This article is a direct continuation of the “Path to war in Ukraine” article. So, it makes sense to read the former article first. The goal of this article is, to give you an overview of how the war started and what the first actions and results were. Moreover, I want to highlight some high-level procedures of military planning. This article does not intend to go into details, since one could write books over this article. It should only give a brief overview.
There is another ting, that I want to highlight here. I do not have military education. Basic training yes, but that’s all. Since I am analysing military conflicts since approx. 2010, having read a lot of military history and being a strategic planner and executive professionally, I assume, that I’m capable to predict military results by given facts. If you have any doubt, or if you want to listen to a true and very capable military expert, I recommend listening to Scott Ritter interviews, articles or to read his book.
Set objectives by the Russian leadership
On February 21, 2022, Putin addressed the nation with a set off decisions. I highly recommend to re-listen it or read the transcript here. Since it is not the goal to analyse his speech I will break it, and the decisions that are announced the following several days into three main objectives:
The Soviet Union sacrificed over 26 million people in the second world war, to defeat Nazism. Every family in Russia has some family members, that died in the second world war. It is a big wound in the Russian soul. And the best attack vector against Russia. Unfortunately, Ukraine has huge Nazi collaborator cells during the world war. Led by Stepan Bandera. Western Services knew about the Russian wound and cultivated, especially in Western Ukraine, even during Soviet times, followers of Bandera. This trend exploded exponentially since the Western services took control of Ukraine during the events in 2014. Basically, an Anti-Russia was created, armed to the teeth, right on Russia’s borders. Not only this, but not far from Moscow away. Especially difficult is, that there is a huge Russian speaking part of the population in Ukraine, which is getting discriminated, if not worse, by the Bandera followers. Russia’s goal is, to roll back this development and to remove the whole Nazi and Bandera ideology from Ukraine. This time thoroughly since it wasn’t done properly after WW2. How? I’m not an expert in such questions, so I honestly don’t know what the approach will be. It remains to be seen.
Ukraine, if remains as a national state, which I doubt in the meanwhile, would be allowed, to have only a small self-defence force. Which implies, that its whole military needs to be destroyed, or handed over to Russia, before. Moreover, it means, that no foreign military, that is hostile to Russia, would be allowed to station its military or equipment on Ukrainian soil.
Ukraine could have surrendered. In this case it would have handed over its military equipment to Russia. It could have kept, what Russia would define as necessary, for basic self-defence.
Without surrender/negotiation, demilitarization is being implemented by force. Which means, that all military equipment and troops on Ukrainian soil, that are not Russian or with Russia allied, will be destroyed. This includes both, Ukrainian and NATO equipment and troops.
Since the West is committed, to defeat Russia on the Battlefield, through Ukrainian proxies, we can assume the following: “Russia will demilitarize Ukraine AND the West, as long the West is committed, to send its equipment and as long as there are Ukrainians alive, that can use this equipment. This would lead to the total demilitarization of both, the West and Ukraine, unless the West doesn’t surrender (Ukraine) or Russia is being defeated on the Battlefield.
Bringing to justice all Ukrainians, that committed crimes against the Russian speaking population:
Over eight years, Ukraine committed all kinds of crimes against its Russian speaking population. There were three main crime places.
The Ukrainian held Donbass in general: The Russian speaking population suffered different atrocities, which I won’t explain here.
In Mariupol, which is part of Donbass, in particular: The most fanatic Nazi formation, called Azov Regiment, had its headquarters in Mariupol. There are endless reports of atrocities.
Odessa: A city, founded by the Russian czarina, Catherine the Great. It is considered by most Russians, and as far as I am informed, by the inhabitants as well, as a Russian city. Nazi formations conducted a massacre here, 2014, against Russian speaking inhabitants. Putin mentioned this massacre, and its perpetrators especially in his speech. He said, all perpetrators are known and will be brought to justice.
Putin didn’t aim with these goals on Donbass, but on the whole of Ukraine. Which brings us by logical deduction to the conclusion, that the whole of Ukraine will need to be captured, to be able to fulfill the stated goals. There is no other logical way.
