As the Russian Government Pretends Everything is Okey-Dokey, the War Becomes More Hybrid Than Ever: Possible Long-Term Implications for NATO in Europe.
So, the Nord Stream I and II there taken out of commission by someone. The mainstream media doesn’t point fingers — they are probably in shock and don’t have clear instructions from their patrons on how to spin that to the public. In the lack of the mainstream narrative, the alternative media is blaming the US.
Let’s assume it was the US. I won’t speak about economic implications, since many people smarter than me already did it. I will also not speak about the possibility it was intended to disrupt the secret EU-Russia ceasefire negotiations. As much as I hope there are none, it does seem very much like something Putin would do. In that case, I’m glad for the sabotage, and hope it will achieve this specific goal.
But what I want to examine is the implications on the US-EU relationship, specifically their military alliance. If Americans did it, or enabled someone else to do it, Europeans would find out eventually (if they don’t know already). And when they do, they’ll have a new understanding of their position in the American World Order — not more frenemies, that support each other to the outside, but are economic and political rivals on the inside. But competitors who are actively sabotaging each-other with military means.
If the core American ideology behind their international politics is the “zero sum game”, then Europeans are only differing from Russia and China in the place on the American checklist. They can’t control the US foreign policies, and they can’t rely on US protection.
There is a possibility that the EU leadership was given the heads-up, or even gave their concession for this act. But if they did, it seems they didn’t prepare any narrative or spin to present it to the public in a beneficial way. Instead, they seem shocked. Which leads me to believe they didn’t know or approved.
If so, the next logical step for the EU is reevaluating their alliance with the US in the NATO format. They gave the US Navy the carte blanche to do in their territorial waters whatever, assuming it will only be directed against Russia. Now that they themselves became a target, the NATO alliance suddenly will seem like a burden at the very least.
As I’ve already talked about, the only real reason EU needs US is for its MAD (mutually assured destruction) nuclear deterrence forces. Without the UK, only France possesses its own nuclear capabilities. Maybe this is the reason US is so keen on creating the illusion of the Russian nuclear threat to the Europe — to remind Europeans they can’t leave “la Familia” no matter what. And if Russia won’t nuke Europe, maybe someone else will. That wouldn’t be much escalation after blowing the pipelines, the lifeline of the German industry.
Assuming Europeans are smart enough to understand that Russia doesn’t have anything to win by nuking the EU, but only stands to lose its major export destination, and assuming they know Putin has a fetish for Europe in general and Germany in particular, they actually can disregard such a threat. If they do, then the only question which remains is: “is the NATO worth it?”. After the sabotage of the Nord Stream, both I and II, the most obvious answer is: no. Especially given the public pressure in Europe to restore the energy supplies and save the sinking EU economy.
Jacob Dreizin wrote that US is playing chess. That may be, but they play against themselves. Schemes only work for some time — after a while they produce an opposite effect. Evil never wins in the long run, because evil is ultimately destructive not only to the outside, but also to itself. Whomever sabotaged the pipelines, is at high risk of creating a long-lasting rift between itself and Europe. If it indeed was the US, then the next (historically speaking) logical step would be for NATO-OTAN to become just NATO, or even ASTO — Anglo-Saxon Treaty Organization.
Putin has shown his total incompetence in running a government. There is still almost no criticism of him personally, except for the usual NGO- and foreign-run media. It seems fixing the problems of corrupt system is too much to ask of him, even in the time of national emergency. Instead, he would probably prefer to sign some kind of Treaty of Versailles. Easy to guess how it will end: popular support for Putin will plunge, and more aggressive elements will gain support instead to replace him (maybe even by force). Since Putin have strengthen the “Vertical of Power”, the new leaders will have almost no counterbalances in place to check their rule. No wonder people who have options (including bad options) are fleeing Russia — distrust in Putin’s government, its infuriating cowardly silence regarding the true state of the war, detachment from domestic reality and the disastrous management of the military campaign (which resulted in middle-age office workers with no previous military service to be mobilized, the volunteers with combat experience to be turned down, and there is no training or equipment ready for many of new recruits) — all this resulted in uncontrolled panic. Even the ones who didn’t receive a mobilization notice, fear that next waves of mobilization will follow, and the borders will be closed for able men to leave Russia. Bravo! Whatever the West tried to do to Russia and failed miserably, Putin is doing by himself.
Another spectacular failure of Russian Ministry of Defense of Russia (MoD) is the implementation of the “partial mobilization” plan implementation. I speculated, that the intent was first and foremost to mobilize the professional soldiers who have recently discontinued or breached their contracts with Russian MoD and other military related structures, like the National Guards. The publicized parameters for the mobilization support this theory. They list relevant combat experience as one of the main requirements.
In practice, there is no centralize system in place to conduct this kind of mobilization. Instead, the local “military commissariats” (“voenkomat” in Russian) –which are local military enlistment offices charged with enlistment and mobilization– are receiving the required number of reservists to be called into mobilization from the MoD. There are no specific names, just the number of people such local office receives according to the number of reservists registered in each area.
As I understand, the system works something like this: each military service able man (or a woman) required to register in their local voenkomat. Then this information is being passed up to their parent offices until it reaches the MoD itself. In the event of mobilization, the orders are coming down from the MoD until they reach the local voenkomats. So, the MoD has the general information and statistics, but it doesn’t actually manage the particulars than it comes down to the question of who is to be enlisted or mobilized. All it does is send down the mobilization orders according to the number of registered reservists in each federal republic, then region, then city, then local area.
The local voenkomats receive the only the number of people they are required to produce, but they are the ones who are tasked with choosing the specific individuals to be called to mobilization. For example, it may well be that the local area has 10,000 registered men. It was tasked to mobilize 100 (the 300,000 men mobilization is roughly 1% of the mobilization pull in Russia, as I’ve heard, hence the 100 which is 1% of 10,000). But only 50 of those 10,000 are actually combat experienced soldiers of required professions, who left the service in last few years. So, the rest 50 of those 100 could be the ones who haven’t any combat experience, or don’t have the required military profession, or left the active service decades ago.
