When trying to understand the course of a war, the real challenge is not in processing the mass of data, but in being able to identify the most salient patterns behind the camouflage of the information flow. Commentary by Robert C. Castel.
This is not always an easy task, but fortunately we have managed to carve out a massive layer of expertise, the raison d’être of which is the ability to see the forest through the trees. But when the “cool” Western analysts, whose tweets we drink in with insatiable thirst, cannot see the elephant in the china shop, our faith in their abilities, as well as their integrity, rightly waivers.
The horde of experts who re-package Telegram rumors and Tik-Tok videos, wielding Google translators, has developed to a master level the ability to drive a layman to death with boredom from Slavic place names and military technical terms. Meanwhile, the elephant raging in the china shop is either good or simply nothing.
The protracted battle for possession of Snake Island is one of these stubborn protagonists of war.
The myth of the island, dubbed modern Thermopylae in the early days of the war, soon bled to death. Since then, celebrated experts and respected think tanks have rarely mentioned the battlefield, making sure that any information is packaged in flowery language and very much in the vernacular.
the Snake Island theatre of operations is the weather vane for the whole Ukrainian war,
and the daft bird, for the love of God, does not want to turn to the good side of history. Worse still, a closer look at this small but symbolic battlefield can raise a number of uncomfortable questions.
The analytical importance of Snake Island is that it is the point where the combatants are fighting each other in a very precisely circumscribed tight corner, and where neither defeat nor victory can be swept away by fan analysis. Moreover, it is a tight corner where the playing field is already heavily tilted in favor of the Ukrainian side:
- The proximity of the island to both the Ukrainian coast and NATO facilities in Romania means that it is relatively far from the nearest Russian bases.
- Ukraine has repeatedly demonstrated that it has the military assets to strike at Snake Island and the naval units supporting it. See, for example, the attack by two Ukrainian Su-27s on May 6 and the deployment of Harpoon missiles a month later.
- It is also very likely that Western intelligence and electronic warfare support in this region is much more potent than, say, in the Donbas theatre of operations. The best example is the case of the cruiser Moskva hit by the Neptune missile.
- Russia’s much-vaunted superiority in terms of manpower and its collection of scrap metal, peppered with prototype parades, is of no consequence here, given the geographical location and size of the theatre of war.
- To this must be added that, in the fifth month of the war, the Russians had still not managed to achieve either air or naval superiority — not even over Snake Island.
- Finally, there is the well-known fact that Russia, unlike the Western backers of its adversary, is a land power with only modest naval credentials.
These are all indisputable and hard-edged advantages that Ukraine and NATO are counting on as part of the grand strategic plan to claim the Black Sea’s Malta.
Yet despite all this, Snake Island fell and remained in the hands of the Russian conquerors despite repeated Ukrainian attacks to retake it.
- If, even under such optimal conditions, Ukraine fails to win at least a local victory and raise the yellow and blue flag over a 20-hectare property, the question is: what are its chances of liberating a territory the size of Greece under much less favorable conditions?
- If, even under such optimal circumstances, NATO cannot manage to influence a cat-and-mouse fight on a small reef to its advantage, what chance can it have of forcing Russia, which is playing on its home turf, to retreat under much less favorable circumstances?
These are the weighty questions that the star analysts of the West should be asking, in order to shove them down the throats of the press, serving as the lapdogs of democracy, and the policymakers.
Unfortunately, uncomfortable questions are long out of fashion.
In this war, there is no such thing as substantive fact-finding, only military pornography.
And stilted Western security policy analysis is little more than propaganda to serve an incompetent but arrogant elite, by other means.