The Russians Are Coming

I mean, they’re already here…we will return to that shortly.

I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend, but this is a busy week, folks. Most importantly we have Thursday’s by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, those are in the UK for my American audience, where we will see just how crazy British politics gets post-Brexit referendum.

But today is Tuesday, and in a slight departure from the normal, as a new subscriber to the failing New York Times, I was pleasantly surprised to see this cover waiting for me Sunday.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…
In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…

Quite a nice use of the Russian constructivist language going on. I’m not accustomed to seeing newspaper copy set on an angle.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

The T-14 Armata

Or the post’s sub-title could be something like, Boys with Toys, because I have long enjoyed diagrams of military hardware, like these examples. Today’s post is about Russia’s new main battle tank, the first new design since the 1970s: the T-14 Armata. It premiered in last year’s parade and is expected to enter service soon. This BBC article from last year’s parade shows the various new models expected to enter the Russian Army.

Russia's new toy
Russia’s new toy

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles for Iran

Russia has agreed to complete its years-old sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. What does this mean? Well, it does not make Iran’s airspace invulnerable, but it will be a significant upgrade with the potential to deter Israel from launching an air raid against Iranian nuclear sites. In a nice, illustrated piece the Washington Post explains what the S-300 system is.

S-300 SAM system
S-300 SAM system

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.

Ukraine Retreats from Debaltseve

This is a short piece—it is only really an inline map—but it illustrates fairly well why Ukraine’s loss of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine last week is kind of a big deal. Basically, the now mostly abandoned city is a transport hub linking the two quasi capitals of the Novorossiya.

Rebel-controlled area

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp.

Population Displacement in Ukraine

Ukraine continues to suffer the effects of a Russian invasion. Though we won’t call it that. This piece from Radio Free Europe looks at the displaced persons in the country. Unfortunately, it is not quite the best example of what to do.

Displacement in Ukraine
Displacement in Ukraine

The line chart looks at the cumulative number of displaced persons. But, a monthly growth or absolute number for that month would tell a different story. See below. Hint, it slowed down, and then got pretty bad again.

Monthly population change
Monthly population change

I am also not a fan of labelling every data point on the map. Maybe call out a few interesting ones, the outliers perhaps. But do we need to know to the person how many people are in Ternopil. Probably not.

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of Radio Free Europe.

The Swedish Submarine Hunt

Today you are going to get two posts. The first is this, which is a break from the week’s theme. But news stories happen. The second will be back to regular programming at the regular time. Basically, the Swedish government is reporting that a foreign submarine is operating within its waters and the available evidence points to Russia. I have seen some ridiculous claims that one of Russia’s largest submarines is in trouble there. But I highly doubt that. And here is why.

A look at Sweden's submarine hunt
A look at Sweden’s submarine hunt

Importing Russian Gas

Today’s post is a graphic from the New York Times that looks at Russia’s hold on energy across Europe. I’m not terribly keen on this particular graphic for a few reasons. First, the design needs to incorporate the actual datapoint so the reader can compare across countries. Comparing the height of each black bar to each other is difficult at best.

Secondly, the data excludes the energy trade between European Union countries. And that strikes me as potentially quite a lot. Just because a country is importing from another EU country does not mean it is importing less.

Russian gas market in the EU
Russian gas market in the EU

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Cancelling the Mistral

In a piece of big news about Ukraine yesterday, the French government announced that it was halting the completion of the sale of two Mistral warships to Russia. The first such ship, the Sevastopol (yes, named after said city in Crimea), was due to be delivered in just over a month’s time. The two ships (the other named Vladivostok) would have given Russia the ability to launch amphibious invasions. The reason why this action was not taken earlier? Jobs. The construction of the two ships in French shipyards are a boon to the French economy. But after the recent “incursion” of Russian troops into Donetsk and Luhansk, Paris ultimately reconsidered the deal.

The Wall Street journal provides the graphic illustrating just how potent one of the ships would be.

Mistral design
Mistral design

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

Where the Rebels are in Eastern Ukraine

Today’s piece is far from ground-breaking or even complex. Friday, the Wall Street Journal published this map to supplement an article about the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Poroshenko in Ukraine. The map highlights the areas effectively controlled by the rebels, the most important the unsecured border. Of course this is just a map as stated by Kiev, the reality on the ground might be different. Regardless, it is the first map I have seen that has actually tried to demarcate the territory actually under control rather than claimed.

Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine
Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal’s graphics department.