Discover more from Black Mountain Analysis
Polish buildup, Artemovsk(Bakhmut) and other topics
First, Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it these days.
This is my first operational update. In my major articles I discussed the whole strategic picture. Here I picked out some topics, that are currently in discussion everywhere. And I will try to provide my point of view about these topics.
Polish troop build-up
Currently there are hot discussions about why Poland is overtly and covertly mobilising troops. There are talks about the mobilisation of some additional 300.000 troops. I won’t discuss this number, since no one has the real numbers, but I’m sure, there is a mobilisation ongoing. And a re-location of huge parts of the Polish army to Western Ukrainian and Belarus borders.
In the next chapter I will discuss several scenarios, that I consider as likely. Moreover, I’ll assign probabilities in percentage, of how probable I consider the given scenario. Keep in mind that these are my assumptions. Not confirmed facts.
A: Double pinning operation (45%):
The Belarussian army has a certain purpose in this war. Not what many think, that it would invade Ukraine. It certainly won’t. And there is no reason for it. The Belarussian army is there, to pin down Ukrainian troops in the north, so that they can’t be used in the east. Moreover, it is there, to react, in case there would be a Polish/Baltic incursion into Western Ukraine.
By building up a huge and significant army right at the Belarussian and Ukrainian border, the Poles are doing essentially the same. They are forcing the Russians and Belarusians, to take them into their calculations and contingency plans.
Belarus and Russia now need even more troops, equipment and logistics to guard the Western part of Belarus. Those are troops, that can’t be used in the fight against Ukraine. Or additional troops need to be raised for this anti pinning effort. This is costly und uncomfortable, because of the distance and logistics situation. That is very simple and straightforward. I would do the same.
B: Incursion into the Western parts of Ukraine (10%):
I won’t explain this scenario too much since it is discussed ever since everywhere. The Poles would annex some parts of Western Ukraine in this scenario. They would do it under the pretext of a humanitarian intervention or peacekeepers of things like that.
I think there were real considerations, to do that. But I also think, that Mr. Patrushev and Mr. Sullivan had their discussion about what are real red lines for which parties, in Istanbul. And I think, this option is totally off the table. Western Ukraine is the geopolitical key for Russia, to implement its main strategic goal. The new draft treaty for European security. Maybe I will explain this point another time, but not here. This is strategic stuff, that I won’t discuss in an operational update.
And even if there weren’t an exchange of red lines between Sullivan and Patrushev, the Poles understood very well, what they could expect after such a move. The had a good development of their industry and logistics within the last years. They achieved a lot. If they would move into Western Ukraine, they wouldn’t have any protection by NATO, whatsoever. The army would leave a country, that is slightly prosperous, and if this army wouldn’t be destroyed totally, which it probably would, it would come back into a country without industry and infrastructure. It would come back into the stone age. (Time travel for dummies)
Keep in mind. Poland is not Ukraine. Russia considers Ukraine as Russia, that’s why Russia is trying to avoid much damage and casualties in the civil population. Poland is indeed an enemy state. They chose it themselves. All Russia weapons, that you can imagine, that deal out the biggest damage, apart from nuclear weapons, would be used instantly against all valuable targets, without taking into consideration collateral damage, in Poland. Infrastructure, industry and military. Essentially Poland would be back in the stone age.
Everyone knows this, that’s why I give this scenario 10%. 10% because there is always this guy, called Murphy… From Murphy’s law…
C: Precautions because of the anticipated fighting on its border (45%):
There are ever louder voices in the West (I write since months about it 😊), that the fighting will soon arrive at the Western borders of Ukraine. This fact seems to have arrived in the Polish government as well. They know and anticipate, that soon there will be a fight for Lvov. Right on its borders.
It is the most common and normal thing, to mobilise and send you whole army to your border, if the last stand of a battle is taking place there. One can anticipate many stray ammunitions from Ukraine landing in Poland. And one can anticipate many fleeing Ukrainian troops and civilians. Such situations happened many times all over the world. A few years ago, between Syria and Turkey, when the Syrian troops pushed back the terrorists in the northern direction.
