"A large European nation is being bombed into the stone age as bored, high-minded pseudo-intellectuals keep playing Kissinger in what they imagine as Realpolitik 5D chess in op-eds." -Illia Ponomarenko, December 29, 2023.

This sobering quote from Illia Ponomarenko puts things in perspective. It feels like people have forgotten that a modern, European nation, which desires closer ties with Western democracies, is fighting for its right to exist against a much larger, nuclear aggressor using a Cold War playbook.

Last night, Russia launched an unprecedented wave of missile and drone strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure and civilian targets.

I'll pause so that can sink in…

Russia is not attacking military targets, which might help its chances of success. Instead, Putin is expending his dwindling supply of "precision" munitions against civilians.

"The most massive Russian missile attack on Ukraine of the entire war. Russians threw everything they could at us for 12 fucking hours. Every major city, all civilian targets, hospitals, apartment buildings schools, malls." -Jay in Kyiv, December 29, 2023.

If Ukrainian estimates are correct, Russia launched 122 missiles of various types and 36 one-way attack drones. If accurate, this would represent the largest single attack against Ukraine since the start of the invasion nearly two years ago.

According to Ukraine's military chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, air defenses shot down 87 of the incoming missiles and 27 of the drones. This alone shows how far Ukraine has come in upgrading its air defenses since the war's start.

According to Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, Russia "apparently launched everything they have" against targets across Ukraine.

This would explain the long pause in Russian strikes before today — Putin was stockpiling what limited munitions he had for one large attack against infrastructure that would make enduring the winter months as miserable as possible for the Ukrainian people.

Interestingly, last night's raid did not involve any Russian Navy ship or submarine-launched Kalibr cruise missiles.

Russian long-range bombers performed most of the work. 18 Tu-95MS Bear-H bombers did the heavy lifting, with additional Tu-22M3 Backfire-C bombers that launched eight Kh-22/Kh-32 supersonic cruise missiles.

Also, five MiG-31K Foxhound fighters each launched a single Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile.

According to analyst Rob Lee, Russia expended 36 Shahed-136/131 kamikaze UAVs, 90 Kh-101/Kh-555/Kh-55 air-to-ground cruise missiles, 8 Kh-22/Kh-32 cruise missiles, 14 S-300/S-400/Iskander-M ballistic missiles, 5 Kh-47M2 Kinzhal aerial ballistic missiles, 4 Kh-31P anti-radar missiles, and 1 Kh-59 missile.

Doing some quick, back-of-the-napkin math shows that Russia spent approximately $1,273,220,000 worth of missiles and drones in this one attack.

The cities targeted include Kyiv, Kharkiv in the northeast, Lviv in the west, Dnipro in the east, and Odesa in the south.

Waiting for Russia to run out of cruise missiles is not a strategy. In a statement, U.S. President Biden said "Unless Congress takes urgent action in the new year, we will not be able to continue sending the weapons and vital air defense systems Ukraine needs to protect its people. Congress must step up and act without any further delay."

Why does Russia strike civilian targets instead of military?

There are two reasons why Russia targets civilians; well, three reasons if you account for Putin just being an a-hole.

First, it's terrorism. The intention is to break the will of the Ukrainian population so that they will, at some point, give in and accept Russia. Putin believes that the West will give up and the Ukrainians will simply be grateful for an end to the ongoing terror.

But that's not how any of this works!

The U.S. and the UK bombed civilian targets in World War II. Guess what? It didn't work on Germany, and it took an atomic bomb, (and the threat of Russian invasion) to compel Japan to surrender.

The best-case scenario for Putin if he achieves his goal is that he'll create an insurgency that will make Russia's failure in Afghanistan pale by comparison.

Even if Putin overcame the Ukrainian military and set up a puppet regime in Kyiv, Ukrainian freedom fighters would make holding on to Ukraine untenable.

The other reason Russia targets civilians has to do with the well-known problems in their kill chain.

In military parlance, the kill chain is the series of steps necessary for an effective strike against an enemy on the battlefield.

Miss a step and a link in the chain breaks.

One military kill chain model in NATO is the "F2T2EA" acronym, which includes:

· Find: Identify a target, using surveillance or reconnaissance data.

· Fix: Fix the target's location with specific coordinates.

· Track: Monitor the target's movement.

· Target: Select an appropriate weapon system to achieve the desired effects. Then apply command and control capabilities to assess the value of the target and the availability of appropriate weapons to engage it.

· Engage: Apply the weapon to the target.

· Assess: Evaluate the effects of the attack, including any intelligence gathered at the location.

But here's the thing: military targets are hard to find. Civilian targets are easy. Russia has struggled with the first three links in the kill chain model: Find, fix, and track.

Without those, they resort to hitting large, immobile civilian apartment complexes and buildings.

If there is any upside to this recent Russian atrocity, perhaps it will renew calls for aid for Ukraine among the Western nations who have been suffering from Ukraine War fatigue.

At the very least, this bombardment shows that Ukraine's air defenses are working, and they need more.

Ultimately, the goal is to intercept every Russian munition before it can hit civilian targets.

The Defense Department just announced a security assistance package for Ukraine valued at up to $250 million which includes new air defense capabilities, artillery, and antitank weapons.

But Ukraine needs much, much more.

Depending on what Putin has left in storage, this will hopefully be the last bombardment for a while — at least, Western sources believe he is extremely low on cruise missiles. The attack drones are a different story.

If you want to help Ukrainian civilians, and especially children, impacted by Putin's illegal war, UNICEF in Ukraine is one of the best right now at making sure your dollars go to helping Ukrainians.

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