A little over a month ago I warned in an article about a potential restarting of the Russia-Ukraine conflict way back on March 14th. The reason I have not been posting daily updates on this burgeoning confrontation is that although the chess pieces have been moving, the fighting has been somewhat subdued as the Western Christian holiday of Easter approached.
This does not mean that there will not be an all out war however.
The Russian military is spending tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars, relocating armor and infantry units not just with the Caucus to the Crimea, but from Murmansk, Central Asia, and the Siberian Republics into Rostov and areas along the northeastern border of Ukraine. The map below is but one of many demonstrating the great distances the Russian military is reallocating resources from and into the Eastern European theater.
This is not a normal “exercise” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is also not an indication that the long simmering conflict is about to go hot right away. The following information is purely speculative on my part as to how this conflict will unfold and why the 2021 Russo-Ukraine War will redefine Eastern Europe and NATO in the future.
I. The War Should Begin After May 10, 2021
Why after May 10th one might wonder. This is basically a simple calculation based on history and the current weather forecasts for the region. At the end of the winter in most of the Ukraine, conditions are fairly muddy with traction for wheeled and tracked vehicles are not prime for a rapid advance. By the first of May, the weather conditions should improve to a point where the ground will be dry and hardened enough for rapid maneuvers by large armored formations to make lightning fast moves to the rear in areas where Ukrainian forces may not be as well prepared for a full conflict with Russia.
There is a caveat however; if the United States continues its round the clock resupply of the Ukrainian military and the weather improves within the next ten days, then odds are the timetable will be accelerated and action could occur sooner. Hints of this possibility are starting to appear from Twitter accounts in the region reporting information like Mikhail D. did today:
As the information portrays, the blinding of Ukrainian and third party reconnaissance to the movements of Russian and Russian supported forces in the Donbass is well under way, hence the war could actually begin sooner if the Russian government feels it is advantageous.
II. The Original “Liberation” of the Donbass is No Longer the Goal
Vladimir Putin’s reign as Russia’s leader is winding down to a close. His age, health, and political abilities are starting to show weakness; an unacceptable point of contention for those powerful oligarchs and military leaders who are the backbone of his support. To demonstrate to the West and the Russian population a ‘war of liberation’ to protect the ethnically Russian citizenry in the Ukraine would be the ideal final statement of his regime and establish a historical legacy that he was the first (of many to come) leader in the modern era that put greater Russia ahead of globalist concerns. By divorcing from the European narrative and calls for peace and unity, Putin’s success in this conflict would make him a historical martyr to the average Russian and a villain in the West.
Needless to say the Ukrainian people will pay the price for not electing leaders that understand that what happened in Munich in 1938 is still applicable to global politics today.
III. How Russia Wins the War in Less than 60 Days
Way back in 2014, I published a speculative map of what a full blown invasion of the Ukrainian held Russian population areas might look like if Vladimir Putin decided to push the war to its ultimate end:
Thankfully, the conflict did not project to the point exhibited above which may well have caused full blown panic and an overreaction by NATO. Unfortunately, the current situation might be far worse for a weaker NATO and incompetent U.S. administration.
The situation just two weeks ago per the OSCE “Peacekeeping” monitors demonstrates that things are in a far more precarious position than Western media is allowing their people to see:
The numbers are far higher now, depending on which website, defense group, or other source one reviews as the information indicates that in excess of 210,000 troops are in position along the Ukrainian border; and that does not account for the increase in naval forces, Russian marines, and air groups relocated into the region.
Why do I fear this time it’s different and that a major conflict is imminent?
First, the Ukrainians are doing what any military commander would estimate and sending their forces in large quantities to the potential front lines of a Russian invasion. For example, per this Tweet (among many others):
I could act like others and post dozens of videos of Russian and Ukrainian trains moving tanks and logistics to forward areas, but their are literally hundreds of those from the last four weeks already posted. More importantly however is this story, via Interfax.ru (translation via Google):
Moscow. April 18th. INTERFAX.RU – Two more large landing ships (BDK) of the Russian Navy – “Kaliningrad” and “Korolev” on Saturday, having passed the Bosphorus, entered the Black Sea, the Istanbul sites, publishing photographs of their passage through the strait, reported.
According to them, the warships that are part of the Baltic Fleet are sent to Sevastopol.
Earlier on Saturday, after passing the Bosphorus, the BDK of the Northern Fleet of Russia “Alexander Otrakovsky” and “Kondopoga” entered the Black Sea.
On Saturday, the Russian Black Sea Fleet announced that 15 ships of the Caspian Flotilla were relocated to the Black Sea for exercises.
Exercises with a force like this?
For an “exercise” the Russian Navy has gone to great expense to relocate landing craft, gunboats, patrol boats, minesweepers and more from the Caspian Sea and Baltic fleets. This is not standard Russian military operating procedure nor is it something that Western governments are prepared for.
Thus what I think will be happening next will shock the West end with Putin cementing his legacy as Russia’s modern day iron fist. How will the battle progress? The following is an educated guess based on the modernization of Russian military strategy and theory.
