Friday, 15 August 2014

Russia's 'aid convoy' trucks: Trojan Horses, or Trojan Mules?

Courtney Weaver of the Financial Times, who has been traveling with the Russian "aid convoy," has been taking a look inside the Russian trucks said to be carrying aid to the Donbas. Unsurprisingly, many of the ones she looked at were mostly empty. See her pictures at

Why unsurprisingly? Because the amount of aid Russia said it was sending (about 2,000 tonnes) did not tally with the amount of tonnage the nearly 300 trucks of the convoy were capable of hauling. Even accounting for backup trucks in case of breakdowns, less than 100 trucks would have been needed to carry the declared tonnage (at 25 tonnes per truck, only 80 trucks required.)

Russian convoy drivers told Weaver the trucks were lightly loaded in case there were breakdowns, and loads had to be repacked from a broken down vehicle into another one in the convoy, but as far as we know all the trucks made it from Moscow to Rostov region without problems, so this seems excessive and unlikely. For comparison, Ukraine's aid convoy of 75 trucks carried to the Donbas 800 tonnes (just over 10.6 tonnes per truck), in a convoy of much lighter trucks than the heavy 10-wheeler Kamaz trucks sent by the Russians.

Why then, do the Russians need all that extra space?

As far as I can see, there are two most likely reasons for Russia sending this amount of trucks to the Donbas area – an optimistic one, and a pessimistic one.

The optimistic one is that the Russians intend to carry out of the Donbas a great deal more than they hope to bring in – a load of weapons, supplies and fighters - in a covert withdrawal of Russia's proxy army from Ukraine. This would be a face-saving withdrawal for the Kremlin, allowing the Russians to claim that their troops were never in eastern Ukraine, and the war was a purely Ukrainian internal conflict. Russia, in that case, would not have suffered a military defeat at the hands of Ukraine.

The pessimistic one is that Russia is deploying a large supply facility to the war region, which will be used to support a large-scale military intervention in eastern Ukraine, perhaps as part of its long-feared "peacekeeping" intervention, or even an all-out open invasion of the east and south of Ukraine. The deceptive nature of the deployment of such a logistics vehicle group would fit in well with the new Russian military tactics of Hybrid War, which seamlessly blends the use of stealth, deception and disinformation when preparing for and implementing an attack on another country. Further support for this scenario is the fact that the Russians are still sending armor into Ukraine to support their proxy army in Luhansk and Donetsk – as eye-witnessed by the Western media for the first time on the evening of August 14. It does not appear that the Russians are scaling down their military operation in eastern Ukraine – rather the opposite seems to be the case.

The Russian military's Hybrid War tactics are at least as revolutionary as the Wehrmacht's Blitzkrieg from the Second World War, but thankfully each time such tactics are employed they become less effective, as ways are thought up to counter them. (Germany's Blitzkrieg only really worked properly once, during the Fall of France in 1940.) We are all now on the look out for Little Green Men, and hopefully becoming more immune to the Kremlin's lies.

Nevertheless, we should still be wary: the fact that the Russian "aid convoy" presents us with puzzles could well be an indicator that it is indeed a Trojan Horse - not all that it seems – although it might be more accurately described as a Trojan packhorse. Ukraine should be very leery of allowing such a potentially dangerous dual-use "aid" convoy onto its territory.

Better to be on the safe side, and keep it out.


  1. the white trucks and crews are also taking factories apart and bringing them back to Rossiya.