The worst weapon of the Russian War? – Rape!

Disturbing tales continue to come out of Ukraine about the systematic sexual abuse and rape of Ukrainian women and girls at the hands of the Russian invaders. The first reports of this particularly unpleasant and criminal aspect of the Russo-Ukraine war arose in April this year, after the Russian defeat at Kyiv and their subsequent withdrawal from the territory they had occupied.

Now Ukraine’s First Lady Mrs Olna Zelenska has been visiting the UK to highlight the plight of the Ukrainian people, millions of whom face a harsh winter with regular power cuts both planned and unplanned in the face of continuing Russian aggression. Speaking in the UK’s House of Commons, Mrs Zelenska compared Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities to Nazi Germany’s bombing of Britain during World War Two, saying; “You did not surrender, and we will not surrender.”

During her trip, Mrs Zelenska also met Camilla, the Queen Consort, as well as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy. Earlier, the Queen Consort had greeted her at a reception to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. In her speech at the event, the Ukrainian First Lady said many women had been raped by Russian soldiers. “The youngest victim of rape is four and eldest is 85,” she said.

This is distressing stuff. Sadly, the sexual abuse and rape of women and girls has been a part of warfare since time immemorial. In Classical times, the infamous “Rape of the Sabine Women”, sometimes known as the “Abduction of the Sabine Women”, relates to an incident in Roman mythology in which the men of Rome committed a mass abduction of young women from the other cities in the region.

It has been a frequent subject of painters and sculptors, particularly during the Renaissance and post-Renaissance eras. It records an incident in the early stages of the founding of Rome when there were few women inhabitants, and so there was little chance of sustaining the city’s population, without which Rome might not last longer than a generation. Surrounding peoples agreed to their women marrying Romans, but not the Sabines, whereupon Rome literally took matters into its own hands and carried them off..

In the early part of the 20th century perhaps one of the most infamous occurrence of mass rape took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45, and became known as the Massacre or Rape of Nanking (now Nanjing). Here there occurred the mass murder of Chinese civilians after their capital city was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army. The massacre lasted six weeks. The perpetrators also committed other war crimes such as mass rapelooting, and arson. The massacre was one of the worst atrocities committed during the Second World, resulting in an estimated 200,000 murders and at least 20,000 cases of rape.

The shocking rape count in Nanking pales almost into insignificance (but never can, of course) when compared to the savagery dished out to the female population of Germany by the Soviet Red Army in 1945. Mass rape by Soviet soldiers first began during the Battle of Romania and during the Budapest offensive in Hungary. Such assaults then continued in the territory of Nazi Germany, beginning approximately in October 1944.

Although the western allies were by no means innocent of such events, the majority of the assaults were committed by Soviet troops during the war and afterwards in the Soviet zone of occupation. Some estimates of the numbers of German women raped by Soviet soldiers during this period are as high 2 million, and some women were subject to multiple assaults. Historian Antony Beevor has described it as “the greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history”. Grim stuff indeed.

The point here is that, sadly, the Russians have previous form here, and perhaps we should be suitably aghast but little surprised that it has happened again in Ukraine.

Such behaviour is intolerable in a civilised society and the perpetrators should rightly be sought out and brought to justice. But many of them will have the anonymity afforded to them by the horror and chaos of war and may never be found. And, if they are, their conviction and punishment will depend on the bravery and courage of the women who have suffered at their hands enduring the legal process. We all know how difficult that is even in peacetime.

But we can’t let this slip and ignore what we find difficult to comprehend. We owe it to the women and girls of Ukraine to ensure to the very best of our ability that such criminal acts do not go unpunished,.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

Russia Failing On The Battlefield

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that Russia was “failing on the battlefield” in Ukraine as he headed into a summit meeting of foreign ministers in Bucharest on Tuesday. He suggested that Russia’s continuing attacks on civilian infrastructure showed that it was being unsuccessful militarily and that it was now attempting to use the coming winter as a weapon of war against the Ukrainian people.

At the summit itself, Jens Stoltenberg appeared alongside Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba after the first day of the two-day meeting to reinforce the message that the alliance will continue to support Ukraine for the foreseeable future.  He said; “We will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes will not back down,” and added, “and we realise that it is extremely important that President Putin is not able to win in Ukraine.”