It may also be that the local enlistment office has the required number of men who are young, combat experienced, and have the needed military profession. But the office personnel don’t have the means or competence or motivation to go through all the 10,000 registered men and choose the most suited ones among them.
So instead of mobilizing the professional soldiers, we hear of middle-aged men who served decades ago, or younger IT professionals who never served a day in their life, or people with health problems etc. And there are credible reports that some of the more suitable people who come voluntary to those enlistment offices and asked to be mobilized are sometimes sent back because the local bureaucrats don’t want to deal with the paperwork.
At the same time, Ukrainian and Western psyops operation against Russian speaking public is at full swing. They want to upgrade this Russian MoD’s made disaster into a full-blown crisis. They tell Russian people their sons, husbands and fathers are sent to slaughter. Since many Russians distrust their government to tell them the truth (and for good reason, obviously), they are naturally seeking alternative sources of information, and that is that they are getting.
By the way, there is a considerable young men flight from Russia. Specifically, I know of train from Moscow to Orenburg near the Kazakhstan border, to which all the tickets have been sold (which is highly unusual). It is happening, and it will have implications on the Russian economy. In general, the mood is not supportive of this debacle of mobilization, but most are going with it. But any unnecessary deaths of those mobilized, especially of the ones who aren’t suited to the criteria announced by Putin and the MoD, will have a stronger antagonizing effect on the Russian public. Putin, unwilling to clean up the swamp the Russian MoD has become, will lose a portion of his popular support. Not the support for the war (which is strong), but support for the current government. And people should make this distinction.
P.S. Prisoners exchange.
By the way, the recent prisoners exchange felt again as betrayal. Look up the Strelkov and Rybar telegram channels (in Russian) for details. The failures of the government are coming just coming one after another. And, as usual, there is an information vacuum coming from the government, leaving the people with the Ukrainian and Western produced narrative. By many it feels like betrayal of the Russian people core interests for the sake of some “diplomacy” and “good will gestures”. The most high-profile and the most evil ultra-nationalists were exchanged for the lest high profile allied soldiers plus one Poroshenko supporter, Medvedchuk in 4 to 1 ratio (50 Russian soldiers for 200 ultra-nationalists and foreign mercenaries). Which reinforces the impression that Putin and his government couldn’t care less for the Russian prisoners as long as they can play in diplomacy.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that that has happened was something like this:
- Putin are being told by MoD’s Shoigu (who is a bureaucrat out of his depth) that the professional portion of the Russian Army is enough for achieving the goals of SMO.
- In fact, there was a grave miscalculation in how much the West will push Ukraine to fight, as well as how combat-effective are Russian troops rally are.
- The “whirlwind of furious attacks” had an initial success in quickly covering very large territories of Ukraine. It has also resulted in (relatively) large casualties and Russian soldiers taken prisoners of war by Ukraine.
- The moral of the soldiers has crashed down as a result of commanders’ incompetence, death of comrades and the ISIS/Nazi-like treatment of the Russian prisoners by Ukrainians.
- The professional, i.e. contract soldiers started to exit the military after their contracts have expired or even before that. The National Guard had a similar situation.
- Since Putin was adamant to have as little popular resistance to this war, he decided not to declare war, or emergency situation. Which means there isn’t much the government could do to stop the flight of the contract soldiers from the service.
- This problem was attempted to be solved by voluntary mobilization, as well as heavy use of militias and the Wagner Group.
- But since the offensive has not only stopped but large portion of territories there abandoned at the end of the “first phase”, Ukrainian side was given enough time and space to mobilize, and the West — to supply the newly created units. Which only aggravated the number disparity of the sides.
- The effort was made by Russia to raise new territorial units all over the country, to prepare a new force which will allow for retaking the initiative on the battleground. Better payments and benefits, raising of the age limits, all efforts to fill the ranks. Meanwhile, Ukrainians managed to frow new forces into the war.
- At some point, the MoD and the Kremlin realized the situation is getting out of control. Their initial plans have failed spectacularly, but not being able to confess it to the public, they continued with “everything is going according to the plan” lie.
- Having no other choice, the decision was made to abandon the Kharkov region, in order to hold the defences on other fronts. The holes on Kherson front were plugged by paratroopers, who are holding the positional defence for many weeks now — the best sign of military planning going all wrong. This resulted in a spectacular debacle. There was a try so spin it as “successful regrouping”, but people (like me), who until then were oblivious to the fact that Russia has hardly any front-line troops left, have seen the light. The abandonment of the Kharkov population had even worse effect — now even the legislators are pushing for the change in legal status of the SMO to prevent Kremlin from abandoning this war and its previously stated goals.
- In order to show “leadership” and “determination”, Kremlin couldn’t accept the legislators’ proposals and upgrading the legal status of the SMO (e.g. declaring a state of emergency), which would allow to mobilize the contract soldiers who left the military during or shortly before the war have started.
- Instead, the announced partial mobilization had many people in Russia panic. After Putin broke his promise to make do without mobilization, and the constant “everything is going according to the plan”, they now fear their teenage sons and daughters would end up in Ukraine. A totally irrational thinking based on parental emotions. But the point stands — people are losing whatever trust they had in Putin and SMO, and starting to panic, leading to irrational decisions and actions.
The Government doesn’t trust the people with the truth, so it lies and spins and make excuses. That causes the people to lose faith in the government. And the spiral continues.
This is the sorry state of affairs right now, and the reasons for it. Regarding the actual effects on the war, the mobilization would surely help the Russian military efforts. It would take some time, probably some months, before it will materialize effectively on the battlefields.
