Kherson Humiliation: Ukraine Schools Russia in Effectiveness of War on Bridges
A war that Russia inexplicably omitted to wage
Earlier today Shoigu and Surovikin announced the start of a complete military withdrawal from Kherson on Russian state TV.
Surovikin explained the retreat back across the river was necessary because the force across the river could not be kept in a state of supply.
That’s quite “funny” in a certain way.
If there are two things that I have been constantly harping on since spring is that Russia is committing a grave unforced error in not using conscripts and in not targeting the Dnieper bridges.
The problem of insufficient mass has since been partly addressed in a different way, by calling up mobiki, leaving the omission to target Dnieper crossings as the last inexplicable Russian sin against rudimentary war logic.
Ukraine did not make the same omission and will now get Kherson back as a reward without even having to capture it trench by trench.
What is interesting is that Ukraine had much poorer tools to wage a campaign against crossings. All Ukraine had for the job is HIMARS with its small 90-kg warheads.
Actually, Ukraine was never even able to destroy the crossings merely to damage them. It repeatedly severed the rail link over the Nova Kakhovka dam but could never take out the road over it. (The one time it was successful in severing the road over the dam lock, the Russians simply filled the lock with material then drove over that.)
Similarly in Kherson it merely damaged the bridge but couldn’t destroy it, nor the pontoon that was built underneath.
Yet even just damaging the crossings, lowering their throughput, turned out to be enough for a victory.
Only now we have learned the full extent of the supply issues the Russians had been dealing with beyond the river. The war correspondent Semen Pegov (WarGonzo) now reveals the Russians had been dealing with “shell hunger” and Kadyrov says the area didn’t have a “stable regular supply of ammunition”.
Russian supply lines ran across the water only for their Kherson corps, and the Ukrainians immediately took advantage of that. For Ukrainians the vast majority of their supply lines have to cross the very same body of water in the other direction and the Russians have never even attempted to stress them.
This despite having far better tools for the job like heavy-duty Iskander ballistic missiles, and despite having expended over 4000 of various guided missiles on various other targets.
This is bewildering.
The Ukrainians started the bridge war as soon as they got a tool for it. One that wasn’t even particularly well-suited for the job. One that wasn’t even capable of destroying the crossings but merely of degrading them.
And it worked! And they now have a great victory to show for it as the Russians humiliatingly retreat from a city they had just supposedly annexed.
But the Russians, despite having much better tools for the job available since the start, have in 8 months not even got going. Despite facing opposition whose supply lines are bridge-reliant for almost the entire length of the front! Yes, the Ukrainians have more crossings, but they’re also having to feed far more forces to the east of the river than the Russians ever had to to the west of it.
And this is not hindsight.
I have been screaming from the rooftops how weird it is that Russia won’t go after crossings for over half a year now. You have a battlefield defined by the fact it is split into two halves by the presence of a mega river (actually more of a system of grand artificial lakes rather than a mere river) and you have Russia trying hard not to notice this. You’re looking at opposition whose railways can cross the river in just six (!) places and you’re not doing anything with this. This despite waging a “strategic” war of sorts against transport in general and rail in particular, just not against this obvious bottleneck.
Surovikin–About the withdrawal of troops from Kherson: "In the current conditions, the most appropriate option is to organize defense along the barrier line of the Dnieper River"
Shoigu: "I agree with your conclusions and suggestions." pic.twitter.com/d0uoTndAkj
— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) November 9, 2022
Look, unlike some other writers I have never tried to big myself up as some kind of grand “military expert” or some VeRy sErIoUs “military analyst”. On the contrary, I categorically deny being any sort of expert on this stuff.
My shtick has never been “hey look at me, what fancy strategies I am able to come up with because I’m so smart and I know so much”.
On the contrary, my point has always been the exact opposite. My point has always been: “I don’t know anything about this stuff but the basics of the basics — so why is it that even I am able to identify so many and so glaring blunders?”
I am no great general. I am just a machinist who read a few dozen war histories and maybe listened to a similar number. If you are running a war in a way that is merely semi-competent I shouldn’t be able to critique it at all, because any advanced stuff you are doing wrong will be over my head anyway.
But if you’re running a war and I actually am able to spot one blunder after another, well that means that you’re committing the most rookie, the most basic, the most bizarre, the most nonsensical errors — because those are the only ones that as a history-buff machinist I am capable of spotting.
I’m not Marshall Zhukov but I know idiocy when I see it.
Stuff like “Let’s invade a country the size of France without conscripts in a headless mad dash with tiny unsupported detachments dispersed over six different axes, not mobilize until 7 months into it and completely ignore the just 6 railway crossings over the large geographical obstacle that bisects the entire theater.”
The reason I am able to identify this as a blunder isn’t because I’m so smart but because this is total moronism.
It has been 20 years but I’m somewhat sure that when I dragged my classmates to the MoD library so that I could get my hands on Guderian’s Achtung – Panzer! the book didn’t say “try to get away with activating as small a force as possible and then dilute it into numerous unsupported directions”.
In fact, I’m pretty sure Mr. Heinz insisted one must “Hit with your fist, not with your fingers spread” and “Smash, don’t splash”.
But the thing is, this shouldn’t be happening. Some blogger who read a little Guderian 20 years ago and promptly forgot everything but two funky quotes shouldn’t keep getting validated that he is more farsighted than the Russian military machine.
They can’t possibly be this stupid. It’s not possible. Somebody else is running the war for them. Or put better, someone else is defining constraints for them within which they must operate and this someone has absolutely no clue about wars. Not even so much as a machinist-blogger.
(Not that it’s preventing a certain crowd from selling this pure politically-dictated moronism as solid military 5D gold.)
Some stuff where I was wondering why won’t Russia go after the bridges:
- Russia in New Approach to War but the Clock Is Ticking
- 57 Days and 1700 Missiles Into the War Russia Hits a Dnieper Bridge for the First Time
- Russia Has Launched a Strategic Campaign vs Rail but Still Won’t Target Railway Bridges Over Dnieper
- Russia’s Halfway War vs Rail Continues
- MIRACLE! 69 Days and 2150 Missiles Into the War Russia Hits a Dnieper Bridge for the SECOND Time
- The War on the Dnieper Bridges Rages – But it is being waged by Ukraine
Some stuff where I was pointing out the dispersion problem (addressed with the Kiev withdrawal):
- Russia Is Trying to Advance Along Too Many Axes at Once and It’s Showing
- Supply Loss Forces Thinly-Spread Russians Into Local Withdrawal from Nikolayev Outskirts
- Russians at the Gates of Kiev: Too Far to Go Back, Too Far to Go Forward
- Russian MoD Says It Conducted the Largest Diversionary Operation in History
- Russia Is Shortening Its Front to Bolster the Two Key Donbas Axes of Advance
- The Real War Starts Now
Some stuff where I was pointing out even weirder early head-scratchers like the mad-dashing (mostly gradually addressed over the initial few weeks):
- Russian Paras at Kiev Airport Under Counter-Attack by Artillery, Tanks, and a Brigade of Infantry
- Putin Is Waging a Halfway War and It’s Showing
- War Is Not Going Super Great for Either of the Sides
- Putin’s Political Kid Gloves Are Costing the Russian Grunt
- Mad Dash War Ends, Triangle of Death Pacified, Are Russians Getting Their Act Together?
- Putin’s Long-Tabling of the Russian People. And of the Russian Army.