Ukraine crisis: overview of 2022, outlook for 2023
Initial setup of Ukraine crisis 2022
“War is always a dirty business” as a British general said in the Falkland War, full of atrocities and horrible. The truth is usually the first victim of war, each party has their own motivations and self-serving interests for doing intensified propaganda. “Fog of war” (Nebel des Krieges in German) coined by Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz, is often used to describe the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations.
War is also emotional and when emotions are high and people are “gaslighted and hot”, reason and judgement are often easily thrown out the window. The absence or omission of truthful information and picking sides also contribute to a lack of balanced reporting on such conflicts.
Mainstream media (MSM) is incentivized to report the prevailing narrative but independent or alternative media outlets that provide reporting that is counter to these prevailing narratives are often labelled as conspiracy theorists.
Now for the inconvenient truths that MSM refuse to present to their audiences regarding the Ukraine war. This happens both in the US and in Europe but especially on the old continent. However, both realms have dismissed the fact they comprise today only 15% of total humankind, the overwhelming majority lives in the Global South & Asia and there those issues mentioned here below, are widely understood and accepted.
NATO’s expansion towards Russian borders
In 1990/1991 when Soviet Union collapsed, the western powers (NATO and the US) promised to then Soviet leaders not to expand their membership after Germany’s reunification. US Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a series of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials (including Boris Yeltsin) throughout the process of German reunification in 1990 and on into 1991.
However, NATO started expansion eastward, which is now culminating in Ukraine crisis. I have studied this topic on this website, here December 6, 2021. There is a convincing historical documentation that the promise (not to expand) was indeed made. The Soviet withdrawal did occur. Yet NATO expanded anyhow, including in Poland for which they had also explicitly stated they would not. But that is not the only promise NATO has broken with Russia.
In 2008, former US Ambassador to Russia William Burns and the current CIA director warned that any effort by NATO to bring Ukraine into its fold would be viewed by Russia as a threat to its national security and, if pursued, would provoke a Russian military intervention. That memo by Burns provides much-needed context to the Dec. 17, 2021, initiatives by Russia to create a new European security framework that would keep Ukraine out of NATO.
An interesting video, Norwegian professor Glenn Diesen and American colonel Douglas MacGregor, about the topic: NATO crossing more red lines: From proxy war to a direct NATO-Russia war?
Minsk Accords of 2015 (Minsk II)
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent country. In the years 2013-2014, the Ukraine was at a real crossroads. The West was calling Ukraine to align itself with European and American interests but its President, democratically-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was instead leaning towards aligning the country’s interests with Russia. Consequently, Ukrainian President Yanukovych was overthrown in a violent coup on Feb. 21, 2014, a so-called color revolution took place.
Minsk agreement was one that aimed to resolve the long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine. The conflict was between pro-Russian separatists mostly from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, who were more ethnically Russians. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was in charge of monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement but the agreement ultimately failed.
In late November 2022, in an interview of Der Spiegel, Angela Merkel, former German Chancellor, shed light on the duplicitous game played by Germany, France, Ukraine and the United States in the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Collective West (the US, EU, NATO, G7) has claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an act of “unprovoked aggression” but the reality is far different: Russia had been duped into believing there was a diplomatic solution to the violence that had broken out in the Donbass region. Instead, Ukraine and its Western partners were simply buying time until NATO could build a Ukrainian military capable of capturing the Donbass in its entirety, as well as evicting Russia from Crimea. In other words, this means that Collective West saw, already 8 years ago, the war the only option to solve Ukraine problem.
Merkel’s comments parallel those by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in last June. “Our goal,” Poroshenko declared, “was to, first, stop the threat, or at least to delay the war — to secure eight years to restore economic growth and create powerful armed forces.” Poroshenko made it clear that Ukraine had not come to the negotiating table on the Minsk Accords in good faith.
Seen in this light, the establishment of a permanent training facility by the US and NATO in western Ukraine — which between 2015 and 2022 trained some 30,000 Ukrainian troops to NATO standards for the sole purpose of confronting Russia in eastern Ukraine — takes on a whole new perspective. The admitted duplicity of Ukraine, France and Germany contrasts with Russia’s repeated insistence prior to its Feb. 24, 2022, decision to invade Ukraine that the Minsk Accords be implemented in full.
In a recent meeting with Russian Mothers of Soldiers, Putin acknowledged that it was a mistake to agree to the Minsk Accords and that the Donbass problem should have been resolved by force of arms already at that time. Now it is absolutely clear that there never will be a peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. War was the solution sought by the Collective West then and war is the solution sought by Russia today. This will not end well for either Germany, Ukraine, France or any of those who pretended supporting diplomatic compromise but in reality, prepared Ukraine for warfare.
