Russia's second big offensive: What Putin is betting on - a simple explanation

9 February, 05:42 PM
Russia's second big offensive: What Putin is betting on - a simple explanation (Photo:Луганська ОВА/Telegram)

Russia's second big offensive: What Putin is betting on - a simple explanation (Photo:Луганська ОВА/Telegram)

I don't think anyone in Russia is telling their troops to "do whatever you want, no matter how many resources you have." They don’t make decisions like that, and they never have.

There are analysts who say that the objectives of the war have now changed, arguing that this is now a war not just for the preservation of Russia, but for the preservation of Putin's Russia. I disagree. Putin says so, of course, but it doesn't matter. The goals remain the same - the restoration of the state within the borders of 1991 – of this state they call Russia. What they say about it doesn't matter. What Putin says is irrelevant. What matters is what he does.

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I want to understand: what does "Russia is losing the war" mean? You understand that we and Russia can have completely different ideas about losing. We know what it meant to Nazi Germany to lose the war: American, Soviet, British troops in Berlin, Hitler's suicide, and other events that led to the dismantling of the Nazi state.

What we have in our head as the defeat of Russia, and what this means in the heads of the Russians are completely different things. If Russia loses these territories that it has occupied and annexed, it would be an obvious defeat in the eyes of you and me. First, this situation still needs to be achieved. We won't know what the world looks like in the situation where that happens. These are all rather difficult questions.

Secondly, I don't know if this would be declared a defeat in Russia. Perhaps in Russia this will be declared a victory:

“We defended all our historical territories. Part of the territories where people were supposed to be freed from Nazi slavery are now occupied by the Bandera country, which was helped by the entire West, who also wanted to occupy the Belgorod, Kursk, Tyumen, and Yaroslavl Oblasts, but we did not let them. And now we will concentrate all our forces to prepare to liberate our territories, possibly by political means. But this requires peace. And who is the guarantor of peace? Vladimir Vladimirovich… Who? Putin forever. And this, of course, means that even after 2036 we cannot afford for Vladimir Vladimirovich to leave Russia with his worries. Otherwise, it will be a disaster. Otherwise, ‘both Belgorod and Kursk regions will be occupied by the enemy, just as they have already occupied our native Donetsk and Luhansk regions.’ Horrible.” So don't worry.

The loss of Crimea can even be sold as a result of Russia, under the pressure of the entire collective West, having to temporarily cede what is obviously its territory. Or, like the fact that Russia is facing the threat that either nuclear strikes or a political solution are the correct response to the Crimea issue. "The wise Russian leadership has decided that everything needs to be resolved politically," they can just as easily say.

I don't see anything special about how they will interpret it. You understand very well: a real defeat of the Kremlin vertical can only happen when the troops of some allied countries (which do not exist now in nature, there is only the Ukrainian army) enter the hero city of Moscow. Everything else is positional combat, because this regime is based on its power vertical, and not on the support of society.

Right now, many Ukrainians are making the same mistake that Belarusians made, believing that if all the people took to the streets against Lukashenko, then Lukashenko would disappear somewhere and run away. And the Belarusian regime, like the Russian one, is built on the power vertical and the common interests of the elites. If this power vertical is effective, then it does not matter which Ukrainian territories the occupiers lose.

They may have their own internal processes, which I do not dispute at all. But so far I do not see any of the prerequisites needed for them to start.

Russia's second big offensive is not a political but a military issue. I am not a military expert, so I cannot say how much this number of mobilized troops (300 thousand, 500 thousand) can now do what those military units that were located near our borders a year ago could not do.

Now the situation is completely different, as there have been other training opportunities, we have different military equipment, etc.

Nevertheless, a year ago there was an attack that no one expected to the last moment, and we did not really understand in what directions they could go. Now the situation is completely different, as there have been other training opportunities, we have different military equipment, etc.

I can't tell you for certain if this attack will happen, or whether it will simply instead be the threat of an attack, or whether there will be any distracting maneuvers in order for the Russians to operate more effectively in some more important areas of the front. These are military matters.

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The fact that Russia is going to continue the war, and Vladimir Putin is betting on a long, multi-year war to exhaust Ukraine, is a fact. We must be prepared for this war to continue even, let’s say, into the 2030’s..