In such situations you always call in the troops to handle it. There is no other possibility.
Well. I think that option C is the reason for mobilisation. But this mobilisation will fulfil slightly, as a side effect, option A as well. Option B is in my eyes impossible, apart from Murphy.
Chickens in Odessa
Now I mentioned Murphy a few times. Let look who Murphy is, indeed. Well, of course “Murphy” stands for an event, that is highly unlikely, but it tends to happen from time to time. Murphy’s law.
The great powers mustn’t fight against each other. This is an agreement between them, to preserve humankind. If it would come to a battle between Russia and the USA. Or USA and China, then the world would end. Not immediately, but after a certain period of fighting and mass dying across the world. So, it mustn’t happen. This fact is used by both, all over the world in the last decades, to simply put troops somewhere and when the troops are there, the other side can’t directly do nothing against it, without triggering WW3. See the American troops in Syria, Kosovo etc.
I will call this game “Chicken”.
Ukraine is a core interest of Russia. Russia would end the world, if needed, to free Ukraine from the West. This is well known and communicated. That’s why all Western powers evacuated Ukraine before the war started. “Chicken” didn’t apply here.
Well, my 10% for a SHTF scenario is reserved for the reappearance of the Chicken. Russia in theory has all the time of the world, to do its job in Ukraine. There are some constrictions. The longer the war goes, the more lunatics in the West coming out of their holes and starting to demand boots on the ground and similar stuff. For now, no-one listening to them. But if this goes on for another year, the situation could change. Either the Americans or the Poles or both could decide to play “Chicken”. The Poles and Americans could go into Lvov and dare Russia to attack them. This is internationally a bad situation for Russia, because in this case Russia would attack first some NATO members. In the end it doesn’t matter because everyone would die 😊
The second Chicken could be played in Odessa. The American 101st could move swiftly into Odessa. Not for fighting. Everyone knows that this is a light formation, that couldn’t fight an armoured war. Scott Ritter explained it in detail. No. They would move in to play “Chicken”. Odessa is the crown-jewel of Russia. Russia won’t fight in Odessa. It will need to be handed over to Russia after the whole Ukrainian army is dead or surrenders. If the Americans move in, just to play “Chicken”, that would create indeed an impossible situation. Small spoiler… The end of the world. But before the end of the world happen, Russia would try to destroy all American troops that are stationed world-wide within the range of its stand-off weapons. And there are a lot, that are totally unprotected, everywhere… Hundreds of thousands. To force the Americans out of Odessa. After they are dead, the rest of the world would also follow.
You understand now, why I give this scenario 10%? It is an absolutely “Murphy”.
Well, Artemovsk is indeed the total manifestation of my described scenario from this analysis. Indeed, I had a slightly deviated view. My assumption was that Russia will use the whole line of contact in Donbass as “meatgrinder” the ground down Ukrainian reserves. In fact, General Surovikin decided to reduce it to only one town. To Artemovsk.
Ukraine mustn’t lose this town for several reasons, that I will discuss in the next chapter. To hold the town, Ukraine is now feeding in it everything it has. Material and men.
General Surovikin announced in one of his two interviews, that he will grind the Ukrainians down, without putting his own troops into unnecessary high risks. Artemovsk is, as already stated the perfect place. It is strategically important, to keep on holding the rest of Donbass. It is in a very favourable position for the Russian artillery and Air Force. Russia has air dominance over Artemovsk and very short supply lines for all logistical needs, such as artillery shells and other things.
Ukraine has the absolute opposite situation in Artemovsk. Almost all disadvantages, one could have in a war. It is the perfect place to bury Ukraine’s army. Slightly a sad situation if one thinks about it.
In fact, the Ukrainians keep plugging holes in their human shield line with everything it has. With their most professional troops and down to freshly recruited and untrained people. Everyone gets sent to Artemovsk and has a live expectancy of several hours to a few days.
