The primary purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to resist. That is a long process – weapons and ammunition destroyed, supply routes blocked, war production stopped, political will broken. And it’s a bloody process – the enemy’s soldiers must be killed or maimed. Clausewitz –
Fighting is the central military act… The object of fighting is the destruction or defeat of the enemy… Direct annihilation of the enemy’s forces must always be the dominant consideration.
Why “dominant consideration”? Simple – once you have destroyed the enemy’s power, you can do anything you want. Take territory without destroying power? Not so good. One may wonder whether this is understood at West Point given the number of TV generals who say Russia is losing because it’s given up territory and was “defeated” in Kiev. Don’t they remember that the US took Kabul and Baghdad quite early? That didn’t end either of those wars, did it?
Demilitarization, denazification, securing safety of Donbass are Russia’s stated aims. They can happen only when Ukraine’s power to resist is broken. Moscow may have hoped the job would have been easier (and it nearly was in April) but here we are. A bigger job earns a bigger reward and the territorial (safety) aims have probably expanded to take in all of Novorossiya.
The Economist (interesting choice of venue – Larry speculates on why this and why now) recently interviewed Zelensky and Generals Zaluzhny and Syrsky. Neither general was very upbeat. What struck me was Zaluzhny saying “I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers.” To put this in perspective, according to Wikipedia, the German Army has 266 tanks, about 650 IFVs and about 350 artillery systems. The British Army has 227 tanks, about 700 IFVs and about 230 artillery systems. A year ago, Ukraine was estimated to have had 2400 tanks, thousands of IFVs and 2000 artillery systems. What happened to them? And all the other weapons Ukraine has received? One may see Zaluzhny’s request as being in the form of “if… then”. Well, the first condition won’t be met – he is essentially asking for half of what the the UK and Germany have between them (plus all their guns) – and therefore the second can’t be. Is this his way of admitting that Russia has nearly finished “the destruction of his forces”? (Calling for stronger penalties against deserters doesn’t give a confident ring either, does it?)
First destroy the enemy’s power, then make your choice.
Russian commander Surovikin is surely approaching the judgment call. Ukraine has lost a huge amount of its power of resistance and its friends in NATO are running out of what they can send. He has plenty of options. Which, of course, can be combined. To be carried out with caution, because, as Merkel has told those who hadn’t already figured it out, USA/NATO is not “agreement-capable” and therefore not stable.
- Continue attrition and watch Ukraine and NATO demilitarize themselves. With forces in place, trained and equipped, take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. (Sun Tzu “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting“.) This is the easiest option but, because it is the slowest, it carries the risk of a desperate USA/NATO doing something irretrievably stupid.
- “Big arrows”. All or some of these. Deep penetrations to cut off the remaining Ukrainian forces in the east and move to total victory. Or powerful raids into the Ukrainian rear to destroy and disrupt. (John Helmer explains the purpose here.) Or a drive to Trans Dnestr leaving Rump Ukraine landlocked. Any “big arrow” have the advantage of destroying the Ukraine-is-winning fantasy.
- Block the border with Poland and the supply of NATO weaponry and wait for the the whole thing to collapse.
- If the Ukrainian collapse at Bakhmut is big enough, just move to the desired end-state borders.
I don’t see any point in trying to take Kiev or any other major city in “Ukrainian” Ukraine – there’s nothing to be gained from acquiring a population infused with hatred. (Nazis in Ukraine? Down the Memory Hole – the Guardian wouldn’t show this video today. Nor Vice this. Nor the BBC this).
Timing? Not my decision but I would bet it happens after the collapse of the Ukrainian last-ditch position in the Bakhmut area. (Are the Western media masters preparing us for that event? Berletic suggests they are. “Bakhmut is not an especially strategic location“, “low strategic advantage“, “lack of strategic importance“, only important because “it would enable Putin to show some form of military victory“. They of course don’t ask why the Ukrainians are sacrificing thousands of lives to hold these “unimportant” positions).
Would this be a defeat for NATO? Of course not, victories are easy when you have a managed news media – Afghanistan, what’s that?