Talks around 2021 / 2022
On December 15, 2021, Russia sent the final proposal to the US and NATO. Two days later it was published and the Russian Foreign Office invited the West to sign up and to agree to it or at least begin discussing it. Not only was it not signed, not even properly acknowledged. It was arrogantly ignored by the Western powers in a short process of talks. I have analyzed this issue recently here (Dec 28, 2022) and those talks here (Jan. 7, 2022) and here (Jan. 19, 2022).
NATO and the US should have listened to Russia’s proposals in December 2021 to avoid all the sufferings faced by Ukraine. Based on the official text, it is very clear, what Russia wanted from the US a year ago. Russia insisted on formalizing conditions that were agreed upon by President Gorbachev and his Western counterparts in the 80’s and 90’s before and after the Cold War. Really shocking is that all these conditions and argumentations were stated a year ago and there was a plenty of time to settle. Russia did not want to seize the territories or the resources of Ukraine or other countries. What Russia proposed was and is to solve the issue of European security setups.
Other topics, refused by MSM to publicly deal with
While western MSM maintain the narrative of “Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine”, WikiLeaks has published secret cables years ago, showing the western narrative couldn’t possibly be further from reality. Data indicates that American officials were not only aware of the threat NATO expansion caused in Moscow but were even directly told it would result in Russia’s response. The US often insists that the current crisis is a result of Putin’s alleged desire to “rebuild the Russian Empire”, WikiLeaks reveals that even his predecessor Boris Yeltsin warned against NATO expansion.
WikiLeaks further reveals that German and other European officials reiterated similar concerns about Russia’s reaction to NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine, even Norwegian former Prime Minister Jonas Stoere made similar remarks. However, the vast majority of US officials, regardless of the administration, simply dismissed all warnings. It is not hard to understand Moscow’s claims that the Ukrainian crisis is a segment of the comprehensive aggression against Russia, when the very institutions funded by the political West itself openly admit that the current events were planned years or even decades ago.
In April 2022, then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit in Kiev and met Ukrainian President Zelensky. At that time the Russians seemed prepared to accept an outcome, which limited Russian territorial gains to the Donbass and Crimea and an agreement by Ukraine not to join NATO. Indeed, Russia and Ukraine were on the cusp of formalizing an agreement along these lines in negotiations scheduled to take place in Istanbul in early April 2022.
However, this near-solution was thwarted, following the intervention of Boris Johnson, who linked the continued provision of military assistance to Ukraine to the willingness of Ukraine to force a conclusion to the conflict on the battlefield, as opposed to negotiations. Johnson’s intervention was motivated by an assessment on the part of NATO that the initial Russian military failures were indicative of Russian weakness. BoJo broke a ready-made peace deal proposal forcing Ukraine to resume warfare promising sufficient military and financial aid to Ukraine from the West.
A recent event on Jan. 18 morning 2023, helicopter crash in Kiev, is casting a dark shadow over the whole Ukrainian top administration but no investigative western media has indicated any interest in this case.
The helicopter crashed near the local kinderkarten, 14 people killed (from which 4 children) and 25 injured including 11 children. Onboard there were Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Denis Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevhen Enin, State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovich and four other top officials with three crew members. The helicopter turned out to be a Eurocopter EC225 LP Super Puma, which is a widely used model and reliable aircraft in the rescue operations worldwide.
The causes of the crash were not reported. Later, the head of the Ukrainian Police Igor Klimenko declared that the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was killed in the incident. Zelensky called it a tragic incident. According to some reports, this helicopter could become a new victim of Ukraine’s own air defense. Rumors have been reported by independent channels on social media that several local residents in the vicinity of crash place commented that they saw a missile in the air hitting the helicopter, obviously a Stinger missile. The news raises a series of other questions.
It is important to notice that minister Monastyrsky was the second major official that the Zelensky government lost in less than twenty-four hours. Earlier, top adviser Alexey Arestovich had resigned precisely for accidentally revealing mistakes made by the Ukrainian artillery. Furthermore, how is it possible that so large group of top officials of one ministry fly in the same aircraft at wartime. What are possible connections with organized crime affair, black market actors, Azov-battalion, competition between ministries etc. There are number of questions open.
Since the resignation of special advisor Arestovich few days ago, a real mass resignation has been going now from Kiev government, accelerating especially on Monday January 23, when about ten top level persons have left the Kiev government and administration. The formal cause of this political mess is corruption allegations but in Ukrainian case, the situation is, at least, multi-dimensional.
