The Russian Retirement War

Ginvincible

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Russian Retirement War
By: Ginvincible | April 4, 2021 | Strategic Front Research Foundation

GrandViewUkraineTheatre.PNG

This would be a Russian war of territorial consolidation in Europe. The war might be seen as necessary to Russian elites as the Russian population ages and its economy continues to slow down. Securing as much buffer space in Europe has always been a prerogative to Moscow and when faced with an uncertain future going forward in the 21st century, Russian officials may decide to act sooner while they still maintain an edge in the region. It is apparent to Russian analysts that EU and NATO expansion will not stop, therefore preventing Western forces from being placed so close to the Russian heartland will take priority over continued goodwill and trust in Western intentions.

Russia can mask their buildup and subsequent invasion. The Russians have been conducting large scale military exercises in the region, involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of armored vehicles and hundreds of ships and planes. The Russians can make use of one such exercise as an opportunity to instead invade Ukraine à la the Azerbaijan-Armenian war of 2020.

The war will initially go very poorly for Ukraine. Russia maintains a massive numerical and qualitative military edge over Ukraine. The Ukrainians have a large pool of reservists, but they are ill equipped and not as well trained as the actively deployable Russian forces. Russia possess a vast array of standoff weapons that have been tested extensively in Syria and Libya. Cruise missile attacks from land and sea, as well as continued airstrikes, artillery and rocket bombardments from all sides will crush any Ukrainian defenses. The flatlands of Eastern Ukraine will also play well into Russia’s massive advantage in armored warfare, and Russian tanks and other armored vehicles will wreak havoc through the countryside. Russia has always specialized in warfare over the great European plains, and this region of Ukraine will be difficult to defend.

Russia A2AD.jpg

Ukrainian defense will probably center along the Dnieper river. The only real advantage the Ukrainians have is the wide Dnieper river bisecting the country. The river is littered with dams that can be destroyed to flood regions being advanced upon by the Russians, therefore slowing its offense. The less equipped Ukrainian military can also create a harder to cross defensive line along the river. Cities to the east of the river will eventually be encircled and fall, but Ukraine west of the river should remain. The Ukrainians can only hold on for so long though. A Russia determined to take as much as possible will defeat Ukrainian forces along the Dnieper if there is no outside intervention on behalf of the Ukrainians.

NATO will have to step up to prevent the total capitulation of Ukraine. Judging by the response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Turkish moves in the Caucuses and Levant; Europe has no appetite for an actual shooting war with Russia. What NATO can do is funnel supplies and equipment to the Ukrainians so that they can maintain their defensive line along the Dnieper. While putting boots on the ground will be politically non-viable, the vast logistical capabilities of the bloc will be able to supply the Ukrainians indefinitely. NATO can also amass troops along the Russian border in the Baltics and Kaliningrad, thus prying away supplies and equipment to meet that build up. Lastly, it would be prudent of NATO to occupy, or at least station with consent, forces in all lands west of the Dniester river. This includes the Bessarabia region of Ukraine and Moldova, and the Western Carpathian region of Ukraine. This option will give NATO the ability to prevent further Russian expansion into central Europe and the Balkans in the event of total Ukrainian capitulation. It also serves as a springboard for NATO deployment into Ukraine should that be agreed upon.

NortherTheatre.PNG

There are a few unknown quantities. If the current situation stands, Belarus is at risk of being absorbed into Russia as part of the Union State. If Belarus can maintain some independence, it might remain a neutral party. Regardless, Russian troops will probably maneuver through Belarus to attack eastern Ukraine and conduct strikes and raids across the Dnieper. Turkey is another nation that may or may not factor into the equation. While Turkey is a member of NATO, it is somewhat the black sheep of the alliance – choosing to pursue its own strategic objectives against the wishes, and to the detriment, of many other members. Turkey will at least grant passage of NATO vessels into the Black Sea to harass and draw attention of the Russian fleets and forces stationed there. Whether they will pressure Russia in the Caucus or take any significant action against the Russians is unknown. The Moldovan region of Transnistria is also an unknown in this situation. It is de-jure part of Moldova and is de facto independent. The region is separated from the rest of Moldova by the Dniester river and by its Russian speaking population. Occupation of the region is possible, and perhaps preferable as to prevent any Russian claims to the area in the future.

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Ginvincible

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Hi all! Another write up to enjoy with your morning coffee. I had planned on writing this for a while now, but haven't really had time because of work. Now that there is some attention being drawn to the Donbass region I thought I would just post the charts and text I had previously written instead of doing a more detailed write up. I hope you enjoy my thoughts and I look forward to your opinions.

Thanks!

