Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reply to a friend: where are the Ukrainian uprising and Novorussian counter-offensive?

I friend just sent me this in an email and I thought that the best thing to do what to reply with a post. Here is what he wrote:
I've been wondering something for some time now regarding the "war" in Ukraine and Novorossiya. Occasionally I hear mutterings from the NAF about "going on the offensive" sometime soon (supposedly when a certain turning point has been reached or some unnamed goal accomplished). However, it has surprised me that there has as of yet been no small operations or maneuvers in greater Ukraine and specifically in Kiev itself. It would seem to me that a targeted covert campaign would be within the scope of the abilities of the NAF, no? Planned incidents and/or hit and run strikes within the city that would lessen the taste for war among the (it would appear) mostly indifferent people. Or is it thought that this might actually add some resolve to continue the fighting? History shows such actions to be the pattern, though the overall effectiveness of such tactics can be fairly questioned in most cases, I think. Curious as to your thoughts.
This is a very interesting question and a fairly complex one.  In reality, there are two distinct issues here:

a) why is there no apparent resistance in the rest of the Ukraine?
b) where is the Novorussian counter-offensive?

The two issues are linked by a common denominoator, but they are qualitatively different.  I suggest we take them one by one:

Why is there no apparent resistance in the rest of the Ukraine?

The first thing to admit here is that not all Ukrainians are opposed to the new junta.  Well, by now probably most are, but not with the kind of determination which would make you join a protest movement or, even less so, an insurgency.  For one thing, most Ukrainians have been raised under various degrees of russophobia, from the more-or-less nationalistic and russophobic Soviet Ukraine, to the rabidly nationalistic and russophobic Ukraine after 1991, to the insanely nationalistic and russophobic Ukraine after 2013, the official ideology and political climate in Banderastan is hysterically anti-Russian.  So even those Ukies who might not be neo-Nazis of Bandera-groupies are not at all necessarily pro-Russian at all.

Second, there is an information blackout in the state and even "independent" media.  We have all seen how even directors of major TV channels get beat up by Ukie nationalists if the don't broadcast "comme il faut" programs.  You can imagine what happens to smaller media outlets!  So the population is told that the Ukie army is fighting, I kid you not, a Russian invasion!  They are truly told that the Donbass if chock full of Russian Spetsnaz forces and tanks.  I have even seen a report about 30 Russian T-90 MBTs attacking a Ukie defended village.  So the level of propaganda and, frankly, zombification is simply unimaginable and while many Ukrainians might not like the junta in power, that does not mean that they would like a Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Third, while this is practically not covered in the western media or blogosphere, most Ukrainian exiles agree that there is real terror in rump-Ukraine, especially in the cities of Kharkov, Kiev and Odessa: hundred of people have been kidnapped, disappeared, tortured, beaten, threatened or otherwise abused.  The police and SBU dungeons are full of suspected "terrorists" "traitors" and "separatists".  People get threatening telephone calls, family members are threatened on the streets, at work, in school, etc.  The moral heir to Stepan Bandera are very, very good at that kind of stuff and since the world media, human rights organizations and governments are more than happy to look away, the Nazi death-squads in Ukieland don't have to be shy about their terror.

Fourth, and this is the painful part to admit.  Just like in Novorussia, most Ukrainians prefer to just sit, wait and see what will happen.  These types are almost exclusively interested in material goods and to them Russian or Ukrainian, Nazi or democratic, Orthodox or Uniat - does not matter.  What matters are the contents of their fridge, the car they drive, the TV set in their dining room.  If they were told to become Zimbabwean Anarchist Hare-Krishnas to get a better income they would.  I don't feel comfortable going into the "why" this is the case, but let's just say that Ukrainian passivity is not a myth.

For all these reasons combined, there is no insurgency, no uprising, no sabotage in Banderastan.  Or, if there is, it is minor.  Most Ukrainians are confused, frightened, partially brain-washing and have to rely on rumors.  All this will make a population very passive.  From that point of view, Crimea was the ultimate counter-example and the Donbass in somewhere in the middle, hence all the difficulties faced by the Kremlin (and the Novorussian resistance) to somehow solve this problem.

As for the Novorussian forces, they simply don't have the luxury to prepare sabotage operation deep behind enemy lines.  Right now, what the Novorussian Resistance Forces are doing is "playing the fire brigade" - they are rushing from one point to another to "extinguish" various Ukie penetrations into Novorussian held territory.  Let's look at that a little closer:

Where is the Novorussian counter-offensive?

The rumors of a Novorussian counter-offensive have been circulating for weeks, and yet no counter-offensive is materializing?  Why?

The key here is the numerical and technological superiority of the Ukie side.  Let me try to explain.

For the Novorussian the equation is simple: the shorter the line of contact (or, if you want, "frontline") with the enemy is, the better.  The longer it is, the worse.  Think of the scene in The Matrix were Neo is fighting a horde of Agents Smith: even though Neo is surrounded by hundreds or, possibly, thousands of Agents Smith , the only fight 1-5 at the same time simply because you can only fit so many Agents Smith into the immediate perimeter around Neo.  Real warfare is not that simple, of course, but the underlying idea is the same and this is one of the reasons Strelkov gave up Slaviansk.