The allegations often come from the extralegal National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which was setup in 2014, after the Maidan coup. It was created and controlled by the US embassy and NABU was used in various power plays to remove people, who the embassy disliked. Western MSM has not reported anything about this “political collapse” in Ukrainian top-level administration, except a small news in BBC. By and large, MSM was dead silent on the matter.
During last couple of years, there have been many other interesting, even sensational topics, on which western MSM has turned fully blind eye and refused to deal with: biological weapons production facilities or biolabs in Ukraine (obviously as many as 30); biolabs financed by Hunter Biden’s (President Biden’s son) entities (re-financed by Pentagon); Hunter Biden’s business in Ukraine (Burisma scandal); Zelensky’s hidden fortune worldwide; scandal of cryptocurrency fund FTX (American Democratic Party, Zelensky active participants and investors, money laundering) etc. All these news is widely handled by so called “critical American sites” but not at all in Europe, which lives in its own isolated bubble.
Overview of the period, Feb 24 to 31 Dec 2022, on the frontlines in Ukraine
Russia started invasion in February 24, with a rather small force of some 110,000 soldiers supported by some 50,000 soldiers of the Donetsk/Luhansk local militias as well as some 10,000 Chechenians and Cossacks. The opposing forces were 250,000 regular Ukrainian army troops, which quickly grew to 450,000 and then 650,000 by mobilization of reserve forces plus the Territorial Defense Forces. During the first weeks the Russian forces had taken a large amount of land that they barely had the numbers to hold.
Ukrainian defense lines
Since 2014, Ukraine, with the help and support of the NATO, has fortified the future battlefields in many ways like hundreds of trenches, fortified ramparts, tunnels, fortified defense lines, concrete ammo deposit etc. Ukraine was, in the beginning of 2022, one of the most fortified countries in the whole world. The defensive strategy of AFU was based on the defined and constructed four defense lines.
This first defense line, ran along railway and road communication routes that connect major cities. In the map below the cities that constituted the first defense line were, north to south, Siverodonetsk, Lysichansk, Popasna, Svitlodarsk.
The second Ukrainian defense line, north to south, ran from Siversk to Soledar, Bakhmut, New York agglomeration and then along the old ceasefire line of the Donetsk Republic.
The third Ukrainian defense line will run from Sloviansk in the north through Kramatorsk, Druzhkivka, Kostantinovka to the New York agglomeration.
The fourth Ukrainian defense line will run from Oleksandrivka in the north through Novodonetske, Bilozerske, Dobropillia, Rodynske, Pokrovsk to the Ukrainsk Hirnyk region.
This fourth line will be the last Ukrainian defense line in the Donetsk oblast. Whatever is left of the Ukrainian forces will then try to hold the fourth defense line along the string of smaller towns west of it.
Military phases of Ukrainian crisis
From the very beginning, Russia officially called this war as a Special Military Operation (SMO). Now, for roughly twelve months long crisis, could be broken down into some distinct phases.
The first was a blitzkrieg-style effort by Russian army, designed to shock the Ukrainian military and government into submission. Failing that, within first four weeks, caused a turning point and started the second phase by the Russian military, in late March. This phase can be called as a war of attrition or meat-grinding tactics with the aim to devastate the whole Ukrainian army and military infrastructure.
Phase two of the Russian military operation (SMO), the “battle for the Donbass,” unfolded through April, May, June and July and involved brutal, meat-grinding style warfare in urban terrain and among defensive fortifications that had been prepared by Ukrainian forces (with the support of NATO) over the course of the past eight years.
Russia made slow gains, in a war of attrition, which saw Russia inflict massive losses to the Ukrainian armed forces. Normally, when assessing casualty figures of this magnitude, any professional military analyst would be right to conclude that Russia had, in effect, accomplished its goal of demilitarization, which logically should have been followed by the surrender of the Ukrainian government on terms which would have resulted in the kinds of fundamental political change necessary to implement the Russian goal of denazification and, with it, securing Ukrainian neutrality.
By July 1, 2022, the first Ukrainian defense line was breached by Russian forces. The Ukrainian troops moved back to their second defense line. However, the defeat of the first defense line had taken its toll of the small Russian invasion force.
The Russian forces tried to avoid a costly direct attack on the second Ukrainian defense line. It launched an operation to breach into the Donetsk oblast behind the second Ukrainian defense line from the north. The battles for Izium and Lyman were fought for that purpose. At the end of August, the exhausted Russian forces had switched to a defensive posture. Troops that were holding the Kharkiv area north of the Donetsk oblast were reduced. The other forces were moved to the eastern front to strengthen the Russian lines on that front.
