Putin on the march: the coming major strategic offensive

Ukraine troops - the brave, the few

Ukraine troops - the brave, the few 

2015/06/03 • Op-ed

Article by: Thomas Theiner

Events in the last few days amount to clear proof that Russia is preparing a major offensive in Southern Ukraine. There will be two main advance and everyone with even a tiny bit of curiosity and intelligence can see the signs and draw the conclusions. However today’s fighting around Marinka near Donetsk isn’t that major offensive, but a skirmish to provide Russia with a pretext to unleash its summer offensive.

Yet absolutely nothing has been undertaken by the US, by the EU, by the UN and not even by Ukraine to prepare for the coming onslaught… therefore Ukraine is (again) in no position to defend itself against the coming attack, while Russia is constantly being encouraged by the passivity of the Western World and the incompetence of Kyiv to gamble on more war. Therefore in the next days Russia’s army will be unleashed and rapidly advance deeper into Ukraine and as Ukraine’s incompetent and corrupt leadership has failed to prepare as I urged them to do after Minsk 1 and failed to prepare as I implored them to do after Minsk 2, hundreds if not thousands of the bravest Ukrainians will die.

Die to protect a country, whose leadership has done nothing to prepare for war, has done nothing to fight corruption, and has done nothing to reform its sickeningly corrupt government. Just one examples: 15 months after Euromaidan the fight against corruption has not begun: the much vaunted anti-corruption bureau only recently got its head prosecutor, but it won’t begin its work for many more months, while concurrently Yatseniuk and his gang of grafters complain the EU doesn’t give them billions.

The same criminal negligence can be observed in Ukraine’s war preparations: after carping to the US for a year about wanting advanced American weapons for free, only this May Ukraine decided it might be time to begin producing its own anti-tank guided missiles; missiles, which for years were in production for foreign clients, but Kyiv’s politicians didn’t want to forfeit their fat export bribes and kickbacks, in return for arming Ukraine’s own troops. Similarly only last month Ukraine’s imbecile leadership exported brand new tanks to Thailand, while Ukrainian troops at the front beg for armored vehicles.

But enough of Kyiv and the corrupt criminals ruining Ukraine and back to Russia and the war to come: in the last month huge numbers of Russian armor has been transported to Donbas, gigantic ammunition depots have been built up near the Russian-Ukrainian border and inside the Russian occupied territories, enough artillery to equip entire brigades has crossed into Ukraine and every day new trains with troops and tanks arrive in Russia’s Rostov Oblast. This proves that all the recent reports emanating from “analysts” based in Moscow about Putin abandoning his Novorossiya project are part of the FSB’s maskirovka campaign. If Putin had truly given up on Novorossiya he would neither send thousands of fresh Russian troops to Donbas, nor would he send half a dozen trains with equipment every day to Donbas, nor would he have enacted a law to make reporting Russian army losses a criminal offense. No, Putin has NOT given up on Novorossiya! The maskirovka regarding  Novorossiya is meant to put distance between Putin and the publicly known Donbas leaders so he can say again: “I have no control over these rebels”.

Ukraine has  repeatedly stated to have no intention to attack the Russian occupied areas, not just because Ukraine doesn’t have the troops, equipment and logistics for such an attack, but also because Ukraine is dependent on Western goodwill and any unprovoked move of troops and heavy equipment towards the current ceasefire line would doom Ukraine’s IMF financing. Therefore Russia’s massive buildup of forces in Donbas is not to defend the occupied territory against a possible Ukrainian attack, but the preparation of a major Russian army strategic offensive operation.

While all the time fresh units arrive in Donbas, the Russian units already in Donbas, which the corrupted Western press continues to call “rebels”, have engaged in massive exercises, aimed at perfecting combined arms maneuvers. If the Russians wanted to defend the currently conquered territory they would train for defensive operations, which they don’t, and they would construct defensive lines, which they don’t either. These massive exercises prove that the Russian aims are offensive.

