Strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure
Backgrounds and implications
Since General Surovikin took control of the Special Military Operation, we started to see strikes on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure as well. These strikes are very limited and didn’t lead to a total blackout in Ukraine. Many people asking all the time, why Russia doesn’t destroy the whole energy infrastructure off Ukraine but only gradually.
Moreover, some explanations circulating the internet, such as that Russia is targeting power plants, to let the Ukrainians repair them, to only repeat that again. Maybe this is one of the reasons. But I’m sure this is not the only, and far more important, not the most important reason.
That’s why I decided to write a short article over this topic to commit my opinion as well.
What is absolutely out of question, and I hope no one will ever ask for it, is to target Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Which would be madness.
Nevertheless, we need to keep in mind, that many NPP’s are dependent on external power sources for several auxiliary functions. Such as cooling and others. Hence, the Ukrainians need to get the time, to prepare themselves and their NPP’s for the situation, which will inevitably come, off a total blackout. How to handle the NPP’s?
For two reasons, I don’t see the necessity of targeting the power grid:
When Russia takes new territory, it needs to be able to restore energy in the conquered territories with lightning speed. We will see later that the civil population mustn’t be left without power for a long time.
If Russia is destroying mainly the power generation capacities but not the grid, then there is still the possibility, that Europe can supply power to Ukraine. I will describe this point in the last chapter in more detail. But Russia needs an emergency switch, at the vicinity of Ukraine’s Western borders, where it can disrupt, whenever it wants, the power from Europe to Ukraine. Substations fitting perfectly for such an emergency switch. For the time being it is actually good, that Ukraine gets power from Europe. (See last chapter).
Which means in turn, that the Russian targets will be mainly power plants, that are non-nuclear and only in such voltages, that the whole power grid doesn’t break down. If Russia hits the wrong power plants at the wrong time, due to overloads, for example, substations and other equipment could be seriously damaged or even destroyed. Which would contradict the objective, of NOT destroying the power grid.
Consequences for civilians
The consequences of a longer total blackout in any country are disastrous. We should not even think about it. People who are asking for it to be done now, don’t understand anything about it, at all. Yes, eventually it will have to be done, to conclude the war. I will explain it later. But not now since it would not bring any decisive advantage and it is no immediate military necessity. About this, later more, as well.
When a blackout is triggered, which is of course allowed in war, then only to support military offensives or operations. For the time being Russia is preparing its army in the rear for offensives. As soon as the offensives begin, we will see blackouts. And again, most likely only partial, in areas, where it is needed.
First, I wanted to list in bullet point structure all the consequences for civilians, during a longer blackout. Then I decided to explain only one single consequence, which is more than enough for me, to fully support, to only trigger it WHEN it is necessary and as short as necessary.
New-borns, babies and sick people usually dying in absolutely huge numbers, when a blackout is triggered in a developed country during winter times. If we leave the cold aside, there are whole supply/value-chains, that break down in such a situation, that are needed to keep these people alive. As longer as such a blackout goes, as more such people are dying. I assume, that the number increases exponentially over time.
This is exactly what is expected from the Russians and Ukrainians by the West. This is a civil war and it is expected that they kill each other on every possible level. President Putin knows this very well and he doesn’t play that game. At least not at the degree, that the West was hoping for.
By the way, I do understand very well, that people want to evacuate for example Kiev. This is reasonable, for the above-mentioned reasons. At the other hand a tragedy, because IF such an evacuation takes place, then many people will never ever return back home.
Unnecessary cruelty is a war crime. Again, to trigger a blackout is allowed, as long as it is connected to a certain military necessity. For example, an operation, that is being conducted in this area. And if one describes the logistics infrastructure of a country, as military necessity, then it would be of course a justification. But for the time being, Russia is not conducting any offensive operations, that would require such a blackout. The time will come, yes. But not now. And when it comes then it needs to be as quick as possible, to limit the time of civil suffering. As described above.
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Civil war and civilizational implications
As mentioned above, and in my article “Scorched Earth” as well, Russia is fighting a civil war. Russians against Russians. Even thought many Russians, Russian politicians and Russian generals are arguing, that the Ukrainians need to be punished for their “betrayal” with a real and total war, neither I nor the Russian decision makers are sharing this opinion.
That’s why there is a SMO (Special Military Operation) and why Russia is not “smashing Ukraine against a wall within a few days”. Russia will need to incorporate these totally brainwashed people back into Russia. This is absolutely possible. But it gets harder to accomplish (add one generation for one escalation step roughly) as harder and more brutal the war is being fought against Ukraine.