Meanwhile, some changes for the good are seen here and there. I have previously mentioned the rumors about the changes in Russian military command personnel. Now we have news about top managers of Russian MIC being arrested for fraud (i.e. usual corruption in high places), which, probably happened only because the war itself. Even if Putin would continue to ignore the corruption in his government, the war will expose failures which otherwise could have been covered up. Eventually, Russian military will adapt and dispose of some of the most corrupt and incompetent commanders and officials. Same true for the Russian military industrial complex. It will provide a strong push for modernization of the armed forces, especially the ground troops. I only hope it would happen sooner than later, so this war could finally end.
It becomes more obvious the Russian professional Army wasn’t as it was presented. It wasn’t a combat ready, highly trained and well equipped force. The hundreds of thousands of professional soldiers failed to materialize and swiftly defeat the Ukrainian Army.
The Kharkov debacle was the final straw that broke the pretence of “everything is going according to the plan”. The plans failed one after another and were changed on-the-go: Kiev, landing in Odessa, Donbass, Kharkov. After the first phase, Russia withdrew from Kiev and northern regions. After the second phase, the Russian forces fled the Kharkov region. The reason — Russian Army was in bad shape. It still is. Corruption is a force that opposes competition and merit-based promotions. It is a source of stagnation and pursue of self-interests instead of a common good and improvement. Failed to battle the corruption, Putin gave way for the weakening of the Russian military strength.
Now he attempts to overcome it with numbers. Those new mobilized reservists are supposed to be the 300,000 of the most experienced ones. War in Syria produced a large number of “combat experienced” personnel, who are now may be mobilized. The less obvious goal of this mobilization effort, and this is my speculation, is to mobilize all the contract soldiers and servicemen who suddenly decided to terminate their contracts with the Army, Russian National Guards, FSB etc. I’m sure some people are only willing to be professional soldiers in the time of peace. Those will be returned into service by mobilization, or harshly sentenced.
So, let’s assume there will be no problem in mobilizing those 300,000 men. Many of them will also require only limited “refreshing” and “team building” before they can be sent to the front. Others, who are out of service for many years, will require retraining that can last for months. All of them will also require to be armed and equipped.
Currently, the existing Russian military force in Ukraine lacks some badly needed things like suicide and reconnaissance drones. Iranian supplies would quickly exhaust the existing stocks if used massively, and then they will be supplied according to their production rate. In the beginning of this war, Russia had some not insignificant number of drones. They there produced and stocked in numbers, sufficient for Syria, but not for Ukraine. Now the production lines are being hastily expanded, but there are problems to be expected with trained production workers and availability of components.
So those new forces will be underequipped, their morale –being involuntary mobilized– lower, generally speaking. But they should suffice to hold defense lines, to prevent the repetition of the “regrouping” affair in Kharkov. (Actually, few BTG’s would have sufficed to prevent it, I believe.) While the more motivated and better equipped forces could take the initiative in the fighting.
The problem is we still don’t know the level of commitment by Kremlin for achieving the full victory. Putin stated that the main goal of the SMO –the liberation and security of Donbass Republics– has remained unchanged. All I hear from this is that other objectives, like the neutral status of Ukraine, preventing any further NATO expansion, “denazification” and “demilitarization”, “decommunization” and the protection of the Russian speaking people outside of the Russian Federation — all those may change. Maybe they already have changed in Putin’s mind, and all that’s preventing the “Minsk-3” is the unwillingness of the West to end this war, as long as there is an opportunity to bleed Russia some more. Of course, this point of view is a wrong one, because if Russia survives this pressure (and I see no reason it won’t), it will only come stronger out of this war, and the West will come out weaker. And, as I keep repeating, militarily, Russia cannot lose this war. Not against Ukraine. Theoretical conventional war against NATO or China? Who knows. But not against Ukraine.
On the other hand, 300,000 new men are too excessive number just to hold the defences. It actually suggests that Kremlin is getting ready for some offensive operations in Ukraine in winter. (It may also suggest Kremlin is warry about the stability in other neighboring regions like Central Asia or the greater Caucasus. Or maybe Polish intervention is again on the table.)
This winter will be a golden opportunity for Russians to actually end this war. Europe is getting deeper in energy crisis and in a resulting social discontent, which will culminate in the winter. Any strikes on Ukrainian power-generating infrastructure Russia may initiate, will follow by a real humanitarian and economic crisis. If so, greatly weakening the Ukraine itself as well as the Western support for it, will provide an opportunity window for an effective offensive. But again, all my hopes for quick ending of this war and the resulting human suffering, all were shuttered by incompetence and failures of Russian MoD. So, I won’t be surprised if they manage to produce another debacle and let the victory slip through their old fingers yet again.
Getting back to the main point. The basis of Putin’s popular support is the belief that he (and only he) can make and keep Russia militarily strong. But after the “successful regrouping” in Kharkov front, this image started to shatter. It became painfully obvious, that despite of parades and tv reports, Russian military currently isn’t even strong enough to take on Ukraine. Not without mobilization.
Escalation is not only a sign of failure of the current Russian military, but also the attempt to change the emerging narrative. Why fire Shoigu and rebuild the Army and military industry, thus making waves in a stale pond of political elites and the balance of fractions’ power, if you can just throw another 300,000 men on this problem instead. Putin will do anything not to combat the corruption and incompetence in the seats of power, it seems. Not even in time of war.
It is said Russia has two problems: the roads and the idiots. It is also said that Russia has two allies: the Army and the Fleet. It seems the allies are only got weaker, and the problems remained the same. A more competent leader is needed, the one who will be able and willing to stir up the swamp of corruption, nepotism and incompetence. But for that, smarter voters are needed. Hopefully, the mobilization will make people smarter all other Russia. Because more people will be informed by the ones who experienced the war about the real state of affairs. Those soldiers and their families will vote sooner or later. And the more failures Russian military command will manage to produce, the lower Putin’s ratings will become. On the other hand, he is probably expecting the new voters from the newly annexed territories to vote for him. We will see.
