Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Can Ukraine Militarily Defeat the Far-Right Russian Ethnic-Cleanser Invader? Is the “Porcupine” Military Resistance Strategy Working?

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At first, since the winter of 2021, many well-educated observers doubted Russia would invade Ukraine. Then many of them expected a quick crushing Russian military victory. Facts, stubborn things, have demolished these predictions.

Writing in the Good Friday 2022 edition of the Irish Times, Brussels Correspondent Naomi O’Leary introduces us to the “Porcupine Strategy” :

The Ukrainian Military Porcupine Strategy

The resilience and effectiveness of Ukraine’s defence, and ability to impose great costs on Russia despite Moscow’s vastly greater numbers, have significance far beyond Ukraine.

It’s a vindication of the so-called porcupine strategy that underpins the defence of many other states that contend with a larger neighbour they suspect of territorial designs.

Estonia (1.3 million), Latvia (1.9 million), and Lithuania (2.8 million) will always suffer a numerical disadvantage compared to Russia (144 million). They have long feared the expansionary ambitions of their large neighbour, particularly since the annexation of Crimea.

Their strategy in response is not to try to match Moscow’s numbers – that would be impossible – but to make themselves indigestible. More trouble to attack than they are worth.

Is it possible that, in months and years to come, the Ukraine policy : militarily resist the Russian invasion – using weapons wherever they could get them – will be hailed as the “common sense” view of all on the left? That might seem unlikely now, but stubborn facts should force a rethink. A selection of left policies, Good Friday 2022 vintage, such as

  • “It is an inter-imperialist war!”
  • “Don’t throw petrol on the flames”
  • “We oppose all NATO/EU sanctions against Russia” –
  • Don’t Expel the Russian Ambassador”

are, today , antiquated, useless, and gobshite policies.

We refer first to this blog article :

Which has this intro :

“Every major war tests news sources. Blizzards of disinformation should not deter us from seeking the truth. We can identify good and bad journalists. Two excellent war reporters are quoted here. Tony Connelly of the Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ, and Daniel McLaughlin of the Irish Times. We need them. We are attempting to rescue the reputation of the international revolutionary anti-war Left. In this respect the quotations below from two outstanding chroniclers of World War 1 and the 1917 Russian Revolution – John Reed and Leon Trotsky, are extremely good guides for activists combatting the Russian Ethnic Cleanser invasion of Ukraine in dark days of 2022.”

You can read the Connelly and McLaughlin reports in the above referenced blog story – my key observation is that they have not dated, and contain penetrating insights about the the ethnic-cleansing and far-right nature of the Russia-Ukraine war.


In the same vein – see below two reports by Daniel McLaughlin and Naomi O’Leary in the Good Friday 2022 edition of the Irish Times which suggest – to those willing to learn – that the mighty Russian bear can be militarily defeated – or at least stymied – by a plucky little Ukrainian Porcupine.

When porcupines are on the bear’s menu, and the grizzly stupidly eats, the result is gruesome.

All of this should give us some hope, cautious room for optimism. Nothing is guaranteed, but we must applaud the efforts of the rebels in Ukraine – they are attempting to defeat NATO’s number one recruiter, the ethnic-cleanser Russian invader. In a similar spirit, USA comrade and broadcaster Suzi Weissman reports that brave activists in the city of Ekaterinburg are destroying police cars :

Thanks Clayton Black: “According to police in Ekaterinburg, cars in the city with the letter “Z” on them (as a show of solidarity with the “military operation”) have all but disappeared. Those that display the letter have their windows smashed in or their tires slashed at night. And an additional source of information reports that roughly 11 million Russians have close relatives in Ukraine.

We would all like an uprising against Putin (or, at least, most of us in the West would), but we need to remember that quite large demonstrations against him in the past have not produced desired results but, rather, have led to mass arrests at the hands of a heavily armed and armored police force that remains loyal. The costs of failure are high for the individuals who risk themselves. But many people are still risking themselves in smaller ways, and no matter what the (seriously flawed) surveys say, the loyalty of large sections of the population is not something Putin can take for granted. And circumstances in authoritarian states can change quickly and unexpectedly.

Perhaps I’m naive, but I will continue to take heart from reports such as these that the now mostly silent opposition will not remain so forever and that the return to 1937 will not be fully complete in 2022.”

Link to the information about the author https://againstthecurrent.org/suzi-weissman/


John Meehan, April 15 2022

Vindication of so-called porcupine strategy has lessons for Ireland

Naomi O’Leary, Irish Times, Friday April 15 2022

Moscow and Kyiv agree on some facts: namely, that the Russian naval flagship the Moskva is out of action after an explosion.

Ukrainian forces take credit for ending the reign of the Black Sea behemoth in a Neptune missile hit, while Russia’s defence ministry has said there was a fire and that ammunition exploded, without stating a cause. They later said it had sunk while being towed back to port.

The ship was a key part of Russia’s dominance of the Black Sea, helping Moscow supply and support its land invasion while launching cruise missiles from the water that can hit anywhere in Ukraine. 

Its destruction is symbolically important as Russia’s leading ship in the fleet. But also because it was the vessel involved in the standoff with the Ukrainian border guards of Snake Island, in which they replied to a demand for their surrender with the now-famous words “Russian warship, go f**k yourself”.

