Almost two months after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are facing a new phase of the war. The first ended in tremendous failure for Russia unable to achieve its three primary objectives: the fall of the Zelensky government, prevent the enlargement of NATO and control of Donbass. Russia never considered a long and painful siege to take the capital, and when he realized that the resistance was going to be epic, he decided to vary the objectives so as not to die at the gates of kyiv. Also for this strategy she needed Minsk; but Belarus barely has military capacity and its president concluded that this war could end his dictatorship that has lasted almost thirty years, for which he gave Putin a “Hendaya”.
Now it’s about controlling the east of the Dnieper and reduce Ukraine to a failed state by plundering large agricultural and mining areas. Reducing the invasion only to the Donbass regions would leave them in a very weak tactical situation vis-à-vis Ukraine and condemn Crimea to run out of drinking water.
However, this new phase will also fail, despite the fact that it will be long in time and painful in terms of the destruction and death that it will leave behind. These will be Putin’s inevitable mistakes that will lead him to rethink operations in a few months to the point of considering a minimal peace.
Russian troops are exhausted after months of deployments and operations with low morale. The sinking of the flagship of the Black Sea fleet is above all a warning of the war capacity of Ukraine, which still has missile launchers, radars, and light weapons. Placing the Navy within range of Ukrainian missiles is a mistake admirals were executed for not long ago.
A frontal attack on the eastern plains will be an ordeal for Russia, which will only have the recourse to destroy the cities without thereby obtaining any tactical advantage. An operation like the one proposed by Russia should be a combination of air and artillery fire for weeks to destroy the Ukrainian positions and then launch the tanks and infantry, but Ukraine defends itself with high mobility and little infrastructure to destroy. Going into the plains may be the end of the Russian armored divisions. Moving across a plateau 600 kilometers wide and 300 kilometers deep is a very complicated operation that will require thousands of platforms and hundreds of thousands of men that we already know Russia does not have.
The poor logistics will be accentuated in this phase. General Bradley’s phrase that “amateurs talk about strategy and professionals talk about logistics” is famous. This has undoubtedly been the Russian Achilles’ Heel. Its powerful combat weapons with flat tires for days, the use of civilian trucks with no capacity off the road; the absence of recovery tanks and sappers, the lack of fuel and ammunition in the front lines, are inexcusable deficiencies in an invasion. The ability to repair damaged vehicles on the second line has been null, and the most serious error is that the depots that must support the operations cannot be more than two hundred kilometers from the front; that is, logistics advances with the army; it is impossible to launch an operation in Ukraine with the exclusive support of Russia. The vulnerability of these displacements threatens to drastically cut supply lines and in the case of the offensive in the East, these problems will be multiplied by ten. Let us remember that it was Eisenhower who stopped Patton in his accelerated march towards Paris, so as not to move away from his supply lines, which would have led to a very complicated situation for the allied troops. Russia has neither the doctrine nor the capacity to enter Ukrainian territory under these conditions.
Russia has despised the time factor, considering that it played in his favor. He kept his troops around Ukraine for months, allowing the country to be prepared for invasion. In those weeks between November and February, Ukraine received fuel, ammunition, put its factories in a safe place, and began to receive military equipment. In these two months of military failure, Russia has allowed Ukraine to receive not only rocket launchers and small arms, but also a wide range of equipment, while it has been unable to cut off the internet and telephony in the country, also losing the battle of communication. In these two months Ukraine has balanced the balance, although it has a tremendous handicap, the absence of air means; however, its anti-aircraft defense capacity largely compensates for this lack.
Russia has shown a great technological backwardness in their systems. Planes and helicopters don’t go out to avoid short-range missiles; They have had to remove their fundamental naval units to support operations on the coast from the range of action of the missiles, losing an immense capacity for fire, protection and direction of their air units, which are now blinded. Its weapons systems are outdated and lack capabilities that the West has supplied for decades. It maintains great firepower, but is unable to bring it to the front lines and create a tactical advantage.
The Russian offensive in the East will require a very wide and deep front in which he must take cities like Kharkov, Dniepetrovsk with a million inhabitants, Zaporiya with 716,000 and at least ten other cities with more than two hundred thousand inhabitants. In other words, we will see the images of Mariupol repeated on several occasions. Civilian deaths from the eastern offensive will exceed one hundred thousand and Russia could suffer tens of thousands of casualties. They no longer have the protection of the marshes of southern Belarus and northern Ukraine; The Russian troops will have to move in the open field, and the only option for this to be successful is by destroying everything that is in front of their lines with strategic aviation of low precision and great destructive capacity, and the powerful Russian artillery, with the risks of this exposure.
Sanctions in the event of a long war they will begin to cause enormous economic and moral damage to the Russian population. The shortage begins to be the general tonic; the distribution of food and essential products is very limited; prices have doubled and there are significant shortages of gasoline and cash; companies have run out of liquidity and the financial system is blocked; unpaid wages grow at a rate of 50% weekly. The resources for the war are scarce and already come from cuts in public salaries, health and education. Russia does not have the funds to sustain more than six months of war except for a total intervention of the means of production, that is, more misery. There is no money to replenish material, nor to replace troops, and in a month public salaries cannot be paid. Russia begins to feel that they are at war and not in a military-technical operation.
Ukraine no longer aspires to a peace for territories in the East. For the first time, he believes in the possibility of recovering what was lost in 2014 realizing that Russia was a giant that continues to have feet of clay now that it is not. Putin would only have the use of nuclear weapons, but what would be the benefit afterwards? He could not even sustain a real occupation of a country of 600,000 square kilometers.
However, Ukraine still needs a lot to be able to reverse what is coming its way; it needs more air defense, depth artillery, rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles, drones and light weapons. If the supply does not stop, which does not seem possible today as Russia abandons operations in the west, Ukraine could inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian army in the plains east of the Dnieper.
Even in the hypothetical case that Russia occupied the East, not only would it not have achieved any initial objective, but would have the Ukraine of kyiv joining NATO, just like Finland and Sweden, and will be able to do nothing but expose their nuclear bravado. A Ukraine in the Atlantic Alliance with Odessa as a naval base would be a horrific scenario for Russia’s security in the Black Sea.
Russia has invested in a great showcase of weapons but has forgotten the day to day, the strategy, the spare parts, and in general all that military spending that does not dazzle but that differentiates the powerful armies from those of parade, corruption and industry nepotism.