1. An Unconventional Invasion in Every Way
This invasion will not occur according to the 1980’s, 1990’s, nor 2014 playbook that NATO nor our “military planners” perceive as the most likely course of action. This time the Russians will behave in a fashion learning from their mistakes in 2014, Syria, Afghanistan, and those errors made by the United States during the Second Iraq War invasion.
The targets will be different this time as well as the goals. This is my first estimation of Russian intentions:
The Russian use of three major airborne assault units in addition to an amphibious landing south and west of Odessa would be unheard of. However, the proposed use of large armored formations with air superiority being established on day one would not be. The Ukrainian military is expecting a massive attack from the Crimea and that initial attack will be what confuses and forces Kiev into a misstep which will end poorly for their forces.
2. Odessa Theater of Operations
Unlike the 2014 operation, the forces in Transnitria will play a key role in the invasion.
The use of their airborne shock troops will surprise everyone, including not just NATO, but the Ukrainian military. By dropping so far behind the primary Odessa amphibious assault the Ukrainians will think their is an alternative motive until they realize that by cutting off their northern supply lines by seizing Kurisove, Inovkva, and joining the forces dispatched from Tranistria around Znamianka, the prospects of resupply via land will be nil to none.
To the west of Odessa, I anticipate an armored regiment landing and in one day seizing the key roads near Ovidiopol and the bridge near Mayaki. To the east, look for a light armored group to land just west of Yuzhne and seizing control of all roads from the east, using the choke point to the south of Krasnoslika to set up a defensive position with assistance from naval forces to provide cover.
2. The Kherson Assault
The most intriguing aspect of what I anticipate will be the feint to the east using their heavy armor which will be used to envelope Mariupol and cut off thousands of Ukrainian soldiers. However, the airborne operations at the bridge near Kozats’ke will be the linchpin for the entire operation.
The bridges are sufficiently reinforced for rail and heavy armor and will enable a large armored group to cross and unite with the forces north of Odessa essentially destroying any reinforcements from reaching Kherson and Odessa. This will leave the Ukrainians in an extremely weakend position relative to their Black Sea ports, unable to be resupplied at sea nor launch any viable counterattacks against Russian forces in the region.
3. The Donestsk-Luhansk Bluff
While the western assault against Odessa and Kherson have NATO and Kyiv freaking out, the big bluff will be in the highly contested regions around Donetsk and Luhansk. The only offensive action that I anticipate is a major artillery dual followed by a breakout from the Rostov-On-Don forces to the west towards Melitopol to isolate Mariupol. This would leave large formations behind Russian lines but also isolated from resupply thus allowing air superiority plus control of the Sea of Azov to allow the Russians to cut them to pieces.
The keys will be to support the Crimean action from the rear by isolating and cutting off the Mariupol forces, perhaps even with a modest amphibious landing east of Yalta, but to get armored infantry and heavy units to the areas near Dnipro and Zaporizhia to support an airborne assault and seize important roads and bridgeheads. There is little doubt in this author’s mind that the Odessa, Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Dnipro Oblasts will be the primary targets for Russian ground operations, but the actions within Donetsk and Luhansk will lure the Ukrainians into death traps once air superiority has been established.
The small unit actions in Donetsk and Luhansk will paralyze the decision making process for the military leaders in Kyiv just long enough for the Russians to take advantage of the confusion. Once the airborne units take the bridgeheads out on the western banks of the Dneiper, the war will be almost over other than mopping up resistance in those major cities. A daunting prospect at best.
4. The Spearhead that Terrifies Kyiv
IF anyone were to invade the United States, what target would terrify the people the most? Ask the British during the War of 1812. Even though the redcoats were able to torch the American capital city, in reality it was more of a move to terrorize the former colonists into surrender than actual an actual military target.
Now imagine three Russian armored brigades supported by mobile infantry and artillery heading towards Kyiv; would the Ukrainian military move all their resources to defending the capital city or would they pursue actions to repulse the Russian forces in the South from achieving key strategic victories which would isolate the majority of their military.
An attack as pictured above would take approximately 70,000 troops plus large armored formations to smash the Ukrainian forces and terrify them into thinking that Kyiv was the actual target of this invasion. If the Russians engage in such an attack and bypass Kharkiv to cut the lines on the Dnieper River at Kremenchuk, the majority of the Ukrainian military could be starve out, short of supplies, reinforcements, and effective lines of command and control.
While this might seem like a move to engage in a war of terror against civilians in the capital, it would so isolate Kyiv that many Western powers would force them to sue for peace and accept whatever terms keep most of the Ukraine free of further Russian military action. While losing the Oblasts in the East will be painful, the ability of the NATO nations to support or defend Ukraine would be permanently destroyed should such a ceasefire be unattainable.
I have no inside information to validate the outline of the conflict that I have presented above; let me make that 100% crystal clear. However, based on the unit movements observed from individuals online, the unusual naval deployments, and the transfer of RuAF units into unique locations at this moment, odds are that this conflict will be for keeps. The United States, NATO, nor European nations who preach the loudest are in no position to stop the Russians when they decide to act.
From a historical perspective, the re-acquisition of those territories lost after the Cold War is a logical conclusion and those nations which joined NATO thinking they would be protected may now have second thoughts. The ineptitude to the Biden administration will only validate their fears should this come to pass, or should I say, when it comes to pass.