Good morning. On Monday, Russian troops began to advance into Sievierodonetsk, the largest city in Donbas still held in Ukrainian hands. The city is important to the control of Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas. If it falls, that success – achieved at the cost of the city’s ruination and 1,500 civilian lives – will be viewed as grim vindication for Vladimir Putin’s decision to consolidate Russian forces in the region and bombard targets with artillery fire.
There’s something else about the battle for Sievierodonetsk, though: while Russian tanks are moving into the centre of the city, they were not able to encircle it first. Cutting a city off from its supply lines to soften it up is brutally effective, as the siege of Mariupol indicated. So why hasn’t that happened here?
For today’s newsletter, I spoke to Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, about a compelling explanation that could have much bigger consequences: Russia may be running out of tanks. That’s after the headlines.
Energy | The European Union agreed to an embargo on most Russian oil imports after late-night talks in Brussels. The sanctions, hailed as a “remarkable achievement”, will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports, rising to 90% by the end of the year. Partygate | Momentum is building for a leadership challenge to Boris Johnson as soon as next week. As three more MPs called on Johnson to go, rebels expressed anger at what they said was a lurch to the right after Partygate. Champions league final | Uefa commissioned an independent report into chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France on Saturday where some Liverpool fans were teargassed. France’s interior minister admitted access to the ground had been “disorganised” but blamed counterfeit tickets sold to English fans. Justice | Police and prosecutors have been told to stop the mass collection of personal information from rape victims by the UK’s data watchdog. The information commissioner said police are going on unjustified “fishing expeditions” into complainants’ personal information. Music | Glastonbury festival announced its full lineup for this summer, with acts including Sam Fender, Megan Thee Stallion and Foals among those added to the bill. Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar had already been announced.
Five big stories
In depth: The chink in Russia’s armour
Energy | The European Union agreed to an embargo on most Russian oil imports after late-night talks in Brussels. The sanctions, hailed as a “remarkable achievement”, will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports, rising to 90% by the end of the year.
Partygate | Momentum is building for a leadership challenge to Boris Johnson as soon as next week. As three more MPs called on Johnson to go, rebels expressed anger at what they said was a lurch to the right after Partygate.
Champions league final | Uefa commissioned an independent report into chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France on Saturday where some Liverpool fans were teargassed. France’s interior minister admitted access to the ground had been “disorganised” but blamed counterfeit tickets sold to English fans.
Justice | Police and prosecutors have been told to stop the mass collection of personal information from rape victims by the UK’s data watchdog. The information commissioner said police are going on unjustified “fishing expeditions” into complainants’ personal information.
Music | Glastonbury festival announced its full lineup for this summer, with acts including Sam Fender, Megan Thee Stallion and Foals among those added to the bill. Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar had already been announced.
Few assets of conventional warfare are more intimidating than the tank, and when Russia attacked Ukraine, its invasion force of around 1,500 (out of a total of about 2,800) was often judged to be among the most formidable in the world. Phillips O’Brien was never especially convinced by that analysis, and given the accuracy of his earlier assessments of Russian might – in January, he wrote that Russia “lacks the ability to mount sustained military operations and deploy a wide range of military forces at the same time” – it’s worth paying attention to his view of the current situation.
So, what should we expect next in Ukraine? O’Brien believes that Russian advances have largely stalled because the country’s forces are running very short of tanks, and other armoured vehicles. It’s a view he laid out in a Twitter thread on Sunday, and which built on a piece for the Atlantic last week, based on evidence from the eastern Donbas region. I asked him how he reached that conclusion, and what it might mean.
What are tanks supposed to do?
Tanks are powerful, well-armoured, and move fast in open country. “They’re usually used to seize the land between cities quickly and surround an enemy,” O’Brien told me. “In Russian doctrine, you have these battalion tactical groups which are supposed to have maybe 10 tanks alongside 30 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) carrying the infantry.”
The theory – dating back to the second world war – is that tanks allow you to punch a hole in the enemy lines and cut forces or a strategic target like a city off from supplies, softening them up before a final assault. All of that relies on effective air support to neuter the threat that enemy jets and drones pose to the progress of the armour on the ground.
What’s happened in reality?
Nothing which Vladimir Putin will be pleased to hear about. “When I look at Donbas, I don’t see the kind of breakthroughs which you would want to see in modern armoured warfare,” O’Brien said. “You want to get through the line and then exploit the situation by quickly encircling the enemy. What we’re seeing is that the Russians may make a hole in the line, but then they are stopped.”
