Matt Yglesias—Strategic Genius

Matt Yglesias is one of those people who just ooze smug condescension. As an example there’s this recent tweet:

If I understand the news out of Canada correctly, Ukraine could simply park a bunch of trucks along the key border routes and it would be impossible to clear them and invade.

Which is, IMHO, particularly stupid because there are just a few differences between the dispute in Canada and the Russia/Ukraine one.

First, as eny fule kno, Russia is lining up tanks and other tracked vehicles on the border. They are also, presumably, not intending to pass through the Ukrainian customs and border controls when they invade. This is very slightly different to the situation on the US-Canadian border where, despite free trade agreements etc., travelers are required to show their papers, allow officious agents to search their vehicles and so on. Just imagine the scene at the Novi Yarylovychi Border Crossing Station if the Russians did try to go through it:

“Purpose of visit?”


“Anything to declare? Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol? Personal weapons?”

“Nyet, nyet, just this 125mm cannon and 30 rounds for it.”

“All right, have a safe invasion. Next tank please. Oh I forgot, can I see your vaccination certificates…”

Second. The Ukrainian border with Russia and Belorussia is generally a land one with no major mountains or water features. On the other hand much of the Eastern section of the US Canadian border is the St Lawrence river. In particular, the blockage that is causing the most pain WRT US-Canadian trade is a bridge across this river. Unlike fields, which tracked tanks can easily drive across whether or not there’s a road, rivers can only be crossed using bridges or ferries. Large rivers like the St Lawrence only have a handful of bridges and a couple of dozen big rigs will in fact block a bridge just fine. You need special equipment to move each truck and you can’t simply run over them or push them over the side. So if the Russians were planning to invade Ukraine across a bridge parking a bunch of trucks on it would indeed stop the invasion while a bunch of engineers tried to remove the trucks (and were probably being shot at as they did so).

Third. Ackshuallly. Depending on what Russia plans to do in Ukraine and where its forces go, trucks could be used to block resupply routes quite effectively because unlike the tracked invasion force, the logistics support vehicles are likely to require roads and blocking major highways at key points could cause huge logistics traffic jams and thus lots of problems for the invaders. Mind you it would probably be easier to simply blow up the lead vehicles in a logistics convoy than put a truck in the way, but as a field expedient block a truck would work, even better if you booby trapped it.

Finally (and related to second and third) trucks could interdict the main entrance routes into major cities quite nicely. It isn’t going to stop the invasion dead, but (see bridge) a half dozen big rigs in the right place will make it hard to use the big roads and will force invaders to use smaller roads that may or may not be mined, may or may not have bridges that can support a 55 ton tank and so on.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Francis Turner

Francis Turner has blogged intermittently at various places as "The Shadow of the Olive Tree" or "L'Ombre d'Olivier" for most of the last two decades. As an expat Englishman, he has lived and worked in numerous countries before finally (perhaps) coming to settle down in rural Western Japan.

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