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Ginvincible

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Looks like a draft for Battlefield VI.
I do take royalty checks if EA wants to base the next battlefield game off this scenario :)

all jokes aside, there are reports that there are over 100,000 Russian troops mobilized on the Ukrainian border with a full range of fire support. The US has classified e the threat of a major Russia-Ukraine flare-up as “potential imminent crisis”
 

randomradio

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The Ukrainians are in a hurry to join NATO. But NATO is unlikely to relent.

And I think the buildup is meant to pressure the Ukrainians rather than prepare for an invasion. I also don't think 100,000 troops is enough to qualify as an invasion force, unless more have been planned, or the objectives are very limited.

The biggest problem for Ukraine in case of conflict is the lack of fighter jets, helicopters and force multipliers.

The fact that Ukraine didn't fight for Crimea and haven't shown an inclination to modernise their forces in order to alleviate Russian concern shows that there's not gonna be a war anyway. Russia will also move carefully since they can't afford NATO intervention.
 
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BMD

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It's an uneasy stalemate, similar to 1945-1989 but with different geographical boundaries. The whole Ukraine was under Russian influence, now just a small ethnic Russian part is. NATO is broadly happy with that and the Russians are unlikely to risk escalation to capture territory where the people don't want them.
 

Volcano

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It's an uneasy stalemate, similar to 1945-1989 but with different geographical boundaries. The whole Ukraine was under Russian influence, now just a small ethnic Russian part is. NATO is broadly happy with that and the Russians are unlikely to risk escalation to capture territory where the people don't want them.

East of dneiper does have large pro russian support, this divide is clearly visible in the elections before coup, where pro Russian politicians always won the eastern half,while pro EU fraction won the west.
 

BMD

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East of dneiper does have large pro russian support, this divide is clearly visible in the elections before coup, where pro Russian politicians always won the eastern half,while pro EU fraction won the west.
Okay, the current boundaries are not an exact political match but the discrepancy is small and not worth potentially several million deaths.
 

Ginvincible

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The Ukrainians are in a hurry to join NATO. But NATO is unlikely to relent.

And I think the buildup is meant to pressure the Ukrainians rather than prepare for an invasion. I also don't think 100,000 troops is enough to qualify as an invasion force, unless more have been planned, or the objectives are very limited.

The biggest problem for Ukraine in case of conflict is the lack of fighter jets, helicopters and force multipliers.

The fact that Ukraine didn't fight for Crimea and haven't shown an inclination to modernise their forces in order to alleviate Russian concern shows that there's not gonna be a war anyway. Russia will also move carefully since they can't afford NATO intervention.
I agree. The unfortunate reality is that NATO will not adopt a country already in turmoil and that constantly hangs on the precipice of war. The Ukrainians haven't been able to leverage their industrial know-how (or whatever remains of it) or their strategic position to really develop their military or economy. This current build up probably is just Russia probing the Biden administration and pandering to its domestic audience.

I disagree that 100,000 troops isn't enough. Those are just estimates of the Russians. The separatists, who will likely link up with Russia, number between 30-40,000 and would bolster the Russian force. In comparison, the Ukrainians could theoretically muster ~170,000 troops (likely far far less), and would not fare too well. Force multipliers like total air superiority, a plethora of fire support, persistent surveillance, precision strikes, etc give the marginally smaller Russian force an overwhelming edge.

Just a reminder that in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Western coalition had a force of roughly 310,000 against an Iraq (plus it's militias/tribal allies) numbering well over 1,300,000 with months of preparation. That invasion lasted just over a month and was a decisive victory for the Western Coalition - mostly due to overwhelming qualitative superiority.
 

randomradio

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I agree. The unfortunate reality is that NATO will not adopt a country already in turmoil and that constantly hangs on the precipice of war. The Ukrainians haven't been able to leverage their industrial know-how (or whatever remains of it) or their strategic position to really develop their military or economy. This current build up probably is just Russia probing the Biden administration and pandering to its domestic audience.

Although NATO isn't interested in more members, they seem to be interested in arming Ukraine.

I disagree that 100,000 troops isn't enough. Those are just estimates of the Russians. The separatists, who will likely link up with Russia, number between 30-40,000 and would bolster the Russian force. In comparison, the Ukrainians could theoretically muster ~170,000 troops (likely far far less), and would not fare too well. Force multipliers like total air superiority, a plethora of fire support, persistent surveillance, precision strikes, etc give the marginally smaller Russian force an overwhelming edge.

Just a reminder that in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Western coalition had a force of roughly 310,000 against an Iraq (plus it's militias/tribal allies) numbering well over 1,300,000 with months of preparation. That invasion lasted just over a month and was a decisive victory for the Western Coalition - mostly due to overwhelming qualitative superiority.