He points to the failure to encircle Sieverodonetsk, and declining numbers in Ukrainian claims of Russian tanks being destroyed. That could mean a change in Russian deployment or in Ukraine’s ability to attack them. But since at the same time the Russian machine has failed to break through after its artillery has softened the Ukrainian forces up, it is more likely to indicate that there are simply fewer tanks in the fight in the first place.
While exact measures of the scale of the damage to Russian armour are hard to come by, Ukraine has claimed more than 1,300 Russian tanks have been destroyed. The lowest independent assessments are more than 700 destroyed or captured. The Pentagon, which does not appear to have made unrealistically high estimates so far, puts it at about 1,000 – a number which O’Brien thinks is “probably a safe bet”.
“Those are vast losses,” O’Brien said. In its usually reliable defence intelligence update on Friday, the UK Ministry of Defence said that Russia was now moving 50-year-old T-62 tanks out of storage for deployment. “These tanks are antiquated,” O’Brien said. “The Russians don’t have nearly the frontline armoured capability that they had.”
Why has that happened?
The military doctrine that sees tanks as all-powerful is pretty out of date, as you might expect given its second world war foundations. There are many examples of videos that appear to show Russian tanks being destroyed by handheld missiles, some of which – like the British-manufactured Next-generation Light Anti-armour Weapon (NLAW) (pictured below held by a Ukrainian soldier shortly after destroying an armoured personnel carrier) – are designed to strike on top of the tank, where its armour is weakest.
Most importantly, Russia has failed to secure the air superiority which is a prerequisite of effective tank warfare – instead finding that Ukrainian planes and drones continue to be able to stop Russian tanks in their tracks. “They’re far more vulnerable than they need to be,” said O’Brien. “They’re not flying air patrols, or close air support. So they’re running into considerable defensive firepower.”
How did Russia get itself into this position?
Because it overestimated its prospects of air superiority, and underestimated the capacity of simple, cheap anti-tank systems to stop it in its tracks. If, as O’Brien has written, “we are witnessing in Ukraine the final war of 20th-century militaries”, we might be shocked that the Kremlin entered such a fight without a clear-eyed assessment of the likely risks – but “dictators on the whole have systems that tell them what they want to hear, and Putin has clearly done that”.
As for the failure of analysts worldwide to spot the same flaw: “A lot of people fell for what we could call ‘the American trap’: because the US military was able to do something, people looked at other militaries, and just view it as a scaled-down version of the US. And that is not the case here. The Russian military is an entirely more deficient beast. The US can overwhelm an enemy with complex air systems and defeat their air defences, it still has the capacity to do these ‘break out’ operations. Russia just can’t.”
What does it mean for the future of this war – and wars around the world?
It’s obviously favourable to Ukraine if the tanks are failing, but as Russia’s grim progress in Sieverodonetsk indicates, it doesn’t signal an end to the fight. “If they’re bringing out obsolete equipment they probably can’t keep going with their current approach for that much longer,” said O’Brien.
“The problem the Ukrainians then have is: can they drive the Russians back? I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a summer of ranged warfare, mostly – more attritional combat with both sides trying to destroy the other’s resources.” That’s why, as the Guardian’s defence and security editor Dan Sabbagh wrote yesterday, Ukraine has been pleading with its western allies for longer-range rocket systems.
There is, meanwhile, a wider positive for those who fear Russia’s invasion signals a new era of military expansion around the world. “The one hopeful thing to come out of this is that this conflict demonstrates that going to war is really hard,” O’Brien said. “And it may be that militaries around the world look at it and realise that war is fraught with enormous new risks because of the power of cheaper forces. So maybe people will be less likely to take that risk in the future.”