Strategic planning: Basics
First of all, there is no red line, that is followed by a professional military, no matter what.
Hence, there is no “Russia planned X and didn’t achieve it”.
The only thing, that is constant in military planning, is the political goal, given by the political leadership of the country. Those objectives are the three, mentioned above. The way, to achieve those goals, can change, depending on the development of circumstances on the field. Ultimately, the political objectives can change as well, if the military might is too less or too big or the political circumstances change.
If the military might is too weak, then the objectives might be adjusted to more reachable smaller ones. If the political leadership agrees. There are unfortunately examples, where such adjustments did not take place in human history. If the military might is strong enough, and the political leadership agrees, then the goals could be expanded.
For the time being, and as all the time reiterated by Russia’s leadership, all goals will be achieved and there is no change.
The military is planning a strategy how to achieve the political goals. Most crucial in military planning is, that you have options for all deviations from the original plan. As many people know, the best plan is only valid, until the first bullet starts to fly.
Every military campaign is being planned, with many options, if things do not follow the initial planned way. And every campaign can consist of X military operations.
If a country plans thoroughly its military strategy and the derived campaigns and operations, and if it takes into consideration the realistic worst-case scenarios, then it will have as a result all resources and time, that will be needed, to sustain the project. In turn it means, that it is highly likely that Russia had several scenarios of outcomes. Best case, middle case and worst case. To start this war, Russia would need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. I personally assume, that this is the reason, that Russia waited for eight years, to conduct this Special-Military-Operation (SMO). To prepare its economy and military, to be able to sustain the worst (realistic) military scenario.
Strategic planning: Option A, B and C
I will present three scenarios/options, that I assume, Russia has planned for, for phase 1.
Again, those are assumptions and of course they can be wrong:
Best case scenario(A):
Conducting a massive penetration on a broad frontline to cause a shock and quick collapse of the enemy. In this case Ukraine would have fully surrendered within days or weeks after the invasion. Having analysed the facts, which are available, I assume, that it was one of the realistic Russian goals, which were not achieved, eventually. The result would have been the handing over off Ukraine to the Russian military.
Middle case scenario(B):
Fighting with Ukraine, by gradually increasing the intensity, and thereby the Ukrainian military and infrastructural casualties, until Ukraine is ready to negotiate a favorable post war agreement.
This was almost achieved at the end of phase 1. Unfortunately, the West intervened and held back Ukraine from concluding a negotiated agreement.
In theory such a scenario could still be concluded if Ukraine would be a sole actor. Since Ukrainians do not control their own country, but foreign powers, the timeframe for scenario B obviously is closed.
Worst case scenario(C):
This scenario foresees, that Ukraine will not surrender under any circumstances, as long it is physically able to resist. This means that it would fight until the last soldier is killed and the last piece of equipment destroyed, so that the Russian army can drive through, to the Polish border. Moreover, it implies, that NATO will assist and supply Ukraine, with most resources, except those, that are “redlined”, to prevent Ukraine, to collapse too fast. As far as I understand, this is the scenario, that is currently being implemented. Of course, all people involved, are hoping, that the collapse takes place, before too much damage was made.
I just presented three, at least in my opinion or assumption, possible scenarios.
Scenario A and B would have been possible, to achieve within Phase 1. Both scenarios became impossible after Phase 1 was concluded. Now, unfortunately, only scenario C is left. I will go deeper into it, in the articles, covering Phase 2 and 3.
Deception and cover up
As mentioned above, Russia needed to plan for three scenarios. Considering scenario B and C, we can conclude, that Russia would need massive amounts of mobilized and trained troops, properly equipped hardware and all the intelligence capacity in place, for target acquisition and many more purposes.
