Russo-Ukraine War - July 2022
On 24 February 2022, Ukraine was suddenly and deliberately attacked by land, naval and air forces of Russia, igniting the largest European war since the Great Patriotic War. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" (SVO - spetsialnaya voennaya operatsiya) in Ukraine in response to the appeal of the leaders of the "Donbass republics" for help. That attack is a blatant violation of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. Putin stressed that Moscow's goal is the demilitarization and denazification of the country. The military buildup in preceeding months makes it obvious that the unprovoked and dastardly Russian attack was deliberately planned long in advance. During the intervening time, the Russian government had deliberately sought to deceive the world by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
"To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." [Judgment of the International Military Tribunal]
"Ukraine seeks to recover its national territory and deal a decisive defeat to the Russian military that will end Russia’s predatory aggression and secure Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. US, NATO, and EU political aims, however, are far less clear. Ukraine does not need foreign troops to win. What it does need is economic, political and military help from NATO, and the EU. So far, what has been provided is not enough" according to Richard D. Hooker.
Ukraine made tactical retreats before a Russian onslaught in the east, saying it is biding its time to take back its territory in the second half of the year. The Russians have barely captured Luhansk, and Donetsk is 50 percent under Ukrainian control. The Ukrainians have been dug in for seven-eight years and have multiple lines of defence because they always expected a frontal line of assault. What that means is slow Russian progress – not a given – and the Ukrainian capacity for counteroffensive.
Ukraine’s head of military intelligence has warned that big changes are coming. Kirill Budanov said “certain events” will take place beginning in August that will mark a turning point in the war. “Ukraine will return to the borders of 1991 and we are not considering any other scenarios. By the end of the year, active hostilities will drop to almost zero. We will regain control over our territories in the foreseeable future,” Budanov said.
Vladimir Putin said during a working visit to Turkmenistan "I am the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, but I have not graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff. I trust professionals. They are doing what they consider necessary to attain the overall goal. I have formulated the overall goal, which is to liberate Donbass, protect its people and create conditions that will guarantee the security of Russia itself. That is all. We are working calmly and steadily. As you can see, our forces are moving forward and attaining the objectives that have been set for the particular period of the engagement. We are proceeding according to plan." Putin's strategy now appears to be to wait, expecting Western resolve to falter under economic pressure and the government of President Zelensky to crumble as Russia pounds Ukraine's forces and cities.
Dmitriy Kovalevich the reported "about a million people have already been drafted. As a rule, these people are untrained and quickly die under massive artillery fire. The drafted Ukrainian infantrymen complain that they are used at the front as ‘bait’ for the Russian military during the counter-battery fight. Virtually unarmed, they are thrown into the front lines, waiting for the Russians to detect them with drones, and hit them with heavy artillery and aircraft, after which Ukrainian artillerymen can detect Russian artillery positions. Such a tactic in itself leads to huge losses, which are replenished due to the fact that the police began to capture males aged 18 to 60 on the streets of cities on a massive scale.
"Men are literally seized on the streets, so many enterprises in the country that are not related to law enforcement agencies and defense have stopped working. Men simply try not to go outside; only their wives, daughters or mothers go to shops, pharmacies or banks. Ukrainian border guards report that about a hundred men are caught every day trying to leave with forged documents, and about 30 more are caught daily trying to flee across the border through forests or swim across rivers. The number of those who managed to escape successfully is naturally not included in the statistics."
Volodomyr Zelenskiy rejected further peace negotiations other than a discussion of a ceasfire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory, including Crimea and Donbass. Eldar Mamedov noted "The United States, United Kingdom, and nations in eastern Europe seem to embrace the view that a permanent weakening of Russia should be the goal. In the case of Poland and the Baltic trio of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, that imperative is fueled by the traumatic history of their relations with Russia and a well-justified fear of Russian intentions — only recently President Putin delivered a speech in which he appeared to be laying territorial claims on Estonia. Weakening the aggressor’s capabilities is a sensible self-defense policy. The emerging peace camp, led by Germany, France, and Italy, by contrast, advocates for a swift ceasefire and ensuing negotiations leading to a diplomatic settlement between Russia and Ukraine." France and Germany want an end to hostilities and sanctions as soon as possible. Britain’s position is the most irreconcilable.
