This text is not an analysis. True analytics must be emotionally detached. The author cannot vouch for such a quality of the text now. Although it will strive to abstract from emotional assessments.
Moreover, this particular text is addressed to a thinking audience in general, and not to any people endowed with power. There will be no revelations for those who know enough. It is addressed rather to those who want to see wider and more in order to understand the conditions under which decisions are made. And who also believes that illusions in wartime are dangerous.
A battle has been announced in the East, which could become a turning point in the course of the war .
The psychological and military successes of the first stage of the war significantly influence the assessment of the situation by Ukrainian society. But they should not distract us from the purely military factor of the correlation of forces and means. Not so long ago, Alexei Arestovich reported on the ratio of "1 to 8" in certain critical areas. It's a lot. And the stubborn, creeping advance of the enemy in certain significant areas was also not invented by Arestovich, it is a fact. Just as a fact is the impossibility of unblocking Mariupol. And the ongoing, inevitable in conditions of complete encirclement and a huge superiority in forces and means, the complication of the situation for the Ukrainian troops in the city.
The public opinion, driven by emotions, easily ignores such facts. But during a war, one cannot simply ignore that part of the information and reality that one does not like . If “God” had not been “on the side of large battalions” (I mean not only the amount of manpower, it is the 21st century), the supply factor and strategy would not work, they would not be studied in military educational institutions and would not be used . It would be enough, say, to take into account the factor of the spirit. But it's not. The morale of the Ukrainian army is high, but it was not possible to deblock Mariupol for reasons beyond morale.
A fairly large illustration is needed here.
It so happened that the Russian side (with an understandable and quite real reason) is considered driven by exclusively irrational motives. I note that the motives of empires are always irrational, the motives of imperial elites are also. The thirst for power is not something rational in principle. This, figuratively speaking, is deeper than the cerebral cortex and purely cognitive. The motives of empires and elites are only clothed in rational concepts, strategies, and so on.
At the same time, the perception of the opposite side as totally irrational can be dangerously misleading. What you can not afford during the war, even if it lasts a long time - months, years, decades.
Therefore, I will give a very concrete and visible example. Russia withdrew troops from positions in Northeast Ukraine. Yes, not willingly. But, pay attention, this is a rather extraordinary and unpredictable decision, which was perceived by the most radical part of Russian society almost as a capitulation - against the backdrop of totally dominant jingoistic sentiments and mass calls to take Ukrainian cities by storm, including Kyiv, which is so close and coveted.
But is such a decision irrational? I doubt. This is a completely rational decision from a military point of view. Which someone managed to convey to Putin and get his approval (the Russian military definitely could not make such a decision on their own).
It is obvious that such a step is the result of a very qualitative analysis of the situation . By withdrawing troops, in conditions when Ukraine fundamentally does not attack the territories of Russia and Belarus, Russia solves a number of important tasks for it:
1. Reduces losses . Because its troops are now, for the most part, tightly pressed to the borders of Russia or to the fortified and logistically relatively safe Crimea, ORDLO, and the sea coast. And attacking them, incl. on the march, is harder. Troops are much less scattered in wooded areas, i.e. less vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattacks without the use of heavy weapons.
It also facilitates communication between departments. The evacuation of the wounded to the territory of Russia and Belarus is greatly facilitated, etc.
Russian troops can now strike in more favorable conditions (less shelling and bombing of large, densely populated cities) and pulling Ukrainian troops outside of large urban agglomerations. For example, the liberation of Kherson, which was discussed by the Ukrainian army, has not yet taken place, perhaps because Russian troops have already received the opportunity to withdraw into urban areas and fire from there, and under the constant powerful cover of air defense and aviation. And already the Ukrainian troops in these conditions have problems that partly interfered with the Russians near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernigov and Nikolaev. Aggravated by the superiority of the enemy in the air. Simply put, it is no easier or even more difficult for the Ukrainian army to storm Kherson than it is for the Russians to storm Mariupol. And if it is abandoned by the Russians, it is more likely that this will happen due to a political decision,
2. Improves logistics and increases the security of communications . Approximately for the same reasons as in paragraph 1 of clause 1. The actual length of poorly protected communications on Ukrainian territory is reduced significantly. This creates additional difficulties for Ukraine, as if we are not talking purely “isolatedly” about military resources, but about the whole, the situation is also not simple (material resources must be transported, this is not money in accounts that are easily transferred from account to account and replenished, if necessary, by allies). Supplying a military group under attack is one of the complexity of the task and the burden on logistics, the fuel supply system, etc., supplying additional millions of civilians who cannot be evacuated, sowing, etc. - is a task of another difficulty.
