New video from Alexander Mercouris and my commentary to it, and also is the slow pacing of Russian advances was always inevitable?
Firstly I want to comment on some points from Alexander’s analysis, namely the increase in size of the Russian Armed Forces and the disconnection of Ukraine from Zaparozhian nuclear power plant.
Russian Army will grow
This development is actually directly related to the war in Ukraine. Alexander is making a point of it being a separate issue, not related (at least not directly) to the war, since this objective is set to the year 2025. In my opinion, this is “de jure” recognition of the “de facto” realities on the ground. The Russian Army is already growing for months due to these voluntary-mobilization efforts. This needs to be recognized and given support on the legislative level so the Russian Army could be legally allocated additional funding.
Another question is how long-term it will be. I think the fighting in Ukraine has shown the inadequacy of the current Russian ground forces to effectively conduct operations in any large-scale conflict. If this issue has been realized by the Russian Army and government, then the next logical step is to keep those new “territorial” units that are being created even after the end of war.
Decoupling the Ukraine from the Zaporozhian nuclear power plant
Ukrainian electricity saga is a long and strange one. For year Ukraine was working to be integrated into the EU’s electrical network, but without much success at all. It is still integrated into Russian-Belarussian power network, meaning its power generating facilities are synchronized with Russian and Belarussian ones. In fact, its power-generating capabilities were constantly degraded to the point it needed to import electricity from Belarus and Russia. It still does.
On the other hand, by disconnecting Ukraine from the large portion of its power generation, will undoubtedly create a humanitarian situation in Ukraine. Most probably in its historically Russian ethnic parts, which is why Russia was willing to provide Ukraine with electricity for free during this war. During summer time, electricity is probably more critical than during a winter, since food storage requires refrigeration. If, for example, Ukraine would disconnect Zaporozh’e and other eastern Ukrainian regions from the rest of its power supply, this will create a food crisis. Most of the modern food like meat, fish and dairy cannot be stored for more than a day or two without refrigeration. In summer time, than temperatures are far above zero, the food in storing facilities will quickly go bad.
Alexander is suggesting that Ukrainian attacks on the NPP were the result of them trying to prevent Russia from disconnecting it from Ukraine. In my opinion it is the opposite: Ukraine knows Russia is trying to avoid humanitarian crisis by all means, supplying it with electricity and natural gas in the midst of this war (I will refrain from qualifiers that come to mind when speaking of Ukrainian government sanctioned actions). So the best way to insure the uninterrupted supply of electricity was to leave it be. Only after the shelling started, Russians have raised the possibility of partially shutting down the Zaporozh’e NPP facility in order to reduce risks, stopping the power supplies to Ukraine as a result. If Ukraine wanted to create a humanitarian crisis in Zaporozh’e or other eastern cities, while at the same time accusing Russia, than the best way of action was to continue the shelling while preventing any UN inspection to this place.
Some additional thoughts about the pacing of the Russian offensive
This very slow offensive have more than one reason for it. One of them being the “soft” war Russia is conducting in Ukraine, in order to prevent as much as possible the civilian casualties and damage to the infrastructure. This is nothing new — many have talked about it since the very start of the conflict.
But as a result of it, the Russian offense is extremely slow. Especially since it is obvious Ukrainian government doesn’t give any thought to the well being of its ethnically Russian population (see the previous section, for just one such example). Knowing this, it would be logical for Russians to take the fight to the Central or Western Ukraine, to prevent the currently ongoing destruction of Eastern-Ukrainian population and infrastructure.
We saw such attempt in the beginning of the war, than a large but very confused portion of Russian ground forces were shuffling their feet in the woods North of Kiev. Then, suddenly, excusing it as a good-will gesture during the talks in Turkey, those forces disappeared, just to reappear in the eastern and southern fronts.
So that was the real reason for it? It now became painfully obvious, that “human shield” tactics work extremely well, as long as the attacker care about the population. Maneuver warfare that the Soviet military has developed and honed to the point it was ready to take on the Europe in some months, turned into a positional warfare of WWI waged mostly by the artillery. And even the artillery, it seems, lacks the abilities of the Soviet one, and even the advertised abilities of the new Russian Army. The urban warfare, which is probably the most difficult and resource expensive of all the conventional warfare types of operations, has become the typical for Russians to be engaged in. If the Russians are the ones who hold the initiative in this war, than they chosen for themselves the worst option.
The obvious justification is the “liberation of Donbass”. Yes, people in Eastern Ukraine are suffering. But choosing to wage the most lengthy type of operation, with the bulk of Ukrainian armed forces concentrated in Donbass itself, seems now as a poor choice. Another justification is the international public opinion. Russia is showing it isn’t intended to conquer Ukraine, but only to destroy the forces endangering the pro-Russian population in the Eastern Ukraine. And yet another justification is the lack of forces to defend Donbass and fight Ukrainian Army elsewhere in the mean time.
Probably Russian political and military planning wasn’t ready to consider the option of Ukrainian government staying in power and managing to force general mobilization and sending the constant flow of manpower to the front for as long as it does. They probably assumed the government will fall, and the people wouldn’t accept them being sacrificed on the altar of Western values and interests. But it happened, and in the hind sight it was better to take the fight away from the Donbass, there all the destruction and death would be much harder to ignore or spin by the Kiev. Currently, Russia will get Eastern Ukraine in the state of scorched earth, while the west of the country will have the option to surrender more or less intact.
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