He went on to point out that a Russian victory would not only be a tragedy for Ukraine, but would also make the world a much more dangerous and vulnerable place, declaring that it was clearly in the security interest of NATO and its allies to support Ukraine to the utmost.

Mr Kuleba opened his remarks by saying the last time they met his three words were “weapons, weapons, weapons”. Now he said he had three other words which were “faster, faster, faster”, echoing the constant pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that his country requires more sophisticated weaponry from the west sooner to continue the struggle against the occupiers.

Kuleba went on to say; “I would like to thank you (Stoltenberg) and the alliances for helping us. We appreciate what has been done, but the war still goes on. Decisions on weapons and production lines have to be made faster. This is what we have been discussing, how to speed up everything.”

Stoltenberg then rejoined to say that NATO allies have agreed they should work more closely with Ukraine because the support “is making a huge difference on the battlefield every day”.

Russia has also been stung by comments by the Pope that some ethnic minority soldiers in the Russian army have behaved worse than others in the invasion of Ukraine. It was reported that Pope Francis, in an interview with America, a US Jesuit magazine, said that he “cruellest” troops are generally Chechens and Buryats. Russia called his remarks a “perversion”.

There have been widespread accusations of atrocities having been carried out against Ukrainian military personnel and civilians in the areas they have occupied, with reports of “torture chambers” and mass graves in places which have been recaptured by the Ukrainian armed forces.

There may be an element of truth in what the Pontiff says here. Chechen soldiers gained their reputation as fierce warriors in two wars in which they actually fought against Russia in Chechnya, a constituent part of the Russian Federation. The first war began in 1994, when President Yeltsin sent in Russian troops to restore sovereignty, as he saw it, and to protect the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.  Chechnya had previously declared itself to be independent.

It was a long brutal war, from 1994 to 1996, and Russian armed forces humiliated by the smaller Chechen armed forces who used guerrilla tactics to defeat their enemy. Russia then started what became known as the Second Chechen War in 199, labelling it a counter-terrorism operation, which concluded more or less successfully for Russia in 2009.

Nevertheless, the Chechens have gained the reputation as battle-hardened veterans, and many went on to fight as quasi-mercenaries in Syria and elsewhere. They now fight on Russia’s side in Ukraine for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that Russia lacks the manpower, and they are a welcome addition to Russia’s diminished forces. There is also the psychological impact of employing troops with such a fearsome reputation against the Ukrainians.

But the driving force for the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is money. Chechnya is largely dependent on Russia for its economic viability. Without it, he has been quoted as saying his republic would probably only last three months before collapsing. So becoming a close ally of Putin makes sense to him.

As for the Pope’s remarks, well, I would say that there’s no smoke without fire, and he is undoubtedly well informed on world issues by his advisers. The veneer of civilisation becomes very thin in warfare, and it’s usually the most helpless and vulnerable who suffer the most. We can only hope and pray that an end to this bitter conflict will come soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

Britain Continues Arms Supplies To Ukraine

 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made an unannounced visit to Kyiv last Saturday to meet Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his first visit to the country since taking office. He followed in the footsteps of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and became the third British PM to visit Ukraine since the outbreak of the Russo-Ukraine war.

During his meeting with Zelensky, Sunak re-emphasised that British support for Ukraine in their struggle against Russia will remain constant.

He also announced an additional £50m package of defence aid comprising, amongst other things, 125 anti-aircraft guns plus technical equipment to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones, including radars and anti-drone technology.

It’s also reported that Britain has sent Ukraine an advanced model of the laser-guided Brimstone missile with double the range of the previous design. Britain first gave Brimstone missiles to Ukraine about six months ago. The missiles are usually air-launched from aircraft or drones, but Ukrainian troops have modified trucks to serve as mobile launch platforms to destroy Russian tanks and other vehicles from long range.

When launched from a ‘plane the range of the newer Brimstone 2 missile is roughly 37 miles, but when ground-launched this reduces to approximately 12 miles. The missiles can hit targets by tracking a laser fired by troops, aircraft or vehicles, or select its own target from a pre-programmed list through the use of an extremely high-frequency millimetric wave radar.

