A NATO Win
While a predicable move, Russia’s withdrawal of Kherson was monumental.
Intelligence and reports indicated Ukraine was maneuvering approximately 45,000 troops against approximately 25,000 Russian troops positioned on Kherson’s eastern side. Russia’s decision to withdraw and reposition its forces on the western side of the city was not a new idea. It was one that was considered by Surovikin immediately upon his appointment as Commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine.
Nonetheless, to describe the withdrawal as anything but a Colossal Military Disaster would be a mistake. As Churchill said after Dunkirk, “the rescue must not blind us to the fact that what has happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster. Wars are not won by evacuations.”
Ukraine’s counteroffensive that led to its push into Kherson reaps many rewards, including the International Airport where Russian forces has established as a base of operations in and around the area. While Russia is dug in on the western side of the city, there are many open areas leading to it, moreover difficult terrain to maneuver in.
In the withdrawal, satellite imagery showed that Russian forces destroyed the Antonivsky, Nova Kakhovka, and Darivka Bridges.
It is quite clear to the conscious observer that the repositioning is a strategic move in more ways than one. Besides a positional consideration, the move appears to be a prelude to the expected Russian spring offensive.
On the NATO end—when I refer to NATO I include Ukraine, as the war has fully placed them within the military organization, at least for the time being—the pressure they exerted on Kherson was a good move. Looking at it in hindsight, which is always easier, of course, putting pressure on Kherson is part of their overall military campaign.
Why Russian Armed Forces didn’t see the move is hard to fathom. I have to admit, I didn’t even start paying full attention to the war until the Ukraine offensive against the Kharkov Oblast, but then again, I’m not engaged in a war. For the Russian Generalship to not see NATO’s movements coming is atrocious.
At the conclusion of this blog, I will offer full analysis of NATO’s movements.
As for Kherson, estimated Ukrainian deaths in taking the city have been heavy, upwards of 10,000. Russian loses, despite the inflated western and Ukrainian reports, are reported at 3,000 to 4,000. And Ukraine seems to be easing into Kherson, showing wise caution, watchful that the Russian pullback isn’t leading them into a battlefield noose that will invite more death.
It appears Russia believes Bakhmut is the linchpin to the Ukrainian defense in the Donbas. It is also a vital strategic area to balance the fluid forward line. The objective of subjecting Bakhmut is the possibility of using it as a spin wheel to launch a northern counteroffensive to retake Kharkov. This is what has led to the congestion in and around the Donbas. While there are certainly good reasons for Russia’s concentrated attack on Bakhmut that cannot possibly be observed simply by looking at a war map, nonetheless, smoothing the lines is a good idea. Why Russia is not using a more northerly route to extend the flank around the Donbas is most likely because of the concentration and line of contact they want to maintain with the Crimea.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan made a surprise visit last week to Kyiv. He seemed to be pushing for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. According to Gerashchenko’s tweet, here is what the result was.
According to President
, conditions for peace negotiations with Russia are the following: 1. Restoring territorial integrity 2. Respecting UN Statute 3. Paying off all damages caused by war 4. Punishing each war criminal 5. Guarantees this won’t happen again
Russia, in its new, hardened state of mind, will never agree to these terms. Unless NATO instructs Zelenskyy to compromise, there is no possible peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Common Sense Analysis
If you observe an interactive battlefield map of the conflict, you will see NATO’s orchestrated movements for Ukraine have been concentrated in the Kharkov Oblast, extending south to Izium and Lyman, and in the southern region east of Kherson. These are good, solid military moves, even as they are obvious attempts to flatten the flanks. While reports indicate that there is still activity east of Masiutivka, I don’t foresee further push east by NATO as such a move would allow plenty of counteroffensive opportunity. For now, the idea behind NATO’s movements seem to be to flatten the lines before winter.
On Russia’s side, their movements have been haphazard and disorganized. Although Surovikin has not been the commander for very long, he seems to be convinced that by pulling back from the south (Kherson) it allows for equal play for any coming offenses, as I stated earlier. Playing it safe and digging in at the Kherson Oblast (east of Kherson) falls along the political lines that the Russian Government has stated. But it doesn’t sit well as a military move and reports seem to suggest there is a growing divide in Russia between the political moves that have dictated Russia’s war stance thus far, and turning the campaign into a full-scale war. Alexander Dugin recent comments have gone on to suggest that Surovikin is not happy about the ordered Kherson withdrawal, and that Russian ideology defines Russia’s responsibility to defend “Russian cities, including Kherson and Donetsk.
As for the recent Russian mobilization of 300,000, they are sure to play a big part in any future Russian offensive campaigns.
Total casualties for the war are unable to be completely verified. My estimates are 100,000 Ukrainian casualties and 80,000 Russian.
I will continue to declare, without compunction, that the military equation in Ukraine is an unwinnable calculation for the western forces.
NATO and the US cannot win this war.
Photos: Dmitry Stepanov, Robert Anasch