Tuesday, 8 November 2022 — The van says…
It is Russia’s sails that are full of wind, yet as this article explores, there are very stormy seas ahead for Ukrainian forces near Kherson.
the Western headlines and you will be told that vast Ukrainian forces are massing in the Kherson region to smash through Russian defenses before moving on to retake Crimea. The front page in Russia tells us that the city is being evacuated prior to a big push by Moscow’s men before moving further westwards. This article will take a brief look at the situation, what it means and where it might all lead.
Head to Head
As the headlines from the East and West conflict each other, two large military forces are facing off before a huge battle ensues in the Kherson region. One could be forgiven for thinking that this confrontation is merely to gain control of the region, (which ultimately it is) yet the crux of the matter is that each formation is where it is for very different reasons.
A People Purpose
Before examining the implications of the conflict proper, we first have to look at the evacuation of civilians from the region. This has been painted as a retreat by the Ukrainians and their Western sponsors, yet the Kremlin is very conscious of both the upcoming battle as well as the weather. Russia wishes to conduct the assault when conditions are most favorable for its operations, yet to do so, this is best carried out during winter when its soldiers can use their better equipment to the best advantage. The flip side of this is that it is during winter when civilians are most susceptible not only to the ravages of war, but also the loss of utilities. It is for this very reason that a key part of Moscow’s preparations for this stage of the conflict involve removing all non-essential civilians from the area.
For all the weapons, money and other materials going into the Ukraine, little or no good news is coming out. A proxy war that is quite literally a prelude to the Third World War without there officially being Western boots on the ground has yielded shocking results for both those backing the conflict as well as those doing the actual fighting. In light of this, both the US government as well as Kiev need a victory to paint on the front pages of the Western press. With Crimea being at the forefront of Ukrainian dreams, the Kherson region is effectively one of the gateways to the peninsula. With the situation on the ground being what it is, common sense dictates that if Russia is to be beaten, heading in this direction is the best option.
Road to Nowhere
To that end, the Ukrainian military has husbanded all the resources it can to face off against Russia in this region, yet with no regard for the realities of what would face it were Kiev to achieve a miraculous breakthrough at Kherson. Not only does Russia have the equipment, it has the depth and air superiority that would be the death-knell of an advance. Any Ukrainian spearhead attempting to advance into what is today Russian-held territory would immediately be flanked, men and machines chasing a Crimean dream, but facing a Russian nightmare.
Quite what Russia’s final plans are remain a closely-guarded secret, yet as this article pointed out, it is only logical that Moscow pushes to Odessa and then onto the Transnistrian border with Moldova. Not only will this bring the Kremlin’s presumed plans to fruition, it will also deny Kiev access to the Black Sea. This effectively denies the Ukraine a navy, but prevents any vessels outside of Russian control docking in the country.
Friends and Foes from Afar
As we look towards Russian intentions to the west of Kherson, it cannot be forgotten that NATO and its allies are now massing some eighty thousand troops within their eastern reaches. This, being outside of the Ukraine currently has no real bearing on the matter in hand, yet the outcome of affairs in Kherson as well as Russians coming closer to Romania and Moldova may have one of two results.
Should the West consider advancing Russians as an imminent threat, it may launch a pre-emptive strike across the Ukrainian border. However, if Moscow and Washington have already established a tacit agreement regarding where Russian forces will stop, Kiev’s defeat in Kherson may be the point when at least in private, Western commanders give up all hope on a now-lost cause.
The Kherson Kingpin
This brings us to the crux of the matter. We have two opposing forces with two very different raisons d’être, with one having only one goal, the other, two.
No Push for a Push
Russia on one hand needs to break through the massed Ukrainian forces in order to proceed westwards towards Odessa. There is no immediate hurry however; the more that Moscow plays for time, the greater advantage the winter will give it over poorly-equipped Ukrainian forces.
On the other hand, both Zelenskiy and his transatlantic masters need something good to come of their efforts after investing so much in an operation that becomes more desperate by the day. Against daily losses of troops and equipment, Zelenskiy’s position and politics become more precarious by the day, this all happening at the same time as Biden’s post-midterm decisions regarding Eastern Europe will be overshadowed by Ukrainian fortunes.
Two armies in one place are preparing to fight, but for two completely different objectives. As winter comes, a war in the cold will be the latest phase in the new Cold War, the heat of battle seeing one force attempting to move forward whilst the other does not get pushed backwards.
For the Ukraine this will be its most critical confrontation to date. Should it resist Russia, it will to a small degree justify the huge efforts made by its sponsors; should it fail, the fact that so much has been invested for zero return may well see its backers turning their back on a former useful idiot.
For Russia, things are very different. Moscow’s first priority has been to ensure that a victory in Kherson does not mean that the civilians of the area are amongst the inevitable casualties a battle such as this will cause. Once the region has been prepared, victory will be the key to open the road towards Odessa (or wherever the Kremlin chooses to go), yet with this triumph, the options close, not only for Kiev and Washington, but for every nation that has attempted to stymie Moscow all the while.
After fortunes have been spent, it is the fortunes of the war in the Ukraine that will go down in the history books. Those books will be written once this war is over, yet a Russian triumph through a Ukrainian defeat at Kherson may for the West be the last chapter before the next tale opens in Taiwan…
One thought on “The Kherson Kingpin”
As many people now realise, that short of either a direct intervention of very large numbers of NATO forces into Ukraine, or a NATO nuclear strike, that Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine.
If the former, then it could mean a direct clash between NATO and Russian forces which could then lead to the latter – a nuclear strike by NATO.
If Russia can handle Ukraine’s full military might after 8 years of NATO training and equipping – with just a small part of its military helping the Donbas militia, then imagine what it can do with another 300,000 men. It already has superior missiles, air defence and overall nuclear strength – is the west going to be stupid enough to try and defeat it?
Either move by NATO will be potentially suicidal for NATO and the west.
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