We can recall the beginning of phase 1. Very few details, troops and equipment were in place and all troops, except of some staff and general ranked officers, did not have any plan whether it is serious or only a bluff. In turn it means, the troops were not prepared and informed properly for the invasion. We can also recall that 12 hours before the invasion, Russia did alert and started to mobilise its intelligence services. Of course, there are some top-secret parts of the intelligence community, which helped to plan everything. But most parts were not involved and started being mobilised for war intelligence duty, 12 hours in advance.
One could argue that I just described bad preparation by the Russian side. This is not the case. My opinion is that the Russian General Staff and the departments of the Russian Intelligence Services that were involved in planning, created a multi-level mixed military-political campaign. Taking into consideration the three (or how many ever they are) scenarios mentioned above, what escalation steps will be activated, if Ukraine don’t surrender after this or that event on the battlefield.
The first step was made in total secrecy, to confuse Western intelligence services about the scale and objectives of the first push into Ukraine. If we take into consideration the public communication of the United States, days before the invasion, we can understand the deception, that was in effect. The Americans were sure, that Russia would invade Ukraine doctrinal and conquer it within days. Russia could have done that. The Americans know that. That’s why there were created maximal confusion.
Only after scenario A failed, Russia activated the next, pre-planned steps, that led to phase 2, which I will discuss in the next article.
What I simply want to highlight is, that all escalation steps by the Russians are pre-planned and the resources allocated. The are only released, if needed. Which means, unless Ukraine doesn’t surrender, more and more Russian resources will be released, that are already before the invasion earmarked, for exactly this escalation step.
The last thing to say, is, that as described initially, the Russian troops didn’t have information about the war and their objectives, to keep everyone in total secrecy. At the second the war started, everything was set in motion, to withdraw and trained earmarked troops for purposes, that are assigned to them in later escalation steps. Unfortunately, the Donbass militia took the biggest part of the fighting and casualties, especially in Donbass. The reason is, to keep Ukrainian troops at bay, grind them down and buy time, until the main Russian troops are prepared and trained for their earmarked purpose.
Depending on the source, that you take, Ukraine did have approx. 300,000 – 500,000 troops at the beginning of the conflict. And the number of troops in Donbass were, also depending on the source, between 100,000 – and 200,000 troops. This were the most experienced and elite troops, assembled for an attack at the militia held territories in Donbass.
Since the Americans knew for sure, that there will be an invasion, they prepared with the Ukrainians, especially with most of their special forces’ ambushes and traps on all roads, that will be likely used in the event of an attack. All means of guerrilla warfare were prepared. In this case, high-tech guerrilla warfare, with drones and satellite reconnaissance and communication.
All other regions were thinly defended.
My estimation is, that the American services calculated with a push on Kiev and on Donbass and established the defences accordingly. In Donbass with the regular professional army. In northern Ukraine, Kiev included, with mixed components of the regular army, popular defence and most importantly, almost all special forces units of Ukraine, training for the mentioned guerrilla warfare.
Russia prepared strike groups North, South, Special forces (airborne VDV), Donbass militia brigades and Wagner mercenaries. Of course, there were more sub formations, but those were the most important.
As announced before, I don’t intend to go into details.
Though I want to highlight some highlights.
Russia’s airborne special forces, called VDV, were responsible for pinning down the Ukrainian elite Special Forces troops in and around Kiev. Moreover, to apply maximum pressure on Kiev and the Ukrainian government, to assist either the negotiations or to bring a collapse of the government and achieve a quick Ukrainian total surrender. These troops did the most heroic fighting under the worst possible conditions. They also suffered huge casualties. There were special decorations of the involved formations by President Putin.
The southern strike group were quite successful. As far as I can judge it, they achieved most, but not all set goals for the first phase. They captured the whole of Kherson, a huge part of Zaporozhe and fought in the battle for Mariupol. Moreover, they expanded buffer zones around Kherson, Mariupol and Kakhovka. In anticipation of future defensive battles, to have space for maneuvering, regrouping and tactical retreats.