The weakening of the Russian image on the global scene
After the hasty Russian military withdrawal from the Kharkov region territories, Russian Army’s image suffered a mighty blow.
After the flare-up of Armenian-Azeri conflict, Armenia has officially requested for Russian protection under the collective defence treaty. Russian response was muddled, one of relatively low profile and slow. In the meantime, while Armenian president has cancelled his visit to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Putin had some pleasant talks with Azeri president Aliev and the Turkish president and the main sponsor of Azeri military actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Erdogan. Putin had a good time in Samarkand with his peers, as well as answering (almost certainly) pre-approved questions of the selected Russian media journalists. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi made a high-profile visit to Armenia in its support. Armenian official (National Security Comity chairman of something of similar nature) has expressed his disappointment in Russian response.
Armenia saw Russia as its main ally in a possible war with Azerbaijan. It has a Russian-friendly government, and a strong, Russian-aligned opposition. Now, where are attempts to organize anti-Russian protests. As a result of all this, Russian influence in Armenia will be significantly degraded.
It is understandable Russia had some good reasons not to get involved in this fight right now, after the giant setback in Ukraine. But it is exactly for this reason, Russia should have acted much more aggressively against Azeri and Turkish power moves in the region. Their timing is not coincidental. Azerbaijan chose the moment Russia was in its lowest point so far. It shows Aliev and Erdogan think this is the best time to squeeze Russia of this region. This also shows, they are afraid of direct military confrontation with Russia, but will act against Russian interest whenever possible.
Yet Putin chose to abandon Armenia in order to play an important leader in Uzbekistan. He stroked his ego, showing his impotency as a supreme leader of a greatly weakened military superpower. He has also showed again in his interviews, what he won’t give any regard to the lives of civilians and soldiers lost in this conflict. The previous “Russia hasn’t lost anything in this war” remark made not long ago in Vladivostok wasn’t a slip of tongue or mistake. And the ongoing and escalating slaughter of the civilians in Russian occupied Ukraine and Russia proper won’t even be acknowledged by him.
Along the Armenian-Azeri conflict, the Kyrgyz-Tajiki conflict, which was slowly burning for decades, suddenly and very quickly got almost out of control. Actually, it got out of control more than once, but somehow got again back under control. It seems to me, and I’m mostly guessing, that their national governments managed to stop the actions of some local forces. Again, this timing is highly suspicious, and it seems the goal was to ignite this Russian-allied region.
Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: all members of the Russian-led Collective Defense Treaty Organization. All may potentially require a large Russian military force to be sent to these countries, in order to prevent a war or regime change. If successful, all have one thing in common — militarily distracted Russia. And the winners of such possible outcome are Ukraine and the Western neocons/neoliberals.
The reformation of the Russian Army
For now, only some rumors (from Telegram channel “Rybar”, for example). It seems there is some movement in the Russian military. Some heads rolled, some reinforcements sent, some new “not a step back” orders were given. Only rumors for now but make sense, at least for me. It is also somewhat encouraging. At least major failures get some reaction. How useful this reaction is — I cannot say. But a reaction is a sign a failure was recognized as such, and not ignored or spined as it happens usually. Any acknowledgment of failures, even if it happens behind closed doors while projecting “all is going according to plan”, is a good thing.
I believed all along that: 1. Russian top military establishment is corrupted and incompetent (as almost any other giant monopolistic organization in the world); 2. war is an ultimate form of competition (to the point of natural selection, even), which is the best remedy for corruption and incompetence.
That is why I also believe that ultimately Russian military will come stronger out of this war, unless of course the war won’t be allowed to reach its natural conclusion: a total defeat of the enemy.
But seeing how much resistance there is to even acknowledge the facts of failure, is at the same time discouraging. You cannot improve something unless you acknowledge the improvement is needed. If Putin acts like all is fine and is going according to plan, it will create a natural resistance to any changes for better. If he thinks that his poker face is serving some national cause, he gravely mistaken. All that thinking Russians see is a president who is detached from the people and ignores all the suffering, resulting from the prolonged and underperforming military campaign.
The Russian strikes on Nikolaev nuclear power plant
I’m sure there be a lot of rationalization of this strike. My opinion is a revenge for the politically skewed IAEA report. Russians made a lot of efforts to bring IAEA to Zaporozhye NPP in order to stop its shelling, and in order for this UN organization to acknowledge that it was Ukrainian side who shelled the power plant. Yet all IAEA produced is a political statement in support of Ukraine. So, in my opinion, the Russian rational is: “If you make it OK for Ukraine to shell nuclear power plants, maybe we can start doing the same. If you don’t like it, you can change your approach. If not, we can shell some other Ukrainian nuclear power plants as well.”
I will wait to see the IAEA reaction to this new development. I’m sure some of the officials there won’t be happy with how things turned out after they gave Ukraine a green light to proceed with the selling of Zaporozhye NPP.
I see some people assume Russia is buying those drones. I guess actually there were some deals done, and the Iranian drones are a part (or a whole) of a payment for some weapons Russia will supply (or maybe already is supplying) to Iran. Iran would very much want to get its hands on modern 4+ gen fighter jets or some advanced air defense systems like S-400.
Comments on Duran’s latest video “Calm in the Kremlin, SMO plan for now. ATO remains on the table”.
I feel like Alexander is misunderstanding what happened with Zyuganov’s proposal and Peskov’s comment. Zyuganov made a proposal, which, to my understanding, was built around one central idea — to upgrade the SMO in Ukraine legally in such way, what the Government couldn’t decide to abandon it without the approval of the Duma. Whis comes after what seems like some sort of unilateral de-escalation or de-militarization efforts on the part of the Russian MoD.
