Propaganda Russia Russian-Ukrainian relations Russian-Western relations Russo-Ukrainian war Stratcomm Strategic Communications

Thoughtless Think Tanks and Ukrainian War ‘Analysis’

The American people are being misled by a host of government officials, media, and academic outlets. One of hundreds of other similar examples one could present to demonstrate this argument is the DC-based ‘Institute for the Study of War’ (ISW) headed by the wife of well-known American neo-conservative Frederick Kagan. Just hours before ISW put out one of its daily overviews of the situation on the Russo-Ukrainian front, this is what a leading Ukrainian news outlet reported:

“The situation in Donbass is now extremely difficult. Under the threat of encirclement, the part of the Lugansk region that remained under the control of Ukraine with the center in Severodonetsk, the fighting is approaching Bakhmut and Slavyansk.

“This is not the first difficult situation in the current war. Ukraine has already survived the capture of the entire Azov coast, the loss of Mariupol and several thousand prisoners.

“But at this stage of the war, the rhetoric of the Ukrainian authorities has changed dramatically.

“Perhaps, for the first time in Kyiv, they began to speak openly about the critical situation at the front and even acknowledge the successes of the Russian troops and their ability to fight (which had never happened before).”


“Recently, two new narratives have appeared in the rhetoric of representatives of the Office of the President, as well as departments controlled by him – the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, governors.

“The first is about recognizing the critical situation at the front.

“The main array of statements comes from Arestovich. In recent days, he said that Ukraine ‘barely scrapes out’ in Severodonetsk. And that the situation at the front is ‘awful’” (

There are reasons why the situation began to be described by Ukrainian media and government officials in this way on May 27th. Some ten thousand to tens of thousands were under the threat of complete encirclement by Russian forces and thereby being cut off from all supply lines. The Ukrainian army had been taking heavy losses in the this area (and others) for a week or more, and hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers were making videos addressing the country’s leadership complaining of being sent to the front without training or sometimes even weapons, depleted or nonexistent food supplies and ammunition, and the like.

But the IWS offers its readers something quite different–not a word about the imminent encirclement of at least ten if not tens of thousands of Ukrainian forces, the cut off of their supply lines, and the collapsing morale. There was one mention – not contained in the excerpt below – of heavy Ukrainian losses in the entire report, but no specifics are provided. ISW is engaged as much in propaganda as it is in analysis:

“May 28, 7:30pm ET

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is inflicting unspeakable suffering on Ukrainians and demanding horrible sacrifices of his own people in an effort to seize a city that does not merit the cost, even for him.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine that aimed to seize and occupy the entire country has become a desperate and bloody offensive to capture a single city in the east while defending important but limited gains in the south and east. Ukraine has twice forced Putin to define down his military objectives. Ukraine defeated Russia in the Battle of Kyiv, forcing Putin to reduce his subsequent military objectives to seizing Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine stopped him from achieving that aim as well, forcing him to focus on completing the seizure of Luhansk Oblast alone. Putin is now hurling men and munitions at the last remaining major population center in that oblast, Severodonetsk, as if taking it would win the war for the Kremlin. He is wrong. When the Battle of Severodonetsk ends, regardless of which side holds the city, the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will likely have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counteroffensives to push Russian forces back.

“Russian forces are assaulting Severdonetsk (sic) even though they have not yet encircled it. They are making territorial gains and may succeed in taking the city and areas further west. The Ukrainian military is facing the most serious challenge it has encountered since the isolation of the Azovstal Plant in Mariupol and may well suffer a significant tactical defeat in the coming days if Severodonetsk falls, although such an outcome is by no means certain, and the Russian attacks may well stall again.

“The Russians are paying a price for their current tactical success that is out of proportion to any real operational or strategic benefit they can hope to receive. Severodonetsk itself is important at this stage in the war primarily because it is the last significant population center in Luhansk Oblast that the Russians do not control. Seizing it will let Moscow declare that it has secured Luhansk Oblast fully but will give Russia no other significant military or economic benefit. This is especially true because Russian forces are destroying the city as they assault it and will control its rubble if they capture it. Taking Severodonetsk can open a Russian ground line of communication (GLOC) to support operations to the west, but the Russians have failed to secure much more advantageous GLOCs from Izyum partly because they have concentrated so much on Severodonetsk.