The new phase emerged in late August, in the forms of AFU counteroffensives, which were fully supported and conducted by the Western military forces by pouring in tens of billions of dollars of military aid (exceeding, in a manner of months, the entire annual defense budget of Russia) designed not only to promote a Ukrainian victory but rather hasten a strategic Russian defeat.
Meanwhile, Ukraine was preparing for an attack on the Kherson region north of the Dnieper River with the final aim of crossing the river to then move towards Crimea. Russia responded by further reducing the troop numbers in the northern Kharkiv region to a few thousand men and by using the others to further strengthen its positions in the south around Kherson. During the fall the Ukrainian attacks on the Kherson region all failed with high losses.
It was not only the question of massive foreign military aid but also practical foreign involvement in battle operations. As Shoigu said in his speech: “We mean not only the weapons that are supplied in huge quantities. We have in mind the Western systems that there exist: communication systems, information processing systems, reconnaissance systems, and satellite intelligence systems.” I have already analyzed this feature in my previous article, here.
US intelligence advised the Ukrainian command that the Kharkiv region, while still held by Russian forces, was practically empty. The command switched the active front towards the north and successfully moved into the Kharkiv region, while Russian troops still positioned there moved further east. Retake of Kharkiv region by Ukrainian troops was a quite fast operation that looked very successful. But the speed also meant that the heavy Ukrainian artillery cover was thin to not existent.
Retreating Russian forces used their own artillery to attack Ukrainian front formations. After proceeding fast over some 70 kilometers from west to east the Ukrainian attack force had taken high losses and ran out of steam. It came up to a new Russian defense line covered by two rivers that proved difficult to cross. The Kharkiv frontline has since then stabilized. Finally, Russia realized that it is no longer fighting a Ukrainian army equipped by NATO but a NATO army manned by Ukrainians.
The provision of military aid by the West on this scale was a game changer, one which the Russian military forces responsible for implementing the SMO were not able to overcome. This new reality manifested itself in the first half of September, when Ukraine launched major counteroffensives, which succeeded in evicting Russian forces from the territory of the Kharkov region. While Russia was able to stabilize its defenses and ultimately halt the Ukrainian offensive, inflicting huge numbers of casualties on the attacking force, the reality that Russia was facing a new threat paradigm in Ukraine, one which saw the Russian military fighting a reconstituted Ukrainian military that had become a de facto proxy of the US-led NATO alliance.
The Ukrainian victory in the Kharkiv region was a great optics hype to Ukraine but at the same time gave the Russian government the necessary public backing for the Russian partial mobilization of additional forces, 300,000 reservists were called up in late September 2020. Some 70,000 additional men joined as volunteers. The Wagner private military company increased its force size to some 50,000 men and the Chechens increased their troop’s power by 20,000. Over the last three months of 2022 all those forces were supplied with the necessary equipment and went through refresher training.
Putin’s decision to order a partial mobilization of the Russian military, when combined with the decision to conduct the referendums in the Donbass and occupied Ukraine, radically transforms the SMO from a limited-scope operation to one linked to the existential survival of Russia. In other words, this Russia’s reply to a new threat paradigm by the West was in turn Russia’s game changer.
The Ukrainian offensive around Kharkov represented the most serious intelligence failure by Russian military force during the whole SMO. A failure of intelligence of this magnitude suggests deficiencies in both Russia’s ability to collect intelligence data, as well as an inability to produce timely and accurate assessments for the Russian leadership. No doubt, this required a top-to-bottom review to be adequately addressed and it soon happened.
New commander General Surovikin and Kherson retreating
Russian Ministry of Defense (RMOD) announced some important appointments in the first days of October. Army General Sergey Surovikin had been appointed commander of Special Military Operation that Russia is conducting. Late September – October, the war of attrition continued and frontlines were more or less stabilized after big autumn pushes.
Meanwhile a new Russian commander, General Sergey Surovkin, took over. He warned immediately that he would have to take some difficult decisions. This was related to the situation in the Kherson region north of the Dnieper River.
The command decided to pull back behind the river by mid-November. This operation was remarkably successful and according to all “classical retreating maneuvers in the art of warfare”. Tens of thousands of civilians plus some 25,000 soldiers with all their equipment were removed from the area with only few if any losses.
By the end of the year 2022, the shortening and straightening of the front lines and the introduction of fresh forces had allowed the Russian forces to regain the initiative. In December, they launched intense attacks on Ukraine’s second defense line, especially in the vicinity of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk).
In November, Russia started massive missile, rocket and UAV strikes at military and energy infrastructure facilities, military communication and control systems and defense industry transportation facilities throughout Ukraine. In December, Russia actively resumed those strikes and increased growingly the military pressure on all frontlines.