A lot of forces were withdrawn from the previously occupied (there is no sense in calling it “liberated”, since the “liberators” have suddenly and cynically abandoned the “liberated” without any explanations) territories in the Kharkov region. Where have those forces moved to — we don’t know. They are nowhere to be seen. All the other fronts are holding up without any major reinforcements. It is theoretically possible, there is a secret concentration of assault forces that will be used for some deep maneuver operation, but there is zero information to support such it. If so, those forces are most probably had been taken out of Ukraine. Which looks like an abandonment of the “denazification” and “demilitarization” goals that were voiced by Putin.
So, the sentiment right now among the critical thinking people is that either the MoD has made a grave miscalculation in its war management, or there is a political imperative to downgrade the SMO for the sake of some secret peace talks, for example.
That is why Zyuganov wants to classify the SMO as a war, which couldn’t be abandoned by the Kremlin’s decision alone. All the other talks about possible mobilization etc. are just some things he throwed around to camouflage this main point, so not to make it painfully obvious that he wants to prevent a government-initiated defeat in Ukraine. In other words, he doesn’t want “Minsk-3”.
About Peskov — all he said is that general mobilization isn’t currently on the table. Which is not here nor there, and in any case have nothing to do with Zyuganov’s initiative.
I do agree with Alexander, when he says that he doesn’t see a need for a general mobilization, in order for Russia to achieve all its goals in Ukraine. I believe Russia has enough professional forces for this task, provided it has a competent military command. And if it doesn’t (which is also my belief), then it should reorganize it until it does. If I’m not mistaken, it was Suvorov that said Russian Army should win wars with skill, not numbers. In modern warfare this only even more true — skills and powerful weaponry becomes more accessible, while human lives — more precious.
And I would like to add, that the only allied formation that is currently gaining ground in Ukraine, and in a highly defended area on top on that, is the Wagner Group. Which is not under the direct command of the Russian military. Maybe it is clue of where all those failures come from.
But having incompetent MoD top officials has its benefits for the current president and his close associates. A capable and victorious commander will always have the support of the people. And we know what happened to Zhukov after the end of WWII, then his popularity rivaled that of Stalin. This is also probably why Strelkov, was quietly moved into shadows, and all he left with is an FSB colonel’s pension and a Telegram channel. Although, I have to say, it is better Strelkov would be kept away from any position of power in politics. But the main point stands — there are no competent and promising figures in the Russian politics or military today. And the only ones in Russia who are benefiting from this situation, is the current political elite.
So, Russia has an ability to win this war without general mobilization. And as long as the war continues, there will be enough of the popular pressure on the political elites to get the army into the shape. The only one possibility (excluding the direct NATO intervention) for the defeat, is some kind of diplomatic solution, akin to the Minsk-1 and -2. And this is what, to my understanding, Zyuganov want to prevent. Because he doesn’t trust enough in Putin not to betray the people of Russia. Alexander often says that Putin is very much thinks and acts in the legal plane. Maybe him being legally bound to continue this war till the end isn’t such a bad idea.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
This timing is very unlikely to be a simple coincidence. Azerbaijan sees an opportunity to take by force what it wants. Turkey sees an opportunity to promote its influence in the region, and to weaken Russia. All the rest will watch to see how will Russia react: is it a paper tiger, as the war in Ukraine lately suggests? If Russia will allow Azeris to do what they want, its status will significantly drop. China wouldn’t see Russia as equal (for now) but as an inferior country. The traditional Russian satellites in the Central Asia will start to seek other patrons in East or West. Ukraine’s supporters will be emboldened even more to supply more capable weapons. And the rest of the world will follow those trends as well.
The Latest Izyum and Kharkov debacle made a fracture in Russian image. If Russia will fail to display its power and commitment to its allies, then the situation will become much worse, and may, eventually, get out of control all together. That is why Russia will need to open a second front in Caucasus if needed, and with much more vigor and determination that it did in Ukraine. Azerbaijan is a friendly nation by large, but there is no more room left for empty-worded diplomacy. Russia needs to do it for itself, as well for the Armenia and the long-lasting stability of the region.
And I have no idea who is in the right here, Armenia or Azerbaijan or neither or both. But that is not the point. This is a very volatile region. Even before the USSR collapsed, a lot of blood started to flood in the (former) Soviet Republics. Repetition of such inter-ethnic conflicts should be prevented, and it is Russia’s historic responsibility to do so.
In response to the Duran’s video “Upgrading the Special Military Operation”.
While I agree with most of what Alexander Mercouris is saying, my own conclusion is quite opposite. We are not witnessing the escalation of the Russian military efforts in Ukraine, but in fact the effects of the opposite. Strelkov talked in one of his recent posts of the 1st Guards tank army hastily retreat from the Kharkov region in order to escape the possible encirclement.
For God’s sake, 1st tank army is the most elite and capable force of the previously Soviet, and now Russian Ground Forces. Yes, I understand it wasn’t the full-blooded army, but some pieces of it, deployed here and there, and many of its units are still in Russia, especially the ones manned by conscripts. Still, whatever units they did have in place, surly they could have defeated some few lightly armored Ukrainian brigades, which didn’t have no great artillery support, and no air-support to speak of.
Yet it looks like the decision has already been made to abandon the “liberated” people of the Kharkov region to the terror of neo-Nazi, ultra-nationalists and a worst kind of violent criminals. Those people were betrayed by the Russian Federation’s government. The Russian and allied soldiers, who believed they are fighting a just war for the sake of those people as well as the people of the Russian Federation, were betrayed. Their sacrifices for capturing of those territories were not only made in vain, but for the demise of the people who trusted the Russian promises of protection of the Russian speakers. As in Bucha and other areas, the better thing for those people was for Russian Army to never come in the first place, if they are being abandoned after branded as collaborators and traitors.