“The Russians continue to make extremely limited progress in their efforts to gain control of the unoccupied areas of Donetsk Oblast, meanwhile. Russian troops have struggled to penetrate the pre-February 24 line of contact for weeks, while Russian offensive operations from Izyum to the south remain largely stalled. The seizure of Severodonetsk could only assist in the conquest of the rest of Donetsk Oblast if it gave the Russians momentum on which to build successive operations, but the Battle of Severdonetsk will most likely preclude continued large-scale Russian offensive operations” (

It is hard to believe that any DC think tank would put out such shoddy work, deceiving its readers and donors so cynically and falsely, if it is not overly concerned with the propaganda effect of its ‘analysis.’ Let’s see how long ISW waits to come clean to its readers about the real state of affairs in the war and the impending encirclement of tens of thousands of demoralized and under-equipped Ukrainian regular, neofascist-dominated battalion, and hastily formed territorial defense forces.

Earlier, War on the Rocks offered a similarly bit of analysis:

“An aspect of operational intelligence planning that has played out in Russian operations is their apparent inability to change their tactical approaches when meeting with defeat or failure. Good intelligence preparation provides an estimate of the adversary’s most likely course of action and their most dangerous. While one plans primarily for the former, some eye is kept on the possibility of the enemy’s actions better conforming to the latter. Indicators and warning systems are put in place to warn the commander if that is the case, so the force can pivot to a contingency plan. The Russian forces do not appear to be using their operational intelligence capacity to change the plan if the initial effort fails. Noting that the Russian army kept persisting with failed operations, and applying fires against random, undefended locations, one Ukrainian special forces operator said, “We’re lucky the Russians are so fucking stupid.”

“This stupidity, coupled with the poor optimization of Russian battlegroups to manage their own intelligence capabilities, has been met by Ukraine’s own superiority in managing tactical intelligence. The result of this meeting of forces was Ukraine’s advantage, especially noted in the northern theatre around Kyiv, in being able to ambush Russian forces and cause significant attrition without Russian reply. In short, the Ukrainians could see Russian units approaching and plan frequent and widespread “shoot and scoot” ambushes, while the Russian troops found themselves unable to determine where and when the Ukrainians would act. Ukrainian ability to retain the initiative meant local superiority.

“As a caution, we must note that we do not know how badly the Ukrainians have been mauled by Russian forces to date. The Ukrainians have been playing a masterful game of information operations, and accurate views of their casualties are not widely publicized or even discussed. While most information suggests otherwise, Russian military intelligence may be providing accurate information, enabling them to target Ukrainian formations effectively. We know Ukraine’s large air-defense systems have taken serious casualties, for instance, and this may be the case elsewhere. It will take some time, and more data, before we can effectively assess the full operational intelligence skill of the invading Russian forces” (

In other words, Russians are stupid, cannot conduct operational or tactical intelligence effectively if at all, and are getting their asses kicked by superior Ukrainian intelligence ops thanks to US assistance, BUT all this could be entirely wrong so don’t blame us if subsequent data and events prove Russia to be effective in these spheres of warfare.

This is not incompetence mind you. This is willful malpractice, especially in the ISW case, designed to conceal the truth from the American people and decision-makers. Reports always give the impression of Ukrainian forces attacking and Russian forces failing to move forward, though one needs only to compare war maps of eastern Ukraine indicating Russian- versus Ukrainian-controlled territory to understand Russia’s territorial gains everywhere but in the north.

This sort of ‘reporting’ is everywhere in the West and is about to meet up with a cruel readjustment. The journal Foreign Affairs, like the Ukrainian government, does not report Ukrainian military casualties: “Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have already been slain and injured in the invasion, which is becoming a grinding war of attrition. Ukraine, however, is also suffering from the war, as thousands of its residents are killed while its economy collapses” ( The Brooking Institute claims: “Ukrainian attitudes toward negotiation have hardened since March. That reflects growing confidence in the abilities of the Ukrainian military” ( Anders Åslund, a ‘senior fellow’ at the Stockholm Free World Forum claims: “Something is seriously wrong in Moscow. The question is not whether Russia is in crisis, but how severe the crisis is and whether it is enough to unsettle President Vladimir Putin. Based on current evidence, I would be surprised if he can rule Russia until the end of this year” (

This sort of distortion would be shocking if it had not been going on for decades in Rusology, political science, international studies, academia, the media, and government in our increasingly corrupt and morally bankrupt country. If you cannot win without incessant, absurd lying, then you likely will not and do not deserve to win. Soon we may be envying Russians.




About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, and

Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored four well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.


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