The Iraqi Generals were bribed by American diplomats to not put up a fight. The Iraq War was won through diplomacy, not through warfighting. So the numbers didn't matter when there was nobody to put up a fight in the first place.

The situation devolved into an insurgency which the US had no interest in fighting since they had no interest in holding territory, plus the fight moved into Syria. But the same is unlikely to happen in Ukraine since the Russians need territory under their control, the point of any invasion. An insurgency would require a hell load of troops, plus you can be sure that even if NATO doesn't intervene, they will definitely arm the insurgents in Ukraine and prolong the war for as long as possible. For that 100,000 troops is far too less. Let's not forget how much the US has struggled in Afghanistan, all because they had too few troops on the ground. Ukraine is a different cup of tea compared to Afghanistan.
 

Ginvincible

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Although NATO isn't interested in more members, they seem to be interested in arming Ukraine.
Of course. Wouldn't you want your largest strategic adversary bogged down in a never-ending insurgency/conflict? Arming Ukraine will ideally allow the Ukrainians to retake contested areas and then join NATO formally, and at worst force the Russians to constantly divert resources to support the separatists or (if they do invade) fight a well supplied insurgency. It's relatively cheap for NATO while inflicting a lot of costs on the Russians right on their doorstep. It is also why Western nations turn a blind eye to Turkey supplying drones and munitions to Ukraine while criticizing their deployment in Syria, Armenia, Libya, etc.


The Iraqi Generals were bribed by American diplomats to not put up a fight. The Iraq War was won through diplomacy, not through warfighting. So the numbers didn't matter when there was nobody to put up a fight in the first place.
Yes, I do remember reading about that. While I have no doubt that defections and bribery of Iraqi commanders played a part in the defeat of Saddam's forces, there isn't really a clear picture to what extent these deals had. What is clear is that in the month long invasion 10s of thousands of Iraqi forces perished and hundreds of thousands were injured. It was a clear military rout regardless of the effects of subterfuge. I compare the Iraqi army to the modern day Ukrainian army since they are both tasked with defending relatively flat lands (granted it's deserts vs plains) with mainly Soviet-era weaponry. The Iraqis had the benefit of months long preparation and a higher numerical edge, while Ukraine has some amount of modern Western ATGMs and small arms.

The situation devolved into an insurgency which the US had no interest in fighting since they had no interest in holding territory, plus the fight moved into Syria. But the same is unlikely to happen in Ukraine since the Russians need territory under their control, the point of any invasion. An insurgency would require a hell load of troops, plus you can be sure that even if NATO doesn't intervene, they will definitely arm the insurgents in Ukraine and prolong the war for as long as possible. For that 100,000 troops is far too less. Let's not forget how much the US has struggled in Afghanistan, all because they had too few troops on the ground. Ukraine is a different cup of tea compared to Afghanistan.
Right, I have no doubt that an occupation of Ukraine would devolve into a messy insurgency. I also have no doubts that the Russians would not be opposed to getting their hands dirty. Ukraine also isn't a mountainous land like Afghanistan, a large insurgency will have a tougher time organizing and Russia is no stranger to urban insurgencies (they have plenty of experience with it in Chechnya and other Caucus regions). I have no idea what the situation on the ground is today, but at least in 2014 when Euromaidan and the various political unrest occurred, a majority of Eastern Ukraine was pro-Russia. Occupying and administering those regions may be easier than regions west of the Dnieper.
 

randomradio

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Of course. Wouldn't you want your largest strategic adversary bogged down in a never-ending insurgency/conflict? Arming Ukraine will ideally allow the Ukrainians to retake contested areas and then join NATO formally, and at worst force the Russians to constantly divert resources to support the separatists or (if they do invade) fight a well supplied insurgency. It's relatively cheap for NATO while inflicting a lot of costs on the Russians right on their doorstep. It is also why Western nations turn a blind eye to Turkey supplying drones and munitions to Ukraine while criticizing their deployment in Syria, Armenia, Libya, etc.

It will be interesting to see if NATO has red lines in terms of what Russia does in Ukraine.

Yes, I do remember reading about that. While I have no doubt that defections and bribery of Iraqi commanders played a part in the defeat of Saddam's forces, there isn't really a clear picture to what extent these deals had. What is clear is that in the month long invasion 10s of thousands of Iraqi forces perished and hundreds of thousands were injured. It was a clear military rout regardless of the effects of subterfuge. I compare the Iraqi army to the modern day Ukrainian army since they are both tasked with defending relatively flat lands (granted it's deserts vs plains) with mainly Soviet-era weaponry. The Iraqis had the benefit of months long preparation and a higher numerical edge, while Ukraine has some amount of modern Western ATGMs and small arms.

