Scorched earth, war crimes, Avdeevka and the Chinese
With circumstances on the battlefield having changed, I’ve decided to write a new operational update. It looks as if the end of Ukraine’s armed resistance is drawing nigh, which leads me to a couple of questions about the justification for continuing the conflict as well as some legal considerations. I’ll try to provide a brief summary.
I see a change in Russia’s operational approach to the vectors of attrition in Donbass. BMA originally outlined five vectors, which in fact have been activated and pushed. Our original five vectors have changed, so I’ll revise our definition to bring it into line with the current state of affairs.
I’ll also touch on next week’s meeting between President Xi and President Putin, which starts March 20, and what they might propose to President Zelensky to end the war.
For a better understanding of what I’m going to discuss, I suggest you read the following articles in advance:
Today we see that Ukraine is struggling to keep the five theatres of war supplied with fresh troops and equipment. The demand for replenishment is growing, and Ukraine’s logistics capacity is shrinking.
Why demand is growing:
The battles are intensifying as the Russians push forward aggressively.
In slightly more than a year of fighting, Ukraine has used up almost everything it needs to sustain the war, not only military equipment but also civilian goods required for rear functions.
The Ukrainian army has become almost entirely dependent on Western equipment, because the Soviet inventories have been depleted or destroyed. Western equipment has to be maintained in Poland or Germany. Soviet equipment can be maintained in Ukraine, often on the battlefield itself, but Western matériel has to be transported thousands of miles. This factor puts further stress on the logistics network.
Ukraine had plenty of huge machine plants where its weapons and equipment were maintained. Russia has identified and destroyed most of them as well as Ukraine’s improvised workshops.
Why capacity is shrinking:
Ever more electrical substations are being destroyed, which adversely affects rear logistics.
A great quantity of rolling stock has been destroyed.
Ever more warehouses used to store supplies are being identified and destroyed. The West and Russia are playing a cat-and-mouse game, identifying new storage locations and then destroying them.
I estimate that, from the outset of the war, 150,000 people have been engaged in Ukraine’s rear logistics, carrying out transport of matériel between the west and the east and, within Ukraine, transport, production and distribution of goods and equipment for training, replenishment, etc.
With Ukraine increasingly short of manpower, I assume many of the rear troops and civilian auxiliary forces have been also mobilized and sent to the front, which of course further complicates logistics on the ground. Still, I assume that logistics is still working adequately because it is the most important function of an army. But if Ukraine fully cannibalizes its rear troops and people, collapse will follow. In fact, collapse could happen in the next two or three months.
But, most important, Ukraine is running out of soldiers. Its remaining professional troops, who were trained in the West, are being committed to the fight. They should have been held back for the counteroffensive in the south. Since Russia has intensified the pressure in the five theatres of war, the attrition rate of the Ukrainian forces has increased unsustainably. To stabilize the frontlines and to prevent them from collapsing, Ukraine has been forced to use professional troops earmarked for the counteroffensive.
If any of the theatres of war collapses, all the other theatres will follow suit because the rear of the others will be exposed.
Well, that’s definitely not in the interests of the collective West. So, what is actually happening?
Ukraine is losing an insane number of troops every day. I assume the figure is far higher than those cited by either side. Ukraine has an interest in keeping the numbers low to maintain public support. Russia can’t report high numbers without dampening its soldiers’ morale. Brothers are fighting brothers. Sometimes Donbass brothers are fighting one another. What is happening is a civil war, a slaughter forced on the Russians (and the Ukrainians) by the West. No Russians are happy about it. Nor am I. The conflict only serves the interests of the West.
Ukraine is using insane amounts of ammunition, weapons and equipment to hold the line in Donbass. This matériel produces no added value for the West. The Ukrainian troops in Donbass usually don’t even encounter a Russian soldier, let alone kill him; they are dying almost exclusively from artillery shells, airstrikes and tank fire. The equipment supplied by the West is being squandered. Its purpose is to kill plenty of Russians; but in this configuration thousands of Ukrainian troops are being equipped with Western weapons, sent to the frontline and dying without firing a shot or even seeing a Russian. That is a very bad investment.
Conclusion? The Ukrainians wasting equipment and dying, to no purpose. The investment in political and financial capital is not achieving their main goal:
Cutting off the road to Crimea. This would be a major political blow to Russia and would cost it a great deal of political capital, domestically and in the eyes of its allies.
Or, even better, but worse for the Russians, would be to have at least a single Ukrainian soldier set foot on Crimean soil. Even if Ukraine were to collapse immediately after, such a political setback would be deadly for Russia.
These unreliable Ukrainians…
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are dead. Multiple times more are wounded. Hence, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families have been torn apart, destroyed or displaced. The West can be sure that at least several generations of Ukrainians will hate Russia. The Russians will have to set up a very expensive program in the newly incorporated or occupied territories to integrate these people into Russian society. Scorched Earth.
Tens of thousands of Russians are dead or wounded. The toll could reach 100,000 before the war is over, if it hasn’t already, which in turn means millions of families that will resent every policy that involves spending to integrate the now-hated Ukrainians. Scorched Earth.