It would be particularly striking for a naval flagship to have been taken out by a country without much of a navy of its own: most of Ukraine’s navy was lost when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

It also adds to mounting and costly Russian losses, most strikingly shown in the columns of burnt-out tanks .

Prior to the war Russia was calculated to have four times as many active troops as Ukraine, a similar ratio of armoured fighting vehicles, even more of an advantage in aircraft, and 49 submarines to Kyiv’s zero.

The resilience and effectiveness of Ukraine’s defence, and ability to impose great costs on Russia despite Moscow’s vastly greater numbers, have significance far beyond Ukraine.

It’s a vindication of the so-called porcupine strategy that underpins the defence of many other states that contend with a larger neighbour they suspect of territorial designs.

Estonia (1.3 million), Latvia (1.9 million), and Lithuania (2.8 million) will always suffer a numerical disadvantage compared to Russia (144 million). They have long feared the expansionary ambitions of their large neighbour, particularly since the annexation of Crimea.

Their strategy in response is not to try to match Moscow’s numbers – that would be impossible – but to make themselves indigestible. More trouble to attack than they are worth.

Guerilla warfare

Determination and perseverance despite being vastly outnumbered is crucial. The logic goes that even if territory were to be successfully seized by the invading army it would face determined guerilla warfare from domestic forces that would make it difficult and expensive to keep. 

There was significant scepticism internationally towards this approach and how effective it would prove in the face of Russian military brute force, particularly given its emphasis on light infantry forces bolstered by volunteer and national guard units trained up from the civilian population.

These doubts may be why western governments and Moscow both expected Kyiv to crumble within days of the invasion. Of course, it has not.

The lesson has some relevance for Ireland.

There’s a common misconception in Ireland that in order to have any value, defence forces must match in strength any potential invading army. This is obviously impossible for small countries, and is not the aim. Rather it is to make the country not worth the bother.

Russian officials say villages targeted

Kyiv claims Moscow planning to stage ‘false flag’ attacks to whip up hysteria

Daniel McLaughlin, Irish Times, April 15 2022

Moscow has accused Ukraine’s military of striking Russian villages and warned that it could retaliate by targeting key strategic sites in Kyiv, prompting Ukrainian officials to warn that Russia plans to stage attacks on its own territory to “whip up anti-Ukrainian hysteria”.Officials in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions of Russia, which border Ukraine, said yesterday that Ukrainian forces had attacked at least three villages, following earlier disputed claims that Kyiv’s military had hit border posts, a railway line and a fuel depot in Russia.

“On April 14th, 2022, using two combat helicopters equipped with heavy offensive weapons, military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine illegally entered the airspace of the Russian Federation,” Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement.

“Moving at low altitude, they carried out at least six air strikes on residential buildings in the village of Klimovo,” it said, adding that seven people were injured.

Officials in the Belgorod border region said the village of Spodaryushino had been shelled from Ukrainian territory and that its residents, and those of nearby Bezymeno village, had been temporarily evacuated. No one was reported to be hurt in the shelling.

Some Russian officials have also blamed Ukraine for recent mortar strikes on border posts, a helicopter attack that destroyed a major fuel depot in Belgorod, and an explosion that mangled a railway line used by Russia’s military to move troops and armour to Ukraine.

Ukraine has not taken responsibility for any of the incidents, and some Kyiv officials call them Russian “false flag” operations to justify the war and more attacks on Ukrainian cities, and to stiffen public support for an invasion that has suffered major setbacks.

“We see attempts of sabotage and strikes by Ukrainian troops on sites on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said this week. “If such cases continue the armed forces of the Russian Federation will strike at decision-making centres, including in Kyiv, which the Russian army has so far refrained from doing.”

Hysteria

The anti-disinformation centre of Ukraine’s national security council said that “the enemy’s special services have launched a plan to carry out terrorist attacks to whip up anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russia”.

Moscow frames its all-out invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24th, as a “special military operation” that it was forced to conduct to preserve its own security in the face of hostile western powers that are using Ukraine as a “bridgehead” to attack Russia.

Russia’s military has yet to seize control of any major Ukrainian city, and it has been driven back from outside Kyiv, prompting Moscow’s state media to portray the war now as a battle not only against Ukraine, but a shadowy alliance of western powers.

The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine – which has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 10 million – has prompted Finland and Sweden to re-assess their long-held military neutrality and consider a swift application to join the Nato military alliance.

Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said yesterday that any change to security arrangements in the region would “seriously worsen the military situation and bring about the most undesirable consequences that need to be avoided”.

“It is clear that our border with Finland is 1,300 km long. This will mean a radical change in the military and political situation, and it is understandable that we will be forced to take security and defence measures that we will deem necessary,” he added.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, warned that his country would deploy hypersonic missiles, nuclear-capable rockets and nuclear-armed ships close to Sweden and Finland if they joined Nato.The threat of Russia potentially using tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine cannot be taken lightly, the head of the CIA has said.

However, CIA director William Burns said yesterday that the intelligence agency had not seen a lot of practical evidence to reinforce that concern.

In a speech at Georgia Tech, Mr Burns spoke of the “potential desperation” and military setbacks that Russian president Vladimir Putin and his government had experienced since they moved forces into Ukraine on February 24th.

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