Peter Addresses the Ukraine Conflict

This week I am going to write about the events occurring in Ukraine, with special emphasis on the armoured column directed at Kyiv. I am basing my content on my knowledge of military affairs gained from many years of study and discussion about the subject with many very well informed people. My goal in doing this is to attempt to make the situation a little clearer to those who may not be completely familiar with some lesser known aspects of the story. But first, some background.

The fighting on the Eastern Front during World War II was extremely intense and very bloody on all fronts as the German army, after early successes, found itself ill equipped to cope with the harsh Russian winter. Hitler had anticipated a short campaign, but his army found itself desperately short of equipment ranging from adequate winter uniforms to cold weather lubricants. The great offensive ground to a halt and the armies were forced to find winter quarters and wait for the thaw to arrive. Even when it did, it took some time for the ground to become passable and allow the armies to resume their operations.

Much of this was occurring in the Ukraine, one of the republics which made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Vicious battles were fought at Kiev and Kharkov as control of the region passed between the two major combatants. (This is probably a good time to point out that there was extremely heavy fighting in Crimea as well during the campaign.)

Recognize those place names? Those cities bore those names when the Ukraine was part of the U.S.S.R.. When that particular organization collapsed in 1991, Ukraine became an independent country and place names were changed. Kiev, for example, is now called Kyiv, while Kharkov is now Kharkiv. Renaming cities is a reflection on Europe’s turbulent history, by the way. 

This turbulent history is having yet another chapter written right now as Vladimir Putin has launched an all out invasion of Ukraine, employing both air and land forces and obviously anticipating a quick victory.

His ground forces are spearheaded by tanks and self propelled artillery. One of these columns is currently threatening Kyiv, but, at the time I wrote this, was sitting idle on a road.

Loyal Reader, let me give you some random facts about armoured vehicles, focusing on the T-90, the current Russian main battle tank, stats according to Wikipedia. It’s an incredibly powerful weapon but does have some limitations. It weighs about 46 tonnes,  depending on the model. This gives it poor cross country performance , which prevents it from using many roads and bridges. It has a top speed of 60 kilometres per hour and a range of 550 kilometres without external fuel tanks fitted. It should be noted that these figures are only applicable on well paved roads. Driving cross country would not only reduce the tank’s maximum speed, but would cut the available range by about half. (As an aside, a tank on an improved road burns about one gallon per mile.) Now, while driving on a paved highway may give the tank optimum range, it also deprives the tank of the element of surprise and restricts its freedom of movement, thereby allowing the defense to concentrate its forces where they will be most effective.

Now note that unsupported armour operations in hostile territory, such as Ukraine would be sheer folly. Anti tank missiles have developed into effective, portable weapons, and can be rapidly deployed to face any threat, as can be seen on a daily basis. 

There’s also the fact that while an armoured column is a powerful weapon, it carries a finite amount of fuel and ammunition. When operations have ended for the day, the absolutely very first thing that has to be done is to replenish any expended consumables. The vehicles must be refuelled and any ammunition used must be replaced. An armoured column without sufficient fuel and ammunition has no tactical effectiveness and frankly poses little or no threat to anyone. Once the troops have finished this, they must be fed and given a secure place to sleep. Before they can move out in the morning, they must perform the complicated daily process involved in tank maintenance.

Particular attention must be paid to the treads and running gear. Again, if a tank runs over an anti tank mine or otherwise “throws a track”, it loses its mobility. It becomes immovable, although it can still rotate its turret. During a combat situation, the crew has no choice but to wait for an opportunity to have an Armoured Recovery Vehicle retrieve the damaged tank.

The column, of course, needs to be protected while these vulnerable operations are going on. This means that infantry troops are required. In order to ensure that the column is most effective, these troops need to be able to keep up. Hence they too require transport vehicles.

Other vehicles in support of this column would include anti aircraft vehicles, self propelled artillery, radio and satellite communications vehicles and engineering equipment, such as Armoured Recovery Vehicles. 

Now remember that all of these vehicles need to be crewed and maintained, both by being resupplied with consumables and general vehicle maintenance. Transmissions break down, tires go flat, radio gear needs to be fixed. And that’s just the “tip of the iceberg”. 

All of this equipment needs to made available as quickly as possible, in order to keep the column moving. As a result, a long supply chain has to be created, coordinated and protected. We are currently seeing what happens when an advancing column outruns the supply chain. 

As a final note, all of the people required to keep this column running efficiently need to be fed and housed and given health care and otherwise taken care of. It’s a tremendous logistical problem and a great strain on Russia.

My hope this week is that I have made the column situation a little clearer to those who may not be aware of the many issues which the invasion force faces on a daily basis.

There’s no doubt that the Ukrainian people are ” standing up to be counted”, as they confront this bully. The rest of the world is providing them with weapons, even Switzerland, in fact, and people are going to take part in the war on the Ukrainian side. 

It is most gratifying to see the reactions of the global community at this perilous moment. The imposition of financial sanctions against Russia is a powerful weapon, and may indeed be the deciding factor in resolving this conflict.

Even the Russian people are Protesting

There are opportunities for all of us to make a difference as well. The Canadian Red Cross is collecting donations for a relief fund. The Canadian government will temporarily match donations to this cause. Hearing this, Betty suggested that she and I also donate. That’s got to prove that I have the right woman in my life.

See you soon.


A confirmed Cat person, Peter dabbled with being a water boy, a paper boy and an altar boy before finally settling on a career with the Canadian federal government.  Once, in his youth, he ate a Dutch  oven full of mashed potatoes to win a 5 cent bet with his beloved sister Mary’s boyfriend. (Of course he was much younger and a nickel went a lot farther!))

He has retired to palatial “Chez Montreuil”, which he shares with his little buddy CoCo the Fashionable. He is blessed to have the beautiful Betty in his life. He is not only a plastic aircraft modeller, but a proud “rivet counter”. Military aviation and live music are among other interests of his, and he tries to get out to as many shows as he can. He will be here for your enlightenment whenever the stars align. Profile photo courtesy of Pat Blythe, caricature courtesy of Peter Mossman.


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