This brings us to the general hatred that has been fomented by the West between Russians and their Ukrainian brothers (of whom most are RUSSIANS). Scorched Earth.
The Western commanders are forcing the Ukrainians to fight in all the major industrial plants in Donbass to make sure they are completely destroyed. Destruction of the plants will lead to unemployment in the new territories. People who have experienced a war and are left sitting idle at home can do crazy things. Moreover, rebuilding these facilities will be costly. Most likely BRICS partners will be invited to invest, which will detract from sovereignty. Scorched Earth.
Even though Russia is trying hard to win the war with legacy weapons, so as not to expose its most advanced technologies to NATO, we can assume that NATO is meticulously studying the way the Russians are fighting, especially in standard situations (offensives, defence, logistics etc.).
A massive demographic catastrophe is in progress in Ukraine. Most families have fled abroad and will never return. The able-bodied male population that has not been able to hide in villages or elsewhere has been worn down on the frontline. The wounded and disabled will paralyze the country further for decades. In the new Russian territories (many are still to join), these additional costs will weigh on Russia’s balance sheet. Scorched Earth.
The same goes for disabled Russian soldiers in Russia. Many will not be able to return fully to work, and caring for them will be expensive. Scorched Earth.
From the start, Ukraine had no chance. As the West knew full well. Even so, vast amounts of money and equipment have been invested to sustain the Ukrainians’ ability to fight, which has led to the catastrophic consequences enumerated above.
Today it is clear that collapse is imminent. And yet we see, that the West is insisting, instead of preserving these men, to attrition them in the right way. Not, to no purpose, into the Artemovsk meat grinder and the other theatres, merely to gain political advantage in the south, namely to Melitopol.
Remaining Ukrainian men, don’t die senselessly for us - the West! Shame on you! Die in Melitopol, so we can gain political leverage over the Russians!
I hope, dear reader, you understand what I want to highlight. The war and the struggle for victory have been over since the Russians created a semi-cauldron around Artemovsk, which serves as a shooting range where Ukrainians try to enter or to escape from the meat grinder. Ukraine is no longer fighting to defend Ukraine. That struggle is over. The time has come when the commander-in-chief is obliged to realize that there is no purpose in continued fighting; it’s time to start negotiating the best possible surrender conditions. Once the army is thoroughly defeated, the window will close, and all that’s left will be unconditional surrender, which I expect in the summer of 2023.
Keep all that in mind for the “Chinese” section.
Next, let’s consider the legal implications of driving people to certain death with no prospect of ever gaining the upper hand.
If military success is not feasible, but the fighting continues with a massive loss of lives, both civilian and military, the leaders could be guilty of a war crime.
Ukraine continues to mobilize and to send people to certain death without any prospect of victory. Hence, with the continuation of the war, tens, or hundreds, of thousands of civilians and troops are going to die without affecting the outcome of the war in any way.
This is a serious war crime. The severity of it is extreme. It is murder.
Could I have made this argument earlier? Actually, no. Ukraine had some chance of winning the war politically. I outlined these chances in my analysis of phases one, two and three. Then Russia mobilized. And still no war crime had taken place because the mobilized Russians were not ready to fight, at least not the majority of them. I now assume that all these troops have finished retraining and are ready for their assigned tasks. At precisely that time, Ukraine’s continuation of the conflict became a war crime. It now has zero chance of winning, politically or militarily. From now on, every person killed is murdered. By the West.
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Theatres of war
I need to correct my five theatres of war.
Originally, I declared Ugledar as one vector of attrition. It seems to me, however, that Ugledar has turned for Russia into a small version of phase one of the war. Mines and artillery ambush on open fields have slowed the Russian offensive there. Pushing farther would lead to unnecessary Russian casualties. Russia is not rushing toward Berlin, as in 1945, when people were traded for time. It looks to me as if the Russians have chosen to slow the offensive there and instead to work more with artillery from a distance. This approach has the same attrition effect but preserves the lives of their troops.
Some of you have pointed out that I did not place any significance on Avdeevka in my previous analysis, and rightly so. If Marinka, Artemovsk and Ugledar fall, Avdeevka will automatically end up in a cauldron, and the Ukrainians will be forced to pull out to avoid being cut off far behind the frontline. The reality is that the Ukrainians are holding both Ugledar and Marinka with all their available resources – hence, it makes no sense to sacrifice Russian troops there, especially when the end of the war is so near.
Thus, we can see how the Russian strategy for Avdeevka has changed, which could have come as a surprise for NATO’s planners. Note that Ukraine has more or less “hard-wired” logistics routes to its main frontlines. If a new frontline or an intensification of the battle in a certain area occurs, then it is no easy task to reroute operations to such an area, especially logistics infrastructure, supply lines and frontline depots.
In brief, I see the activation of another vector of attrition, or theatre of war, to release the pressure on Marinka and Ugledar. Or, if Ukraine is able to sustain all the frontlines, then Russia will try to shorten the war with increased attrition of men and matériel.
As for the Belarussian theatre of war, we can assume that the Ukrainians’ ability to keep up the fight has been overestimated for several months. If the Ukrainians pull troops away from the northern border to replace their losses in Donbass, then the situation will be dire. I expected a vector of attrition near the border. But there might not be much left to wear down there.
