen and survived for three years after Russian troops pulled out. Moreover the direct cause of the regime’s collapse wasn’t military pressure. It was internal dissention, brought to a head by the Soviet breakup on 12/31/1991 and resulting cutoff of funds, ammunition and other supplies.
    I arrived in Kabul in early December ’91. Until the following April, three concentric belts of security posts circled the city, keeping mujahideen mortars long-range rockets out of range. You could walk or drive anywhere in town. The biggest threat to a western reporter’s health was drinking too much vodka at the UN club and then passing out in a snowbank (’91-’92 was an unusually harsh winter.)
    After 2012, I worked on and off for several as a military contractor in Afghanistan. (I was basically a glorified field medic for a private firm involved in officer corps training.) Kabul’s streets were so dangerous, under America’s puppets, that embassy contractors generally commuted the 3 miles from their quarters to work by helicopter. In 2017 a truck bomber drove past who knows how many govt checkpoints and detonated his rig in the heart of the diplomatic quarter.
    The Taliban occupied Kabul while hundreds of troops, contractors and other Americans were still in the city!
    If nothing else, the Soviets were much better puppet-masters than we proved to be.


    • yalensis says:

      John, that sounds like a dangerous life you had, yikes! Yeah, my assessment of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan sounds similar to yours. In a nutshell, I don’t believe the Soviets actually lost the war on the ground, quite the other way around. Like you said, it was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Yeltsin-Gorbachov betrayal which doomed the pro-Soviet government there.

      However, the “geniuses” in Westworld believe in the myth that (a) the wonder-weapon Stingers made all the difference against Soviet troops, (b) they and their jihadist allies defeated the Soviet Union on the battlefield, (c) the Soviets had to pull out because of mass anti-war sentiment at home, similar to the U.S. with Vietnam; and last but not least, (d) the Soviet defeat led inexorably to the collapse of the USSR.

      All 4 of these points are unfactual myths. But, sadly, Westies believe them, and are allowing these myths to dictate their attitude towards the current conflict in Ukraine. Which is why, when you read propaganda rags like Forbes or Newsweek, you will see them promulgating these myths and gloating about the imminent Russian defeat in the Ukraine. Which, they fervently believe, will lead to a mass uprising of the Russian people against Putin, and then to the economic collapse of Russia.

      All of these myths are just that, myths.
      As to the last one, in reality, although this Ukraine war is doubtless an economic burden on Russia, the final result will be an economic boon. The newly conquered territories, once they are cleaned up and restored, will provide a bonus of extra population, agricultural wealth, and industrial capacity for Russia. They will make Russia rich, in other words.

      This is somewhat different from Afghanistan, which the Soviets poured a lot of money into, but did not receive a real dividend from this investment, as far as I know; given that most of the money invested was “altruistic” and there was no intention of annexing Afghanistan as a Soviet Republic. But much of current “Ukraine” will be annexed to Russia, and will be a source of future wealth and revenues.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Jennings says:

        Thanks very very much. The myths you describe seem to rest directly on misattributed causes of observed effects, ie the ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy. Of course – as with Ukraine’s ‘unexpectedly stalwart resistance’ – some of the effects were never observed and are pure fiction! (Specifically the idea that the Red Army was defeated in battle.)
        The failure to teach basic critical thinking skills has been a huge shortcoming in American public education as long as I can remember. It was especially obvious to me, even back in the ’70s, because I had the great good fortune to attend a Jesuit high school for 9th grade, then sadly, transferred back to public school for 10th through 12th.
        In the half-century since then, this weakness seems to have infected and overcome the elite institutions that train our policymakers. Hence the rise of preposterous ‘disciplines’ like ‘gender theory.’ Like many other elite progressive obsessions, including most aspects of the official US Russia narrative, gender theory is completely non-falsifiable.


        • yalensis says:

          Hi, John, I have also noticed that most Americans have no skills in logical thinking. This is particularly frustrating in my line of work, which is computer coding. Which is nothing BUT logic! Binary logic, to be sure, but still logic.
          l heard somewhere that a Jesuit education was the best and most rigorous, in terms of logical thinking, ability to debate, etc. I’m sure that’s true, but I find it hilarious, since Jesuitism itself is based on religion, which is the very antipathy of science. However, from what I understand, the logicala skills are trained based on acceptance of hypotheses. For example, if one accepts the hypothesis that God is a tri-partite entity, then one can develop a series of theorems which flow logically from that; and so on.
          As to gender theory, eegh, don’t even get me started. I am sure this nonsense came out of some CIA lab where they endeavor to baffle the minds of the youth and squelch all critical thinking. While those who came up this are probably doubled over with laughter. And in the end we will learn that the whole thing was just a massive prank, dreamed up by the same people who produce that hilarious American TV show, “Impractical Jokers” !


  5. moon says:

    But much of current “Ukraine” will be annexed to Russia, and will be a source of future wealth and revenues.

    You feel that Russia wants to change the rules of UN and/or international law, back to granting the right of conquest?

    Jake’s scenario, linked below, may be as much wishful thinking as yours, but I find it interesting:

    Full discovery, Dutch and Austrian responses drew my attention during the Greece crisis, just as I discovered that I may well be a lapsed liberal to some extent, at least I seem to be, if confronted with Versace socialists, like Yanis Varoufakis and his international V.I.P. contacts.. 😉 …

    Well, ok. You break it you owe it.


    • yalensis says:

      One man’s “right of conquest” is another man’s “right of peoples to self-determination”.
      Oh right, that only applies to “peoples” which the Americans approve of.


  6. moon says:

    One man’s “right of conquest” … Oh right, that only applies to “peoples” which the Americans approve of.

    Like which? Israel? And …? Who else?

    the US itself? Well the US of A is a ‘pointillist empire’ I just learned, Great coinage:
    To facilitate their crusade, Americans constructed what the historian Daniel Immerwahr has dubbed a “pointillist empire.” While most empires traditionally relied on the seizure and occupation of vast territories, the United States built military bases around the world to project its power. From these outposts, it launched wars that killed millions, protected a capitalist system that benefited the wealthy, and threatened any power—democratic or otherwise—that had the temerity to disagree with it


    • moon says:

      Citation, Harper’s Magazin, July 2022, Daniel Bessner, Empire Burlesque, What comes after the American Century?


    • yalensis says:

      The American government approves of the following peoples (this is just a partial list, just winging it off my memory): Israel (of course, that goes without saying); all the NATO countries; Taiwan; Ukraine; Kosovo; Australia; Japan; who did I leave out? Saudi Arabia?

      The rest of the world supports Russia and hence are not certified as democracies nor as civilized nations.


  7. moon says:

    Not exactly good examples for annexation*, but I get your drift. Yesterday I came across an allusion to a US admin related event in May, which the author suggested seem to circle around the unspoken question of how Russia could be broken up based on its diverse minorities or strictly regional majorities. …

    * I would like to ignore issues like independence struggles in NATO states like Spain. And admittedly am no expert on a possible Japan-Russia Isle struggle (?). Taiwan, annexed by the West. Yes, somewhat in times of Global Britain. Turkey in Syria and Iraq has not quite reached an annexation status. And yes, Kosovo some terrorists seemingly were our best friends. I am fully open concerning double standards.


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