Tanks

Russia’s army plans to advance in two directions, but unlike the hard, bloody slogs at Donetsk Airport and at Debaltseve, this time Russia will advance Blitzkrieg style. Russia lost thousands of troops at Debaltseve and it took weeks to finally clear the area of Ukrainian troops. Putin is fed up with this. Therefore he sent over 700 tanks to Donbas… the same number of tanks Nazi-Germany’s 1st Panzer Army deployed when it began its conquest of Ukraine on 22nd June 1941. However the current Russian Army Group in Donbas has much more infantry fighting vehicles and much more self-propelled artillery than 1st Panzer Army had during Operation Barbarossa. With such an armored force the intention is to attack and attack in depth.

But Putin didn’t just send armored vehicles to Donbas, he also sent modern Russian mine clearing vehicles to Donbas. Not the kind to clear mines and save civilian lives, but the kind of clearing vehicle used to breach enemy mine fields during an offensive. Russia didn’t build any defensive lines and it didn’t lay minefields, but Ukraine did and therefore the appearance of UR-77 Meteorite mine clearing vehicles is a sign Russia plans to breach Ukraine’s defensive lines.

Putin also sent engineering units with floating pontoon bridges to Donbas to enable armored spearheads to cross rivers. If Russia only wanted to hold the current front then it has no need to cross rivers, but Putin wants to attack. If he wants to attack north from Luhansk towards Shchastya and Stanytsia Luhanska, then Russian forces must first cross the Siverskyi Donets River, which is the current Northern front line; if Russia wants to take Mariupol its forces must first cross the Kalmius River, which is the current frontline north of Mariupol. If Putin wants to encircle Mariupol then there is also the Kalchyk River to cross. Bringing river crossing battalions from Russia to Donbas is a clear sign Putin wants to go on the offensive.

Further proof of Putin’s intentions arrived on 17th May, when Ukrainian troops discovered a Russian reconnaissance team near Shchastya, which (what a coincidence) had crossed the Siverskyi Donets River with the aim of gathering intelligence on Ukrainian defensive lines north of the river. After a firefight, which killed a Ukrainian soldier, two Russian soldiers were captured. Both of whom admitted being members of the 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade of the Russian Ground Forces and to have been ordered by their superiors to reconnoiter weaknesses in Ukraine’s defensive line. Such reconnaissance operations are typical offensive preparations and that Putin sent the best of the best the Russian military has to offer (akin to the British Army SAS or US Army Special Forces), shows how important it is for Russia’s General Staff to obtain information on Ukraine’s defensive positions.

Just a few days later Ukraine shot down a Russian drone, but not any drone: it shot down the most modern and most expensive drone Russia possess, namely a “Forpost” drone. But even though the drone is unique to Russia, has never been sold outside of Russia and there are photos of the drone being manufactured in a Russian government facility, Moscow keeps denying it was its drone… That Russia used its best, most expensive, drone to reconnoiter Ukrainian defensive lines shows that Russia is putting all resources its military has into preparing its coming major offensive.

All news and reports from Donbas and Russia’s Rostov Oblast over the last few weeks show that Russia is preparing a major offensive, which unlike earlier offensives will strike deep into Ukrainian territory. Just as German armies in the Battle of France broke through the Ardennes, then crossed the Meuse River and turned north towards the North Sea to encircle allied forces in Belgium; Russian armored spearheads will break through Ukrainian lines, cross the Kalmius and Kalchyk, and then turn south to the Azov Sea to encircle Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. After that the way to Crimea is open as Ukraine as no (!) reserves and has not build any defensive line west of Mariupol.

At the same time Russian forces will cross the Siverskyi Donets River near Shchastya and drive northward to Novoaidar and then turn in either of two directions: either towards the East trapping thousands of Ukrainian troops around Stanytsia Luhanska, or towards the West and Sievierodonetsk, which again will trap thousands of Ukrainian troops. After the Southern and Northern fronts are shattered Ukraine’s army will dissolve, when Russia begins its third offensive from Horlivka towards Artemivsk and then on to Sloviansk.