The northern group was tasked with pinning down troops across northern Ukraine from Donbass up to Kiev. As far as one can judge the reports (I could be wrong here), these group was not that successful and suffered heavy losses. It could be explained either by bad leadership, or because, as mentioned above, my assumption is, that Americans expected this vector as main attacking vector and prepared accordingly all guerrilla warfare elements in this direction.
There were several purposes, apart from the already mentioned scenarios A, B and C:
Ukraine prepared a large-scale attack at the Donbass, which was ready to kick-off any time. By attacking on a large front, Russia cut off most of logistics and reinforcements for the frontline troops in Donbass. A large-scale attack on Donbass was no longer possible. Instead, the Donbass militia utilized the situation and went on the offensive on their own.
Creating a permanent land bridge to Crimea. The bridge is good, but in wartime useless. Ukraine maybe isn’t capable, apart from terrorist attacks, to attack the bridge. NATO is. Would be one of the first targets, that couldn’t be defended.
Securing the permanent water supply to Crimea, out of the Kakhovka reservoir.
As initially stated, NATO did prepare Ukraine very well for the likely Russian attack vectors. Therefore, several tens of thousands special forces units were trained by NATO in Ukraine and on foreign soil, over eight years, to conduct this kind of guerrilla and stay-behind warfare.
By taking this into account, one can understand one of the reasons, why Russia have chosen the approach of invading with totally uniformed soldiers. To avoid, that offensive plans trickle through to NATO and that thereby even more successful ambushed could have been planned.
Having invaded in winter, Russia had even more problems with ambushes. Snow gives good opportunities for preparing ambushes. Especially because columns are forced to drive in an array on roads. Next, I will explain, why this is a problem:
Ukraine pre-registered most road sections by artillery, where likely Russian columns will need to pass. And they did. And many columns have been destroyed. It was a very successful approach. Nevertheless, by far not enough, to hurt the Russians substantially.
The Ukrainian military applied the strategy to hide in all civilian buildings on the roads, where the Russian columns needed to pass. So, either the Russian shot at civilian houses or they tried to rush through and sustain heavy damage, due to NLAW fire out of windows of civilians. The worst of this approach is, that most civilians are Russian speaking. Which forced the Russian army to shoot on people, that they wanted to protect. Rightfully, Amnesty International recognized this approach as a war crime by the Ukrainians.
Of course, it absolutely makes sense, to mine the roads, where Russians would have been forced to pass. And that’s what Ukrainians did. Many tanks and other vehicles, that weren’t equipped properly, to detect or remote denote mines, were blown up.
A part of the propaganda warfare of Ukraine was, to demoralize the Russian public, to trigger it to overthrow President Putin. To achieve that, many ambush kills were filmed by drones and broadcasted immediately. The idea was, to make Russian public demand an end of the war and by refusing it, Putin would lose confidence by the population and would be eventually overthrown. The broadcasting was very successful. But not the approach, that Russians would lose moral, and demand an end of the war. That failed badly.
To achieve the exact same goal, to trigger the Russian public to overthrow Putin, Ukraine instigated many footages, where they tortured captured Russian soldiers horribly. I won’t describe it here in detail. This attempt failed as well. There were no calls for overthrowing Putin. Instead, the Russian public and soldiers got angry and demanded a far more resolute approach against Ukraine. Soldiers didn’t surrender that quickly. Instead, many fought to death, because they knew, what awaits them.
I described the main strike directions of the first phase. As mentioned in the possible scenarios, those strikes were intended to achieve scenario A or B. Unfortunately, A was never an option. Ukrainians were remote controlled, down to the unit level. There was never the possibility, that orders could be issued from a central command to the various units, to surrender. This still applies today.
Nevertheless, there were some pre-negotiations during phase 1 in Minsk. They led to a meeting on March 29, 2022, in Istanbul. These negotiations had officially the potential to end the conflict. Ukrainian neutrality should be declared and the recognition of Donbass and Crimea as Russian. The parties were close to a conclusion. The following days the proposals should have been discussed in the capitols and then an agreement on top level should be reached. As a sign of good will, Russia withdrew all troops from northern Ukraine, including Kiev.
