RU-UA War Status — Approaching the Anniversary (2023-02-21)

The time for Russian winter big offensive is running out. It is possible that it would not happen after the failed offensive operation in Ugledar and the parting of ways between Wagner’s owner and Russian MoD. The first is the result of incompetent commanders on middle and high levels, and possibly the shortages of certain equipment and armament. The seconds is the clash of ego and ambitions of personalities, and possible power struggle for place in politics.

Meantime, there are some suggestions the situation with Russian peacekeeping force in Transnistria is escalating. Russia now has no way to reinforce the troops there, after losing the foothold on the western bank of Dnepr River and the retreat from north-western Black Sea. Thus, the cut-off Russian troops in Transnistria could serve a convenient vector for hurting Russia. Not only Transnistria could be forcibly integrated into Moldova, the Russian contingent of ~10,000 soldiers can be partially destroyed, and the remaining thousands taken prisoners of war. This will have very grave consequences for Russian public opinion on Russian MoD and government, putting Russia in a very disadvantageous position regarding exchanges of POWs, and farther humiliating Russia. The only viable option to prevent such scenario would be credible threat of Russian stand-off strikes escalation against high value officials (including foreign ones) and installations in UA. Yet the credibility of any Russian “red lines” has eroded significantly over the past year of half-hearted measures, continuing supplies of energy and Rasputin’s eagerness to make deals like the “grain deal”.

The warm winter and continuing supplies of Russian energy to the West resulted in large natural gas reserves in EU and fallen prices. This could stimulate the EU to farther escalate the proxy war, especially seeing that the willingness to continue the war is steadily falling in popularity in Europe and USA. The anti-Russian alliance is running out of time, and the natural response for their ideologists would be to make a final push before their public mandate is has ran out entirely, and officials would have to distance themselves from the war.

Meantime, the financial fraction of Russian government is trying to micromanage the destabilized economy, arguably making things worse. Constant changes in legislation and rules make any business planning almost impossible, thus unnerving the already confused private sector. Any new investments that are essential at this situation to rebuild Russian domestic industry are becoming riskier than before.

The Russian politics is also undergoing a chaotic stage. Rasputin-aligned legislators are pushing to reinforce their position by introducing new rules for municipal and regional elections, destabilizing the status quo. The Russian court system is also seemed feverish, farther lowering the public trust in it.

The situation in UA is mostly unknown to me, except the usual “on the brink of collapse and anarchy”. Western cash infusion, credit life support and backing of “free world” mainstream media allowed the existing government to survive so far. Yet, the forced mobilization, mostly in Russian speaking regions it seems, will create a large number of military personnel antagonistic to the current regime and its supporters. Their motivation to fight Russian Army will be based only on their fear, but this kind of stimulation has its limits and could result in mass revolts. So far Russia failed to make use of any of it to its advantage, indicating the weakness or incompetency of its foreign intelligence services. FSB is mostly concerned with protecting the current regime inside Russia than enforcing Russian interests abroad.

The Belarus military build will almost certainly not result in any significant actions against UA, unless Poland will enter the war directly. Currently, Russia seems to focus its attention on south-eastern UA. East and north-east is another option. Landing operation in Odessa region is practically impossible. Any deep air-assault or air-drop operations are practically impossible due to unsuppressed Ukrainian air-defenses. Any deep-maneuver combat arms operations are practically impossible for a range of reasons. Thus, only wide front, shallow-depth operations could be expected from the Russian Army in near future. Each such operation would require expansive artillery preparations to “soften-up” the enemy, which would allow UA to move reinforcements in time to counterattack, reinforce its defence line, at or at least diminish any effects of successful Russian break-through. Shortages of ammunition and artillery pieces, deficit of heavy assault systems, airspace denial etc., all this make it almost physically impossible to conduct effective offensive operations by Russian Army. Until the West will retract its financial and military support or until the current UA regime will collapse, Russian military (as it is now) has no quick path to victory.

Meantime, prolonged conflict without real military victories will continue to sway Russian public opinion away from Rasputin’s government and Shoigu’s Army. Since the stability of Ukrainian puppet government has proven to be much more than Kremlin expected, and there is no imminent collapse in sight, Rasputin has few options: ignore and continue “business as usual” approach, risking the positions of entire regime, make deal with West possibly risking an even bigger public dismay, or sacrifice Shoigu. The latter will be the most popular decision but will start a new power struggle round in Kremlin, something Rasputin has generally avoided by his “divide and rule” approach.

The nearing anniversary will mean some progress report is needed to be offered to the public. And “they had it worse” is not a good message, especially after the “everything is going according to our plan/timetable” statements, and years and years of pumping up the Russian Military capabilities in media and tens (if not hundreds) of trillions of tax rubles drained into “modernization” and “import-replacement” defense and military industry projects.

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