The second thing which a lot of readers ask is: excuse me, but if the Ukies are losing, why are they constantly advancing?  There is no contradiction here.  What the Resistance does is regularly retreat to let the Ukies enter into Resistance territory which they turns into a pocket or "cauldron" for them.  At which point the Ukies either die or retreat.  Please keep in mind that in most cases the Ukie advance is reported, but the subsequent retreat is not.  Finally, the western media feeds the public "approximate" maps which are, in reality, simply false.  This is one taken today from the BBC website:

Compare that with with this one of the same period:

The contrast could not have been bigger.  The western presstitutes make two crucial mistakes: first they assume that if unit X moved from point A to point B that means that point A still remains in friendly hands.  This is not so.  Most of the time as soon as unit X moves from point A to point B, the other side retakes A and unit X is surrounded.  Second, the presstitutes also think that all the Russian or Novorussia info is "propaganda" whereas what comes out of western sources is reliable.  Hence, you get maps like the one above: worse than useless - actually misleading.

By the way, there is a guy on YouTube called Dima Svets who makes pretty good commented reviews of combat maps (like this one).  He speaks in Russian, but if you want to just get a feel for what the real maps looks like he is a good resource. 

As I said above, most of what the Novorussians are doing right now is "playing the fire brigade": the Ukies attack on all fronts, as soon as they begin to punch through the Novorussian positions, the central command sends in reinforcements who stop the advance, and try envelop the Ukie force before it can move back.  The reason why this basic maneuver works is twofold: the distances are very short and the Novorussians are vastly superior on a tactical level.

But a counter-offensive is en entirely different business.  For one thing you need to concentrate your forces at the point you want to achieve a breakthrough.  Furthermore, you probably want to fake an attack elsewhere, which also requires more forces.  How could the Novorussians concentrate their forces without risking a Ukie breakthrough in their rear?

Also, assuming it is successful, a Novorussian counter-attack would imply a lengthening of the line of contact and an increase in the risk of being enveloped and surrounded.  True, the Ukies suffer the disadvantage of having a huge territory in their rear so it is hard for them to predict where to place their reserves, but they have enough motorized and mechanized units to move in fast, and they also have artillery and airpower. So for the Novorussian forces a breakthrough in the depth of the Ukie territory could become very very dangerous.

The two sides have not fought themselves into a standstill yet, but they did fight themselves into a draw in which neither side can do very much.  The size of the Resistance-controlled territory has been reduced to a level which is manageable for the Resistance and too tough to crack for the Ukies.  Now it becomes a willpower game.

Unless some external factor freezes the conflict "as is", both sides will continue to move back and forth with minor tactical successes until finally one side reaches its breaking point.  At that point, the breaking side will not gradually retreat, but will rapidly collapse.  I am at this point unable to guess which side is closer to that breaking point.  The Ukies have been butchered in absolutely fantastic numbers by the Resistance, but they keep throwing more and more men, equipment and units into the battle, over and over and over again. I don't have a way to gauge how long the regime can keep doing that.  I know that there is a growing movement of "mothers of servicemen" who are protesting and that especially in the western Ukraine there is a movement to say "we don't want to die fighting the Russians over the Donbass".  Corpses of dead Ukie serviceman are brought literally by the trainload but the junta does not have the money to pay for the refrigeration, nevermind a decent burial.  So families are forced to pay to get their loved one, often they are told to transport the corpse in any way they want, they have to pay for the refrigerations, they have to pay for a new uniform in which to bury the solider, and they have to pay for the funeral.  Can you imagine the horror and despair of these families?  And the number of thus affected families is going through the roof, especially in the western Ukraine because the junta believes that these western Ukrainians are less likely to desert or switch side.

I think that it is important for us not to solely focus on the horror of the Novorussian civilians being massacred by the Ukie forces, but also on the horror of Ukie forcibly conscripted (up to age 60!  And since the begging of the year already 3 partial mobilizations have been ordered and executed by the junta) and sent as cannon-fodder to be killed by the Resistance forces.

If Novorussia can hold another couple of week or so, then the tide will definitely turn against the junta.  Right now there is nobody to negotiate with, and nothing to negotiate about.  But as Novorussian politician Oleg Tsarev recently said, as soon as the junta forces feel their first major defeat the Europeans will suddenly demand all sorts of negotiations and then, maybe, will it become possible to negotiate something.  But until the Novorussian forces convincingly show that they cannot be crushed (and so far they have not shown that), the junta and it US bosses will never negotiate for real.  They might pretend, like they did many times, but not in earnest.  As long as the USA and the junta can have to hope of winning purely militarily, by crushing the Resistance, they will never negotiate.

The Resistance looks pretty good right now.  What they need now a a solid and undeniable success.  Until then, the situation will remain frozen.

The Saker

PS: I am under huge time pressure again, so I wrote the above "as is".  I might proofread and correct it tomorrow.  But today I really cannot.  Sorry.