End Game approaching
Events in the background context
NATO officials and the Western news media have not concealed their joy that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has forced Russian troops to withdraw from a sizable territory near the eastern city of Kharkiv. Enthusiastic pro-Ukraine people in Europe and the US are celebrating and touting that Kyiv’s success portends Russia’s overall defeat in the war.
As Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the American Conservative and the National Interest, recently wrote in his article of the National Interest , “Such celebrations are wildly premature. Russia still has several military options and some of the scenarios should deeply worry the United States and its NATO allies.”
Celebrations of Ukraine’s recent military successes are both premature and greatly overdone. NATO leaders and the Western news media need to realize that they may be celebrating the prelude to a prolonged, extremely bloody war or even an impending nuclear catastrophe.
I agree with Carpenter’s wise and realistic words.
Russia’s Special Military Operation was never designed to seize and occupy great swaths of Ukrainian territory. The mere size of initial troops discloses this fact. In essence, the SMO was a police operation aimed at locating and eliminating the Ukrainian forces that had been bombarding and killing ethnic Russians livingin east Ukraine.
After numerous clashes with advancing NATO-trained Ukrainian battalions, it’s clear that Russia needs significant reinforcements to roll back Ukrainian forces and impose a security buffer around its new provinces. Russian generals realize they cannot achieve their strategic objectives with merely an “expeditionary force” but must adjust to changes on the ground and that is precisely what they are doing; they are beefing up their forces by partial mobilization. Today the great majority of Russians fully support the policy and according to the latest opinion survey (Levada), Putin’s public approval rating is at 80% level among Russian citizens.
The mobilizations (Russian Army’s, Wagner’s, Chechen’s) are nearly complete. Their presence in Donbass will partly free up the current regular forces and partly entail new power to advance further on all frontlines. After a week of aerial attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, especially on power supplies, even Zelensky has admitted that 30% of the Kiev regime power stations have been destroyed throughout the Ukraine. Up to now, the destruction percentage may amount to 50% of thermal power plants.
The economic and political turmoil is growing in Europe, particularly in France, Italy, Germany and the UK. How long and in what quantities are western countries willing and able to support any more Ukraine, is the key question during the coming wintertime.
Yet, President Ursula von der Leyen, European Union Commission, announced that the bloc would give Kiev 18 billion euros next year, while it continues fighting Russia. The latest pledge was made during the second day of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, where further support for Ukraine was being discussed. According to von der Leyen, Kiev estimates that, to run the country, it requires 3-4 billion euros every month “for the basics.” So far, this year the EU has provided Kiev with 19 billion euros. Looking ahead to 2023, the EU is committing to give Kiev 1.5 billion euros per month. The remaining monthly welfare for Ukraine’s government is expected to come out of the American taxpayers’ pockets and international institutions.
Two personal statements
General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on October 23: “Our fight against Russia in Ukraine is to protect the rules-based order. If Ukraine falls, the rules-based international order will fall”. This official statement by General Milley disclosed undownably that the US is not financing and supporting the proxy war in Ukraine to defend “western democracy and liberalism” but the worldwide political position of the US (unchecked American hegemony).
Igor Strelkov, a legendary Russian field commander, became known after he headed the heroic defense of the city of Slavyansk in the Donbass in 2014. For several months, he and his comrades fought in complete encirclement against the enemy’s vastly superior forces. When all the avenues for defense were exhausted and only a couple of ammunition magazines remained for one fighter, the unit under the Strelkov’s command carried out a brilliant breakthrough of the encirclement and retreated to Donetsk with minimal losses.
Since October 14, 2022, Former Defense Minister of the DPR Igor Strelkov is serving in the ranks of the Russian Army in Ukraine. He came back to the front lines as a deputy commander of one of the battalions. Strelkov in early June 2022 said: “If I am called up for service, it means that the patriotic grouping of the authorities has won (in Russia) and if they send me to fight, there is hope for victory.”
Much-hyped, new AFU counteroffensive in Kherson region lets wait for itself. It is alleged that AFU is gathering 60.000 troops and massive amount of equipment in order to make a final push before the winter.
However, it seems that this may be withering down, mainly due to the colossal AFU losses suffered just on this particular frontline in last six weeks: about 10.000 troop losses and even up to 500 various armored vehicles.