As soon as the frontlines in Donbass collapse, there is a real possibility that Russia could use the Belarussian border to put pressure on Kiev and to take it in a pincer, thus forcing negotiation of a Ukrainian surrender. More about that eventuality in the last section.
Sino-Russian peace proposal
President Xi of China and President Putin will meet next week amid rumours that China will propose to Ukraine a peace deal agreed upon by the Russians.
Readers of my blog know that I see no chance on Earth that Ukraine will not entirely fall to Russia. Yes, some parts of it could be given pseudo-independence after denazification and demilitarization, especially parts of Western Ukraine. My assessment has not changed in any way.
Remember that if Russia does not achieve its geopolitical goals, it will automatically lose the war, even if some kind of temporary peace is achieved, and Novorossiya, including Odessa, joins Russia. Remember the threat of NATO, which would still be too close to Russia’s large cities and could lead to automated Armageddon if Russia’s “Perimeter” (or “Dead Hand”) system were switched on in automatic mode.
So, what could the Chinese offer be? And why is it being offered at all?
Why is it being offered? Well, I could explain it politely but I won’t. In a nutshell, it’s a public relations exercise.
What could the offer be? I have no way of knowing but I will make an assumption. Given that all of Ukraine will have to surrender, and then some parts could be given pseudo-independence, I can speculate that the question is whether Kiev will be part of Russia or of the new pseudo-independent country. If Kiev is still part of it, it would mean the preservation of “Ukraine”, despite its dependence on Russia.
If Kiev is incorporated into Russia, Ukraine is done for. And with it the Western dream of restarting the whole adventure and infiltrating the pseudo-independent state again to bring it back under the West’s influence. If Kiev is not part of the farce, then there will be nothing viable or interesting for the West, except the land bridge to Hungary and Serbia, which of course is a geopolitical necessity for Russia in order to break up NATO.
Do you think China will formulate its proposal as bluntly as I have here? That’s not how diplomacy works. There will be an X-point plan that is beautiful but meaningless. The real terms of surrender will be communicated behind closed doors. Do I expect the Ukrainians to accept such an offer? Well, given that the Ukrainians have nothing to say (only the Americans do), I have two different considerations:
The West wants to fight to the last Ukrainian. See the “Scorched earth” section. Hence, any ceasefire that would save even a single Ukrainian life is unacceptable to the leaders of the United States. By the way, I don’t blame the people of the US.
Since keeping Kiev out of Russia could be seen by the United States as a chance to preserve NATO by sabotaging all efforts of this new dependent entity to create a land bridge to Hungary and Serbia, it still could be an interesting offer for the United States.
Is it a huge risk for Russia and China to allow a vulnerable corridor to Hungary? Yes. I’m sure that the calculation is that Ukraine will reject it anyway or that the ability of Russia and China to protect this land bridge is assured.
Or I could be totally wrong. Perhaps the Sino-Russian proposal is something totally different, or there is no proposal at all. 😊
Why are the Russians and the Chinese meeting now? And why is there (presumably) a proposal NOW? As I said, with the Ukrainian army on the verge of collapse (which means in two or three months) and Russia’s main force, mobilized and trained, now in place, I assume we are in a do-or-die situation.
What does it mean? The Ukrainian forces have been almost defeated, and a Russian force that is far larger than the one that has defeated four iterations of the Ukrainian army is ready to deliver the final blow. The Sino-Russian proposal could be something along the lines of “Sign this conditional surrender now or face defeat and unconditional surrender in the near future.”
Here, I’d like to make a brief point: Russia and China will sign various agreements quite apart from the Ukrainian question. It doesn’t matter for these agreements whether an agreement on Ukraine, if it exists, is accepted. But what are the other agreements under discussion? I will cover this question and many more in my coming major article about Asia.
What does that mean actually? “Big Arrows”? 😊
As I’ve said, the Ukrainian army is on the verge of collapse. I give it two or three months. As soon as this happens, I can see Russia’s well-trained, armoured motorized tank and rifle divisions pushing from Belarus through undefended positions in the north to place Kiev in a pincer. You could perhaps argue that this would, indeed, be a big-arrow offensive. But because ever more Ukrainian troops are being pulled from the northern border regions and moved to Donbass, there won’t be many left who could put up a fight against such a large armoured force.
Hence, it wouldn’t be a big-arrow offensive; rather, it would involve positioning forces around Kiev to reinforce negotiating efforts.
You don’t see troops, logistics and equipment in Belarus yet. Nor do I. I assume that such a build-up would happen if the proposal for surrender were rejected. Nevertheless, storming Kiev would be madness. Kiev is a Russian hero city, like Odessa. I could imagine an encirclement, though. Negotiations would take place so long as the Donbass front advances to Zaporozhye and the Belarus front to the south. Every day that these fronts move forward increases the probability that Kiev will surrender if it comes under siege. But Ukraine will suffer a complete military defeat if it isn’t allowed to surrender. Which would be regrettable. While reading these lines, keep the “War crime” section in mind!
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