"The Izium Withdrawal - A Catalyst For 'Starting In Earnest'.html"
Moon of Alabama (September 11, 2022)
"We can say that today was the best ever, the second best ever, day for the Russians in the territory of Ukraine. Something must be changed. If you ask what the Russian should change, to tell the truth, I don't know. But I believe, if they don't change anything after this situation, that means there is no need to continue this Special Operation. Because the Ukrainians managed to collect a big number of infantry. Some sources are saying, joking of course they are joking, that now the Ukrainians these days have a so big army that the Ukrainian authorities can give them just stones. And this army is able to crack the Russians' defense order just with stones because there are so much of them."
The above is the opener of Dima's Military Summary of yesterday's events in Ukraine.
The simplistic view that "quantity has a quality of its own," is usually attributed to Joseph Stalin, the Georgian leader of the Soviet Union during the second World War (as well as before and after).
Stalin was wrong, as the Second Battle of Kharkov, mentioned here yesterday, provides. In May 1942, near Izium, the Nazis thoroughly defeated a counterattacking Soviet force twice their forces size.
Stalin was also right. In the end the Soviet Union simply outproduced the German Reich and its allies in nearly everything - tanks, airplanes, cannons, ammunition, fuel, food and soldiers - which enabled its victory. (The much propagandized U.S. role in this was historically a mere sideshow.)
Yesterday's Russian withdrawal from the region between Izium and the Russian border was a disaster for the (pro-)Russian people on the ground. It was also the rational consequence of a lack of military resources. The Russian military forces in Ukraine are too few to hold the 1,500 kilometer long frontline against a Ukrainian military which now has a.) a much larger force to work with, b.) no concerns about high human losses and c.) a steady supply of 'western' weapons.
Russia must adapt to this.
The most mentioned demand in the pro-Russian commentariat yesterday was to "take off the gloves" - to seriously interdict 'western' deliveries of weapons, to destroy Ukrainian bridges and other dual-use infrastructure, to switch from a 'Special Military Operation' towards war.
Why hasn't the Russia's political leadership done this yet?
After observing it for two decades I have concluded that the Russian political leadership, foremost its current leader Vladimir Putin, is driven by two guiding principles. The first is to follow the will of the people. The second are rational policies. The high ratings of Putin and other political leaders have in independent Russian polls is not by chance. It is the result of policies that are a.) rational and well explained and b.) thoroughly democratic in that they follow the public opinion of the majority of the people. They do not allow particular interest groups to have an oversized influence on it.
This can best be seen in the war Putin waged against those billionaires who, in the 1990s and early 2000nds, tried to enter politics to prioritize their interests over all others. They were defeated and those who didn't flee to London have since stopped to interfere with the state.
The other group that traditionally had an oversized role in Russia, especially during the Cold War, is the military-industrial complex. It shrank during Yeltsin's rule due to the catastrophic financial consequences of his mislead privatization drive. Under Putin the Russian military was somewhat resurrected, rearmed and sufficiently resourced. But it was also tamed. Under Defense Minister Shoigu and Chief of Staff Gerasimov the priority of general state policies over perceived military needs is no longer questionable.
The biggest opponents to Putin's policies are the nationalist, not the 'western' favored 'liberal' clowns like Navalny. The nationalists can be found on the political left, right and center. They are not well organized but have a voice throughout the political spectrum. (The former President Dimitri Medvedev currently plays to that audience.) The nationalists even have a voice in public media.
Here are Gilbert Doctorow's observations of their recent position discussed in prominent Russian talk shows:
For his part, Vladimir Solovyov went beyond presentation of the threat posed by the United States and its allies to analysis of Russia’s possible response. He spoke at length, and we may assume that what he was saying had the direct approval of the Kremlin, ..
So, what did Solovyov have to say? First, that Ramstein marked a new stage in the war, because of the more threatening nature of the weapons systems announced for delivery, such as missiles with accuracy of 1 to 2 meters when fired from distances of 20 or 30 kilometers thanks to their GPS-guided flight, in contrast to the laser-guided missiles delivered to Ukraine up till now. In the same category, there are weapons designed to destroy the Russians’ radar systems used for directing artillery fire. Second, that Ramstein marked the further expansion of the coalition or holy crusade waging war on Russia. Third, that in effect this is no longer a proxy war but a real direct war with NATO and should be prosecuted with appropriate mustering of all resources at home and abroad.
