Friday, 11 November 2022 — The van says…
It was a big step to take back from Kherson, yet where does that leave Russia?
After the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, many are asking what Russia’s next step may be. This post needs not look at the withdrawal, the focus being on certain factors which were either underestimated or simply not considered by military leaders in Moscow in the earlier phases in the war. Today we will look at the overall situation as is and tomorrow’s article shall examine some of the options and possibilities as we look to the future.
With Sergei Surovikin now being the overall commander of the operation, there is now one general overseeing the operation, rather than a number of officers controlling the various facets of the conflict as was the case before. Surovikin has previous experience in Syria, yet his reputation for getting the job done will be put to the test as he faces the challenges ahead of him. With that, there are some very serious hurdles in his path; not only does he have to overcome the disappointment of Kherson, but the operation has to be set on a course where the Kremlin’s goals are attained.
Across the Divide
Russia’s troops regrouping from Kherson means that with them having the Dnieper river between them and the Ukrainians, the water will to a degree provide defense rather than a natural barrier to logistics as it did before. That said, plans on the western bank will already have been laid for guerrilla raids across the water. The Ukrainian Air Force is all but gone, this meaning that attacks such as these are the only manner in which Kiev can hope to move troops forward. It goes without saying that there will be constant artillery exchanges between the two opposing forces, and in all probability, Ukrainian forces will attempt to shell Russian positions from the protection of the city itself, using those civilians who chose to remain as a human shield.
Now that the pressure has to a degree been removed from Russian assets on the Dnieper, those resources can be used to reinforce efforts elsewhere along the front. Men and machines that were previously tied up in the difficult defense of Kherson are now free to be deployed elsewhere, the region near Donetsk urgently needing to see Ukrainian forces pushed westwards.
As with any war, the figures being quoted by sources can be wildly inaccurate, yet we can be certain that there are tens of thousands of ‘mercenaries’ in the Ukraine today, yet that number in itself begs some very searching questions. One figure that has been seen on numerous occasions is that of around ninety thousand of these individuals being in the Kherson region alone. We have all seen the heroes of TikTok and Instagram parading around looking for blondes and likes in equal measure, but remembering that the British Army only has around eighty thousand men its ranks, there simply cannot be more mavericks in the Ukraine than there are troops in the UK.
It is now common knowledge that Western nations have troops on the ground. Their roles range from operating Western equipment to command roles to actually being on the ground in the war zones. This was a factor that Moscow is now only waking up to, Washington and its allies being as active on the ground in the Ukraine as they have been on the world stage in their efforts to keep the war going.
Cash is King
Most will be aware of the fiscal challenges facing the globe as we move into a recession, but one industry that is booming is the Western arms and transportation businesses. The last few months have seen nations racing each other to empty their arsenals, they now reaching the point where in terms of arms and munitions, there is little else to give. Notwithstanding that, certain sectors of the arms industry have moved into high gear, not only to keep the Ukrainian cannon fodder fighting Washington’s war, but also to replenish now depleted Western stocks.
On the Tick
Recent pledges by Brussels to give the Ukrainian government around eighteen billion euros in 2023 has caused a flurry of comments, yet what was not initially made clear was this is in the form of loans and not just handouts. Just as with most of the aid that Western leaders have pledged to Kiev, in theory, the assistance is rendered has at some stage got to be repaid. This may dispel some of the criticism that has been leveled regarding the ‘generosity’ of certain nations, yet this is done in the full knowledge that in all probability, Kiev will ever be able to return even one dime to its benefactors.
The Ukraine, even prior to Maidan, was a country that simply could not make ends meet. Constant assistance from the IMF and others was formerly veiled as aid to the country as it apparently transitioned to the Western economic model, yet the fact remains that largely through corruption, the country was being swept out of its depth by the currents of a free market economy long before it began the coup. After the 2014, the situation obviously worsened considerably, yet after this point, monies aid be given under the auspices of fighting a phantom Russian menace. Fast forward to today, and ever-greater sums of money are being ‘loaned’ to Kiev in the full knowledge that it will never have any means in which to repay them.
The Clock is Ticking
Many of the criticisms regarding endless Western pledges are based upon the fact that the national economies that support Kiev are wilting as a result of both international political decisions as well as a recession that has been looming for years. The economic downturn in its broader sense has less to do with happenings in Eastern Europe, but as budgets tighten, donors to the Ukrainian cause are loosening the purse strings, more money going to Kiev whilst Western European citizens begin to feel the pinch. Quite how long governments and leaders will be able to fund overseas adventures at the expense of their own peoples remains to be seen, yet much to the chagrin of the Atlanticists, it clearly cannot continue forever.
After stepping back, Moscow must now decide how it will again go forward. With a new leader controlling operations and a better understanding of how this war is being controlled by the West, Surovikin, just like Moscow, will have to adapt his plans to take the greatest advantage of the larger situation.
In spite of the ongoing war, this is just as much an economic conflict as a bellicose one, the changes in the world at large being as important as those on the battlefield. With Russia having shown that lives mean more than land, we must now see how the relationship between finance and fighting develops in the future.
In short, as much as Russia needs to come away from this operation as a winner, Kiev and its backers are already going to any lengths they see fit to keep the conflict alive; Washington may have created a war in order to defeat Russia, yet anything other than an absolute win for its cause in the Ukraine will be a complete loss for the Western cause.
Tomorrow we will look at how the here and now will dictate the there and then, a hot war in Eastern Europe along with a Cold War between East and West shaping global prospects for decades to come…