Progress in January 2023
On January 11, General Gerasimov was appointed a commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine operation. In January 2023, Russian forces switched to active offensive operations on the Ukrainian front lines. Since the beginning of the year, Russian Wagner fighters managed to take control of the city of Soledar and continued their offensive to the west. They continued to surround the Ukrainian grouping in Bakhmut with the aim of destroying the Seversk-Soledar-Bakhmut defense line.
The successes of the Russians in the area of Bakhmut-Soledar forced the Ukrainian command to strengthen the grouping in this region, including by transferring reinforcements from other front lines where positional battles have been ongoing for months. After the Ukrainian defense in the southern regions was weakened, the units of the Russian Army went on the offensive on various Ukrainian positions in the Zaporozhye region.
With the successful taking of Soledar by Russian troops, the second Ukrainian defense line is now breaching. Heavily reduced Ukrainian forces will likely have to give up on holding the second defense line to then retreat to the third one.
On January 16-17, Russian troops took control of the Sol town located on the northwestern outskirts of the Soledar city. The capture of a strategically important railway station allowed Russian forces to interrupt the communications of the Ukrainian military between Seversk and Bakhmut.
The rapid advance of Russian units in the Bakhmut region apparently disrupted the plans of the Ukrainian command to attempt a large-scale counteroffensive in the Zaporozhye region. Moreover, many other military operations are going in parallel along the whole front line, in the north in Kharkiv region, Krasniy Liman direction, Siversk-Soledar-Bakhmut (Artyomovsk) region and Jan 19-21, Russia has activated a south frontline in Zaporozhye area.
The aim of the Russian thrust in the south will not be to take cities like Zaporiziha. The aim is to bring the main transport routes, railways and roads, from west-Ukraine to the front in east Ukraine under Russian artillery fire. This will prevent not only the re-supply for the Ukrainian troops on the eastern front but also their exit from the front line. A 100 kilometer (60 miles) thrust to the north would mostly do that. A complementary thrust from the north towards south, which may or may not be coming, would finally close the cauldron.
The Russian moves against the third and fourth Ukrainian defense lines will likely be supported by “Big Arrow”, an offensive move from the south that will take over the rest of the Zaporiziha and Donetsk oblast. Aside from those operations the Russian command has sufficient number of troops available to run another major attack. This could come from the north into the Kharkiv region behind the Ukrainian troops currently attacking the Russian lines further east.
The Russian forces in Ukraine were tasked with taking over the regions that Russia had recognized as independent states (Donetzk and Luhansk) as well as those that had additionally voted to become part of Russia (Zaporiziha and Kherson). With the breaking up of all four Ukrainian defense lines in Donetzk oblast that task will be fulfilled.
Wall Street Journal finally noted that this Ukrainian battle tactic is not a winning one: Western and some Ukrainian officials, soldiers and analysts increasingly worry that Kyiv has allowed itself to be sucked into the battle for Bakhmut on Russian terms, losing the forces it needs for a planned spring offensive as it stubbornly clings to a town of limited strategic relevance.
The NATO decision makers are just now starting to think on possible “advanced heavy weapons” deliveries (like main battle tanks), when the great majority of all material and equipment of AFU have been destroyed by Russian forces. The US will only now start to train Ukrainian troops in combined arms and joint maneuvering. All this will be too little and too late to make any difference, the game seems to be over.
Penicillin for “artillery disease”
What nearly all western reports from Ukraine seem to miss, is the huge damage that Russian artillery is causing Ukrainian heavy weapons on a daily base. Ukraine has little artillery left to respond to that and whatever it still has, is getting less by the day.
A few weeks ago, the Russian military started a systematic counter artillery campaign, which has since made great progress. The typical western way of detecting enemy artillery units is by counter-artillery radar. The flight path of the projectile is measured and the coordinates of its source are calculated enabling one’s own artillery to respond. But counter-artillery radar itself depends on radiating and is thereby easily detectable and vulnerable to fire.
Over the last months Russia has deployed a very different counter-artillery detection systems with the rather ironic name of Penicillin:
Penicillin (1B75 Penicillin) is an acoustic-thermal artillery-reconnaissance system developed by Ruselectronics for the Russian Armed Forces. The system aims to detect and locate enemy artillery, mortars, MLRs, anti-aircraft or tactical-missile firing positions with seismic and acoustic sensors, without emitting any radio waves. It locates enemy fire within 5 seconds at a range of 25 km. Penicillin completed state trials in December 2018 and entered combat duty in 2020. The Penicillin is mounted on the 8×8 Kamaz-6350 chassis and consists of a 1B75 sensor suite placed on a telescopic boom for the infrared and visible spectrum as well as of several ground-installed seismic and acoustic receivers as a part of the 1B76 sensor suite. It has an effective range for communication with other military assets up to 40 km and is capable to operate even in a fully automatic mode, without any crew.