The basis of Putin actions in Ukraine was the defence of the Russian-speaking population. He talked many times of the Russian responsibility to protect those people outside of Russia, as well as Russian citizens inside Russia itself. The Russian actions of the past week or so made it painfully clear, Putin’s words mean nothing. If it wasn’t a result of his intervention into the Russian military affair, then the level of incompetence requires very drastic actions against those incompetent commanders, and that includes the Putin’s best bud Shoigu as well. Being cautions to the point of cowardness to steer things up in the current political elites, he would do no such thing. He brags then things go well but remains silent then the population want his explanations of what happened, and his reassurances of this being a part of some cunning plan, which will turn the situation around quickly in a big way. Since Putin will most probably do no such thing, his popular support will plunge like a rock.
I tried to explain the cultural difference of keeping one’s word, and how it is much more important to a Russian leader. In fact, in the Eastern cultures as a whole, I feel it is much more critical. If the West wanted to replace Putin as the Russia’s leader, he might have just made a first successful attempt. Of course, the one who would replace the Putin would be much more aggressive towards the West, which will also carry more risks for escalation towards the actual Russia-NATO war and, ultimately, the use of the unconventional weapons.
The SMO was degraded to the point it could now only go two ways: Putin will start growing some balls and cleanse the MoD from incompetence and corruption (but I doubt that — he is probably too old for such changes), or the Russia will start losing this war politically, which means Putin will have to go soon enough, and a new (probably much more totalitarian) chapter will begin in the Russian politics.
Putin started his successful political carrier as the leader of Russian Federation, when he oversaw the second Chechen war. Russia got out of this war as an undeniable winner, after the previous treacherous connection to the West and its under-the-table deals were cut-off, and after some losses of Russian soldiers, including conscripts. It seems, Putin has forgotten the reason he succeeded were many of his predecessors in the Prime minister chair have failed. Maybe he is under the illusion it is because of his intellect of capabilities as a politician. There are no irreplaceable people, and that is a good thing.
And by the way, the Russian shelling of the power grid was done in anger most of all. Because of the other possible reasons were always present in this conflict. What is new, is the military debacle and humanitarian disaster Russian military has created in the Kharkov region in the end of August — beginning of September. Puting got angry, Putin got scared, and he gave the order. But he, as always, only went half the way, “de-electrifying” the ethnically Russian areas. I’m sure those Russian have now another reason to be thankful to Putin and the Russian government.
Igor Strelkov (Girkin) is the dethroned leader of the Donetsk resistance, who, thanks to his political views and uncompromising nature of a true revolutionary (and this isn’t a compliment), was quietly put aside from any position of power or influence by the Kremlin. His views are very critical of Russian Federation government, but he seems to have a good grasp of the situation on the ground in Donbass, thanks to his prior experience and some friend who are still there.
I found his analysis of the war in Ukraine and his criticism of the Russian policies regarding Ukraine limited to the military scope only. He, like any ideolog, sees a world in a very narrow aspect, of military tactics and strategies in his case. I feel that geopolitics and international diplomacy is far beyond his area of interests or expertise. A government should also operate on all levels, military, diplomatic, economic, social etc. That being said, I’m sure his information is genuine, and not skewed or spined for some reason or other. That is why I pay attention to his words, when it concerns specific facts on the ground.
He posted a summary of the latest Russian military debacle in Kharkov front (Here is Part I and Part II). I will put aside his usual critique of the Putin’s government and the calls for the full-scale war with Ukraine, general mobilization etc. But I will translate a small portion of his post in his telegram channel, there he explains the reason for this debacle. It caught my attention since it seems to me identical to my first-reaction analysis. Naturally, I don’t have one percent of the knowledge or experience Strelkov has in this matter, nor one tenth of a thousand. But coming to the same conclusions as he did, and (as far as I know) even before him, strokes my ego.
Here is a selected quote of what he said in his post:
Ведь, на самом деле, столь стремительного разгрома можно было легко избежать, если-бы – выявив сосредоточение крупных сил противника в районе Балаклеи (а оно было выявлено!) – командование вовремя сократило-бы плацдарм под Изюмом ,перекинув несколько вполне боеспособных (такие там были) армейских БТГр на север вместе с необходимой артиллерией. Полностью остановить удар 5 свежих бригад противника они, конечно, вряд ли смогли-бы, но (уж точно) – дали-бы время командованию оперативно отреагировать на возникший кризис без полного поражения и заставили врага дорого заплатить за достигнутые успехи.
But, in the matter of fact, such a swift defeat was easily avoidable, if only — after exposing the large enemy forces concentration in the vicinity of Balakleya (and it was exposed!) — the command would contract the bridgehead around Izyum in a timely manner and move a few combat-ready (such units were present there) battalion tactical groups (BTG’s) to the north, together with all the necessary artillery. To fully stop the advance of the 5 fresh enemy brigades they, naturally, could hardly do, but (for sure) they would have bought time to the command to react quickly to this crisis avoiding the total defeat and would have forced the enemy to pay dearly for the successes they have achieved.
Commentary on The Duran’s new video “Kharkov, Palmyra and constraints of a ‘special military operation’”
A lot of thought-provoking points have been floated in this video. So, I would like to comment on some of them.
Point #1: Putin is ultimately responsible for the Izyum offensive debacle.
As much as I subscribe to the idea of Putin is being ultimately responsible to everything happening in and to Russia, on this occasion I have to disagree completely. Political leader, especially the one without military background, shouldn’t intervene in any way in military planning. We know examples of such leaders from history, as well as the example (allegedly) of Zelenskiy, constantly trying to micro-manage the Ukrainian war efforts. This is a recipe for a disaster, unless you are a military genius akin to Julius Ceasar.
In the Putin’s case, he is a leader who especially removes himself from any decision-making or management of affairs that could be litigated to some other bureaucrat. This is his way to stay in power while different fractions inside the Russian government are fighting each other. The “divide and conquer” approach.