AFU troops have tried daily to attack on Russian defense lines during last three weeks but were each time repelled and suffered heavy losses. Troop losses have been varying from 300 to 600 daily during last ten days, besides growing material losses. In addition, Russian strikes on powerplants and electric network as well as military ammo and fuel depots have caused significant destruction and growing problems nationwide to military transportation and operative performance of Ukrainian armed forces.
On the other hand, Russia seems to be well-prepared for all possible contingencies in this area and the interview of the new top commander, General Surovikin, confirms this situation.
Constant Ukrainian attempts to achieve any gains on the Kherson front lines are expected to continue at least until the elections to the US Senate, which will take place on November 8. Many Republicans have admitted that they could “shut off the spigot of funding Ukraine” in the conflict against Russia. This may happen in case the Republicans win the elections to the US House of Representatives.
Reports and footage from the Kherson front lines confirm that the Ukrainian military obeying to the orders of their NATO instructors continue to use Ukrainian soldiers as cannon fodder. The Kiev regime will continue to send hundreds of Ukrainian men to death in order to achieve any gains on the front lines and show their victories to their patrons in Washington, who in turn are preparing for elections to the US Senate.
On October 20, the Russian- appointed administration announced an evacuation operation by which tens of thousands of civilians and officials are being moved out of southern Kherson region ahead of anticipated Ukrainian offensive. The question is of the resettlement of some 50-60.000 civilians.
On October 19, in a separate development, Putin signed a decree to implement martial law in four regions of Russia: in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, as well as in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. Martial law shall be introduced starting from October 20 midnight. The law “On Martial Law” shall be introduced as a measure of defense against aggression and implies a number of restrictions. Putin told Russia’s Security Council that it would give regional leaders additional powers to maintain social order and safeguard important facilities. The maximum response level shall be implemented in Russia’s four new regions (DPR, LPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye).
Russia, he said, was planning to establish a new capital for the Kherson region at Henichesk, close to the Crimean Peninsula, adding that banks and offices related to the occupation of Kherson had already been evacuated. The Kherson Region will be closed to inbound civilian traffic due to an uneasy situation in the region, the region’s acting governor, Vladimir Saldo, said on Wednesday, 19 October. He said also that civilians from the right-bank part of the region would be evacuated to the left bank of the Dnieper in view of a threat of flooding that might occur, if the Ukrainian military hit the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power plant and the dam. He stressed that the decision to evacuate civilians was also due “the creation of large-scale defensive fortifications, so that any attack could be rolled back repulsed.”
Russia and Ukraine are getting ready for major battle for Kherson amid evacuation of civilians. Military experts are closely watching the events unfolding around the city Kherson. A major battle is expected to unfold for the city in the coming days or weeks. The main question seems to be whether the Russian forces are going to fight for the city or are they going to retreat, possibly without a fight.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine expect Russia to leave. Western analysts believe that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are capable of attacking Kherson. They may resort to three ways to conduct the operation. The General Staff of Ukraine expects that the Russian army will leave the Kherson region and the western bank of the Dnieper without a fight, as soon as it faces a threat of encirclement and supply difficulties as a result of constant shelling of river crossings.
Other experts also see the evacuation of civilians as a sign that the Russian army is preparing for heavy fighting. The plan is to take civilians out of the zone of hostilities and give the military a free hand. The main problem of the defense of Kherson is that it is located on the western, right bank of the Dnieper. This means that all logistics chains go across the river. Ukraine constantly shells the Antonovsky Bridge, which is vital for supplies, along with all other pontoon bridges. Another danger is the possible explosion of the Dnieper dam near the settlement of Novaya Kakhovka.
Commander General Sergei Surovikin and senior representatives of the Kherson civil administration Vladimir Saldo and Kirill Stremousov also spoke about the dam explosion. If the dam gets blown up, it will release a massive amount of water. Several settlements along the river will be flooded and destroyed. Parts of the city of Kherson will be flooded as well. To crown it all, supply chains of the Russian army will be put out of action for a long time.