At the beginning of the invasion, I said that it was very reminiscent of the Syrian conflict, or the Yugoslav wars. Everyone was suspicious of this at the time, but things are gradually entering this track of a long-term conflict. And what kind of conflict will it be? What kind of constant positional fighting will start in certain directions that will not subside, or will affect attempts at any large offensives? We will be able to answer this question in two or three years after the war takes the form of, I would say, a stereoscopic picture. But so far very little time has passed.

I don't think anyone in Russia is telling the troops to "do whatever you want, it doesn't matter how many resources you have." They don’t make decisions like that, and they never have. A year ago there were no instructions to "do whatever." Their political decisions were based on the idea that the Ukrainian people would meet the Russian occupiers happily, and the invaders’ armed forces were required to create a formation that was supposed to go on parade. It was a political mistake, no doubt, but it was based on this sort of analysis.

Now, as you understand, their political decisions are not based on any analysis. The military will still be asked what resources they have to capture Kyiv, relatively speaking, with a hostile, disloyal population. This is the question that will be asked. There is no need to make the Russians out to be complete idiots. There are, of course, idiotic decisions based on misjudgment, but do not think that they make their decisions based on the same assessment every time. This is wrong.

The assault on the small town of Bakhmut, or the one earlier on Soledar, or now on the city of Vuhledar - it could be the idea of ​​​​depleting Ukrainian troops in certain sectors of the front in order to facilitate the possibility of an offensive in the future. If you are constantly storming certain cities with heavy losses for yourself, you know for sure that your enemy also suffers losses, while you still have many times more mobilization resources due to your population size.

You can just sit down and mathematically find the point when the enemy runs out of mobilization resources, while you still have them. And therefore, you can organize such assaults long enough to get to a point in time where the enemy simply doesn’t have enough mobilization resources anymore.

You are well aware of the practice from the Second World War: the Russians absolutely do not care how many of their people are put in to achieve the goal. The whole victory in World War II was based on this idea: we will put in as much as we put in until the Germans run out of mobilization resources.

Do you remember the battle for Berlin, when they said that schoolchildren and pensioners had already fought against the Germans? The Germans ran out of mobilization resources. This was all done correctly, because there were fewer Germans than Soviet people. Much. But in the battle for Berlin, as far as I remember, a million people died. It didn't make any real sense. It is the same with Bakhmut and Soledar. From a military point of view, this makes no sense.

But if you bet on the enemy’s mobilization resources being destroyed within a certain time, and it doesn’t matter at all to you how much of your mobilization resources will die in this struggle to destroy the enemy’s mobilization resources, then you can arithmetically count the year and month when the enemy will simply have no people left who can resist you. And then you can carry out a new mobilization and advance on empty territories.

This is the task Vladimir Putin can set for his military. It's a simple calculation. The only things not taken into account are Western military equipment, and how this long-range equipment means that troops now often do not meet face to face, as they did in World War II. These things can make this task unrealistic. But Putin can order the Russian military command: “Just fight them to the last Ukrainian. Nothing needs to be done. Just one day we will tell you that there are no Ukrainians there. And that's what we want. Because we want this territory to be cleared of its disloyal population. If this cannot be achieved by rocket bombardments and the destruction of their energy infrastructure, let's try to achieve this by drawing them into positional battles all the time. Sooner or later they will end, since there are not that many of them.”

This statement by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that Moldova could become the next country on the list shows that this is the goal of the Russian leadership: to reach the borders of 1991. Of course, there should be no Moldova, just like there should be no Ukraine, in the future. The only thing preventing the Russians from operating in Moldova as they are in Ukraine is the existence of Ukraine itself, which is located between Russia and Moldova. Ah, such a hassle. But they are actively fighting the current Moldovan authorities. They are destabilizing the situation and using their agents.

They, of course, were happy to use their Transnistrian asset, which is fortunately very limited for them right now. Remember that in the first months of the war, they said that their tactical goal was to reach the border of Transnistria. One of Russia’s generals said so officially at a meeting.

And what does it mean to reach the border with Transnistria? This means that it would be possible to increase the size of Russian forces in Transnistria, to saturate them with new military equipment, and so on. And the issue of the "security" of Moldova, I think, would then be resolved in a few days. It is a small country like Georgia. It quite obviously could not resist an invading Russian army.

If we imagine that the south of Ukraine falls, then either some NATO member country could stand up for Moldova (meaning Romania) – which I don’t really believe would happen – or Moldova would be occupied after Ukraine and disappear from the political map of the world. None of the former Soviet republics – except Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – are considered by Russia to be entities that should be liquidated.

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