Ukrainian guerillas would stop Russia winning war in Ukraine, Russian experts conclude

17 February, 01:12 PM
Russian military experts – both liberals and nationalists – agree that Moscow would not prevail in a guerilla war in Ukraine, and that any large-scale conflict would spell doom for Russia (Photo:Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian military experts – both liberals and nationalists – agree that Moscow would not prevail in a guerilla war in Ukraine, and that any large-scale conflict would spell doom for Russia (Photo:Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian military experts – both liberals and nationalists – agree that Moscow would not prevail in a guerilla war in Ukraine, and that any large-scale conflict would spell doom for Russia.

Politico reported that U.S. President Joe Biden told Washington’s allies that Russia intends to invade Ukraine on Feb. 15-16, under the guise of conducting military exercises. The United States and its allies have partially evacuated their diplomatic staff from Kyiv.

The threat of invasion has also decimated air travel to and from the country.

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The Center for Defense Strategies, a military-focused think tank, concludes that the 147,000 troops and 1,700 tanks Russia has next to Ukraine’s borders would not be sufficient for a full-blown invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov rules out Russia successfully capturing any major Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin, of course, never officially declared any plans for an offensive in Ukraine, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov outright denying any such preparations in January 2021. One of Putin’s advisors, Yuri Ushakov, has recently accused the Unites States of deliberately stoking fears of a Russian invasion in order to justify arming Kyiv and enabling Ukraine’s “potential provocations.”

On Feb. 15, Russia announced that regiments of its Southern and Western military districts were returning back to their bases, after participating in military exercises in Belarus. NATO is yet to confirm this withdrawal.

Nevertheless, tensions have eased following this announcement. But what if Russia really is eyeing an attack on Ukraine? Either now, or at some other time?

A major military campaign makes no political sense for any of the Kremlin’s interest groups, political pundits are convinced. Russian military experts, of varying degrees of familiarity with the Kremlin, warn Putin and his cronies of calamitous consequences a war in Ukraine would have for Russia.

NV has selected their most salient points.

Attacking Ukraine would fatally wound the Russian state

Leonid Ivashov, a 78-year-old retired Russian colonel general, quickly became popular in Russia after sending Putin an open letter from the conservative Pan-Russian Officer Assembly, urging the president to reconsider waging war on Ukraine.

Ivashov posited that using military force against Ukraine would jeopardize the very existence of the Russian state, and forever make Ukrainians and Russians mortal enemies. Not to mention thousands of dead “healthy, young lads, which would definitely reflect in our demographics.”

In an interview with Novaya Gazeta, he said that the open letter is a culmination of various reports he had compiled, which were pointing towards “clear signs of major war preparations.” According to Ivashov, the greatest threat to Russian security is posed not by NATO, but by the completely unviable, impotent, and unprofessional governance structure in Russia, coupled with a fragmented society.

There were, however, some internal tensions cropped up among the retired officers of the assembly, as the open letter was being drafted.  Apparently, some members of the organization were quite in favor of a war in Ukraine, represented by Vladimir Kvachkov, a retired colonel.  Kvachkov is a notorious figure: he was convicted for instigating an armed insurgency and for an assassination attempt on the Russian oligarch Anatoly Chubais – twice.

Kvachkov’s position revolved around the “need to establish a Pax Russica” and “liberating historically Russian lands.”

A conceptually different army”

Another retired officer, colonel Mikhail Khodoryonok, also lent his voice to efforts to dissuade the “hawks” from starting a war in Ukraine. He went on to dismantle their misconception that Ukraine could be brought to heel with a single crushing blow.

“Don’t expect a march of liberation akin to the one in 1939; it won’t be a cakewalk,” said the former staff officer. According to Khodoryonok, the idea that Ukrainians won’t defend their “regime” is grossly misguided, and betrays a complete lack of understating of Ukrainian society and public opinion by the Russian ruling elite.

He added that the Russian air superiority it would enjoy against Ukraine still couldn’t guarantee a swift victory.

“It’s as if we forget that our adversaries in Afghanistan (in the 1980s) had no jets or helicopters. And yet the war there lasted for 10 years. Chechen insurgents also possessed no air capacity, but that campaign (the two Chechen wars Russia waged in the 1990s) still cost the (Russian) Federal Forces a great deal of blood and casualties.”

Khodoryonok viciously criticized the notion that an overwhelming strike could crush and shatter the Ukrainian army. Only political appointees, as opposed to professional military men, could have arrived to such a conclusion, according to the colonel.

He also remarked on how much the Ukraine’s Armed Forces (UAF) have improved in recent years: “Prior to 2014, UAF were but a remnant of the Soviet army, but modern Ukraine fields a conceptually different army, largely based on NATO standards.” Meanwhile, quite modern weapons and military equipment are being supplied to Ukraine by numerous NATO member states.

Khodoryonok concludes by saying that urban warfare in major Ukrainian cities is difficult to game out and plan for: “A big city is the best possible battlefield for the weaker, less technologically advanced belligerent.”

Anti-Russian world”

Eugene Linyn, a military observer who works for the pro-Kremlin newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets, is convinced that the war “won’t happen just yet,” for several reasons. “First of all – once you start this war, it will never end!” Linyn said. He maintains that even if Russia captures the whole of Ukraine, Moscow will be faced with a Ukrainian government-in-exile, supported by the West, arming nationalist resistance cells.

As Linyn recounts, while it took three-and-a-half years for the Soviet Union to liberate Ukraine from Nazi rule, Moscow’s security services struggled to suppress nationalist insurgents in Ukrainian forests until the mid-1950s.

“Do we want something like that? Ukraine has fostered ‘an anti-Russian world’ during its independence, and we would have to brutally deal with its acolytes. Russia isn’t ready for that right now,” concluded the pro-Kremlin expert.

Propaganda narratives clashing with stark reality

To Kirill Martynov, political editor at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Putin’s regime is but a tissue of propaganda and myth-making:

“A real war would pit Russian propaganda against reality. It’s extremely difficult to predict how would the events unfold. Ukraine’s cause could even be helped by emergence of anti-war movements in Russia and Belarus.”

At any rate, waging war against Ukraine would be disastrous to Russia, according to Martynov.

He notes that Putin’s logic nevertheless drives him towards starting a war. The Kremlin could see benefit in an armed conflict with a neighboring country: “To avoid their downfall after eviscerating Russia’s society, they will have to keep going forward.”

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