Day of Four Calls
On 23 October 2022, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, held telephone conversations; firstly, with French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, secondly with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, thirdly with UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace and finally talks with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
They discussed situation in Ukraine, which is rapidly deteriorating. General of the Army Sergei Shoigu conveyed to the counterparts his concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a “dirty bomb”.
It appears that Russian authorities have the full knowledge of the Ukrainian plans and preparations to produce and use a dirty bomb, obviously in the explosion of the Dnieper dam near the settlement of Novaya Kakhovka. Therefore, Russia resorted to the wide-range evacuation of civilians from Kherson.
Just two days earlier, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu spoke on Friday, October 21. Both sides said the situation in Ukraine was discussed. It was the first time they have spoken since a call on 13 May. After Friday’s call, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the US was “eager to keep lines of communication open”. Russia’s defense ministry said that “current questions of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine”.
These frequent phone calls disclose unequivocally the seriousness of the situation. The risk of uncontrollable escalation is growing and extreme groups around Zelensky in Ukraine appear to be ready to resort any extreme measures.
Every seriously taken IR-researcher understand that “heavy weight” defense ministers do not phone to each other “just for fun” in the middle of an open military conflict. On the contrary, the subject matter must be very important and the situation be urgent, when this kind of serial calls take place.
Growing risk of nuclear war
In his recent article “Nuclear High Noon in Europe”, Consortium News, October 19, 2022
Scott Ritter (a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer) writes on growing risk of nuclear war between the US and Russia.
In the context, there is NATO’s Operation STEADFAST NOON, its annual exercise of nuclear conflict, which in fact is nothing more than NATO training to wage nuclear war against Russia. Besides, Stoltenberg declared about a week ago that, “Russia’s victory in the war against Ukraine will be a defeat of NATO,” before ominously announcing, “This cannot be allowed.” Some day earlier, the Ukrainian president Zelensky called for the international community to undertake “preventive strikes” against Russia to deter the potential use of nuclear weapons by Russia against Ukraine.
Russia has responded to the NATO nuclear drill by going forward with its own annual nuclear exercise, “Grom” (Thunder). These drills will involve the large-scale maneuver of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, including live missile launches.
Ritter analyzes the US nuclear doctrine, Biden’s position, Putin’s statements and reply to Liz Truss statement as well as “the Madman Theory”. He said that “It would take but one miscalculation, a single misunderstanding to turn STEADFAST NOON into “High Noon,” and “Grom” (Thunder) into “Molnya” (Lightening).”
Finally, Scott Ritter refers to the dangerous incident between the US and Soviet Union in 1983. Then President Ronald Reagan commented this event by saying:
“We (the US) had many contingency plans for responding to a nuclear attack. But everything would happen so fast that I wondered how much planning or reason could be applied in such a crisis…six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radar scope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that?”
Professor John Mearsheimer is on the same lines as Scott Ritter, also in his latest statements in October 2022.
What can be expected from this on
The speed at which Putin annexed the four regions in Ukraine suggests that the real purpose of the action goes far beyond the expansion of Russia’s western border. The real reason Putin rushed through the measure was to fundamentally change the rules of engagement. In other words, the real purpose of the referendum was to indicate that “the gloves are off” and that Russia is going to respond to Ukraine’s attacks with unexpected ferocity.
Russia is massing for a winter escalation and offensive and is currently engaged in a calculated trade, wherein they give up space in exchange for time and Ukrainian casualties. Russia will likely continue to pull back over the coming few weeks, withdrawing units intact under their artillery and air umbrella, grinding down Ukrainian heavy equipment stocks and wearing away their manpower. Meanwhile, new equipment continues to congregate in Belgorod, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Crimea.
My expectation remains the same: episodic Russian withdrawal until the front stabilizes roughly at the end of October, followed by an operational pause until the ground freezes, followed by escalation and a winter offensive by Russia once they have finished amassing sufficient units.
Russia has now laid the groundwork for a broader and more violent conflict. 300,000 reservists have been called up, vast amounts of military hardware are being shipped to the front and public opinion overwhelmingly supports the war-effort. All the signs point to a significant escalation in the fighting that will leave much of Ukraine in ruins while pushing Washington and Moscow closer to a direct confrontation.
I am following up closely the development of Ukraine crisis and will make objective and realist analyses, so stay with.