No sane observer of Russia’s military operation against Ukraine could come to any other conclusion than that it is a complete mess. Indeed, some within NATO have asked whether this is really the enemy they have for so long been worried about. But for someone to say so openly in the pages of the Russsian press in the face of censorship with criminal penalties of up to 15 years incarceration is, to say the least, surprising. And it emerges from within the think-tank world that interfaces with both the military and foreign policy making realms. It makes for pretty devastating reading.
“An Offensive on Thin Ice”, the article in question appears in Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, the weekly supplement to Nezavisimaya gazeta. First, it questions the fundamental premiss of the invasion of Ukraine: namely that it will otherwise join NATO and that then the United States will then install its offensive missiles pointed at Russia. Second, it argues that it would make no sense for the Americans to do any such thing, particularly in a country whose loyalty cannot be counted on. Third, the Americans are never going to let Ukraine have nuclear weapons and the Ukrainians are in no position to create their own. Fourth, the Donbas and Crimea are already burden enough for the Russian economy and given the weight of Western sanctions they will be too much for it.
Focusing on the conduct of the war under the subtitle, “A Serious Enemy”, the critique goes on to point out that, not counting Russia and Turkey, Ukraine has the strongest army in Europe, especially in “psychological preparedness for military action.” Moreover, even counting Turkey, it has the strongest air defence in Europe. And “if at least half of their pilots could take off”, they have the strongest air force in Europe. Only the navy can be discounted as insignificant. And on the Russian side, “we should not pray for our Iskanders and Calibres [short range ballistic missiles]: there are only a few of them and they are expensive. We can’t afford to fight NATO-style, bombarding the enemy with ammunition that is more expensive than the targets they hit. In fact, as experience shows, NATO members themselves cannot any longer fight this way, and it is now basically impossible for them to fight in any other way.”
“Thus ‘we’ll wipe the floor with them’ kind of attitudes towards Ukraine’s armed forces are extremely dangerous and have already boomeranged against us with some nasty consequences. Furthermore, it is not impossible that an even more important reason for our unpleasant surprises during the initial stage of operations has been the senseless belief of the military-political leadership of the country that our national “brothers” in Ukraine are being held down under the American and Ukrainian fascist yoke and will welcome us as did the Crimeans in 2014.” In fact to the South and East, “attitudes are by no means so positive”. And “in the centre and to the West as a whole they are uniformly negative.” It is for this reason that resistance from both the army and volunteers has been so stubborn.
The real danger ahead is “the hidden hatred of the ‘fraternal people’, from whom we ‘took away the European future’…At the same time Russia won’t be able to raise the standard of living in Ukraine but will also lower it at home. As a result, a hidden hatred may already be welling up in ourselves. At some point it will erupt.”
Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie:
Наступление по тонкому льду
Причины крайнего обострения ситуации на Украине
Об авторе: Александр Анатольевич Храмчихин – независимый военный эксперт.