There is a lot of misunderstanding about the current tensions around the eastern Ukraine, so we have everything, anything and its opposite. All presented with great gravitas as undisputed facts. I won’t deal with all of these facts here, but I will address a few misconceptions.
But first, a caveat. What follows is a much over-simplified model and the reality of tactics, operational art and strategy involves much more complexity. Please keep that in mind when reading what follows.
But let’s begin by a couple of maps:
This is a general political map of the Banderastan and its neighbors:
Next, here is a Russian map of the line of contact (taken from a video on YT):
Please ignore the details, all I ask you is to look at is the contours of the line of contact (Ukies in blue, LDNR in red). This is the same region that in the political map above, is labeled “5”.
Okay, there is a lot of “bean counting” going on comparing the VSU (Ukie) forces and LDNR forces. As with all bean counting, this is nonsensical from a military point of view. I cannot write up a detailed lecture here, but I want to point out a few key military concepts.
Counting the forces along the line of contact (aka ” Forward Line of Own Troops” (FLOT) or “Forward Edge of Battle Area” (FEBA)) makes no sense since military forces do not attack “full front”. You might have heard the rule of thumb (no more than just that!!) that you need a force ratio of about 3:1 in favor of an attacking force to overcome the enemy defenses. As all rules of thumb, this is not quite true, but it useful because it brings in the notion of concentration of forces along the main axis/axes of attack.
Typically, if you have 10 units (what type does not concern us here) on one side and 10 on the other, the attacker will want to create a diversionary attack to draw away defending forces and then concentrate the attacking forces on the weakest segment of the defenses. Again, not quite true, but good enough for our purposes.
Most bean counters will tell you that the VSU has a 2:1 to 3:1 numerical advantage over the LDNR forces. Is that enough?
The real question should be can the VSU achieve a 3:1 (or higher!) force ratio against the LDNR forces on a specific axis of attack?
That question implies this: can the Ukies move their forces and effectively concentrate them?
Problem: in order to prepare such a concentration, the Ukies would need to do that without being noticed by the Russians. Why? Because once the Ukies concentrate their forces they become a very lucrative target for the LDNR and, possibly, Russian short and medium range weapons systems!
That is one dilemma: the more concentrated your forces are, the more lucrative a target they become.
Furthermore, by concentrating your forces on sector X, you necessarily lower their concentration on other sectors, and that exposes you not only to an enemy counter attack, but even an enemy envelopment (remember the “cauldrons” the Ukies were locked in by LDNR forces in the first war?).
One solution to this dilemma is to heavily fortify your defenses on the other sectors (yes, “defensive” preparations are actually very much part of any offensive operation!). But how do you organize such a defense in depth (at least two separate echelons) without the Russians seeing it and making all the obvious conclusions?
Next, you have to keep in mind that a typical defense is usually a defense in depth, meaning that once you break through the first “wall” of defense (called the first echelon) you then face a 2nd “wall” and, sometimes, even a 3rd one. And now that your forces broke through the first wall, they are now stuck between two enemy walls even if there is a hole in the first wall. You will need to bring reinforcements to develop your attack. Or you can use your force between the two walls as a maneuver group to do stuff like envelop a part of the first wall, or quickly maneuver to disorganize the defenses. The details do not matter, what matters is that “just” breaking through the first wall does not mean you have “won”. In fact, a skilled enemy will want you to break through in a location he predicted and then get you into a type of “fire pocket” where he can unleash hell on you.
That is just to give you an idea of the complexity of any attack against a prepared defense. Add to this that depending on terrain (steppe or urban areas) your force ratios might need to be much higher, 6:1 for an urban offensive operation is quite reasonable. Where do you get such numbers and how do you concentrate them?
It gets worse.
Look at the top map and specifically at this part of the map:
I am not, repeat NOT, endorsing all the panic-inducing maps the US PSYOPs have planted in the western media, but from the Ukie point of view, the entire border line which I highlighted in red is a potential axis of advance for the Russian armed forces.
Think of it as a “potential operational semi-cauldron” :-)
This is the main reason why the Ukies have only deployed about half of their total forces along the LOC in the LDNR: they need to keep forces both along their borders and at least some reserves to counter any possible (even if highly UNlikely) Russian attack by land (and even sea, see below)
During the first war, the “cauldrons” were all tactical, that is that they involved subunits smaller than a regular division. This time around, the Ukies risk an operational cauldron, involving all the forces deployed along the LOC with the LDNR, that is to say all the forces shown in blue on the map above, roughly the equivalent of 8-10 brigades.
That is a HUGE risk for the VSU and it is determined by geography, not western PSYOPs.