Said Solovyov, Russia should throw off constraints and destroy the Ukrainian dual use infrastructure which makes it possible to move Western weapons across the country to the front. The railway system, the bridges, the electricity generating stations all should become fair targets. Moreover, Kiev should no longer be spared missile strikes and destruction of the ministries and presidential apparatus responsible for prosecution of the war. I note that these ideas were aired on the Solovyov program more than a month ago but then disappeared from view while the Russians were making great gains on the ground. The latest setbacks and the new risks associated with the Western policies set out at Ramstein bring them to the surface again.
The recent Ramstein meeting promised "long term assistance" to the Ukraine and announced weapon transfers of new quality.
In the view of the nationalists in Russia it requires a response. Russia, in their view, needs to escalate.
The Kremlin was and is extremely averse to Russian casualties. In this war it prioritizes Russian lives over everything else. That has worked well during the first months of the war. In my estimate the Russian casualties so far were about one tenth of the Ukrainian ones. But the Ukrainian leadership has never cared about casualty numbers. The issue thus does not really matter to it.
Russia had set out to 'demilitarize' and to 'denazify' the Ukraine. The main geographic priority was to liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. The land corridor to Crimea, and the very Russian city of Mariupol, were also important targets.
The demilitarization, mostly by long range weapons, has worked well. The Ukraine no longer has a defense industry. The de-nazification is an ongoing process. The fascist 'nationalist' units like the Azov battalions and their brethren in the Kraken and other groups have been decimated.
The first phase of the war was about pushing the Ukrainian government into an early agreement. The threat to Kiev was designed to achieve that. It nearly worked. At the end of March Kiev agreed to fulfill Russian demands. Then Boris Johnson was sent to push for prolonging the war to "weaken Russia". The Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenski has since obeyed that order.
Russia pulled back from Kiev and started phase two of the war. Since then the Luhansk oblast and the land corridor to Crimea, especially Mariupol, have been won. The liberation of the Donetsk Republic has stalled. The number of Russian and allied forces fighting the war was kept steady or even decreased over time. Meanwhile the Ukrainian forces have grown manifold. They are getting a very significant amount of arms from 'western' sources and new promises to keep those supplies coming. Even when they are armed to a lesser degree, higher numbers of men do matter over time.
This made potentially costly defeats, like recently at the Izium front, possible. The Russian military has readjusted to this threat by decreasing the held territory and by concentrating on the original aims of the war.
The Russian public, which at first did not fully understand why the war was necessary, has since grown in its awareness. It now understands the big game that is played against its country. It demands to adjust the level of resources put into the war to the one needed for a decisive victory.
That is why Dima concludes that: "We can say that today was the best ever [..] day for the Russians in the territory of Ukraine."
It is now likely assured that they will be liberated. One way or another.
I also believe that the withdrawal from the Izium region, which left behind a significant number of pro-Russian civilians under deadly threats from fascist 'filtration' groups, will be the catalyst for a significant escalation on the Russian side.
I may, like so often, be wrong. There is still an intermediate play to come. The 3rd Russian Corps, formed from well paid reservists, armed with new weapons and now reportedly deployed south of the Donbas region, might be a game changer. If it moves north, and manages to roll up the Ukrainian fortifications at the Donetsk line from behind, it may become the decisive force. But the establishment of the mobile Ukrainian forces that in recent days moved, largely unopposed, towards the Oskol river, is a new card which the Ukrainians can play again against any weak spot in the Russian lines.
The Russian public, softly led by the Kremlin through Russian media, is now likely to demand more. That must not mean the total mobilization of the Russian military. 'Western' claims that Russia is isolated are wrong. It has many friends it can call upon to contribute to its efforts. Diversion moves against the U.S. military in many regions of the world are just one of several possibilities.
Time is always the third force on the battlefield. Both opponents have to play against, or ally with it. Europe is currently starving itself by boycotting Russian energy resources. That is unsustainable and it will, over time, have to stop following its current U.S. directed policies. Economically the Ukraine is broke and it can not, despite foreign subsidies, sustain a long war. There are also potential political changes within the U.S. that will play a role.
Still, the war must be won on Ukrainian grounds. Russia must up its game. On July 7, in a session with Duma leaders and party factions heads, Putin said:
Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try. We have already heard a lot about the West wanting to fight us ”to the last Ukrainian.“ This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but that seems to be where it is going. But everyone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.
Well, now may be the time to do so.