What else we’ve been reading
Guessing how many Tory MPs have submitted no-confidence letters in the prime minister is essentially a game of pin the tail on the donkey, but Katy Balls’ well-informed piece helps you peek from behind the blindfold a little. She paints a picture of a party that is “disunited and fast running out of goodwill”. Archie
There’s been much speculation over Emma Raducanu’s difficult sophomore year – this piece offers some hints as to why that might be. Brittany Collens’ tale of life on the professional tennis tour, away from home for most of the year, hopping from hotel to hotel, is a fascinating insight into the gruelling toll elite sport takes on athletes. Toby Moses, head of newsletters
The latest instalment of Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s excellent Republic of Parenthood column focuses on birth trauma, and the importance of talking through the experience before, and after, it happens. Archie(Video) Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines repel Russian forces using U.S. heavy weapons
Not a reading pick, but the US podcast Normal Gossip is absolutely worth your time. Offering anonymised normie tattle from, and about, non-celebrities, it proves that stories don’t need to feature a starry name to be hilarious and jaw-dropping. Its second series has just kicked off. Hannah J Davies, deputy editor, newsletters
If you’ve watched the utterly compulsive US documentary series Couples Therapy, you will inhale this New Yorker piece about the show’s star, therapist Dr Orna Guralnik. If you haven’t, book out your free evenings for the rest of the week and expect to get through all of it on iPlayer (in the UK). Archie
Football | Todd Boehly promised to build on Chelsea’s “remarkable history of success” after the American’s consortium completed its £4.25bn takeover of the club on Monday. The deal was signed off a day before Chelsea’s operating licence was due to expire.
Tennis | The 19-year-old Holger Rune caused the biggest upset of the men’s draw in the French Open so far, outplaying Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a grand slam quarter-final for the first time in his career
Rugby union | Scottish referee Hollie Davidson will make history when she leads an all-female team of match officials for next month’s Portugal v Italy men’s international. It will be the first time an all-female team have taken charge of a men’s Test match.
The front pages
The Guardian’s print splash today is “PM’s sudden lurch to right fuels anger of Tory rebels” while the i has “Tory threat to Johnson growing by the day”. The Telegraph says “Police leave 999 callers hanging” saying targets for picking up the phones are being missed. The lead story in the Financial Times is “Qualcomm seeks Arm investment alongside rivals to spur neutrality”. The Daily Mail begs “Save us from the £100 tank of fuel, Rishi” as “Forecourt prices hit record high”. Elsewhere, travel chaos occupies the front pages. “Tears and fury as travel ‘carnage’ worsens” says the Express while the Mirror bemoans a “Summer of chaos”. In the Times it’s “Getaways at risk as chaos blamed on airline cuts”. The Metro has “Wish we weren’t here” as it reports on “half-term holiday chaos”.
Today in Focus
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Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson
A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad
The tiny Pacific island state of Niue has announced plans to protect 100% of its ocean – an area around the size of Vietnam – against illegal fishing and the effects of the climate emergency.
Having originally committed to safeguarding 40% of its waters in 2020, the island will now take measures to defend all 317,500 sq km (122,000 sq miles) of it, following the lead of the neighbouring Cook Islands.
The new policy has seen the creation of a marine park, including an area for scientific studies and a conservation zone. “The ocean is everything to us. It’s what defines us,” said Dalton Tagelagi, premier of the island.
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No, Russia's accelerating tank losses are the result of leadership and morale problems more than they are any technological imbalance on the battlefield. Half of the tanks the Russians have written off since early September were abandoned by their crews and seized by the Ukrainians.
Kahl did not specify exactly how many tanks the Pentagon estimates Russia has lost, but according to open-source intelligence analysis by Oryx, at least 1,450 Russian tanks have been destroyed, captured, abandoned, or damaged over the course of the war, which would be roughly half the pre-invasion tank force.
A full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would see global food systems obliterated and over 5 billion people die of hunger.
The problem relates to how the tanks' ammunition is stored. Unlike modern Western tanks, Russian ones carry multiple shells within their turrets. This makes them highly vulnerable as even an indirect hit can start a chain reaction that explodes their entire ammunition store of up to 40 shells.
Share: Ukraine's General Staff reported on Nov. 9 that Russia had also lost 2,801 tanks, 5,666 armored fighting vehicles, 1,802 artillery systems, 393 multiple launch rocket systems, 205 air defense systems, 260 helicopters, 278 airplanes, 1,483 drones, and 16 boats.
But not by much. Independent analysts have confirmed, through photo and video evidence, the destruction of 184 Russian aircraft. The Ukrainians have captured another 73 aircraft from the Russians for a total of 257 confirmed Russian losses.
1 that Russia had also lost 2,354 tanks, 4,949 armored fighting vehicles, 3,786 vehicles and fuel tanks, 1,397 artillery systems, 336 multiple launch rocket systems, 176 air defense systems, 264 airplanes, 226 helicopters, 1,009 drones, and 15 boats.
The ballistic mode of attack isn't very accurate, but it helps 'copter crews to survive. Indeed, Ukraine has lost just 12 helicopters since Russia widened its war on the country back in February.