Remember. A country without an army is defeated, since the enemy can walk straight through it without a big fight, apart from a few partisans. This is the goal of General Surovikin. Trigger this collapse as efficient as possible. This is an industrial destruction of an army. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to trigger a total collapse. As long as Ukraine can keep up recruiting people, these people can be sent to the slaughter. And since this recruitment and enforcement is managed by Western powers, this could potentially keep up for many months to come. Which is a tragedy for Ukraine, since it could lose all able-bodied men in the process.
Why is this industrial destruction of their own people working so good for Ukraine? Because they have perfectly established supply and logistics lines to Artemovsk. To end this madness earlier, another front will need to be opened, where Ukraine has almost no defences and logistics established. This would be needed, to trigger a large-scale collapse of the whole country. But I’ll come later to that.
Why is Ukraine holding on to such a madness, even though everyone knows exactly, that this is a well-prepared death trap, by the Russians? Well, to be honest. I don’t know. That’s why I will offer a few assumptions as bullet points:
Blackmailing the West (less likely):
There are plenty of forces in the West, that wants to directly intervene in the war, since they see the soon defeat of Ukraine. They could potentially work with the Ukrainian command, to show to the decision makers, that it will soon be all over, the whole foothold in Russia’s doorstep, if the West doesn’t intervene with boots on the ground. By disposing its whole armed forces in Artemovsk, this could be accelerated.
Delaying Russian plans for a larger winter offensive (less likely):
There could be some known plans, when and where Russia could start its winter offensive. It could be potentially linked to the capturing of Artemovsk. By denying Russia to capture Artemovsk within the known timeframe, Ukraine could try to avert or delay such an offensive as long as possible. If the ground starts to soften up again, an offensive will be much less effective then when the ground is frozen.
Disposing of Ukraine’s human potential (Middle to highly likely):
Every dead Ukrainian and Russian is a win for the West. The West is not there to defend Ukraine but to defeat Russia. It is very clear that Ukraine will fall and that all human potential in Ukraine will be a future Russian potential and a solider in Russia’s army. Therefore, the West is doing everything it can to bring as much harm to Russian/Ukrainian people, infrastructure, industry and economics as possible. Moreover, every dead Ukrainian is another family that will hate Russia for decades. That’s why President Putin wanted to solve this with a SMO. To avoid this scenario. It isn’t avoidable anymore. From a strategic point of view, this is acceptable. In some decades the people will be reconciled. But it is still a disaster. See my full analysis of this topic here.
Keeping Western support up (highly likely):
The Western support will crumble and stop as soon Ukraine is starting to strategically lose ground. Which means, when Ukraine loses the Donbass, it will lose the international support as well. Artemovsk is the key to free Donbass. Like Popasnaya was for Lugansk. Indeed, Russia had another option as well, from the north. But for the time being this option has ceased, because of the loss of Krasny Lyman. Hence, Ukraine would do everything it can, to avoid Artemovsk from falling.
Keeping the moral up (highly likely):
If Artemovsk, and subsequently the Donbass, falls, this could trigger a total collapse of Ukrainian armed forces and consequently of Ukraine as a whole. To avoid this scenario as long as possible, Artemovsk needs to be kept.
I personally think that the reality lays somewhere between all these options.
Russia could take Artemovsk any time
Having analysed the battle for Lugansk I would say that Russia did have all the time the ability to take Artemovsk. Russia hasn’t done it intentionally. There are two reasons:
General Surovikin needs his meatgrinder, to bury the Ukrainian army in this town.
It would be too early. The town is the key to Donbass. If the Russians would have taken it earlier, they wouldn’t have the forces in place to sustain it and to keep on pushing deep into the enemy’s rear, which they would need to do. To exploit the capture of this city. Now, when the mobilised troops are pouring in and getting ready, the time has come to end this madness. When will it fall? It will fall short before the mobilised shock army is ready. There is an exact sequence of events that will need to be triggered for the endgame.
Russia is heavily relying on its flamethrowers to capture towns. This is what my analysis of the Lugansk campaign brought up. Both, TOS systems and man portable flamethrowers, just like the RPO-Shmel system.
Now when Russia is closing in the city to envelop it and to prepare the storming, I see ever more reports of the usage of these systems. Note à Russian advances in towns are always accompanied by reports of TOS and RPO systems.