If so, then who is responsible and who is to blame? First of all, the Russian military command in Ukraine is divided into three fronts, each has its own military commander with its own staff. Let us, for reasons of simplicity, refer to them as armies, though technically, I believe, those aren’t armies but rather more similar to army corps. If so, there are three Russian armies participating in the “special military operation” (SMO), each one being responsible for its own front — let us call them the eastern front, the Donbass front, and the southern front. Those armies are combined into the SMO military contingent under a senior commander, ultimately responsible for the conduct of the war. This senior commander also has its own staff and assets. He, in turn, is a subject of the Russian General Staff, which is headed by the Chief of the General Staff. Who is a subordinate of the Minister of Defense, Shoigu, who has the Supreme commander president Putin above him.
We need to know the level at which the failure occurred, in order to place blame. The first candidate is the commander of the eastern front, which includes the Izyum region. It is possible the command wasn’t aware of the Ukrainian intention to conduct an offensive operation there, and it wasn’t ready for this eventuality. It is also possible that they were aware of the dangers, but there overruled by a senior commander, who wanted to divert reserves to other fronts. Even if it was the case, the responsibility of the front commander is to prepare for this possibility using the (maybe) limited reserves he has. We know the Ukrainian force taking part in the offensive is counting around 9,000 men, and it doesn’t include large number of heavy armor (which is probably the reason it wasn’t taken as a serious danger). If so, even a few battalion-tactical groups (BTG) in defensive positions against the directions of the Ukrainian offensive would have at least bought enough time for reserves from other fronts to arrive. And I assume that the front command does have at least a few armor or mechanized combat-ready BTG’s under its command.
If so, ultimately it is the front commander who is responsible for the failed defence in his area of responsibility. That is why I expect him to be released of his command. His immediate commander is also to blame, since he must be prepared for such eventualities and have quick-reaction forces (like air-assault units) that can be deployed in a matter of hours if urgently needed. But it seems the large available reserves were far away and not immediately available for quick deployment, and the paratroopers were thrown into Kherson defense, and currently sitting on their hands, it seems. Usually, if the situation requires, a weak defense can be supported with a large number of ground-attack aviation. But as I wrote previously, Russian military aviation, especially the part of it intended for ground-support, still cannot operate freely because of the large number of shoulder-launched missiles the Ukrainians still possess. Nor did the artillery and rocket troops had fire-solution data to effectively engage the attacking forces.
So how does president Putin come into this equation. Obviously, he has no direct responsibilities in the matter, unless he personally diverted troops from the area in contradiction to the military command. Which is quite obviously not so. But he is responsible to make sure the Russian Army will make necessary cleaning work in its own house, and not sweep the failures under the rug, taking care of its own, as it often happens. A war is a situation in which the systematic faults and incompetence of top military brass make themselves obvious to all. But since the problem is systemic in nature, Putin has to make sure the appropriate fixes are being implemented. Which he usually avoids doing, in order not to steer the cesspool of Russian corruption. “Divide and conquer” approach has its negative side, if taken too far. A leader cannot remove himself from the job of cleansing the corruption. And especially he shouldn’t support the creation of a corrupt and stagnant elite, which is first and foremost oriented towards protecting itself from any outside competition. Generals are a part of such an elite as much as government, legislative and judiciary officials or top managers of state-controlled corporations.
Point #2: The attacks on the decision-making centers.
Here the Duran’s critique is of the lack of the Russian response. Namely: strikes on military, and, possibly, political headquarters if Ukraine start targeting the “Russia proper”, like Crimea.
The Russian warning was obviously (to me at least) regarding military attacks, such as using missiles. It was obviously (again, to me at least) not related to terrorist or “partisan” attacks. So, if Ukraine will try to strike “Russia proper” with Harpoons or ATACMS or any other military hardware, especially the one provided by the West, then the Russia would be expected to retaliate in the similar military fasion, with ballistic or cruise missiles flying into Kiev and such. If some people take the lack of Russian military response against high value targets in Ukraine as a sign that the Russian warning was false, then they are in danger of provoking the very same reaction Russian officials talked about.
Regarding the continuous talks about the scary ATACMS missiles. As I’ve said previously, those missiles are easy targets for Russian anti-missile defence forces. Unlike MLRS rockets fired in salvos, which aren’t a typical target for air-defence systems*, the tactical ballistic missiles are. I would be extremely surprised if any western tactical ballistic missile could hit any major Russian city. Unless some grave mistakes are made, that is.
* I have previously stated that a rocket is a typical training target for Russian close- and short-range air defence systems. And we have seen Russian air-defences regularly intercept MLRS/HIMARS rockets and missiles, as well as Soviet-era Smerch and Uragan rockets. The problem, as I have also previously explained, is the number of those missiles. Since Russian air-defence systems aren’t intended to intercept salvos of rockets simultaneously.
Ballistic missiles, unlike MLRS rockets, are fired in much fewer numbers, and have a much higher trajectory, which allows for longer range detection and longer response time. That makes them a typical target for a medium and long-range systems like Buk, S-300, S-400 etc. And unlike short-range systems which have a few fire channels at best, long-range systems can engage a large number of targets simultaneously (while in practice there will be fewer of them). So any supplies of ATACMS or similar ballistic missiles to Ukraine will not have any effect on Russians but will only serve to justify escalation of Russian strikes.
Point #3: Russian officials are not able to formulate a precise message
This is by design. Putin is very cautious man who likes to keep his cards close to his chest and his options open. That is why his threats are always vague. This also relates to the previous point.
I think the best way to explain this is that is a cultural thing. Unlike in the West, there politicians are almost expected to lie, and no one cares then it happens, in Russia, on the other hand, keeping you word is much more important. If Putin to make a specific threat, and then to roll it back because the situation changed, then he would lose his credibility as a man and, subsequently, as a leader. For many Soviet-vintage people the notion of keeping your word no matter what is an important principle, especially for someone in a position of authority. As I’ve said, in the West this would be disregarded as a normalcy, without any real consequences for an official.
