"Day 36 of the Russian SMO in the Ukraine – a look at Ukrainian military"
The Vineyard of the Saker (April 1, 2022)
Today, I want to comment on a topic I did not address yet: the quality of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Over night, two Ukrainian helicopters flying at very low altitude and high speed flew across the Russian Ukrainian border, and in only six minutes of flight time found themselves next to a fuel storage facility near the Russian city of Belgorod. They both fired, one missed, but the second one hit perfectly and the entire fuel storage facility ignited. Not a big deal, the fire has been contained, but very embarrassing nonetheless :-(
Another case: the night before yesterday a group of 5 Ukrainian helicopters took off from Nikolaev, flew 7 meters above the waves and landed in Mariupol. Their mission was to evacuate the leadership of the Azov force still hiding inside the Azovstal industrial facility. After they took off, two helicopters were shot down, but another three flew away, with a possible 3 helicopter ditching in the waters off the coast (unclear at this time).
Why do I consider these two events very telling?
Because it shows that the Ukrainian soldiers have A LOT of VERY REAL courage. Not only that, in both of these operations, a great deal of careful planning went into the preparations of these missions. So they are not only courageous, they are SMART.
Yes, the Ukie Volkssturm is a joke, but not the entire Ukrainian military and most definitely not the Nazis of the Azov “battalion” (it is not really a battalion, but rather a regiment or a small brigade, but spread out in key sectors of the Ukrainian defenses). Why is that so important to realize?
Because a HUGE battle is preparing in the Donbass.
While nobody knows the true size of the Ukrainian force surrounded in the Donbass, most observers place that force at about 60-80 thousand men. They are VERY well armed, courtesy of 7 years of mass delivery of weapons by the Empire of Lies. Their defenses are very solid, since they have been preparing them also for seven years. Furthermore, the Ukrainians are reportedly trying to bring in another major force from the central Ukraine to either reinforce their forces in the Donbass, or to help it to escape from their cauldron.
On the other side, nobody really knows how many Russian/LDNR forces are being concentrated around the Donbass either. There are reports of “immense” columns of Russian forces moving towards the Donbass, including some the Russian forces which were deployed near Kiev to pin down Ukrainian forces away from the Donbass.
The same feint was used by the Black Sea Fleet off the coast of Odessa.
There are two ways to control a road: you can stand on the road, place a roadblock, maybe lay mines and generally by physically on top of that road. Or you can do that remotely, without stepping on the road but by being able to fire (small arms, RPG, artillery, CAS) at any vehicle driving on that road. The Russian “encirclement” of the Ukrainian force in the Donbass into 2 small cauldrons which themselves are locked in a bigger cauldron are a mix of these two techniques. In other words, the Ukrainians still have retained *some* ability to move on the ground. But only at VERY high risk. Keep in mind that the Donbass is pretty flat terrain and that the Russians have air supremacy. But, with enough luck, immense courage and determination, some APC or cars could try to move out, or reinforcements move in. Let’s look at these two options:
Moving out: for a FEW vehicles, and with a lot of luck, that could still be doable. But for the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian force on the Donbass, this not an option. Not only do they lack fuel, any big force would attract the attention of the Russians (which a 4 passenger car going at full speed in the dark might not) resulting in immediate strikes.
Moving in: here the Ukrainian would still have fuel (or they would not even try, which they apparently are), but the problem is that it is impossible to hide any significant force from the Russians which could then use their long range artillery and close air support to destroy that force. I am personally very dubious as to the chances of any Ukrainian subunit to make it to the Donbass.
The Ukrainian propaganda is beyond ridiculous, but we should NOT assume that if Ukie propagandists are clowns, so are the Ukrainian soldiers. The fact is that the Ukrainians never had the initiative, and they still don’t, and all their counter-attacks, including the airstrike on Belgorod, only had a limited and local effect. But that does not mean that they would not fight very hard for their lives, even when surrounded, even without air cover, with no ability to rotate forces and not enough fuel to engage in maneuver warfare.
Here is what the map of the area of operations looks like today:
• The yellow circle is roughly the area where the outcome of this battle will be decided.
• The small black arrow represents the likely Ukrainian effort to send in reinforcements
• The big black arrow represents the move away from Kiev and towards the Donbass by Russian forces
Speaking about maps: while they do, more or less, show the military reality on the ground, they do not show the political realities the same way. The truth is that there are plenty of towns and cities which are blocked/surrounded by Russian forces, but which are still run by the “old”, Nazi, authorities. Yes, the Russians could go in and denazify these town and cities manu militari, but that would take time, results in casualties on both sides and ruin the civilian infrastructure. And the Russians sure don’t want, say, Kharkov to become a 2nd Mariupol.
