The Real War Starts Now
It took a month but the invasion has finally shifted into something that would meet with Rokossovsky's approval
Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said Russia had decided to scale down fighting near Kyiv and Chernihiv to create the conditions for dialogue.
I don’t think so.
I think the takeaway from Istanbul is that the war goes on. Because Russia wants it to go on.
Because Russia isn’t done fighting. Isn’t done chasing after the original war goal. Not Donbass. But Kiev.
Sure, the Ministry of Defense has said Russia will scale back operations around Kiev — and even passed that of as a diplomatic concession to “increase trust” — but that is only because the road to Kiev runs through Donbass.
The Russians haven’t made progress around Kiev in three weeks now. Ceasing offensive operations around Kiev isn’t a concession to Ukrainians. It’s a concession to reality and to military orthodoxy.
For days now it has been apparent that Russians are pulling troops from elsewhere to reinforce their lines pressing the Ukrainian JFO army in Donbass from the north and the south.
They have been so focused on this that they have even relinquished some territory without a fight to free up units. Considerable territory but strategically unimportant.
They are done chasing everything at once and spreading themselves over numerous axes of advance.
In the week after the three opening days, the Russian military gradually got its act together tactically and logistically. Air sorties were ramped up from 60 to 200-300 a day. The completely absent Russian drones, ubiquitous in Syria and in exercises, appeared again. Supply convoys got helicopter escorts. Artillery use spread. Insane runs by small, unsupported detachments, often tank-only or infantry-only, deep into the enemy interior ceased. Finally, it became a combined-arms effort.
A month into the “special military operation” it has also adjusted at the strategic level. No more of trying to execute on the original plan, that was likely heavily influenced by politicians, of trying to claw out gains everywhere at once. Instead it’s back to military basics of concentrating your forces and going for the enemy military center of gravity — the JFO army.
The Russians will win in Donbass, this is inevitable. But how decisively they win and with how much skill will determine the fate of Ukraine.
Win a resounding victory and the Russians are looking like the inevitable masters of the left-bank. They can race up the Dnieper, go for Odessa, or even renew the push for the encirclement of Kiev. They will have options.
Turn it into a slog from which the Ukrainian army is able to disengage or in which it is able to trade blow for blow, and Moscow will have to be looking for a way out or accept much greater mobilization at home, or a long war.
Some Westerners have seen the Russians stall out at Kiev and have proclaimed the Russian military dead and defeated. Other, contrarian Westerners have proclaimed the Russian military already victorious. Both are nonsense.
Nobody has been defeated, and nobody has already won.
The plan with which the Russians went in has run out of gas, but that was a Hail Mary to try and shock Kiev into unraveling and avoid bloodshed and war.
The real war starts now.
The real war with the Russian military actually fighting in line with Russian military dictums.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Will Slavic streams merge into the Russian sea? The outcome of the battle in Donbass will have a lot to say about that. An unconvincing win and the prospect of a unified East Slavdom (already not particularly high due to non-military factors) might be lost forever.