That is probably also a reason many in the West take Russian warnings as bluff. Because culturally it is much more acceptable to bluff in the West. We also see many blatant lies coming out of Ukraine and Western media. I guess people in the West don’t mind to be lied to, if it makes them feel better. For them it’s just not a big deal. In Ukraine, I suppose, it only works because many people still genuinely believe in what they are being told by the authorities. Of course, it wouldn’t last forever.
We saw two significant Ukrainian offenses at Kherson and Izyum fronts. The first, it seems, has already failed, and the second, it seems, has already succeeded. The measure of success or failure for Ukrainian side here lies in the realm of propaganda (not necessarily in a negative sense) benefits, not in a strategical military sense. As far as I understand, Russians have enough reserves to eventually stop any force Ukrainians are able to throw at them. Ukraine has no hope of military victory over Russian Army, but it desperately needs some tactical victories for domestic and international use.
I don’t know how bad things are in Ukraine for the current regime, but internationally the support for weapon supplies and financial aid is falling down. Firstly, because public attention cannot be held on any foreign issue for too long; secondly, because it looks like Ukraine is losing the war and also doing a lot of highly questionable things (like shelling the nuclear power plant); and, thirdly, because the economic pressure on the West was intentionally connected to the Russo-Ukraine war, so any dissatisfaction with the worsening economic situation will be translated to the dissatisfaction with the continuing support for the war (instead of a diplomatic solution). That is why any Ukrainian victory or optics of major success on the battlefield are very much needed for Ukrainian regime and its Western sponsors at this time.
So, the Kiev’s logic is understandable. What is not understandable is the Russian tactics that we are witnessing.
I hear many people explain Ukrainian military successes by pointing to the insufficient number of Russian troops in those regions. I think this is misleading. Yes, Russians don’t have enough manpower to wage an effective war against Ukraine. This is nothing new. Russians went for the slow option that doesn’t require a lot of first line troops, in order to gradually “grind down” the Ukrainian manpower to the point at which either the internal political pressure in Ukraine will break their will to fight and they will capitulate, or the number of Ukrainian troops will fall low enough, and the number of Russian newly recruited and mobilized professional soldiers will become large enough, to conduct effective offensive operations.
For this tactic to succeed, Russian Army needs to be able to concentrate enough troops locally to defend or attack. They keep the minimal needed forces of militias, Russian Guard, etc. to control the line of contact, and enough regular Russian Army forces to support them and inflict damage on Ukrainian troops. While at the same time they need to create local concentration of forces to stop any Ukrainian offenses or conduct offensive operations themselves.
Since the contact line is stretched for more than a thousand kilometers, there is a need to keep reserves near logistical hubs in order to move them quickly to where they are needed. The second requirement is a good intelligence, that will alert Russian command of impending enemy offensive, so to move the reserve forces in time to defend. If so, the real problem isn’t the insufficient numbers, but insufficient intelligence.
It is obvious Russian Army has failed at the intelligence portion of this equation. They were caught with their pants down at the Kherson front, and even more so at the Izyum front.
If I wanted to give credit to Ukrainian-cum-NATO war planning abilities, I would speculate that the Kherson offensive was a distraction effort, in order to draw Russian attention and reserves to the south, while planning an attack in the East. But since the Kherson offensive force was (it seems) considerably larger and better equipped with armor, obviously the main effort was to be in Kherson. Still, it isn’t impossible it is actually the eastern offensive which was intended to distract Russian attention and divert their reserves from the southern operation, to prevent the total disaster there. If so, I’m sure Ukrainian military command is extremely surprised with how much actual success they had, and how unprepared were the Russians.
When I’m talking about Russian failure, it isn’t just a failure to defend. Actually, it is much worse than that. Because, as it is well known, in the peer-to-peer situation, defenders have a significant advantage over attackers. The usually quoted ratio is 3 to 1, i.e. 3 attackers are needed for every one defender in order for the attack to succeed. Which means, attackers would have larger casualties than the defenders, unless they have a very large advantage in numbers and equipment.
That means that for the Russians, the best possible scenario is to successfully defend, thus causing a large number of casualties on the Ukrainian side, and then to counterattack the weakened enemy in order to destroy the remaining forces and make easy advances. I’m talking about easy advances, because the usual defenders would be participating in the attack, which means the defensive positions are left undermanned and underequipped. On the other hand, if Ukrainians are in defensive posture, it is Russians who have to create a local numerical advantage in manpower and equipment in order to advance, and risk large casualties (and this is why we don’t see a lot of Russian offensive operations — minimizing losses is one of their top priorities).
If so, not only Russian military lost some territory (which is, frankly speaking, is insignificant), but they also failed to inflict significant damage to the enemy, and even more importantly, they have wasted the opportunity to counterattack in advantageous conditions.
So, then I’m talking about failure of intelligence, what does it mean? Usually, intelligence can be gathered by different means: capturing enemy officers who have knowledge of their military planning, agents or collaborators behind the enemy lines, technical intelligence by intercepting communications, visual reconnaissance by drones and satellites… Historically speaking, many times some intelligence information does come through, but is being disregarded by the military planners as false or erroneous, because it doesn’t fit into their paradigm.
While I see these affairs as Russian military failures, I’m sure the Ukrainian side will view this instead as a great Ukrainian military success, and some on the Russian side will view it as some cunning Russian plan to lure the Ukrainian forces into a less defendable positions in order to destroy them. And I believe both of those to be false. As I wrote in one of my first posts on this blog, this war isn’t about which side is better (frankly speaking, neither is), but which side is worse. Ukrainians went into a war they cannot win (even though they were prepared for it), and Russian went into a war they weren’t prepared for (but which they cannot lose nonetheless).
(And then I say Russia cannot lose this war, I mean it in a strictly military sense. Where is always an option to lose politically. We saw such a political defeat in the 2014 and the fallowing years, when Russia still was able to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine with a little effort, blood and distraction. In hindsight, it is obvious that the current war is a direct result of that political defeat. But it is pointless to try and guess if things would have been better in the long term, had Russia exercised its military option in the past.)