Ukraine update 27 April 2022


Here at Manlife, we want to work towards making a space where men can come to think and improve themselves. Part of that is taking an honest look at the world around us, even when that’s more than a little ugly. Today, I want to update you on the current situation in Ukraine. As with anything you read online, always double-check and fact-check yourself after reading anything.

When I’m not a blogger, I’m an academic. One of my areas of expertise, on which I have published in the past and often teach, is strategic studies. I’m also something of a skilled amateur at Soviet history and doctrine. What I say here, I say carefully, and I stand by it as an academic first and foremost.


As of today, the United Nations estimates that over 3,000 civilians have been killed or maimed in the war so far. Ukrainian estimates are sometimes double this, and Russian state outlets deny that they have killed many if any civilians. On this one, I believe the UN estimate more than the rest, though it is likely a highly conservative estimate.

The Ukrainian forces have, according to US estimates, lost around 4,000 members of the armed forces: this counts both those in the formal standing army and those who have joined since the war started as partisans, including foreign volunteers.

Russia says that they have lost around 4,000 people to casualties, counting those killed and wounded. The US, UN, and Ukrainians all agree that this estimate is almost certainly a lie, and the real number is somewhere greater than 10,000 Russian casualties so far.

The casualty numbers here tell a limited story, and mostly one about propaganda: everyone interested in this conflict has an aim and a strategy, and manipulation of information is key to all of those strategies. We will likely not know official casualty numbers for over a decade, as this will be the work of scholars for years to come.


As of this moment, Russian forces control a small corridor in the East of the country. Many of these areas were pro-Russian going back to the Soviet period, and all of them are areas where Russia can maintain direct supply lines by both ground and rail. Outside of this corridor, Russia has been able to make limited airstrikes, but even this capability has slowed in the past few weeks. There is still major fighting every time Russian forces attempt to break further West, and the advance is slow to nonexistent, yet causes substantial Russian casualties on a daily basis.


Information and ground war are but two fronts of this conflict. The third is the financial front. Here, major sanctions placed by most developed countries on Russia have begun to take a major toll. Since Russia has, in effect, placed an informational blockade on their own people, it’s hard to get good information, so what I do here is mostly educated guessing.

Russia is, in general, an importer of food and an exporter of oil. Much of that food was imported from Ukraine, so I would expect, at this time, basic food prices to have at least doubled in the last two months. This is often a key component in political unrest, which may well be underway in Russia without our knowledge. Second, oil imports are quickly sinking, resulting in a major slowdown in revenue for Russia’s oligarchs. Taken together, there is likely a lot of pressure on Putin, personally, to end the conflict and open trade as soon as possible. After all, there’s not much use being an oligarch if you cannot take your yacht out of Russian waters, or leave your penthouse for fear of being lynched in a bread riot. You’ll recall that such things have happened before in a war-stricken Russia, in 1917.

Current Situation in Russia

I’ll tackle this in terms of the three segments I outline above as fronts to the war: information, geography, and finances.

Russia has long been a master of informational warfare: tasked with rebuilding after WWII, and competing with the US in several arms races, the USSR had to do intelligence, and counterintelligence, on a shoestring budget. Propaganda, mastered, is a cheap and effective tool. I would expect wildly false reports on Russian TV, attempts to influence foreign actors and elections to be more favorable to Russia, and attempts to persuade publics via comment sections through the use of bot farms in places like Africa and China to put out pro-Russia messages on a global scale.

On the Ground, Russia is performing exceptionally poorly. It appears as though their forces are mostly made up of conscripts, many of whom were lied to and told this was a training exercise. Russia also does not have a corps of non-commissioned officers, in the US Army that would be Seargents, to command in the field. Thus, officers, such as Majors, Colonels, and Generals are forced, in effect, to lead directly, and have thus been exposed to hostile fire and killed. Given that Russia has bogged down for a month, they now face dug-in, increasingly experienced, and well-armed insurgents. To the best of my knowledge, no nation-state in modern history has beaten such an insurgency. For instance, the Irish Republican Army is still active in Ireland, well over a century after the beginning of their conflict.

Financially, I can only speculate, but I assume that everyday life for the ordinary Russian has gotten substantially worse in the last three months. There are likely long lines for food that costs double what it did at the beginning of the conflict, and the Rouble is becoming close to valueless. I expect Soviet-style bribery and bartering to be the norm.

To summarize, Russia seems to have gone in without a clear strategic objective and, thanks to that and dismal military planning, is now forced to fight the war mostly on the propaganda front. Russia is making no major territorial gains and seems to be heading towards ending the conflict by committing human rights violations until Ukraine surrenders to stop a genocide.

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