Ukraine’s army will dissolve as the troops will retreat and abandon their posts. Not because they are not brave, but because it will become obvious to everyone that Kyiv has betrayed the troops: while Russia has sent thousands of tanks and armored vehicles to Donbas, Ukraine barely feeds its troops; while Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Donbas, Ukraine demobilized tens of thousands of its most experienced troops; while Russia has ample reserves in Donbas to exploit breakthroughs of Ukraine’s thin defensive lines, Ukraine has almost no armored reserves to defeat such Russian attacks. And yet Ukraine’s brave, poor soldiers still man the front and still fight the Russian army, which is as bad an enemy to them as Ukraine’s political leaders hundreds of miles behind the front in Kyiv.

Ultimately this war will be lost by the ineptitude, corruption and arrogance of Ukraine’s political class, who so far refuses to mobilize the nation, indulges in corruption and nepotism and spurned time and again Western advice on how to fight the war and how to fight corruption. Similar to Churchill, who forbade any attempt on Hitler’s life, as his military incompetence was a great asset to the allied cause, Putin must be delighted to have such a naïve, incompetent adversary as Poroshenko, who not once has given Ukraine’s soldiers the tools they need, nor led them with the same dedication to the cause as they have shown.

When Putin attacks, he will win. Sanctions do not stop tanks; modern Western military equipment will come too late to make a difference, as will the 50-times announced, yet never enacted, mythical Ukrainian mobilization. Many in Ukraine blame Western dithering for the imminent defeat, but while Western incompetence and moral cowardice surely emboldened Putin, the war on the ground was lost by the politicians in Kyiv, who seem to be more concerned to keep Kyiv’s bars, nightclubs and brothels open than to increase tank production. And the troops know. They know and they will not go home after the defeat: some will form partisan movements in the Russian occupied Southern Oblasts of Ukraine, but many will march on Kyiv, to exact revenge on the corrupt elite of Ukraine and then Ukraine will finally see a revolution, with all the bloodshed that entails.

Putin will love this, as such a revolution will drive many to welcome his invading troops, but in the end Ukraine needs such a revolution, because neither Euromaidan, nor a war with 10,000 deaths managed to bring Ukraine’s elite to abandon its criminal, corrupt ways and if a nation can’t get its act together when it is under massive military attack, does it even deserve to exist?

I think not.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Euromaidan Press as an organization.

 

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  • Rods

    In all of the articles that I have seen that you written you have in my opinion been overly pessimistic and although I agree that there has been criminal negligence by the politicians and the senior officers in Kyiv, the Ukrainian volunteer battalions and logistic systems have allowed the Ukrainian army to make a better than expected fight of it so far. This is partly through the motivation of defending forces fighting for their country and territory but also because the Russian un-motivated conscripts have also not fought very well. Neither of these are factored into your arguments at all. The Russian army is only part way through its modernization process and this will show again in the coming campaign (where the majority of the conscripts will be looking to survive and be counting off the days to their demob) and a large percentage of their equipment is old and very often obsolete stuff (a convoy of obsolete BTR-60’s I saw in a picture yesterday) that Putin doesn’t mind losing with a few exceptions where the latest equipment is being performance tested in real battlefield conditions. The further towards the south-west the Russian forces go (I believe their destination is to create a land bridge with Transnistria) followed by an invasion of Moldova, the longer and more vulnerable their lines of communication will become so supply routes will become IED alleys.

    The big question is will Putin also use his air force? I suspect if he does then it will provoke a much stronger reaction from the West (the UK has already pushed hard with previous sanctions for a SWIFT disconnection) than if he doesnt. If he doesn’t what will be the costs in trying to conquer and hold 7-800km of territory using mainly ground forces and a few seaborne ones?

    We have also seen in many recent wars that conquering and holding territory are two quite different stories especially when you are facing a hostile (and probably covertly Western armed) population.