[Sidebar: some of you must have heard that canard about the Russians “running out of ammo”, right? Well, local residents near the Ukrainian positions in the Donbass report that for three days the Russian artillery has been shelling the Ukrainian positions nonstop. In reality, anybody who has studied the Soviet and, later, Russian military knows that with the exception of some very modern systems which have just been deployed, Russia has huge stores of ammunition. In fact, when the Russians prepare a military offensive the expenditures in ammo, POL, and any other form of logistics required are carefully calculated. If not, then the order to attack will not be given. And, with a few exceptions, the kind of hardware and supplies the Russians are using in the Ukraine is both modern and plentiful. By the way, there are signs that the Ukrainian forces are running out of ammo, most of their shelling is directed at LDNR cities and result in scores of death and injured civilians on a daily basis]
One possible option would be to warn the Nazi authorities that while the Russian military won’t invade their city, the Russian can use special forces and means to target “just” these Nazi authorities. Yes, the Nazi will set up traps, like, say, placing the cellphone of a Nazi leader right on top of a Kindergarten, so the Russian intelligence services will have to do a lot of careful preparations and planning, or just make the threat and then wait for the Nazis to freak out and wonder where the promised missile will be aimed at.
All this means the following:
• The Russians need to take the Ukrainians much more seriously and if that means having early warning aircraft and interceptors on combat air patrol 24/7 – then that is what the Russians should do. A pair of MiG-31BM on constant high altitude CAP over the central Ukraine would be a good start.
• While the outcome is not in doubt, the Russians need to be very careful and assume that the Ukrainians will fight with skills and courage.
• I don’t like making predictions, even less so, time-related ones, but I think that we need to prepare ourselves for a major battle lasting several weeks, possibly even a month.
• Have have to assume that the PSYOPs of the Empire of Lies will go in full attack mode, and since it will be very hard to make sense of what will be going on, we have to ready for a major attack on our minds.
• Once that Ukrainian force in the Donbass is defeated this will basically mean the end of the 2nd phase of this Special Military Operation (SMO) and the very best and combat capable Ukrainian will have disappeared and a 3rd phase will begin, probably by an attack on the Nikolaev and Odessa regions.
Still, we need to remember that all wars are political in nature and that while the military “pain dial” is turned up quite high for the Ukrainians, the US PSYOPs are still telling the Ukrainians that they are winning and soon the first Ukie tanks will enter Moscow. The de facto fall of Mariupol (as evidenced by the desperate attempts to evacuate the Azov leaders by helicopter) is already a major blow for the Ukrainian narrative. But this blow pales in comparison to what will happen when the best forces the Ukraine has will simply disappear from the maps of the Donbass. At that point, no amount of hot air, grand statements or other lies will make a difference – such a defeat is impossible to conceal, it will make the news.
Furthermore, we need to keep another thing always present in our minds: while in actual combat the Russians are facing Ukrainians, in the war itself Russia is not fighting the Nazis in Kiev, but the US/NATO/EU and their vassal states. It is also certain that the “Biden” administration does not want peace but, instead, they want that war to last as long as possible and to destroy as much of the Ukrainian population and civilian infrastructure as possible. And, of course, the Russians are not negotiating with the Nazis, they are negotiating with Uncle Shmuel via the Nazis. Big difference. Right now, some Ukrainians might be willing to look at reality and surrender just to save lives and the Ukrainian infrastructure. But they know that the Nazis will kill them or kidnap their family members (as has happened to one Ukrainian mayor). And these Nazis are taking orders only from many western “advisors” in Kiev who tell them “fight down to the last solider, then we will evacuate you“.
You could say that the hardcore Ukronazis act like political commissars did during the Russian civil war.
The Russians fought phase one of the SMO with a force which was deliberately kept smaller than the opposing Ukrainian force. But against an elite Ukrainian force deeply dug in in the heavily fortified defenses Russia will have to to do some combination of two things: more men and more firepower. And, by all accounts, that seems to be exactly what they are gearing up for.
As many others have already pointed out, the chances of a false flag are extremely high, most likely some chemical attack, possibly in Kiev or Kharkov. Such an attack, while fake, will result in the usual hysterics of the Empire of Lies, so we all need to prepare ourselves for this too.
