Moscow analyst: Ukraine can win Putin’s war

Ukrainian airmobile regiment

Ukrainian airmobile regiment 

2015/01/26 • Military analysis

Moscow believes that its attack on Mariupol and its envelopment of a significant Ukrainian force will put Russia in a position to force Kyiv to capitulate, Moscow commentator Boris Sokolov says; but he argues that Ukraine still has the ability to win this war despite these defeats.

In a commentary on Grani.ru today, Sokolov says that “the conditions of capitulation” Putin hopes to impose are “an end of the counter-terrorist operation, the transfer of the entire territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast to the control of the separatists,” autonomy and a veto by them over Kyiv’s actions, and their right to maintain “their own armed formations and conclude international agreements.”

Such a capitulation, he continues, “almost certainly would lead to a change of government in Kyiv.”

To prevent that from happening, the Ukrainian army needs to take several steps in order to win “at least a local military victory.” And there are reasons to think it can. First of all, “the majority of Ukrainian soldiers and officers are more motivated” than the Russian military and Donetsk separatists who are fighting them.

Many of the latter are uncertain whether their own government will protect them, but “the main thing is that they are fighting without enthusiasm against Ukrainians who only yesterday were considered ‘a fraternal people.’” Moreover, most of the separatists are either criminals or anarchists and thus not well-adapted to military discipline.

The Ukrainian army can deal with this Russian force, but to do so, Sokolov argues, it needs to change its leadership and that leadership’s Soviet-style insistence on defending every piece of territory to the death. Instead, it needs a war of maneuver that will allow it to choose where to fight rather than allowing the Russian side to determine it.

But two other steps are at least as important, the Moscow analyst suggests. On the one hand, the Ukrainian army needs to show that it can “destroy one of the local Russian groupings,” something that will undermine morale on the Russian side and “together with Russian pressure force Putin to end the war in the Donbas.”

And on the other, it needs to take prisoners and show them to the world, thus proving that Ukraine lives according to international law and that Russian forces, despite the lies of Moscow, are actively involved in the fighting in Ukraine. Avoiding doing so in the hope of reaching an agreement with Putin is a false one, Sokolov says.

(Handling Russian prisoners in this way, although Sokolov does not mention it in his essay, is especially important to highlight the difference between the Ukrainian and Russian sides in this conflict now that the Donetsk regime has declared that it will ignore international law and not take any prisoners.)

If Ukraine takes those steps, he argues, “there will be more chances that under pressure of public opinion, Western leaders will be forced to strengthen to the maximum extent possible their sanctions against Russia,” and those sanctions together with Ukrainian firmness on the battlefield and in government will give Ukraine the victory.

Edited by: A. N.

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  • evanlarkspur

    Yes, it is long past time for Ukraine to stop defending, and start attacking. Blitz attacks of Russian formations, in and out, melt away upon being attacked so the enemy swarms forward and overextends themselves, then carve them up. The rail lines to Russia that are being used to transfer ammunition; destroy the lines. Civilian-clothes are all it takes to move around in Donetsk and Luhansk; use the enemy’s chaos against them. No group of three terrorists or less that go out at night ever return. No bodies, no weapons. Just vanish.

    The people of Luhansk and Donetsk are ready to be free of this pestilence they once believed in. I know this for a fact, having spoken to a number directly. It won’t take much to get a real partisan war going behind the lines. This needs to be made so hot for Putin that he goes home. There are other ways to defend a country than dig in and let them bombard you. And it’s time to let a little saltwater into Nordstream. I read that its only 60 meters down. Very do able, and they cannot possible protect every meter of it. Frankly, a ship hull-breached while at dock in Sevastopol would be a nice touch, and there are lots of people in the world who could do such a thing on a weekend.

    Be careful what you start, mr. Putin. When you make it clear that the niceties will no longer be observed, all kinds of things can come knocking in return.

    • Russia – Lies

      excellent post.

    • jmundstuk

      It won’t take much to get a real partisan war going behind the lines.

      If that happens, it could change the equation. As it is, I do not agree that Blitz attacks will work because the Russians are able to escalate to respond.

  • Mykola Potytorsky

    lets see here: the fake republic has chosen to ignore international law yet want recognition by the international community-what?? they chose to not take prisoners – well that means the Ukrainians will fight more fiercely thus killing more katsaps, secondly, that means that the Ukrainian troops might not also take prisoners in reciprocity. As we all know the fake republic’s words are really the words of the ruSSian criminal gang in Moskva, once again the latter is showing to the world that they are uncivilized barbarians and deserve to be quarantined from the rest of the world.

  • Murf

    So much for Russia’s threat back in the Summer “Winter is Comming”
    The UA Army is doing a good job of not defending every inch to the death. At CP 31 they held the CP untill it was no longer tenable and made an orderly withdrawl to secondary positions with cover the CP. CP 31 is now “no mans land” In other words Russia achived nothing.
    UA only has to keep their Army intact and deny the invaders any real success.

    This is Round 2 already it is not working out well for the Russians. So far no Illoviask like victories.
    Round 3 is next. That will be the Reckoning.

  • Rods

    Ukraine need to setup sensible naturally strong defensive lines. What they don’t need is another Ilovaisk with the difficult to defend, easy to cut off Debaitseve salient. The Cyborgs at Donetsk shows what robust defending against something the enemy really wants can really hurt the enemy with very high casualty rates and equipment losses.

    http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/ilovaisk-20-in-making-at-debaltseve.html

    It looks like Partisan forces are already attacking in the Donbass and being fleet footed, this will keep them ahead of the Russian forces. In Afghanistan the territory was more favourable for these sorts of attacks, which defeated Russia, but IED technology was a major component in casualties with the Allied liberation of Afghanistan from Taliban terror. IEDs can make life very difficult for the Russian military supply convoys.

    Russian army is more powerful, but the Ukrainian army by setting good defensive lines and using Partisans within the Donbass can make life very uncomfortable for Putin and the Russian forces.

    • Murf

      Debaitseve is vulnerable and there fore an obvious target. It is how you prepare for the attack that matters.c

      On Tuesday the Russians tried to cut it off and according to Dymtry got hammered by artillery.

      That doesn’t happen by accident.

      Most likely the UA army moved in a concentration of artillery before the Russians could detect it.

      Debaitseve just like the new terminal was bait.

      One thing for cretin the boys of last spring have become the heard core professionals of winter.
      Putin was right, Winter was coming but I don’t think it was in the way expected.

      Funny how quickly in war the hunter can become the hunted.

  • Michel Cloarec

    The French resistance FFI did always attack nazi troops on the move , they could not organize quick enough. The nazis at the end did not dare to go out on patrols and were stuck in their defensive positions .
    Small french groups of 8-10 men did more than an army.
    Cut the lines of supply, railways tracks, roads .
    Modern armies of today, are still forming those kinds of small groups called COMMANDO .

  • FunkyWinkerbean

    naive as it may sound, but somehow they need control of the border back. when the shells coming from across the border start falling it will be even clearer to the world who the aggressor is. and pay the boys as much as the terrorists are getting. they obviously deserve it, and it will boost morale and help keep them loyal.

  • jmundstuk

    I think that Ukraine strategy must change. This article points out a couple of things that can be done. But shifting away from “soviet-style” strategy is a tall order. Today, I’m not optimistic. I think a deal needs to be cut but as Mr. Goble says, if the government cannot bring the nation along, there will be a change of government and ultimately, a Russian-friendly government that will return Ukraine to the Russian “sphere” “world” or whatever you call it.