NATO fights Russia to the last Ukrainian

Contrary to the picture being portrayed by Western media, Russia has achieved most of its targets in Ukraine. However, the fight in Donbas region isn’t going to be easy

NATO fights Russia to the last Ukrainian

Saurabh Kumar Shahi

Those who are completely dependent on Western Press for their daily consumption of news may be forgiven for thinking that Russia is losing in Ukraine. However, the actual war on the ground is unfolding quite differently. While Russia’s foray has not been as swift as earlier predicted, it is nevertheless achieving its goals.

This correspondent was in Ukraine in March and had a chance to interact with officers, diplomats and intelligence hacks from NATO countries, especially those from Poland and the United States. These are the guys waging the war for Ukraine. After the initial few interactions, it became evident that Ukrainian General Command has absolutely no say in strategic decision-making and close to very little in tactical matters. Make no mistake; this is not a war between Ukraine and Russia. This is NATO fighting Russia with full force minus the boots-on-ground.

So, what’s the current situation in the middle of April? As thing stands, after the completion of the first phase of the “Special Military Operations” by the Russian Armed Forces, the Ukrainian Forces outside of the Donbas region have been destroyed to being merely an infantry force. It has lost close to 85% of its armoured units including tanks and armoured vehicles including IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) and APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers).

Its air force is finished and so is its navy. Even a conservative estimate of its losses suggests that it has over 20,000 soldiers Killed-inAction and over 18,000 wounded to the point where they cannot be deployed.

Similarly, after initial few days of taking out Russian air assets, its air defence apparatus and drones have been destroyed to a heap. Over 200 command & communications centres and radar installations have already been taken out. A total of 240 air defence vehicles— both short-range and long-range—have been destroyed to rubble. Consequently, the Ukrainian military, though holding forth brilliantly, is now incapable of mounting any offensive whatsoever.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian army is still holding for a number of reasons. For one, the Ukrainian Army still possesses around 40% of its high-mobility Multiple Launch Rocket System(MLRS) and artillery force, which it has deployed amidst population centres making it impossible for the Russians to take them out without collateral civilian damages.

Secondly, it has a huge cache of weapons, especially the anti-tank missiles and shoulder-portable surface-to-air missiles, providedby NATO countries. The amount is enough to arm a defence force the size of Indian Army.

Thirdly, unlike its political class, the Ukrainian Armed Forces including the Neo-Nazi Azov Battalions, Right Sektor etc are well- trained, well armed, motivated and hate Russians viscerally. Hence, unlike what most people had initially thought, the Ukrainian defence forceshave not rolled over and played dead. The visceral hatred means that it will see the country destroyed to rubble but wouldn’t surrender.

As mentioned earlier, the Ukrainian Army is now incapable of mounting any meaningful offensive. It tried to mount one when this correspondent was still there in Ukraine. A foray was made from Nikolayev towards Mariupol where then 20,000 Ukrainian troops including Marines and Neo-Nazis from several units were being squeezed.

However, the Ukrainian forces quickly realised that launching an offensive dependent on unprotected MLRS and artillery units without either the air cover or the armoured support was a horrible idea. The offensive that was to relieve Mariupol couldn’t go beyond the first four kilometres.

This brings us to the changing Russian tactic. The withdrawal from the outskirts of Kyiv has left many military experts perplexed. Was it a tactical setback for the Russians? Or was it a feint? This correspondent had a chance to witness the meat-grinding fight outside of Kyiv. It was very apparent that the Russians didn’t bring sufficient force to capture a city of four million even if half of the population had evacuated. As it is,the invading Russians are outnumbered by Ukrainian fighters by a ratio of three to one. The situation was starker around Kyiv where Russians were outnumbered five to one.

This indicates that it indeed was a feint. That a far smaller Russian corps managed to keep a force five times its size tied down around Kyiv unable to bolster defensive lines either in the East or in the South can be counted as a brilliant success. It was starker in Kharkov where a rather small batch of Russian units—although insufficient to control the city fully—managed to organise themselves into a horseshoe formation and pinned the Ukrainian Forces from breaking out and bolstering Donbas.

And now that the Russians have withdrawn, the relieved Ukrainian troops can still not bolster defences in the east or south beyond a point. This is primarily because their movement will be picked and destroyed by Russian air sorties that are now taking place almost unmolested. Then there’s the small issue of fuel supply. Russia has destroyed a large majority of strategic oil storage and this has immobilised Ukrainian troops. However, all these do not mean that the fight in the Donbas region shall be easy for the Russians. It is well fortified and manned by the best Ukrainian troops trained by NATO. The fight may extendover several weeks.

Meanwhile, the change in Russian tactics is visible. While Russians had used old and sometimes obsolete weapons and apparatuses in the first phase of the attack, sources say that this is changing completely in the second phase. Sources confirm that a series of most modern tanks including the T-80Us, T80UE1 and T-80BV have been seen moving towards Kharkov under the command of the 4th Tank Division. They are accompanied by KA-52s and the Konkurs ATGM mounted BMP2s -- none of which were used in the first phase.

A 10-mile-long cavalcade of T-80Us, T80UE1, T-80BV, BMP2s and armoured vehicles has passed through the town of Velykyi Burluk on its way to the Donbas front as this this report is being filed. By the weekend, this cavalcade will most likely bifurcate with one arm of it reaching south of Izyum Axis to make a foray towards Sloviansk and the other arm moving in all certainty towards Barvinkove. Watch this space.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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