Black smoke rises at the front line in Mykolaiv, northwest of Kherson region, where Ukraine has launched a major operation to reconquer lost territory

Opinion: Ukrainian offensive achieves much more than it seems

Black smoke rises from the front line in Mykolaiv, northwest of the Kherson region, where Ukraine launched a massive operation to reclaim lost territories – Copyright AFP TANG CHHIN Sothy

For a “special military operation” Russia’s disastrous military situation is a historical failure. Russia has done very little in recent months. While his ammunition depots and airbases are burning, another senior commander has been sacked. The Ukrainian offensive threatens the Kherson region, since the first strikes on the Crimean peninsula are effective.

The fact is that there is no real news about the offensive. The headlines are just above the level of gossip. They are more like weather reports. Ukraine quite rightly placed an embargo on all operational information. President Zelensky issued a statement two days ago urging Crimean citizens to avoid Russian bases and other targets.

So what is really happening? Much more than it seems.

Ukrainian movements towards Kherson are steady but not hasty. This is a good tactic. They are also symptomatic of military reality. The Russians are increasingly less able to counter Ukrainian attacks at any level, including precision artillery strikes from HIMARS, ground and air attacks.

Ukrainian aircraft are flying again, which they could not do when Russia had air superiority. The dominance of Russian artillery outside the Donbas plays a much smaller role. The long-awaited major Russian pincer attack in the east never took place. These troops are still in those positions, but the attack has no future.

A bogged down Russia at war with a much more nimble and much more active Ukraine can only have one outcome from a military standpoint. The initiative is really Ukrainian. Ukraine’s extremely patient destruction of Russian stockpiles is clearly paying off. This was done at a relatively low cost for Ukrainians and a very high cost for Russians.

Map showing the situation in Ukraine as of August 26 at 08:00 GMT — © AFP

The most obvious sign of rot in the Russian ranks is complete lack of ideas. A few random rockets and projectiles fired at civilian targets are of no value. Zaporozhye nuclear power plant became the main topic of the newsbut this is just a local problem in the context of the war.

What’s going on in Kherson? Virtual synopsis of the war.

Kherson attack surprisingly, but quite rightly, systematic and methodical. While territory is the main issue of the war, in this case holding territory is a permanent obligation for Russia. The arthritic, worn out and not very good Russian support systems and very questionable troop levels are not helping the Russians.

The number of troops is a serious problem. It is known that after months of complete failure and tactical stagnation, troops are being transferred from one sector of the front to another. This blatant reshuffling means that Russia’s forward capabilities are heavily strained.

It is standard practice to move troops from quiet zones to support hot zones. Moving them from multiple attack zones to support other zones is not standard practice. Russians have been doing this regularly since Mariupol, and little has changed. It is clear that the number of Russian troops is much lower than the inventory. The famous 120-battalion tactical groups of three months ago are hardly mentioned now.

And the “rearm and retool” excuse no longer works. What, with what exactly, to re-equip and re-equip? What about the requirement to occupy certain areas? None of these “military creative accounts” could work even if they were credible, which they are not and never have been.

Forecasts

The probable future of this dirty war has several possible outcomes:

  1. The Russian army is simply breaking down. This will be due to his ever-increasing overdose of many impossibilities. Local teams will not cope, and the situation will worsen. This is the most likely scenario, backed up by months of terrible performance. The Ukrainians can simply wait while continuing to destroy Russian assets.
  2. Some kind of contract. It looks less and less likely and could hardly have started from there. Ukraine has said it will not allow a Russian presence anywhere within its original borders until the annexation of Crimea. This pretty much closes the negotiations.
  3. A typical peace initiative backed by the UN. Theoretically, UN troops could demilitarize some areas and create buffers. Ukraine may not accept this option. This is for the very good reason that it leaves any significant portion of their territory in limbo and gives the Russians a breather on the ground.
  4. Some internal event in Russia ends the war. Mode change is a standard and oversimplified scenario. They talked about it for months and nothing happened. It is possible, but more likely, that the rotten structure will collapse unplanned, disorganized. Regime change in Russia throughout history has never been easy, quick, and often extremely erratic. In this case, without waiting for a clear future government, it should have been the same.

Russia cannot defeat or achieve any of the stated or even implied political goals. The attempt to stop NATO expansion failed: now Sweden and Finland have joined NATO.

The Russian army literally dies every day before the eyes of the whole world. Russia’s military reputation, especially as an arms supplier, has been catastrophically damaged and cannot be restored. “Mobilization” is meaningless; what should they mobilize to start with? More museum pieces? The ground war is actually lost, just because of the logistics.

Politically, the situation for Russia is no better. The world, especially the West, will never recognize any part of Ukraine as part of Russia. Economic sanctions will continue. The West may further isolate Russia. Russia also has less leverage in the world. Diplomatically and in terms of influence, the war undermined Russia’s soft power base.

The physical condition is just as bad or worse. Donbass and Luhansk, occupied by Russia at the beginning of the war, are practically wiped off the face of the earth. These areas are a total physical debt to Russia, and it may take a decade to restore their functionality. The separatists in both regions are unhappy and have suffered horrendous losses. These two disaster areas are likely to be completely non-functional and unmanageable for at least the next ten years.

The Ukrainians are undeniably winning. First they outplayed, and then outplayed and surpassed the Russian army. Ukraine can hit anywhere. (The real tactical “game over”.) They have a strategic initiative, and the Russians can’t change that fact. Time is very much on the side of Ukraine.

When Ukraine joins the EU, the political, commercial and economic situation for Russia becomes truly unbearable. Obviously they cannot do business with the EU if they invade an EU member state. This deprives them of access to the world’s largest trading bloc, creating a kind of “Rexit” situation that they cannot handle.

The Ukrainian offensive simply confirms all these points. Ukrainians even have nowhere to hurry. The Russians can hardly claim to be hitting back. The longer Russia stays in Ukraine, the more Russia will lose.

The smart move for Russia would be to withdraw from Ukraine as soon as possible. However, there was nothing clever about Russia’s conduct of this war. All they did was make things worse for themselves, at an incredible cost in lives and materials. They also cannot hold an isolated Crimea. They cannot move east because they have already tried and failed.

The end has begun. The only question is when it will end.

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Denial of responsibility
The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author. They do not purport to represent the opinions or views of Digital Journal or its contributors.

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