The Penicillin system can hide in the woods and stick up its telescopic boom to look at and listen to the battlefield. As it does not radiate itself there is no good way for an enemy to detect it. The system pinpoints Ukrainian guns as they fire. They are then eliminated by immediate precise counter-fire.
This Russian counter-artillery campaign has been going on for several weeks. It has disabled large parts of what was left of Ukrainian long-range capabilities. Meanwhile the Russian artillery keeps on knocking down Ukrainian troops that hold the frontline. Ukrainian counter-battery fire against Russian artillery is no longer possible as the necessary detection equipment radars have been eliminated and Ukrainian counter-fire projectiles are shot down by Russian air defenses.
Ukraine’s material losses amount up to two large armies so far
Based on calculated numbers of destroyed equipment and material, one can say that by now, Ukraine has lost the nominal equipment of two larger armies. At the beginning of the war the Ukrainian army was estimated to have some 2,500 tanks, 12,500 armored vehicles and 3,500 large artillery systems. It is doubtful that more than half of those were in a usable state but they may have received enough repair to be workable. The Russia military claims that most of those have been eliminated by now. Regarding HIMARS and M-777, delivered by the US to Ukraine, up to 80% of both weapons have been eliminated by mid-January 2023.
Statistics of RMOD says that per January 25, 2023:
In total, 377 airplanes and 204 helicopters, 2,948 unmanned aerial vehicles, 402 air defense missile systems, 7,627 tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, 988 fighting vehicles equipped with MLRS, 3,906 field artillery cannons and mortars, as well as 8,171 special military motor vehicles have been eliminated since the beginning of the special military operation.
If one doubts those numbers, one has to ask why Ukraine has needed to import so much more weapons and is still short of them: 410 Soviet-era tanks delivered by NATO members; 300 Armored/Infantry Fighting Vehicles;1,100 Armored Personnel Carriers; 300 towed howitzers; 400+ pieces of self-propelled artillery; 95 Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems (MLRS) like HIMARS. There were also a number of ex-Soviet fighter airplanes, helicopters and air-defense systems. The above was the second army, after Ukraine’s original one was mostly gone, that has by now been nearly destroyed.
In his Economist interview General Zaluzhny, AFU Commander, has requested a third army to be delivered to him immediately: “I know that I can beat this enemy,” he says. “But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs (infantry fighting vehicles), 500 Howitzers.” As the Economist writer dryly noted: The incremental arsenal he is seeking is bigger than the total armoured forces of most European armies.
As a descriptive example: The UK is thinking of sending 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks (over 25 years old model). How the UK will train Ukrainians to operate them, how it will supply enough ammunition for them to fire, how they will supply the mechanics and spare parts to repair them, how – and when – they will deliver them to Poland and then get them to the Kiev front, over 1,000 km further away, nobody can tell us. Meanwhile, the British Army Chief of General Staff, Sir Patrick Sanders, is complaining. “Giving Kiev tanks means we won’t have enough for ourselves”. After all they do cost £8 million each and there are only 227 of them in the much-underfunded British Army anyway.
The stocks of two complete armies have by now been destroyed in Ukraine. The resources for a smaller third one will be delivered in the next rounds of western equipment deliveries during the next months. The European public discussion is getting hot, “send or not to send battle tanks, particularly German Leopards” but right now decisions were made “yes, we send”.
What MSM and decisionmakers did not realize, was the fact that Ukraine already have had thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles, which were eliminated by Russia so far. Supposedly, Russia will destroy Ukraine’s third army just as it has destroyed the first and second one. It is doubtful that the West has enough material left to provide Ukraine with a fourth one.
That then leaves only two options. Send in western infantry troops (boots on the ground) with the equipment they still have and try to resume warfare as long as they can. The neo-conservatives as ever favor the first option. The second option is to declare a non-existent victory (with the help of western MSM) and forget about the whole issue and go home. MSM may declare that “Putin tried to conquer Europe but we stopped him after he took only half of Ukraine.” This will sound like victory. But it is of course extremely far from the truth. Anyway, the media may well buy it.
Outlook for 2023
President Putin’s keynote address at the Valdai Club, late October 2022, appears to have put Russia on a collision course with the US-led “Rules Based International Order”. The Biden administration two weeks earlier released its 2022 National Security Strategy (NSS), a full-throated defense of this order, which all but declares war on “autocrats” who are “working overtime to undermine democracy.”
