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'No Other Result Should Have Been Expected'
Avdiivka and the gambler's fallacy
In the classic gambler’s fallacy, or the fallacy of the maturity of chances, the model gambler believes that a particular event — say, the roll of 2 on a pair of dice — happening more frequently today than yesterday means that the same result is less likely tomorrow. This cognitive bias seems logical to the gambler, but deviates from rational analysis of the world. Gamblers who attempt the so-called martingale betting style, or the anti-martingale betting style, thinking that they can overcome the odds and recover their previous losses at a profit by wagering on non-existent patterns in a system of pure chance, are the favorite sort of customer at casinos — until they run out of money. In normal circumstances, this is the moment when the gambler gets escorted to his or her comped room and the contents of the minibar get written off.
Ukraine is not normal circumstances. It is a casino of death where Vladimir Putin has doubled down on his bets at Avdiivka, of all places. Yesterday saw a new record daily toll of estimated Russian casualties: nearly 1,400 dead, 55 tanks, 120 AFVs, 38 artillery guns. While these totals include the whole line of contact, Avdiivka accounts for most of the numbers.
“To put it quite frankly, the sector of the front most fortified by the enemy was chosen and no other result should have been expected,” concludes the Informant Telegram channel upon corresponding with sources in the Russian units attacking the stubborn fortress-city.
There is no need to talk about successes on our part. The entire theater of military operations consists of 4 forest plantations. If they manage to knock the enemy out of the line of defense, then they completely destroy all the trenches with artillery and tanks. After such shelling, the position becomes impossible to hold. All that has been achieved at the moment is moving the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces away from ours and increasing the gray zone.
The current results of the offensive, which has been going on for almost 10 days, are in no way worth the losses incurred. No one cared about counter-battery combat or the ultimate superiority in fired shells. To put it quite frankly, the sector of the front most fortified by the enemy was chosen and no other result should have been expected.
“Judging by the latest information, we are now wasting our mobile formations in attempts to break into the enemy’s defenses in Avdeevka,” writes the Dead heads channel. “These units, as well as the ammunition for them, had been accumulated and equipped since the winter. And if there is no success in the near future, it turns out that the parts will be wasted.”
Dead heads has seen enough Ukrainian drone video to realize the losses are too high, and that pursuing further attacks at Avdiivka leans right into Ukraine’s attritional strategy. “These are echoes of the tactics of the First World War and grinding. We are already at a much different level of technical development.”
Doomcasting abounds. ‘We Hear From Ioannina,’ easily the most pessimistic channel last week, is now comparing the state of Russian formations to the moment of weakness when Ukraine broke through in Kharkiv Oblast last year, when “on our side, the density of troops in the first lines there was extremely low, as was the real combat value of these troops — without normal command and control and heavy weapons, without ‘quick reserves’ capable of counterattacking the enemy who had broken through immediately at the moment of the breakthrough.”
This page of the history of the war, by the way, continues to remain a dark spot, because a realistic analysis of it will be a death sentence for many generals. It turns out that the “regrouping,” in a significant part of it, could have been avoided if control of the troops had not been lost on the very first day of the events.
This week, Ioannina says that “catastrophe was exchanged for disaster” at Adiivka, for “the average quality of our infantry fell even lower than it was.” Defense is easier than attack, which is even harder without reconnaissance. Units have “nothing to look for enemy artillery for counter-battery combat, there are few UAVs, and poor control and communications.” Ukraine is engaged in “a battle of reserves,” the writer notes, in which they spent all summer managing the attrition of their units, attacking “in those areas that were most convenient for him — open terrain, everything is clearly visible in depth by enemy UAVs, and most importantly — in both areas, both in Zaporozhye and in the Artyomovsk direction, to retreat far. Ours can't.”
Accordingly, the enemy reasoned, by creating an air advantage in these areas in the UAV and adjusting the artillery with the necessary ammo, you can impose on the Russians a situation where you once spend people to capture some point, and then they diligently try to recapture it from you, wasting much more than our own. Or you just consistently kill their infantry with artillery at some position without storming it, and they bring in and bring in new infantry there.