On top of all this, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has just announced during a visit to Oslo that the UK will also supply three Sea King helicopters, one of which is already in Ukrainian hands, and 10,000 rounds of 155 mm NATO-standard artillery shells to help Ukraine continue the fight.

The Sea Kings helicopters were retired from Royal Navy service in 2016, but are a combat-proven design having seen operational service in the Falklands – with one famously flown by now out-of-favour Prince Andrew – Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It’s the first time a piloted aircraft has been supplied to Ukraine by the west.

We should perhaps take a look at the economics of each of these weapons systems now being sent to Ukraine. Although which anti-aircraft guns and systems are being supplied is not clear, the shells they fire will cost considerably less than the anti-air weapons currently in use to down Iran-supplied drones. A Shahed-136 armed drone costs roughly £20,000, whilst a UK-supplied Starstreak missile comes in at £100,000. The cost disparity is obvious.

Brimstone, on the other hand, which each cost about £175,000, will destroy a tank like the Russian T 80 costing approximately £3 million. The economics of waging war continue to play a big part in the efforts of both sides to keep going.

We have to be careful, though, not to be too simplistic in our economic cost/benefit analysis. Whereas it might appear at first to be profligate to bring down an armed drone using a missile costing five times as much, that’s only part of the calculation. There’s no gainsaying how much damage and destruction that drone might have caused had it not been intercepted. It could have landed in a field or it could have landed on a power station causing millions of pounds of damage, not to mention the accompanying death and injury.

And we should not imagine that the economics of warfare are anything new. As Kipling wrote in his poem about irregular warfare on the North-West Frontier, “Arithmetic on The Frontier”, over a century ago:

“A scrimmage in a Border Station —
A canter down some dark defile —
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail —
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!”

The question in the current Russo-Ukraine war is now how long either side can keep going. For Russia, the vast expenditure of munitions has almost exhausted their available supplies and their factories have not yet fully ramped up to replenish what has been used. In addition, western sanctions are severely limiting the amount of critical components they require for their more sophisticated systems.

For Ukraine, the question is more one of how long the western nations are prepared to send military support in the face of rampant inflation and the cost of living crisis. The USA and the UK have both run their own military munitions reserves low, with Britain’s Ministry of Defence having just issued a “letter of intent” to arms manufacturer BAE signalling an imminent order for replacement 155 mm artillery rounds.

With the war likely to continue through winter and into next spring, the economic and financial burdens can only intensify. At some point something has to give.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

Britain Continues Arms Supplies To Ukraine

 

23rd November 2022

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made an unannounced visit to Kyiv last Saturday to meet Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his first visit to the country since taking office. He followed in the footsteps of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and became the third British PM to visit Ukraine since the outbreak of the Russo-Ukraine war.

During his meeting with Zelensky, Sunak re-emphasised that British support for Ukraine in their struggle against Russia will remain constant.

He also announced an additional £50m package of defence aid comprising, amongst other things, 125 anti-aircraft guns plus technical equipment to help Ukraine counter Iranian-supplied drones, including radars and anti-drone technology.

It’s also reported that Britain has sent Ukraine an advanced model of the laser-guided Brimstone missile with double the range of the previous design. Britain first gave Brimstone missiles to Ukraine about six months ago. The missiles are usually air-launched from aircraft or drones, but Ukrainian troops have modified trucks to serve as mobile launch platforms to destroy Russian tanks and other vehicles from long range.

When launched from a ‘plane the range of the newer Brimstone 2 missile is roughly 37 miles, but when ground-launched this reduces to approximately 12 miles. The missiles can hit targets by tracking a laser fired by troops, aircraft or vehicles, or select its own target from a pre-programmed list through the use of an extremely high-frequency millimetric wave radar.

We should perhaps look at the economics of each of these weapons systems now being sent to Ukraine. Although which anti-aircraft guns and systems are being supplied is not clear, the shells they fire will cost considerably less than the anti-air weapons currently in use to down Iran-supplied drones. A Shahed-136 armed drone costs roughly $20,000, whilst a UK-supplied Starstreak missile comes in at £100,000. The cost disparity is obvious.

Brimstone, on the other hand, which each cost about £175,000, will destroy a tank like the Russian T 80 costing approximately $3 million. The economics of waging war continue to play a big part in the efforts of both sides to keep going.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now