Russia is preparing a new offensive: Where they are coming from and what to expect

11 January, 11:10 AM

The acceleration and expansion of aid is due to the obvious threat of a Russian offensive

There is now growing concern, and serious concern, that in the coming weeks, Russia may move to attempt another offensive, at least on one front. Most likely, however, there will be pushes in several directions at the same time. It is obvious that it was the threat of such a scenario which prompted our partners to speed up the decisions long in progress to provide offensive weapons to Ukraine.

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Is this aid enough to ward off future blows? I will stick to banal things. Such help can never be completely enough. This is not only a matter of military affairs, since the request (when the budget is formed, for example) always exceeds the possibilities that the state can provide. Accordingly, the goals then set are adjusted.

If we talk about the limiting factors for the West regarding the supply of weapons to Ukraine, there are two main ones.

First — technical/resource limitations. The ability of our partners to provide these weapons depends on what they have in their stocks, what they have in surplus, and what they can afford to withdraw from their combat units, plus what their industry can produce.

Second — political restrictions, which, unfortunately, still have a great influence on our partners’ decisions. Here the key problem is now this conflict of goals. Figuratively speaking, it is a matter of figuring out how to make sure that both the sheep are whole and the wolves are full (we will not say who are the wolves and who are the sheep). While on the one hand, there is a desire to prevent the defeat of Ukraine, and on the other, there are fears that if Russia suffers a decisive military defeat, then processes could begin which would negatively affect their national, regional, or global security.

The Russian leadership has the privilege of a people who are not afraid of losses

The military aid in offensive weapons (even if there are no tanks here yet), which was announced last week is aimed specifically at helping Ukraine fight off another Russian offensive. I'm afraid that this is exactly how it should be interpreted at the moment. And so far, the West is following a pattern of one step forward, then, if not back, then a certain pause. Let me repeat: this acceleration and expansion of aid is due to the obvious threat of a Russian offensive. But on the other hand, this political factor — to prevent too rapid an advancement of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and a sudden Russian defeat — still restrains the West.

What will Russia attack with? From the information that is now publicly available, the key risks are that Russia has significantly larger manpower resources than Ukraine. This is not just a numerical indicator, but also their  pain threshold for losses. In Russia, despite our hopes or the hopes of our partners that the flow of "cargo 200" may cause some internal destabilization in Russia, this is not happening. The Russian leadership has the privilege of a people who are not afraid of losses. This is the main component of Russia's military potential. As for technical capabilities, if we leave Russia's main trump card — nuclear blackmail — then it also has quite a stockpile of outdated but deadly weapons. These are older-model tanks that will be removed from storage. What their level of quality is and how many of them will be able to reach the front line is still a big question. However, this resource is available. The other day, Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov and HUR published certain data on the Russian stockpile of missiles. But these are also estimates. In no case can we be reassured by the fact that these reserves are running out, since they are still powerful.

In addition, there is the threat of Iran transferring ballistic missiles or new batches of drones to Russia. That is, Russia has a certain resource, and it still remains powerful, despite all the problems we know about. It is obvious that Russia, while planning a possible offensive, is also keeping in reserve an intact supply of high-precision cruise or ballistic missiles.

At the same time, it is unlikely that during this time Russia was able to solve its key problem in effectively using aviation. The very first weeks of the war demonstrated that aviation is a serious Russian weak point. Everyone saw what they had: a tenfold advantage in aircraft, plus a qualitative advantage in their aircraft, plus air control points and space assets. But with all that, Russia was still unable to gain dominance in Ukrainian airspace. To date, Russian tactical aviation practically never crosses the front lines. I think that Russian air capabilities have only deteriorated since the beginning of the war, including as a result of the effective action of Ukrainian air defense forces. Therefore, I do not see a significant threat from the Russian Aerospace Forces.

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We now see training taking place in Belarus not only of the air force, but  also with ground maneuvers. In my opinion, their task is information warfare. Pointing to this conclusion is the fact that, in contrast to how Russia and Belarus tried in every possible way to fight against bloggers and the uncontrolled leakage of information, with people literally being punished for some photo or post on social networks, now it seems that they are instead trying to make military preparations as public as possible. And this calls into question whether their true intentions are to prepare for a real strike. This more likely is an attempt at informational influence in order to make us believe that the main blow will come from Belarusian territory.

That is, if we are talking about the situation as of now, then there is an imitation of preparations for a strike from the North. But this situation can change, because the Russians are learning. This is one of the most successful methods the Ukrainian Armed Forces have used — simultaneously preparing the battlefield in several directions and then choosing one of them. Perhaps the Russian command has learned this lesson and will try to apply it in the course of preparing for its offensive – that is, choosing one main direction with several spares. Belarus could also be considered for them as a backup plan.

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