The Empire of lies is so desperate now, that US PSYOPs claim that the Russian generals are afraid of telling Putin the “horrible truth” and that Shoigu is preparing a coup against Putin. Right now, the Ukronazis say that the Russians are on the run, but even the US Pentagon admits that the forces moved away from Kiev are only regrouping.
Remember, in maneuver warfare you do not “hold terrain” anymore than you do in naval warfare, and that is what the first phase of the SMO was all about. But in the Donbass, holding terrain will become much more important and since both sides are very skilled and courageous, do NOT expect big movements on the map. Instead, expect several weeks of very severe “grinding down” of Ukrainian defenses followed by slow and deliberate movements, mostly short distance – from a few hundred meters to a few clicks.
I hope that the above will be helpful once the 2nd phase is fully launched.
One more thing: western military aid to the Ukraine. Most of it is in Poland. True, there is A LOT of western kit found in Mariupol or the Donbass, but that stuff was brought in long ago. Just look at the map, look at where the Polish-Ukrainian border is and then look at where the yellow circle is. In order to make a difference, western weapon systems need to get across the entire Ukraine and enter into a highly contested and dangerous area. How can such a delivery be made? Three options:
In all three cases, if the force is tiny, say a few cars fill with MANPADs, there is a chance to make it, albeit a small one and such a “delivery” would be fantastically dangerous. But the Ukrainians have now PROVEN that they can be very tough and very smart. But such tiny reinforcements won’t make any difference. Now a bigger force might, but it would be instantly detected and attacked by Russians standoff weapons, close air support and long range artillery. So all this stuff about sending weapons to the Ukrainians really is a load of crap. It’s just irrelevant fake news.
So far the Russians did not consider such a possibility as significant, hence the fact that they did not blow up any bridges, remotely mined any roads or destroyed any train tracks (that I am aware of). But if the risk of a significant reinforcements from the western Ukraine become a real threat, you can rest assured that the Russians will do all of the above, especially since there are very few towns and civilians in some parts of this track to the East.
So far the Russian policy was to let the (covert) NATO forces to gather in an assembly area and only then hit them really hard. This is a very effective strategy which the NATO forces have found no way to counter (if only because NATO air defenses are a joke, even against trans-sonic and subsonic missiles and drone).
Finally, the Ukrainians don’t have any air force left, and no navy, but they have proven that they still can use helicopters flying very low and fast, especially at night when local air defense operators might mistake them for a Russian helicopter (friendly fire is always a major risk in warfare). BTW – a helicopter is a hard target, not only do they fly very low, they can fly both fast (say to avoid a MANPAD) or very slow, to hide for fighters and interceptors. A slowly moving and low flying helicopter is a difficult target for fighter aircraft’s radar and infrared search and track system. A hilly or mountainous terrain makes detection even harder.
Russian attack helicopters all have air to air capabilities, both gun and missile, and so they can be very effectively used against Ukrainian helicopters (which are a full generation behind modern Russian helicopters) but you need to have them ready and you need to have them fly under air cover. So that is doable, it just takes time.
Phase one, pure maneuver warfare is over and it was a military success.
Politically, it was pretty close to a failure, not only did the PSYOPS of the Empire of Lies totally crush the rather clumsy and primitive Russian counter-propaganda efforts, the Russians also failed to realize that they could not count on the local civilians authorities to simply do their job under a new flag.
Which means that Russia failed to properly denazify even the towns and cities which were deep in the Russian rear. Now that miscalculation will have to be fixed the hard way: with more men and more firepower.
Phase two of this war will be the liquidation of the Donbass cauldron and it will decide the outcome of this war (not that this outcome was ever in doubt).
On a personal note, I will only add that the past month has convinced me that Russia should NOT permanently occupy more of the Ukraine than the “full” LDNR plus the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast. But neither can Russia leave a the Ukraine like a Petri dish for Nazi toxins, so it seems to me that the optimal solution would be a breakup of the country into several successor states: neutral, with only police forces and light arms and with a clear understanding that Russia has the means to militarily intervene at any minute should the successor states attempt to violate their neutral, unarmed and denazified status.
Will that happen?
I don’t know, Putin has already surprised me twice with very risky operations which I would have recommended against (Syria and that “big” SMO in lieu of a “small” liberation of “just” the LDNR). Considering that Russia has used only a small fraction of her armed forces, it is impossible for me to predict what Putin and the Russian General Staff will decide after the second phase of this SMO is over.
Finally, I am going to take the next two days off, barring some major developments, of course.
So until Monday, then, God willing.