AT THIS POINT THEY KIND OF HAVE TO, SINCE THEY’VE BEEN LOSING: Russia is taking off the gloves in Kharkiv. “What makes this significant is Kharkiv’s Russian identity. The city is located close to the Russian border in northeastern Ukraine. A majority of its residents speak Russian. It’s Exhibit A in Putin’s argument that Ukrainians are Russians at heart, one people united. And now here he is dropping cluster bombs on them to subdue the city.”

Of course, this puts paid to any hope Putin has of conquering Ukraine and holding it, as he doesn’t have enough troops to occupy the country against resistance, but then again that ship has already sailed. At this point Putin just needs enough of a short-term win to negotiate without losing too much face, before he’s deposed for wrecking the Russian economy.

Plus: “Which brings us to one last significant aspect of this. Why can’t the fearsome Russian military subdue a city located right on their border? They have should have no trouble supplying their troops there given Kharkiv’s proximity to Russia. Why are blunt instruments like aerial bombing needed to weaken the locals’ resolve? To put that differently: Just how good is the Russian military, really?”

I’ve been wondering why the invasion didn’t start out with an air-superiority campaign. Now I’m wondering if they didn’t do that because they couldn’t — not enough working planes, not enough logistical/mechanical capability to support the needed sortie rate, etc. Russia hasn’t fought a war against a peer or near-peer since 1945. There’s a lot of corruption in their system, and a lot of bogus good news passed up the command chain. (Where did the term “Potemkin village” come from?) I know some people wondering when Putin’s going to send in the A team, and it’s beginning to look like this is the A-team. Between this and the United States’ Afghanistan debacle, can anybody here play this game?