The Italian plan put forward in May envisaging four stages : a UN-controlled ceasefire and elimination of the contact line; rapid entry of Ukraine into the EU and Ukrainian neutrality and non-aligned, non-NATO status; a grand deal on Crimea and Donbass and a resolution of territorial disputes; and multilateral treaty on peace and security in Europe that would cover arms control and conflict-prevention in future Russian-Western relations.
Gordon M. Hahn argued "Ukraine is losing and will lose its war with Russia. ... Zelenskiy will risk his head if he negotiates and comes to an agreement with Moscow no less assists Moscow in completing the denazification process—i.e. eliminating all neofascist groups and propaganda in Ukraine. Without it, the well-armed and embittered ‘ultras’ will carry out partisan and terrorist operations against Russian forces and civilians in occupied regions annexed or otherwise held by Moscow, making the ceasefire no more stable than the Minsk one that just blew up in our faces. The potential for regime instability in the event of defeat in the war and compromise at the negotiating table is all too real for Kiev...
"... as long as there is any independent Ukrainian territory, remaining Ukrainian military forces or subsequently informal partisan fighters will pose a threat to Russian forces and civilian populations on Russian-seized lands. In order to avoid a quagmire of Ukrainian partisan warfare and neofascist terrorism, the Kremlin will be forced in the end to march to the Polish border to ‘secure its flanks’. Only there will Putin be sure he can more quickly contain and ultimately quash Ukrainian resistance."
The Ukrainian government anticipates that it will continue to receive Western military support – and ideally, at even greater volume than now. The Ukrainians are also hoping that new deliveries of US and Western heavy weapons, particularly long-range artillery, will help them to turn the tide against the Russian army and regain some territory. Ukraine would need a major buildup of its forces to take back the occupied territories.
Ukraine cannot afford to stop now because it would lose one-fifth of its territory to Russia, including vital Black Sea trading ports, the industrial and mining area of the Donbas, and important tracts of agricultural land. This would make a future Ukrainian state less functional and prosperous. Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be the president who not only lost the war but also large parts of his country.
The united Western alliance which supports Ukraine in this war is getting less united and cohesive all the time. They change the narrative, and the discussion on the need for a ceasefire and negotiations has started. Both sides may reach a stalemate where they dig in behind heavily fortified lines that remain fixed for years with a low-intensity conflict across a no man’s land. Russia would proceed with the ‘Russification’ of the territories it occupies and may try to incorporate some of them into Russia.
The long and fruitless negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow and with international mediators of the past, over things like ceasefires, troop and weapons withdrawals and defining a new status for the occupied territories, would resume. In Syria, where it has been propping up President Bashar al-Assad, Russia has used a cycle of offensives followed by ceasefires to slowly split and crush the opposition. Russia knows it cannot conquer all of Ukraine, so it will probably focus on maintaining control of the Donbas and turning the Ukraine war back into a frozen conflict.
The Russian army, combined with the forces of the Donbass republics as well as contract soldiers, adopted the tactic of slowly pushing through defensive lines with a reliance on artillery. This could be called a modern reiteration of the First World War principle: “artillery devastates, infantry floods.”
The reason is a shortage of personnel, which is a result of Russia’s refusal to implement mass mobilization. The armies of the Lugansk (LPR) and Donetsk (DPR) People’s Republics, the Wagner militia and the Russian Guard play the role of infantry manpower, but still the density of the advancing ranks is three to five times lower than the normal rule in such situations, which cannot but affect the tempo. The main consequence is the inability of the advancing side to break through the frontline with rapid strikes and encircle the enemy.
This enables the Ukrainians to hold a defensive position in a particular settlement to the last man, and then retreat with the most capable units, leaving the poorly trained “meat” of the territorial defense to cover it. The tactic has its flaws: when retreating, heavy equipment has to be partially abandoned, plus there are further losses from artillery and aviation strikes during the retreat itself.
The weakness and stretching of Russian troops in Kherson Region (about 20 kilometers per battalion-tactical group) offer a chance to create a local advantage in this direction and a headache for Moscow’s forces. Kiev has a slight advantage in infantry, but the backbone of land warfare, artillery, is severely lacking, with Western supplies estimated not to cover even a fraction of the losses. This precludes rapid breakthroughs, while the slow pace allows Russia to promptly pull up its artillery and stop the crisis.
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