As mentioned initially, there are many reasons, why the Ukrainian power system is still, at least more or less, functioning. I mentioned a few already and I will mention bellow some more. But here is a very important one. Russia gives the Ukrainian people enough time and, how should I say? A taste, about how it will be, when the lights go out. Russia’s ultimate goal is not a military victory, but a quick collapse of Ukraine, its government and armed forces. To stop the fighting, to stop the killing and the division between Ukrainians and Russians.
Therefore, Russia is triggering as many leverages as possible, to eventually trigger the total collapse of Ukraine. In this particular case by creating pressure from the people, to influence the government, to negotiate (total surrender).
So, how could the Russian strategy look alike in connection with Ukraine’s energy? I will list my thoughts as bullet points:
First of all, we need to clarify it for ourselves, that Ukraine has power, because Russia wants it. For the beforementioned reasons. The Ukrainian power plants are not moving, they can’t hide or camouflage themselves. The positions are well known since they were built by one country. By the Soviet Union, which successor Russia is. And therefore, all plans are available in Moscow. There is no air defence available in Ukraine, that could protect these plants. None whatsoever. Everyone needs to be fully aware of this fact.
Ukraine’s power generation capacity needs to be brought down slowly and carefully to a critical level. This level needs to be sufficient to provide the civil population enough hours of electricity, per day, to maintain critical and live saving processes. This is what we are witnessing these days. It is important to understand, that not all kinds of power plants can be destroyed. Yes, NPP’s of course not. But there are power plants, that generating voltages, which would cause such an unbalance of voltages in the power grid, that it would physically destroy substations and other equipment due to overloads. I don’t want to go into details since I’m not an electrical engineer. A low level of energy supply could be maintained until the new offensive starts, to provide energy to the civil population.
There is also a military consideration. If now Russia would destroy Ukraine’s energy generation capacity, Ukraine would have the possibility to figure out all issues and problems, that would occur in such a situation and prepare accordingly. At least from a military point of view. I exclude the civil population in this particular consideration. This would deliver an advantage to Ukraine in preparation of warfare without electricity. The focus, from a military standpoint is always on logistics.
The final blow, before or during the offensive, that is being prepared in the rear, with the mobilised troops, will be dealt on substations. Power plants only, if absolutely needed. We always need to think about the time after the war. Most likely Ukraine will be part of Russia, as a whole. Provided, Russia let Europe to deliver energy to Ukraine, to compensate for the loss of generation capacity, then this flow will be interrupted by destroying critical substations, that are connecting Ukraine and its European neighbors.
Again, unnecessary cruelty is a war-crime. Yes, I know, that NATO doesn’t care about such considerations, but at least Russia does. And not necessarily because of international law, but because it is fighting a civil war against Russians. That’s why I see a big question mark, behind the question whether there will be a blow, that will black out the whole of Ukraine, or if Russia will only gradually disconnect sections, that are important, for certain offensives. I don’t know, but I assume the later possibility.
Desired outcomes of targeting the energy infrastructure
Why should the power be turned off, at all? I assume, that this question can be answered by anyone with common sense. Nevertheless, I’ll list a few reasons as bullet points:
Shutting or slowing down logistics.
Shutting down all factories, that producing military equipment and ammunition. Some needs to be spared for after the war. Some can’t be reached easily. And some are not known, at all.
Complicating the usage of military equipment, that requires huge amounts of power. For example, radars etc.
Protests by the civilians against the government. Demanding to negotiate an end.
Disrupting the communication, information technology (IT) and internet activities as much as possible.
Well, these are only a few but very important reasons. There are more. We need to keep in mind, that the collapse of Ukraine is the goal. This would have been reached long ago, had NATO not intervened. Now NATO is keeping Ukraine alive. This task will be far more difficult to achieve if Ukraine has no power. The demand for “everything” is rising in Ukraine by the day and its transport capacities are diminishing. This is the trajectory of collapse.
Economic and geopolitical backgrounds
Here I want to list some geopolitical considerations that are advantageous for Russia:
For the time being, Europe bought very cheap Ukrainian surplus energy. Since Ukraine was deindustrialized on a big scale, since 2014, the energy consumption dropped. When the war began even more. All this surplus was sold to the European Union. Was it really sold? No, of course not. It was provided, for all the financial and material support, Ukraine received from the West. As a kind of payment. This is no longer possible.
Europe has huge energy problems on its own. Because of the trade and sanctions war with Russia, Europe has ever less energy available, and is trying hard, to avoid blackouts on its own. The additional Ukrainian energy was a blessing.
Now the opposite will happen. Europe, which is already in trouble with regards to energy, will need to supply energy to Ukraine, instead the other way around. Europe will need to do it, to keep Ukraine afloat. Which will be an additional leverage, Russia has over Europe to force it to de-colonize itself.
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