Dismissing Putin’s claims of 8 to 1 casualty ratios in Russia’s favor, Ioannina notes that the enemy “is very economical about the personnel that are really valuable to him — junior command staff and technical specialists, and he also does not throw away his bargaining infantry, he rationally exchanges it, and at an average rate, very far from those voiced by anyone.”
Ukrainian armored tactics are smaller-scale, with one or two tanks supporting small groups of infantry and their fighting vehicles. Despite scoring kills on western hardware, Ioannina worries “these sacrifices are a calculated exchange thought out by the enemy,” who “maintains total superiority in the number of UAVs in the air, especially aircraft-type UAVs, which have a longer range and flight time than commercial copters.”
Continuing in another post, Ioannina explains that the swarm of Ukrainian drones is a key part of the attrition strategy. “Constantly operating [signal] repeaters at high points or mounted on UAVs allow the enemy to [attack] any vehicles in the near rear of our troops,” he explains. “Delivery to the front and back of anything, any cargo and passengers, has long become a serious problem.” He cites the situation in Kherson:
And the enemy well understands how important this advantage is — before again trying to land in earnest on the left bank of the Dnieper, the [Ukrainians] tried from the air to block traffic along the rock road running along the river on our side and kept it under control, making it very difficult movement of transport along it using both reconnaissance UAVs, working in the interests of all weapons, and FPV, and night heavy copters, nicknamed “Baba Yaga”. As a result, it will be very difficult for our troops, who previously suffered significant losses in the Antonovsky Bridge area, to repel the landing.
“Shell famine” is back, Ioannina adds. Tanks are going into battle without reactive armor upgrades. Everywhere, the quality of Russian formations is deteriorating. “The front has not ‘collapsed’,” he says, “but is gradually sagging” as reserves run low. Looming prospects of a Ukrainian crossing, and resulting battle of maneuver, weigh on him, for it is in Kherson where “most likely, it will again become clear that we are again not ready to properly control troops in such battles.” Most worrisome of all, Ioannina says, is that “on our side they again began to send back to the front the wounded who were still recovering, as was the case at the end of the summer of 2022” just before Ukraine’s Kharkiv breakthrough.
“This may be a local moment, or perhaps the beginning of a mass phenomenon. foreshadowing the depletion of our human resources,” he writes. “The sweet mirages of a ‘quick agreement’ and ‘elections without mobilization’ can cost us very dearly.” Clearly aimed at Putin, those words could mean we eventually stop hearing from Ioannina. He is taking quite a gamble himself.
Ukraine does not seem to have begun a crossing of the Dnipro in force, at least not yet. According to my sources, there is not a significant mass of Ukrainian combat power sitting on the right bank waiting to cross. Nevertheless, Ukraine is clearly using the threat of a river crossing to strech and attrit Russian forces.
At least two companies of marines crossed the Konka and Krynka rivers yesterday northeast of Kozachi Laheri at Kryny, surging as far as Pischanivka and Poima before falling back to cover. This was reported on Telegram as Ukrainians being defeated and pushed back, but results of the operation so far are consistent with a limited offensive effort aimed at setting up future operations — not a bridging operation so much as a bridge-building operation.
With four different landing points now reportedly established, Ukraine has expanded the possibilities for future crossings, requiring Russian reserves to be transferred from somewhere else in order to counter them. Milbloggers were already worried about the potential for a Ukrainian crossing in force. The more realistic the threat becomes, the more they will worry, and the more likely the Kremlin will respond.
Kherson is the farthest end of the Russian logistical chain. Per Ioannina, UAF enjoy superiority in drones and artillery, working far beyond the landing points to destroy Russian vehicles and equipment. Rather than risk a headlong rush across the Dnipro, Ukraine has set up another advantageous fight that Russians cannot refuse.
Casino management is also a study in managed attrition. Whereas ‘the house always wins’ in a rigged game, casinos expect to pay out enough at slot machines and black jack tables that gamblers keep gambling, forever chasing the false hope of a bigger win than what they have already lost. Putin is a gambler, but the Kremlin has no bouncers to walk him away from the table for his own good. He keeps doubling down, and doubling the losses, because he does not really feel them at all. Russia is a no-limit credit card, to him. What does he care?
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