These two visions of the future of the world order define a global competition that has become existential in nature. In short, there can be only one victor. Given the fact that the main players in this competition comprise the five declared nuclear powers, how the world manages the defeat of the losing side will determine, whether humanity will survive into the next generation.
The battle lines have been drawn now, American-led unipolarity on one side and a Russian-Chinese led multipolarity on the other. “Power over the world,” Putin declared at Valdai, “is exactly what the so-called West has been betting on. But this game is certainly a dangerous, bloody and, I would say, dirty game.” There can be no avoiding the coming conflict. The crisis has indeed become global, there is no need to be under any illusions. As Putin noted, paraphrasing the Biblical passage from Hosea 8:7, “He who sows the wind, will reap the whirlwind.”
American “mission creep”
The strategic plan of the United States against Russia was elaborated three years ago by the Rand Corporation (Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, the manifesto, Rand Corp: how to bring down Russia, May 21, 2019). The Rand Corporation, headquartered in Washington, DC, is “a global research organization developing solutions to policy challenges”. It has a team of 1,800 researchers and other specialists recruited from 50 countries, speaking 75 languages, spread across offices and other locations in more than 25 countries.
There are the main lines of attack, defined in the Rand plan, on which the United States has actually moved in recent years. First of all, Russia must be attacked on the most vulnerable side, that of its economy strongly dependent on gas and oil exports: for this purpose, commercial and financial sanctions must be used and at the same time, Europe must decrease the importation of Russian natural gas, replacing it with US liquefied natural gas. In the ideological and informational field, it is necessary to encourage internal protests and at the same time undermine the image of Russia outside. In the military field, European NATO countries increase their forces in an anti-Russian function. Providing lethal aid to Ukraine, would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability but any increase in US-provided weapons and military advice to Ukraine would have to be carefully calibrated to increase costs to Russia.
America’s strategy of failure is coming to Ukraine, the US mission follows in the fatal footsteps of ultimately failed war campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq or in Libya. Public critics in America, regarding US military missions in the name of “global war on terrorism” have lamented the lack of a coherent strategy. As the old line from Carl von Clausewitz goes, “war is an extension of politics through other means.” Warfare, therefore, is an inherently political act.” Thus, whenever military force is used it must have clear ends, set forth by the political leadership ordering the use of that military force. Those clearly defined political ends must be supplemented by reliable ways to achieve that realistic political objective.
One of the greatest failures of the last 30 years of US foreign policy interventions across the Middle East was, what former secretary of defense Robert Gates called “mission creep.” This is akin to shifting goalposts in the middle of the game, making the game unwinnable. As America’s failed operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and so many others since 1945 have shown, mission creep can be catastrophic to both the prestige of the US military as well as its readiness to conduct its larger mission of deterring actual great state rivals to the United States, namely China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Having failed in its Middle East wars, the Americans are resuming to use those same failure procedures also in the Russo-Ukrainian war. After the Russians invaded Ukraine last year, the Americans flooded weapons and other forms of support into the besieged nation.
From US viewpoint: Once Kiev was secured and the survival of President Zelensky’s government was assured in autumn 2022, the logical course of action would have been to sue for peace, to negotiate a settlement that kept western Ukraine free and ceded the Russian-speaking provinces of eastern Ukraine and Crimea officially to the Russians. But then, Washington doubled down and encouraged the Ukrainians to shift their objective from one of realistic territorial defense to an insane attempt to restore Ukrainian control completely over occupied territories.
Recently, Western leaders have begun talking openly about their desire to see President Vladimir Putin overthrown and the Russian Federation partitioned. Even under the best of circumstances, this is never going to happen but the fantasists in Washington have deluded themselves and Ukraine into committing strategic suicide based on these unattainable dreams. Ukraine has been duped into a war it cannot win against nuclear-armed Russia, while the West does little to prepare itself for the wider war it has provoked.
Washington’s ruling class has blundered for decades at the strategic level. With each foreign policy disaster, America’s overall standing atop the world system has declined until it has reached its current nadir. The United States now has a stark choice to make:
- either Washington manages to pull out a miracle in Ukraine
- or the Russians will crush Ukraine and then break the back of the NATO alliance too
By this way Russia will end the US strategic position in Europe and likely create an entirely new world order, where there are multiple power centers, as opposed to American unipolarity. This fate was avoidable had the US simply given more attention to strategy rather than ideology.
Famous Chinese general, strategist, philosopher and writer Sun Tzu, who lived 2500 years ago, has said “Tactics without Strategy is the Noise Before Defeat”. While it is true that warfare has dramatically changed over the past millennia, the fundamental logic of Sun Tzu still applies.