Unfortunately, the West had other plans for Ukraine. Boris Johnson flew immediately to Kiev and after a meeting between him and Zelensky, Ukraine completely withdrew from negotiations.
This event triggered the activation and announcement of phase 2 by the Russian leadership at the end of March 2022.
Russia decided, to apply a special military operation in Ukraine. Not a doctrinal war. The big question is, why? Many people, including Western intelligence services, thought there would be a doctrinal push. It would have many advantages, but some disadvantages as well. This is a topic for another article. But I will go a little bit into it here. By applying a special military operation, Russia had the following opportunities:
Proceeding slowly, (If we exclude phase 1) so the West has all time it needs to deplete itself militarily and economically. So, Russia would be able to force the West down on its knees and to implement the new draft security framework for Europe, without getting into an actual military conflict with NATO.
Drawing out all Ukrainian troops and (NATO) equipment out of the big cities and Western regions. To destroy it in a place with short supply lines, a friendly population and total air domination. This is the Donbass and Kherson. Thereby a collapse of Ukraine can be triggered, slowly, but surly, without the need to fight devastating battles in Ukraine’s large cities. Thereby avoiding further Mariupol scenarios.
I want to highlight, that I’m by 100% convinced, that the Russian leadership calculated and still is calculating with confidence, with a full Ukrainian surrender. And the handing over of Ukraine as a whole by its military to Russia’s military. This is what eventually will happen. Unfortunately, we can assume that many people still will have to die before this happens. I wrote that I think that this was planned from the beginning. This is to be explained with, what I wrote in the “Strategic planning” section of this article. Russia is following a predefined, but flexible escalation process:
It was clear from the beginning that Ukraine as a whole, needs to be captured, to reach all geopolitical and security goals, set by the political leadership of Russia. Nevertheless, Russia needs always to show the whole world, and first and foremost its BRICS allies, that it is always ready to negotiate. Even though all parties are fully clear, that this is an existential war between the West and Russia. The party that loses, vanishes into geopolitical insignificance. There will be either a strong Russia with BRICS afterwards and NO West (geopolitically) or the West and the BRICS project would be over. Therefore, all involved parties will always find, a reason why not to negotiate or why negotiations failed. As many say, “until the last Ukrainian”. I personally think that Russia proceeds carefully and will execute a quick final blow, when the time comes, that fits Russia, to preserve as many Ukrainians and their infrastructure as possible. Why? Because it will inherit it and will need to either incorporate it and rebuild it or find another solution.
Why was I sure, from the beginning, that the whole of Ukraine is on the plate? Because the leaders of Hungary and Serbia started to be very bold in their communication with the West. They did and said things, that would be a no-go before. Things, for which they would be sanctioned into oblivion. Hungary for example blocked many EU sanctions against Russia. This is huge. This tells me, that Hungary and Serbia had information in advance, what the Russian plans are and how the future landscape between Russia, Hungary and Serbia will look alike. Without Ukraine. Since I believe that there will be a land-bridge between Russia (with the whole of Ukraine as federal subject) and Hungary, I think, that here will be finally military ground and air support, as well as trade by land and the black sea possible. So, Hungary and Serbia are no longer afraid of a military attack by NATO and by Western sanctions, that will be after the implementation of the multipolar world order obsolete. I have further thoughts about this, which I will explain in detail in another article.
Results of phase 1
Here I want to give a quick overview of the achieved objectives of phase 1:
Denazification was not completed yet.
Demilitarization was not completed yet.
Bringing war criminals to justice was not completed yet.
Huge territorial gains were made, and deep buffer zones around big cities were created for maneuvering in defence. Both sides suffered huge casualties, which are normal under such circumstances.
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Excellent Article-Thank You For Sharing!!!
You wrote: "The Americans were sure, that Russia would invade Ukraine doctrinal and conquer it within days". 'Ukraine doctrinal' does not have any meaning to English speakers. What do you mean by this word 'doctrinal'? esp. in connection with the word 'Ukraine'?