More specifically, Russia has lost over 1,320 tanks — of which over 500 have been captured or abandoned. Losses include nearly 30 T-90A and T-90M tanks.
If a nuclear war happened today, it would devastate Earth's oceans and cause what researchers are calling a Nuclear Little Ice Age. Image via the US Department of Defense/ Wikimedia Commons.
According to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature Food in August 2022, a full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would kill 360 million people directly and more than 5 billion people would die from starvation.
It would take a land- based missile about 30 minutes to fly between Russia and the United States; a submarine-based missile could strike in as little as 10 to 15 minutes after launch.
'The heavy attrition of Russian Main Battle Tanks in Ukraine is highly likely partially due to Russia's failure to fit and properly employ adequate Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA)…
The sight of Russian tank turrets, blown off and lying in ruin along Ukrainian roads, points to a tank design issue known as the “jack-in-the-box” flaw. The fault is related to the way many Russian tanks hold and load ammunition.
All of this means that Russian tanks are quite well protected from the front. For the massed head-on engagements that they were designed for, and especially in defensive positions where the tanks can be dug into the ground, they are capable and effective vehicles, providing that they are properly operated.
13 that Russia had also lost 2,840 tanks, 5,742 armored fighting vehicles, 1,837 artillery systems, 393 multiple launch rocket systems, 206 air defense systems, 261 helicopters, 278 airplanes, 1,507 drones, and 16 boats. These are the indicative estimates of Russia's combat losses as of Nov.
“Two Ka-52s were destroyed at the airfield in the Pskov region, and two more were seriously damaged,” the intel agency claimed Monday. It's impossible to verify the agency's assertion.
Most of the downed planes were identified by their red tail numbers and registration numbers, for example, Red 31 with RF-81251. As of 18 July 2022, Russia had lost 11 Su-34 aircraft over Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion five months earlier. That was nearly 10% of all that had been built.
|Ukrainian Air Force|
|Helicopter||Mil Mi-8T, Mil Mi-17|
|Attack helicopter||Mil Mi-24P|
But Russia's recent defeats in and around Kyiv expose unresolved weaknesses, starting with Russia's armored vehicles. To date, Ukraine says Russia has lost close to 3,000 armored vehicles — but only half in combat.
Ukraine Reports has Destroyed 2,000 Russian Tanks, 254 Aircraft & 47,000 Soldiers - Warrior Maven: Center for Military Modernization.
Based on these estimates, Russia has lost nearly 1,300 tanks – an impressive 40% of its total operational tank fleet. This figure coincides with that provided by CNN in May, citing an unnamed senior U.S. defense official, which reported that Russia has lost “nearly 1,000 tanks” in Ukraine.
|Ka-50 "Black Shark" Ka-52 "Alligator"|
|Primary users||Russian Air Force Russian Naval Aviation Egyptian Air Force|
|Number built||Ka-50: 18-19 Ka-52: 196+|
In a sign of how intense the ground battle has been, the U.S. to date has provided 104 million rounds of small arms ammunition to Ukraine.
The cost of one such aircraft amounts to some $15 million, according to Operatyvnyi ZSU Telegram channel, Ukrinform reports.
|Unit cost||USD 2.5 million in 1999, USD 2.77 – 4.25 million in 2011 (varies by source) T-90SM: USD 4.5 Million in 2016|
Ukrainian defenders have destroyed two Russian T-90 Vladimir tanks with the Javelin anti-tank missile system. The relevant statement was made by the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces on Telegram, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
|Unit cost||$3.7–$4.6 million|
|Produced||2014–2021 (prototypes), 2021–present (serial version)|
It takes over a decade for anything like climatic normality to return to the planet. By this time, most of Earth's human population will be long dead. The world's food production would crash by more than 90 percent, causing global famine that would kill billions by starvation.
Life will survive after a nuclear war, even though humans may not. A "nuclear winter" would see temperatures plummet, causing massive food shortages for humans and animals. Radiation would wipe out all but the hardiest of species.
The walls of your home can block much of the harmful radiation. Because radioactive materials become weaker over time, staying inside for at least 24 hours can protect you and your family until it is safe to leave the area. Getting inside of a building and staying there is called "sheltering in place."
Some estimates name Maine, Oregon, Northern California, and Western Texas as some of the safest locales in the case of nuclear war, due to their lack of large urban centers and nuclear power plants.
