What we can know about the Russian strategy in Ukraine | International


Tanks of pro-Russian forces, on Sunday, near Mariupol.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO (REUTERS)

Vladimir Putin’s directive to his Armed Forces on the operations to be carried out in Ukraine, and its purpose, an essential part of it, are unknown, but can be estimated thanks to the different tactical efforts of his invasion troops, the effects of his actions and the consequences generated, in such a way that a very approximate balance could be made on the satisfaction of the premises of the Russian president with the course of his war, and the Russian military efficiency in the execution would also be appreciated, apparently with lights and shadows.

For this operational balance, it will be necessary to trace its movements, the influence of the terrain, the speed of achieving Russian military objectives, the means used, the operation of its logistics, etc., and something of great importance, the attitude and effectiveness of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which under strong political leadership have implemented, in a very short time, a composite strategy, based on the conventional actions of their armies and the irregular actions of their citizens, with a brief military preparation and the use of expedited and light weapons.

From what is being verified through the available information, Putin’s ideology would be to definitively annex the Ukrainian territories with a Russophone majority to the Russian Federation, from Donbas to Moldova (Transnistria), to overthrow the pro-Western government Ukraine, and dissuading NATO and the EU from their policies on “the Russian near foreigner” (this is how the Russian bombing on the 17th of the airport in the city of Lviv, near Poland, should be interpreted); To these aims should be added, in this new phase, the implementation of a collective punishment of the Ukrainian people, on the other hand, not new in recent history.

This claim presupposes the intention to depose the current Government of Ukraine, hence its main effort on kyiv, the economic, energetic and social suffocation of the Ukrainian State, the destruction of its vital production centers, the elimination of its outlet to the Black Sea and Azov, an old imperial and Soviet aspiration, provoking a general terror, as a punishment, in the big cities, which generates a tide of refugees, always problematic for the Western societies that receive it; finally, reminding the West of the key to its nuclear doctrine, its willingness to use it for the first time (First Use) as a deterrent to any intervention.

It is very possible that the current situation of the operations does not agree with the final state desired by Putin, due to the obstacles encountered by the Russian troops, and that at this moment of evaluation a reorganization of its units will be carried out, even removing outstanding troops. in other countries with clear Russian influence, such as Armenia, Georgia (South Ossetia) and even Tajikistan, given the tactical impossibility of compensating internally, in the Ukrainian theater, units from the south to the north and vice versa, since both areas of operations are demanding for the losses suffered; It must not be forgotten that the operations of encirclement of the cities consume many troops.

It is evident that the main effort of the invasion is the North-South that leads to kyiv, since its consolidation would have deprived the Ukrainian side of leadership and general direction of the war, now reorganized with the creation of a joint civil-military command for the defense of kyiv; however, this effort has not achieved its objectives, due to all kinds of issues, especially logistics, mobility and the effectiveness of the Ukrainian resistance to progression.

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The importance of Crimea is highlighted, as a starting point for forces, hence its incorporation into Russia since 2014, possibly in Putin’s future plans, where a second support effort is generated that moves in three directions: East-West with the purpose of consolidating the siege of cities like Mykolaiv, still resistant, and continuing towards Odessa; South-North, involving the nuclear power plants that supply energy to the south of Ukraine, to continue, where appropriate, on the course of the Dnieper River; a third in a West-East direction, to take control of the city of Mariupol, with the aim of closing on the pro-Russian provinces of Donbas (initially on Donetsk) and possibly with the intention of pocketing the Ukrainian devices in the area, in combination with Russian forces coming, perhaps from Kharkov (over Lugansk initially) and, finally, a fourth naval effort (14 amphibious and support ships) that would be positioning and carrying out touchdown operations (bombing) in front of Odessa, ready for a amphibious operation that links with the previous ones, at the time.

Ukrainian soldiers cover the bodies of some who died after the Russian attack on a military school in Mykolaiv, this Saturday.
Ukrainian soldiers cover the bodies of some who died after the Russian attack on a military school in Mykolaiv, this Saturday.BULENT KILIC (AFP)

Crimea’s value is undoubtedly increased by the reported location of several Iskander-M missile units, nuclear and conventional, with a range of 500 km, on the edge of the old ban on deploying missiles intermediate scope in Europe (INF Treaty, now obsolete).

The situation, after 25 days of operations, with many shadows, without a doubt, would not at all resemble the final state desired by Putin in this first phase, since he has achieved a general penetration of all the borders with Ukraine, reaching or fencing the energy objectives, promoting an accelerated emigration to the West and practically closing the exit to the sea of ​​its defending neighbor, ruining its economy for decades, although for the time being the capture of the big cities is denied to the Russians due to the need to of large troops; Perhaps the biggest deviation from what was expected is the time factor, which has led to the appearance of a major hostile world reaction, the implementation of increasingly effective economic sanctions, and the reaffirmation that NATO and a stronger EU are more necessary than before, along with the increase in the defense budget of several member countries.

It is very possible that a phase change has occurred, due to the severe wear and tear to which the Ukrainian defense has been subjected and the reduced communications, not sufficiently foreseen, with the Russian substitution of more subtle light, airborne, airmobile and paratroop units. , for a strong second line in tanks, field artillery and rocket launchers, typical of the oldest Russian military doctrine, for the preponderant use of its missile and the progressive increase in aerial actions; aspects that will promote, even more, the destruction of infrastructures and besieged cities, avoiding intense combat in the population with not very qualified personnel.

It is noteworthy, in the rate of Russian progression, its human factor, in some way motivated by “some maneuvers” that have led to an invasion, after training on the northern and eastern borders, long and hard, with hardships; also the delay of the invasion, which would have had more speed at an earlier time, with a ground hardened by frost, instead of the impassability of the Ukrainian mud, well known to the Russians, moreover, which binds them to the communication routes, with endless columns, poor traffic management and high fuel consumption, splendidly harassed by the troops of the invaded.

Also noteworthy is the still reduced presence detected, perhaps neutralized, of the spetsnaz Russians (special troops belonging to the Russian Military Intelligence Service, the GRU), who prepare the actions by previously penetrating in depth, acting under cover of hybrid tactics.

But above all, the human factor shines, the Ukrainian soldier, the militarized citizen, who see how the former Russian brother destroys his nation for the future, plunging his freedom into an authoritarian environment.

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