3. Reduces image damage. Because the army is leaving territories with a more disloyal population capable of presenting numerous surprises. And the capture of Kramatorsk, even within Russia, is easier to present as a “liberation” than everything that happened in Bucha, Borodyanka, Chernigov, etc. Note that everything that happens in a smaller area is easier to control and easier to hide.
4. Achieves a much better concentration of troops in the main directions. According to Clausewitz. In the area of the future operation in the East, the Pentagon counted about 40 Russian BTGs. And this, according to the US military, is not the limit.
Summing up. At this stage, the situation for the Ukrainian army objectively became much more complicated. It is obvious that Russia seeks to impose a decisive battle on Ukraine, leveling the main advantages of the Ukrainian army and strengthening its own. Meaning in the most convenient conditions for Russia. And, consequently, significantly reduce Russian losses and increase Ukrainian ones. And significantly reducing for Ukraine the likelihood of a favorable outcome of the battle.
It is also obvious that the situation in Mariupol is critical. But the environment of the environmental protection zone can create an environment of an even larger scale, fraught with losses of the corresponding scale. The author is forced to talk about losses in such a dry, analytical way. Although we all understand what is actually behind this word.
At the same time, the hands in the choice of means for the Russian army will be much more untied, since we are not talking about battles in conditions of continuous urban development.
Yes, Ukraine is also freeing up forces. But Ukraine has already launched the 3rd wave of mobilization. I think this says something to the reader.
Is Ukrainian public opinion aware of the described difficulties and the scale of risks? Not yet.
In an analytical vein, the author is forced to state that military propaganda is a double-edged sword. It allows you to strengthen morale, but also forces society to ignore other factors significant in the war. And then the shocks arising from them become a shocking "black swan" for society.
Therefore, from the modest point of view of the author, propaganda in wartime should always remain “on a short leash” so as not to interfere with sober decisions arising from the real situation at the fronts, in the economy, in the social sphere, etc.
On the eve of, perhaps, the most important events of the war, I would like to add one more important thing.
The Russians do not understand why the Ukrainians suddenly rested so hard. I have an explanation that few people will like, because it is too much about the truth.
I suppose that, first of all, they rested because the majority of Ukrainians, unlike other Western peoples, had nothing left but freedom . And therefore, it is unrealistic to give freedom to Ukrainians. This value and this feeling cannot be measured in petrodollars, a speedometer or a Geiger counter. But it is reality. A dazzling glimpse of a higher reality, one of those that make our difficult, often cruel world still a worthy place to live.
For the majority of Ukrainians, in turn, it is not obvious that Russia does not even have a lulling myth of stability left. In general , there is nothing existentially supporting and allowing at least somehow to manage and unite society on a vast territory, except for the myth of greatness, fundamentally implicated in the myth of military prowess . And if a decisive battle begins, for this myth the current ruling Russian elites and the Russian army will be ready to fight to the limit and indiscriminately. In the spirit of the Indian potlatch, throwing any forces and means into the furnace for him. Which is fraught with gigantic losses not only for the Russian side.
It is important, at the same time, that exactly this creates a colossal risk for Russia. Because the feeling of freedom cannot be suppressed in the whole nation, it reincarnates anyway. For any long historical period, it does not depend on the outcome of major battles. But the myth of the inevitability of victories is fragile. Each of the armies of the great empires once faced its collapse. And that was the beginning of their end.
Does it make sense to take such a risk, or is it still more reasonable to stop at the barrier for the sake of a truce that does not suit anyone - by any means big or small - but eliminates the risk of a catastrophe spiraling out of control ?
Once upon a time, a global clash in Korea (similar to the current global confrontation in Ukraine, even the leading actors are about the same, except with a changed weight and slogans on the banners) led to such a mutual decision - both on the part of the "communist" world and the democratic one. The price of the issue in human lives was too high.
The Korean truce did not become lasting, however, it turned out to be long. The pro-Western South Korea used it as a chance and, as a result of this decision, rose to its current, very obvious heights. By the way, the anti-Western North Korea probably has the same opinion about itself.
A truce and negotiations leave a chance for both sides, betting on a decisive battle is a zero-sum game. Until it completely nullifies and depletes one or both sides of the result. And each, until its complete collapse, believes that it is she who will win.