The ozone layer would diminish due to the radiation, ultimately becoming as much as 25% thinner for the first five years after the event. After 10 years, there would be some recovery, but it would still be 8% thinner. This would result in a rise in skin cancer and sunburns.
There is a possibility that nuclear war would cause extinction, but the possibility is only very slight, estimated at 0.1% for the next hundred years.
A new study sponsored by the American Physical Society concludes that U.S. systems for intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles cannot be relied on to counter even a limited nuclear strike and are unlikely to achieve reliability within the next 15 years.
In the event of a nuclear attack, you need to act quickly. In the event of a nuclear threat alert, immediately go to the nearest shelter and take your emergency suitcase with you. If you are not in an underground shelter, do not approach the windows, stay as far as possible from the outer walls and roof.
A global all-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia with over four thousand 100-kiloton nuclear warheads would lead, at minimum, to 360 million quick deaths. * That's about 30 million people more than the entire US population.
54,810 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured) 4,724 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed. 3,587 vehicles and fuel tanks. 2,216 tanks.
“Tanks in terms of mobile protective firepower are still very relevant to operations. Tanks are being used in the Donbas usually, but with the threat of guided weapons, they are being used quite differently from normal.
Russia's war in Ukraine illustrates how warfare has changed. Tanks & armored personnel carriers have become obsolete. They are too expensive & are easily destroyed with manifold light anti-tank weapons or drones.
Military experts put the losses down to the advanced anti-tank weapons which western nations have given to Ukraine, and to the poor way Russia has used its tanks.
U.S.-made Javelins and British-Swedish manufactured Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs), have been responsible for hundreds of Russian tank losses. When fired, the Javelins ascend 150 meters in the air before plummeting down onto the tank's turret, where the vehicle's armor is the thinnest.
Any penetrating hit in the turret or hull can set off the ammunition, with a result sometimes describes as Jack-in-the-box effect: the force of the blast from the ammo tears the tank apart from inside, often detaching the turret with such force that it is thrown clear. Such events are instantly fatal to the crew.
Whether Russia's armored divisions are fielding T-14s or upgraded T-80s, American tank crews maintain a significant advantage over Russian crews: Both the T-14 and T-80 rely on autoloading systems that are slower than American tank crews.
So basically the Abrams has an advantage of being proven and reliable design, that performs well during various military conflicts. Overall the new Russian tank is on par with the US Abrams tank. In some areas it is slightly superior than the Abrams, however it has got no cutting-edge superiority.
According to the Military Balance 2021, quoted in Kyiv Independent, Russia has over 10,000 battle tanks in storage, mainly T-72s and T-80s. However, years of neglect and poor storage conditions (not to mention corruption and theft) means that many of the vehicles have been cannibalized to keep the others running.
Russia has likely lost half its tanks, used up most of its precision-guided weapons and suffered tens of thousands of casualties so far in its war against Ukraine, the Pentagon's top policy official said Tuesday.
Tanks are declining nowadays because the reservoir is a better method of storage of water as compared to the tanks. Explanation: tank is the cheapest source for storage of water in the household activity. However storage of water by tank has some disadvantage.
Ukraine Has Destroyed 2,000 Russian Tanks, 254 Aircraft & 48,700 Soldiers.
Other criticism has centered on Russian tank flaws; when a Russian tank is hit, the ammunition – located near the gun system and stored around an automatic loader – “cooks off,” blowing the turret with the gun into the air. Crew survival on Russian tanks after they are hit in Ukraine is poor.
Russian losses were immense: 21 ships sunk or scuttled, and seven captured. Only three ships reached Vladivostok, though six others made it to neutral ports in China, the Philippines, and Madagascar.
13 that Russia had also lost 2,511 tanks, 5,167 armored fighting vehicles, 3,935 vehicles and fuel tanks, 1,556 artillery systems, 357 multiple launch rocket systems, 183 air defense systems, 268 airplanes, 240 helicopters, 1,182 drones, and 16 boats.
Decline of Tanks in Our Times
During the last twenty or thirty years the tanks have been neglected and have been allowed to break down. Repairs to the tanks, desilting etc. have not been done regularly. People also have gradually taken over the tank land for building houses or for agriculture.
WASHINGTON — General Dynamics Land Systems will start assembling in November the U.S. Army's Mobile Protected Firepower system, the first new combat vehicle to enter the force in nearly four decades.
The new tank is part of the Army's Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program, which aims to develop a tank to bolster Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and allow for better destruction of enemy tanks and bunkers.