    Ultimately, Putin’s regime like the old Soviet one is heading for and will collapse for much the same reasons and his unnecessary war in Ukraine (like the Soviet one in Afghanistan) will only hasten this. Russia is still essentially a feudal society with a King (Putin), a ruling class the 110 oligarchs that own 35% of the country’s wealth and the serfs that make up the rest. Like in the European middle ages you need to have patronage (available at a price from the ruling class) of the king and/or the ruling class to get on and to be allowed to create and run any substantial business (otherwise you will be made an offer you can’t refuse) and a society based on this system will never compete with free market economies and democracies.

    The UK population and from what I see on Twitter with other Western countries is a hardening towards Ukraine and away from Russia and this is going to put more pressure on our politicians to act and to support Ukraine. Today, this was very noticeable in the comments section in a UK daily newspaper on a report on the day’s fighting in Maryinka where the majority were supporting Ukraine and the Russian trolls that ventured their opinions, were quickly slapped down. This is very welcome change from even a few weeks a go.

    After Minsk I and II which were appeased by Western leaders in good faith, they are now running out of patience and things can then change very quick as we saw with Czechoslovakia and then Poland in 1938/9. There is now a rapidly growing groundswell of support in the West that wish glory to Ukraine.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      I’m not so optimistic and sadly have to agree with much of what Thomas Theiner has written.
      Forget help from the US and the EU. Obama and Merkel will continue their “No weapons for Kyiv” policy no matter what Dwarf 2 does. Forget about Moscow being kicked out of Swift. With Greece, Italy, Hungary and a few others clamouring for the sanctions to be dropped the best we can hope for is the current crop of sanctions being maintained, nothing more.
      Theiner also has a valid point about the government being inept, as the simple fact that only now antitank missiles are being ordered for the army shows- too little and too late.

  • Rascalndear

    This article is far too nasty towards Ukraine and treats both its fighters and its leadership with amazing contempt. I’m sorry Mr. Theiner feels this way, but his criticisms are simply not justified if he thinks that “absolutely nothing has been undertaken by the US, by the EU, by the UN and NOT EVEN BY UKRAINE to prepare for the coming onslaught… therefore Ukraine is (again) in no position to defend itself against the coming attack.” While I appreciate his technical understanding, Mr. Theiner doesn’t seem to be aware that the US and other countries have been both training and supplying Ukraine’s forces for quite some time now and that Ukraine is about to expand mobilization once again.

  • Rascalndear

    The disclaimer is because some of the negativity towards Ukraine and the West is completely unjustified. I agree with them entirely. Seems that neither you nor Mr. Theiner have really been paying attention to what is going on here. Those of us supporting the army and volunteer battalions have a much better picture, as does anyone reading the local press regularly.

  • Marcus Sifyos

    According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Ukraine remained in top-10 arms exporters with 3% share of international arms exports in 2014.

    Main export partners of Ukraine were: China (22%), Russia (10%) and Thailand (9%).