I pointed it out already, above. But here the summary. Russia will take the town a few days before the main mobilised shock divisions are ready. When will it be? I don’t know. There are reports that suggesting somewhere between January and April 2023. From Artemovsk the troops can spread into the rear of the Ukrainian army. The big question remains, whether Russia will take Lyman back until then, to have another fist from the north in the direction of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk or not.
Until then, there will be thousands, or even tens of thousands more dead Ukrainians, to be buried in Artemovsk.
Neither side will negotiate anything in this war. It is an all-out war to determine whether the West can remain the dominating power in the world or not. If it shows that it can dictate its terms even to Russia, then the other powers will fold. If not, then the West will go down. So, there is nothing to be negotiated about. From neither side.
Yes, there are calls, from time to time, from both sides for negotiations. But these calls are only for the public opinion. To show goodwill. There might even be some negotiations at some point in time. But they will be only for show for the public. They won’t be real. I won’t go here into big explanations. This war will either be concluded in Lvov or in a nuclear war in case of Russia’s defeat. Which is impossible.
Thanks for reading Black Mountain Analysis! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Who is winning?
I think this is a question, that is very important. Russia is winning big time, right? Ukraine is short of collapsing. The West is demilitarizing itself etc.
Great. Isn’t it? No, not really.
Russia will take Ukraine back into its sphere of influence. Most likely Ukraine will be split up into several parts and many of them will be annexed, whereas other parts will become puppet states in Moscow’s orbit. To avoid, that they ever again become a platform for future aggression against Russia.
What will Russia get actually? A destroyed country, that can’t survive any longer without external help. It will be depopulated. Most able-bodied men will be dead and the young women will be absorbed by Europe, because Europe needs such people. There will be plenty of old people left. The people that are left will hate Russia for a few generations.
Note, Ukraine is Russia. Russia is destroying itself. It is a civil war, fired up by the West.
The set of objectives by the West and by Russia is multi-dimensional. If the West can’t achieve its primary goals, splitting up Russia by a coup and take over its many successor states, to exploit its resources, then the strategy of scorched earth applies. Read here for details.
Russia will inherit a mess, that will take several decades until it is up again. In other words, it will be a burden for Russia in a time, where the global spheres of influence will be decided upon. The multipolarity.
So, who is winning?
I could write a whole book about this question. As mentioned above, there is a whole set of objectives by both sides. And both sides are winning and losing at the same time, big time. It depends on which objective you pick. The important thing is, that the resulting vector of all objectives is, let’s say, stronger, then the one of the opponent side. Which one is stronger? Russia’s? The West’s? I would argue, that both sides are losing a lot. Maybe Russia wins slightly more, or not. But there is a third side, that is winning big time, during the struggle between the West and Russia. Guess which one…
How could Russia conclude the war?
How could this war be concluded? How will it proceed? I don’t know. But again, I will try to offer some of my assumptions. Moreover, I would be very surprised if I would see some deep penetration offensives any time soon. I’m not excluding them, but for the time being they are simply impossible. Why? For such operations one needs enormous logistics capabilities. Russia has them, but not in place. Neither in the Donbass nor in Belarus. This could change of course and I will observe the situation further on. But for now, it is impossible. So, what could happen?
In any case we can observe currently, that General Surovikin is doing three things:
Consolidating favourable ground and fortifying it.
Going on some parts of the frontline into slow offensive moves, to keep up the pressure at the enemy and pinning it down at many different locations, to put stress on his logistics.
Doing this, he is buying time, for the main shock army, to be organised and trained for the future objectives.
These future objectives could potentially be one or more of the following:
Grinding down the Ukrainian army in Donbass alone:
The strategy could be, to fight the Ukrainians, where it is the most favourable place for the Russians and at the same time the most unfavourable, for the Ukrainians. Hoping to exhaust the enemy and triggering a collapse when it bleeds conclusively out.
Opening another front in Sumy:
Russia could want to speed the Ukrainian collapse up, by opening another large frontline at a place, where it has almost no logistical access. A good point for this would be Sumy. It is still near enough to the Russian supply lines and the Russian air power. But it is very hard to be sustained by the Ukrainians. It would be another grinding operation, similar to Artemovsk.
