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.

What happened in Istanbul today? Is Russia capitulating? Is it backing down? Is it looking for a way out?

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.

What kicked off on February 24 as a confused psychological operation that was using the military as a prop has been transformed into a by-the-books military campaign. 

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.

Gains made yesterday, the Russians have broken out of Izyum
The big picture
  1. SteveK9 says

    These articles are so much more informative than those on the other, much more popular, pro-Russia sites like theSaker and (Martyanov). I try to post there sometimes, even including this article, but I think I am on the no-no list at the Saker, and nobody wants to hear this at Martyanov. Even the Duran, which is probably the most objective, does not have this level of understanding.

    1. Field Empty says

      Thanks Steve, most of whom you mention were saying this campaign wouldn’t even happen so there’s that.

      I think what a lot of people are doing is rehashing official Russian proclamations and sprinkling some wishful thinking on top. Not even stopping so much as to think whether the official claims make sense even just on their face.

      I think for most people “on both sides” it is a game of how to come up with interpretations the most favorable to the side they are rooting for no matter how far-fetched or nonsensical they might be.

      I don’t claim any big expertise. On the contrary, I only know the very basics. But it turns out that the biggest difference isn’t between “experts” and “non-experts” but between people who have a story to tell in advance, and people who don’t. People who will actually allow their eyes to see and allow themselves to see with their eyes, which turns out to be rare indeed.

      I’m not seeing a lot of reality-based people out there “on either side”. Most are fanatically devoted to a fantasy image of reality they have created in their minds and which they will never give up.

      I have no idea what I will be writing about the war next week because I have no idea how the war will go. But I can already tell you what the likes of Saker and Martyanov will be writing. It’s very predictable. If Russians have success it will be assigned meaning out of all proportion and if they don’t have success the goalposts will be moved so far back as to not to matter anyway. Either way a clear Russian victory will be claimed.

      1. Eric the Red says

        Moral equivalence is not an argument, it’s a logical fallacy.

        For those who always use it, it lets them pretend they’re taking some kind of ‘third way’ morally superior position. Quite frankly, after years of seeing it forced into otherwise serious debates, I’m convinced it’s just the refuge of sanctimonious cowards.

    2. Field Empty says

      There is no need to bother linking to AE at places like that. Those are therapy and fantasy places. The readers on there are looking for something else. It’s a different genre entirely.

  2. TRM says

    ” most of whom you mention were saying this campaign wouldn’t even happen” – To be fair neither did I LOL.

    I thought Russia would create accidents on the gas transmission west of the river and then told Germany to “Open Nordstream2 because Ukraine is unreliable”.

    Once it was on I thought and, still maintain, that Russia will take east of the river and Odessa. Leave a land locked rump state in the west. Russia would control 75% of the wheat/agriculture, heavy industry, coal and the second largest natural gas field in Europe (Norway’s is the largest).

  3. Eric the Red says

    Why should the Russians want to take Kiev as a ‘war goal’?
    Chuck-0, that’s YOUR strategy, not theirs.

    You have yet to learn your lesson: start with the wrong assumptions, end with the wrong conclusions. Hah, and I thought you were actually “anti-empire”…. your barely disguised longing for a Russian defeat means that you want the west’s Empire of Lies to succeed. (Oh yes, I see those other articles’of yours where you try to gaslight that premise). Gee, buddy, what the hell is wrong with you?

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      Yeah, but if you don’t want to take Kiev, why, as AE has pointed out, do you allocate 50% of your maneuver forces against it?

      1. Eric the Red says

        Ask the Russian MoD. Don’t just assume your no-doubt vast intellect can deduce the answer.

        1. Dario says

          So, let’s turn off our thinking and trust the politicians and military commanders.
          Mega Plan.

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