From what I know, many died after being left leaderless.

"This part of the operation was as important as the shooting part; maybe more important. We knew that some units would fight out of a sense of duty and patriotism, and they did. But it didn't change the outcome because we knew how many of these [Iraqi generals] were going to call in sick," he added.

This line indicates it was a very significant number.

Based on the strength of the Iraqi standing army and the number of casualties, in relation to the relentless bombing campaign, the figures are quite low, especially when left leaderless.

Right, I have no doubt that an occupation of Ukraine would devolve into a messy insurgency. I also have no doubts that the Russians would not be opposed to getting their hands dirty. Ukraine also isn't a mountainous land like Afghanistan, a large insurgency will have a tougher time organizing and Russia is no stranger to urban insurgencies (they have plenty of experience with it in Chechnya and other Caucus regions). I have no idea what the situation on the ground is today, but at least in 2014 when Euromaidan and the various political unrest occurred, a majority of Eastern Ukraine was pro-Russia. Occupying and administering those regions may be easier than regions west of the Dnieper.

Yeah, the pro-Russian regions are likely to pose little problem to Russia, no different from Crimea. And I don't think that even if Russia invades, it will cross any red lines NATO has set for Ukraine.
 
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Ginvincible

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It will be interesting to see if NATO has red lines in terms of what Russia does in Ukraine.
While in an ideal world NATO would already be in Ukraine ready to act as soon as the Russians cross the border, realistically there are no red lines. The Europeans will make a hue and cry if/when Russia invades Ukraine but will do nothing about it. The US is limited in what it's able to deploy and wants to focus more on China in the Pacific. More "crippling" sanctions will be issued which the media will play up as devastating to Russian oligarchs and whatnot, but it won't change any ground reality. I argue that at the very least NATO should occupy the Carpathians and everything west of the Dniester river so the Russians can never set up shop in advantageous terrain overlooking SE Europe and any geographic advantage Russia gains from occupying Ukraine is mitigated by NATO having the high ground.

From what I know, many died after being left leaderless.

"This part of the operation was as important as the shooting part; maybe more important. We knew that some units would fight out of a sense of duty and patriotism, and they did. But it didn't change the outcome because we knew how many of these [Iraqi generals] were going to call in sick," he added.

This line indicates it was a very significant number.

Based on the strength of the Iraqi standing army and the number of casualties, in relation to the relentless bombing campaign, the figures are quite low, especially when left leaderless.
Interesting. I will have to dig into it more. I am still unconvinced that better or more effective leadership could have significantly changed the outcome. There might have been more coalition losses or perhaps major cities may have lasted more than 26 days... but the overwhelming superiority in logistics, firepower, airpower and reconnaissance still would have been insurmountable for the Iraqi defenses. Ultimately, Iraq is a flat landscape where large formations and military stockpiles cannot be hidden. Urban insurgency that followed was so sucessful because of US inexperience (which honestly continues to this day) and probably because the US didn't hold up their end of the bargain to many of the Ba'athists commanders they bribed ( especially after they dissolved the entire Iraqi military and banned them from ever being employed in public sector work).
 
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randomradio

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While in an ideal world NATO would already be in Ukraine ready to act as soon as the Russians cross the border, realistically there are no red lines. The Europeans will make a hue and cry if/when Russia invades Ukraine but will do nothing about it. The US is limited in what it's able to deploy and wants to focus more on China in the Pacific. More "crippling" sanctions will be issued which the media will play up as devastating to Russian oligarchs and whatnot, but it won't change any ground reality. I argue that at the very least NATO should occupy the Carpathians and everything west of the Dniester river so the Russians can never set up shop in advantageous terrain overlooking SE Europe and any geographic advantage Russia gains from occupying Ukraine is mitigated by NATO having the high ground.

It's gonna be a dog and pony show.

Interesting. I will have to dig into it more. I am still unconvinced that better or more effective leadership could have significantly changed the outcome. There might have been more coalition losses or perhaps major cities may have lasted more than 26 days... but the overwhelming superiority in logistics, firepower, airpower and reconnaissance still would have been insurmountable for the Iraqi defenses. Ultimately, Iraq is a flat landscape where large formations and military stockpiles cannot be hidden. Urban insurgency that followed was so sucessful because of US inexperience (which honestly continues to this day) and probably because the US didn't hold up their end of the bargain to many of the Ba'athists commanders they bribed ( especially after they dissolved the entire Iraqi military and banned them from ever being employed in public sector work).

One rule of warfare is airpower cannot dislodge well dug-in ground troops. Only the army can take ground.
 
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