After 11 months of nonstop warfare in Ukraine, the US-backed western coalition finds itself in a worse position than when it began. Aside from the fact that the economic sanctions have severely impacted Washington’s closest European allies, the West’s control of Ukraine has plunged the economy into a protracted slump, destroyed much of the country’s critical infrastructure and annihilated a sizable portion of the Ukrainian Army.
More importantly, Ukrainian forces are now suffering unsustainable casualties on the battlefield which is laying the groundwork for the inevitable splintering of the state. Whatever the outcome of the conflict may be, one thing is certain: Ukraine will no longer exist as a viable, independent, contiguous state.
One of the biggest surprises of the current war, is simply the lack of preparedness on part of the US and the west in general. Thewestern policymakers seem surprised by the fact that the economic sanctions backfired and actually strengthened Russia’s economic situation. They also failed to anticipate that the vast majority of countries would not only ignore the sanctions but proactively explore options for “ditching the dollar” in their business transactions and in the sale of critical resources.
The level of incompetence in the planning of this war is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. It appears that all the preparation was focused on provoking a Russian invasion, not on the developments that would happen soon afterwards. What’s clear, is that the Pentagon never “gamed out” the actual war itself or the conflict as it is presently unfolding.
Some excerpt from an interview with ex-Brigade General Erich Vad who served as Angela Merkel’s policy advisor from 2006 to 2013, are very revealing :
In summer 2022, Brigade General Erich Vad andthe Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, General Eberhard Zorn, warned against overestimating the Ukrainians’ regionally limited offensives in the summer months. Military operations must always be coupled with attempts to bring about political solutions. The main task of foreign policy is and remains diplomacy, reconciliation of interests, understanding and conflict management.
Then the question arises again as to what should happen with the deliveries of the tanks at all. To take over the Crimea or the Donbass, those tanks are not enough. In eastern Ukraine, in the Bakhmut area, the Russians are clearly advancing and probably will have completely conquered the Donbass before long. One only has to consider the numerical superiority of the Russians over Ukraine. Russia can mobilize up to two million reservists. The West can send 200 tanks there but they don’t change anything in the overall military situation.
You can continue to wear down the Russians, which means hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides. And it means further destruction of Ukraine. What is left of this country? Ultimately, that is no longer an option for Ukraine either. The key to solving the conflict does not lie in Kyiv, nor does it lie in Berlin, Brussels or Paris, it lies in Washington and Moscow…. A broader front for peace must be built in Washington…. Otherwise we wake up one morning and we’re in the middle of World War III.”
On January 20, at a ceremony of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in Madrid, Josep Borrel, the Head of EU diplomacy, recalled Russia’s victories over Hitler and Napoleon, from which he concluded that it is necessary to continue to increase military pressure on it and continue arming Ukraine. No doubt, Russia understood it so, that he voiced the real goal of the western military campaign, which is the destruction of Russia and the seizure of its territories, as Hitler and Napoleon had previously attempted to do.
Amid the revelations of Western leaders, the words of Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland sounded particularly interesting at the forum in Davos. She also supported the position of Mr. Borrel, specifying that Russia’s defeat “would be a huge boost to the global economy.”
On January 23, Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) claimed that the Ukrainian military is deploying military equipment inside the territories of its nuclear power plants. The nuclear facilities are used as warehouses for weapons supplied by the Kiev’s Western partners, including HIMARS etc. According to Naryshkin, in the last week of December, “several wagons with deadly cargo” were delivered to the Rivne NPP, which is located in western Ukraine. The reason, why the Ukrainian military is hiding precious weapons in the NPP is clear, Russian forces do not strike nuclear facility.
On January 25, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock publicly confirmed, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the fact on the ground: “We are fighting a war against Russia”. With the word “we” she meant that the EU and Germany are fighting a war against Russia. Perhaps this is “the Fourth Reich”.
As said before, Russia is putting more military pressure on all frontlines and preparing its winter offensive. Ukraine and NATO are now preparing a massive spring offensive, based on forced mobilization in Ukraine (kidnapping Ukrainian men on the streets with the aim to mobilize up to 200,000 men) and on accelerated deliveries of western tanks and other heavy weapons within next couple of months. Having made decisions of a hundred main battle tanks, new extra weapons groups might be communication equipment (C4ISR), more missiles and rockets, more artillery, group of air forces and more NATO ground forces.
Extremely bloody spring is coming. However, at the end of the day, those new capabilities cannot prevent a NATO defeat. In other words, US and western commanders will sooner or later have to face an even worse choice: defeat or nuclear war and Europe (the EU) is sleepwalking with the US into the same Armageddon.