  • albertphd

    If I am not mistaken, this article is written by a very clever pro-Russian war propagandist?!
    I do not know anything about this Mr. Theiner except that he lived in Kiev for 5 years?! Having carefully analysed Theiner’s article announcing a pending major offensive by Russia against Ukraine, I noticed that he neglected to criticize Putin and his immoral invasion of Ukraine but instead denounced Ukraine as an immoral country (led by immoral leaders?!) and therefore a country not worth saving?!
    Theiner appeared to even praise Russia as led by Putin as a superior military might and indicated that upon attack, Ukrainian military would not only flee from the advancing vastly superior Russian forces (?!) but would turn traitor-like against their own Kiev-leaders in a bloody insurrection (which Theiner appeared again to fully support?!)?!
    Clearly, this article is written in the same vein as the slick propagandist “Lord Haw-Haw!” (alias, William Joyce) who spoke frequently on Nazi radios (as a British subject) during WWII to demoralize the British public and their Allies with comments such as: “So, you British believe you can defeat the superior Nazi Army?! Haw! Haw!”! In like manner, Theiner is stating the same propagandist pitch: “So, you Ukrainians think you can defeat the superior Russian Army?! Haw! Haw!”! “Ultimately, this war [to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression] will be lost,” Theiner says, “by the ineptitude, corruption, and arrogance of Ukraine’s political class,” which class Theiner adds, are more concerned in “bribes and kickbacks” and to keep their “brothels” open?! Standard Russian propaganda!
    To place this article in EuroMaidan is not an indication, in my opinion, of freedom of speech, but an error (inadvertently made perhaps?!) to allow pro-Russian propaganda (at it’s best!) to be printed, read and disseminated through the “Allied” audience?! Clever of Theiner!
    Note Theiner’s approach treats the democratically-elected Ukrainian Government as that “Kiev corrupt government ruining Ukraine”! As well, note, that again and again Theiner implies (as if it were common knowledge?!) that Ukrainian leadership, Western media and the West (to include: the US, the EU and even the UN!) are corrupt, incompetent, and passive! And alternatively that Ukrainian citizens will rise up against their democratically-elected Government (located in Kiev?!) to welcome with open arms their Russian invaders?! Which action, Theiner slyly slips in, Putin would surely “love”?!
    Theiner clearly favors the Russian onslaught with his final comment that Ukraine is a nation not worthy of existence, for “when Putin attacks, he will win!” which he claims that “everyone with a bit of curiosity and intelligence” can draw that self-same conclusion?! At this point, one can almost hear Theiner’s “Haw! Haw!”–Typical Russian propaganda through and through!
    To call democratically-elected Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatseniuk and his duly-elected team “a gang of grafters!” is again routine Russian propaganda! And to think that once superior Russia attacks Ukraine “Ukraine’s army would dissolve as their troops would retreat and abandon their posts” is yet another demoralizing slur on Ukraine by a rather slick pro-Putin pro-Russian propagandist if ever there was one?! “Sanctions do not stop tanks”, Theiner claims! He might as well as added (as the Russian Officer recently did) that: “Tanks do not need VISAs!”! Once more, a clear failure on Theiner’s part to acknowledge the immoral actions of Russian invaders into a peace-loving country!
    Note especially this significant detail: (that) Theiner takes pains to avoid any admission that the Ukrainian soldier who was killed in a firefight with 2 Russian Special Forces agents (who in turn were later captured by the superior Ukrainian military) were killed by these Russian soldiers but states instead that ‘the firefight’ (mysteriously?!) killed this Ukrainian soldier?! Again, Theiner is not willing to criticize these Russian invaders in the slightest, nor to criticize Putin, nor anything Russian?! But he is very quick to attempt to destabilize the Ukrainian position?! The reason, I insist, is all-too obvious: Theiner has unwittingly (or knowingly?!) imitated the demoralizing tactics of that suave WWII propagandist, Lord Haw-Haw!
    As an aside, History does tells us what happened to Lord Haw-Haw, alias William Joyce (a British citizen): he was captured at the end of WWII, tried for high treason, found guilty through his many demoralizing remarks against the British Crown (as a pro-Nazi propagandist) and hung from the neck until he was dead! A just fate to all turn-coats, one would think?!

  • Michel Cloarec

    Mr T THEINER you are doing a dirty job . Obviously collaborator or simply writing for writing sake ! It is not the first time you show your ability as a writer, that is all !

  • Mader Levap

    “does it even deserve to exist? I think not.”

    Wow, that’s pretty strong statement. You seem to be rather… disappointed with this all. I can’t say I am surprised. I am dissapointed with abysmal performance of Ukraine (and yes, this assession is after taking in account cowardly EU and still pretty powerful Russia). But I would not go that far.

  • Dirk Mattheisen

    This article is so shrill that it reads like a provocation rather than an analysis. The high level of generality also suggests a lack of seriousness. The focus is on disparaging Kyiv and the West rather than condemning Russia’s aggression, which appears to be its true purpose.