Potentially, it would be realistically to achieve already now, with the logistics in place. But I’m not sure. But if the mobilised troops will arrive in April, for example, then there is plenty of time left, to bring in all the logistics equipment and troops.
Delivering a decisive strike by striking on Kiev:
There is also the possibility, that Russia would seek to take over Kiev, or at least, to totally encircle it and force its surrender, to conclude this war. Some voices are thinking the 15 divisions, that are currently being trained, could be used in total, for this operation. Here the Russians would need to organise an insane logistical effort, to make this possible. There are not even remotely enough tankers etc. in Belarus, that would be needed for such an operation.
We will see. If the training of the shock troops takes another few months, then there is, as mentioned above, more then enough time, to bring in the required logistics.
After having grinned down the most capable Ukrainian troops and their equipment in Kherson and Artemovsk, such an operation would be realistically, with some 200.000 troops.
In fact, everything happening in Donbass and elsewhere would be only a big holding, pinning and grinding operation, to prepare this conclusive strike on Kiev.
Cutting off Western Ukraine by attacking Lvov from Belarus:
I won’t do another big explanation, since it would be very similar to the Kiev operation.
I won’t assign any probabilities, to the scenarios, mentioned above. Why? I absolutely don’t know what will happen. I would argue that the Russian’s are applying a masterpiece of deception, for the usage of their mobilised troops. Even the West and the Ukrainians seems to go totally nuts about, what will happen…
I will try to explain the SMO with a little role play. Of course, it didn’t happen that way, I made up this story, just for explanation reasons.
Putin one day gathered his security council and said, that he is willing, to free Ukraine from the Western grip. He pointed out his requirements and asked the attendees to design a plan, how to achieve it. His requirements were the following:
Kill as few Ukrainians, both, military and civilians, as possible. They are brothers.
Destroy as less industry and infrastructure as possible. It will be ours.
Try to avoid losses on our side. The people will demand for blood or for political consequences if we lose too many troops.
Follow all rules of war.
Make a legal case for the invasion. We mustn’t look bad before our future allies.
Prepare our economy for the sanctions storm, that will follow.
Try not to destroy Europe economically. We will need them for trade in the future when they are free from the US.
Don’t kill Ukrainian politicians and decision makers, if not needed.
Try to do it quick.
Prepare for all scenarios, even for a long war.
Treat Ukrainian POWs with respect and according to international law.
If we need to fight a long war, make sure, that the West spend all its weapons and resources into Ukraine. It will be weak afterwards and we will be strong.
Make sure, that the BRICS states are involved and supporting us.
Make sure, the West will be divided.
The result of this operation should not only a Ukrainian defeat, but the signing of the new draft treaty for European security, that we worked out recently.
Well, I’m sure, there were some more requirements. But that’s the few, I could think off now.
Nikolai Patrushev took the challenge and worked a planned out. He involved the most important people from the security council. Then he called President Putin and said, he wants to announce the plan, how to fulfil the requirements. He presented a plan, that was called “Special military operation”. SMO.
Mission (almost) impossible. And it is succeeding.
Bonus chapter: Casualties math!
I wrote at another place a few months ago a piece, that many people considered as interesting. So, I will simply repost it here. Here we go:
Let’s assume a kill/death ratio of 1:8 between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers. This is a far accepted figure. This means, that for every dead Russian solider Ukraine is losing eight.
Moreover, we can assume that Russia will this war totally. Which means in turn, that ALL Ukrainian soldiers will either die, being taken prisoner or being severely wounded.
Russia in turn will not lose all soldiers, but only the amount of the Ukrainians divided by eight.
This brings us to the following conclusion:
Every Ukrainian soldier can be sure, that he will either die or be severely wounded. But he has a chance of 12,5% to kill or wound a Russian solider, before he dies or gets severely wounded. In other words, we can say that every Ukrainian solider will kill/wound in average some 0.125 Russians before being killed or wounded.
Well… Merry Christmas.
Thanks for reading Black Mountain Analysis! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.