Speaking of reserves. The Russian forces (the famous about 100’000+ soldiers mentioned in the western media) “near” (non military term) the Ukie border are in their permanent locations and not poised to attack. Also, to attack the Ukraine, Russia would need more forces anyway, but let’s ignore that. From the Ukie point of view, those 100+k soldiers are either functionally a “LDNR strategic reserve” or a LDNR third defensive echelon if you prefer. Meaning that their mission is not to invade the Ukraine, but to prevent a Ukie breakthrough if suddenly the LDNR forces collapse.
Next, a few words about Belarus and Kaliningrad.
There is exactly zero need for Russia to use her forces in Belarus or Kaliningrad against the Ukraine. That’s just nightmares to scare the Neocons at night. The real purpose of those forces is to protect the entire theater of operations from any NATO attempts to intervene from the north (Baltic) or west (Poland). Yes, Russia can, and has, already deployed Iskander missiles in both regions (they move them around a lot), and in case of full scale war, NATO command posts, force concentrations, C4I, airfields, ports, etc. could (and would) be targeted by them, but the real main function of these forces in case of war in the eastern Ukraine would be to shut down the entire airspace, what the westerners call anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD): basically, create a no-fly zone for the US and NATO.
Now back to bean counting and the LOC. While it is probably true that the VSU does have a numerical advantage in manpower (how much is unclear, so let’s, for argument’s sake, agree to about 2.5:1), modern warfare is mechanized and in terms of armor, the LDNR has the advantage, by a big margin according to some sources (nobody knows the true figures). Most Ukie armor is in bad shape and can’t really move much.
The situation is even worse with air forces. All the Ukies have are a few Soviet-era MiG-29, MiG-25s and Su-27, most of them not even fly worthy. The 30 or so which can fly would quickly be disposed of by the Russian Aerospace and ground forces air defenses.
So so far we have:
- Inadequate Ukie force ratios
- A geographical “potential operational semi-cauldron” already created
- No air force worth mentioning
- Inadequate armor
Next, maneuver warfare. For any attack to succeed the attacker must move his forces A LOT. For the attack itself, of course, but also to prepare it, we have seen that above. There is a problem with troop movements, however: they make the troops being moved very vulnerable to attack unless you move them in combat formation, at which point their mobility is greatly reduced.
Considering Russian ISTAR (Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) capabilities in the area of operations, I doubt that the Ukies could move anything bigger than a company (if that!) without the Russians instantly knowing about it (considering SVR/GRU human intel capabilities, the Russians might know about Ukie plans even before they are finalized). Depending on how far from LDNR forces these Ukie forces would be, the LDNR artillery might, or might not, be able to engage them. But the Russians for sure could very easily see them and wipe them out.
We have not discussed artillery yet.
The Ukies definitely have some capable artillery systems, mostly Soviet-era Smerch MLRS and a few local modifications. They also have Soviet era howitzers, mortars, cannons, etc. But here is the problem: as soon, literally, as soon as a Ukie MLRS or gun fires, it will be seen by the Russians which will immediately engage what is called “counter-battery fire”. In theory, the Ukies could do two things to mitigate that: use EW or (quick) maneuver. But in practice, they won’t be able to do either of these. First, Russia will “own the EW space” over the entire theater of operations and maneuver, well, see above. Once the Russians see them, they are as good as dead.
Next, let’s deal with the Ukie Navy in one sentence: it will either stay in port or be sunk or both. Nothing to comment on here.
What about the Russian Black Sea fleet (BSF)?
In military terms, Russia already owns/controls the entire Black Sea, all of it, including the coastlines. The western PSYOPs won’t tell you that, but that is a fact. Furthermore, the BSF can cruise up and down the Ukie coastline threatening both gun/missile attacks and even a full-scale amphibious assault. And just by doing that, and without firing a single weapon, the BSF could further force the Ukies to allocate forces to the defense of their coastline, thereby further depleting the northern and eastern directions.
By the way, at least six Russian heavy amphibious assault ships (BDK) have entered the Mediterranean. Once the shooting starts, it is unlikely that Turkey will allow them to cross the Bosphorus, but before? Alternatively, these ships could be headed for Syria and considering how low their waterline appears on photos, these ships are fully loaded with something, nobody knows what. Either way, these six BDK might well turn up the “pain dial” for the US and NATO in various unpredictable ways.
Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The SBU (Ukie KGB) and military diversionary special forces are well trained, well-armed and well paid (courtesy of the US and NATO) and they have proven their effectiveness against the LDNR security services (but not against the FSB!). So we can expect them to do all of the following:
- Create chaos and panic in the LDNR by sabotaging critical infrastructures (power plants, chemicals, etc.)
- Assassinations of LDNR commanders
- Reconnaissance operations behind the line of contact (installation of beacons)
- Serve as artillery spotters/correctors and forward air controllers (at least while the Ukies have artillery pieces, aircraft and some drones).
- False flag operations involving the destruction/sabotage of critical UKRAINIAN (not LDNR) infrastructures (power plants, chemicals, etc.) and blame the LDNR/Russia for “atrocities” and war crimes against “innocent Ukrainian civilians”.
What is often misunderstood is the correct timing for such operations: these make most sense right BEFORE any fullscale attack. Once the war is on, such operations would be not only much harder to execute, but also have much less PR effect. However, to any military analyst, the initiation of such diversionary/terrorist attacks would also serve as a clear indicator that “something’s up”. So they have to be very carefully timed, not too soon, not too late, but only “just right” with a gradual intensification up until the full initiations of hostilities.
But yes, Ukie special forces are a real threat and the LDNR security forces better get their act together or let the Russians fully take over (something I have been advocating for years).
Then, there is the obvious issue of morale. Except for the Ukie special forces, the morale of the VSU is by all credible accounts close to rock bottom. And, why not, I would also be depressed if I was in their shoes. The hardcore Nazis units are just like the Israelis – masters at shooting unarmed civilians but clowns if faced by a real, capable, adversary (Hezbollah, Russian, Iranian or even Palestinian – same deal). As I mentioned, the special forces and the western mercenaries will probably fight harder until they are wiped out or run. Which leaves a hungry, depressed, poorly trained, poorly armed, terribly commanded rank and file Ukie soldier who is facing folks who are literally defending their own land and families. Some will face their own relatives.
Yes, yes, I saw the reports about how much better the VSU is than in 2014. It is quite easy to claim great determination and morale before TV crews, but once a hellish firestorm is unleashed on you and your comrades in arms die all around you, your superb morale will deflate in just a few hours.
And remember these two crucial facts:
- The VSU has somewhere to retreat to (operational depth). The LDNR forces do not.
- The LDNR can count on Russia intervening should things go south. The VSU forces have *nobody* willing to die for them.
Every soldier on either side is, I am quite sure, acutely aware of these crucial facts!
It is quite premature to assume that Russia will have to intervene. The open source information available does not indicate that the Ukies have a clear advantage against the LDNR, especially since the latter will be on the defense.
That is the good news. The really bad news is that the Ukies probably understand that, and their western masters understand that for sure. So how could they *force* Russia to intervene?
My fear is that they will try to hit the city of Donetsk and the various small towns around it with all the firepower they have to create a real bloodbath. Remember how Saakashvili attacked the city of Tskhinval? With a massive MLRS attack leveling entire buildings in the city and murdering scores of civilians.
Again, remember that for the West, the goal is not to “defeat” Russia or “liberate” the LDNR. It is to force Russia to intervene.
If by a mix of sabotages, artillery strikes, drone attacks, and even ballistic missiles (the Ukraine has, on paper, 90 9K79 Tochka (SS-21 Scarab) missiles) they can create such a bloodbath that the political pressure inside Russia to intervene would become huge. The Ukies can also be sure that any bloodbath will be either
- Ignored by the West or
- Blamed on Russia
So for them, this is a win-win situation, even if the end goal is to lose militarily to win politically.
We can only pray and hope that Russia has enough A2/AD capabilities over Novorussia to prevent or, a least, mitigate this very real, and horrible, threat. I also hope that the LDNR authorities have trained the civilian population how to act in case of such an attack. Remember, Donetsk is essentially a frontline city: it is therefore unlikely that the Ukies will try to take it. But they could do two things: unleash a massacre of civilians and try to surround the city (I doubt that they will try that, because this idea has its own risks, but this is not important for our purposes). Finally, in despair, the Ukies could even try a suicide attack on Crimea or even on Russian cities to the northeast of Banderastan.
The above is just a bird’s eye view of the publicly available information. My aim is not to predict what will happen, but to share with you a few concepts which show that the primitive stuff typically spewed by propagandists (on all sides) is quite unrealistic and, really not helpful for any analysis of the current standoff.
One last thing: grand strategy.
I won’t go into that here, but I will simply mention the end goals of the AngloZionist Empire and Russia in this conflict:
- The AngloZionists want to force Russia to intervene to allow the US to regain full control of the European continent
- Russia wants a new multipolar world order with no single hegemon
The war in the Ukraine is just the tip of this much bigger “strategic iceberg”. We should never lose sight of this.
ADDENDUM: in other news, the Communist Party of Russia Duma faction has proposed that Russia recognize the LDNR. The United Russia Party has proposed to send weapons to the LDNR. All at the same time.